MonitorsPublished on Apr 20, 2008
Though belatedly, Norway, which brokered a Ceasefire Agreement between Colombo and LTTE in 2002, clarified that it never supported the creation of a separate Tamil Eelam contrary to popular belief. Majority of Sri Lankans, including President Rajapaksa, accused Norway of being pro-LTTE.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 15

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Norway on Eelam

< class="maroontitle">Though belatedly, Norway, which brokered a Ceasefire Agreement between Colombo and LTTE in 2002, clarified that it never supported the creation of a separate Tamil Eelam contrary to popular belief. Majority of Sri Lankans, including President Rajapaksa, accused Norway of being pro-LTTE. While not completely withdrawing itself as a mediator, Norway called upon India to act as a facilitator between the two warring parties. Support for Sri Lanka came from other quarters also with Slovakia signing an arms deal with Sri Lanka and Canada’s Federal Court instructing its police to shut down the offices and activities of the World Tamil Movement (WTM), a LTTE fund-raising organisation. Both the decisions, however, drew sharp reactions from the Tamil community at home and abroad.
< class="maroontitle">Radicals protest women policy

Protests by different Islamic organisations against the National Women Development Policy turned violent on April 10. The Policy envisages an appropriate political and socioeconomic structure to ensure the overall development of women. Some of the suggestions include reserving one-third of parliamentary seats for women and direct election to these reserved seats. The Islamists said the policy was against Islam and have been agitating against it soon after it was announced in March 8. The government under pressure set up a committee of 20 Islamic scholars to examine the inconsistencies and suggest remedial steps. But the Islamists were not happy with the government’s move and demanded action against the Chief of the mosque.

< class="maroontitle">India will do business with Maoists

In a major shift of events in Nepal, the Maoists have emerged victorious winning majority of the seats in the First-Past-The-Post system. Subsequently, in the Proportional Representative system vote counting too the Maoists have won the largest share of the seats. The other big parties Nepali Congress and Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) trailed far behind the Maoists. It is most likely that the Maoists will be heading the new interim government. Following the electoral setback,  UML  has already quit the government and NC was contemplating its future course of action. However, in a positive gesture, the Maoist said they would continue to work with the same coalition. Senior leaders have called upon other parties to co-operate and join hands in running the government and for drafting the new constitution. They underlined the need for representation of all political parties in the new government.

Apparently, the strong showing by the Maoists has taken the international community, including India, by surprise. India was, however, quick to welcome the people’s mandate in Nepal and said it would work with any party in power. The Maoists, taking a pragmatic approach, responded that they too would continue with the special relationship with India.
< class="maroontitle">Which Way to Reforms

A Bill guaranteeing equal access to media resources by all the political parties during election campaigns was defeated by the ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in the Special Majlis, indicating the way the democratic process in Maldives is moving. The media is under state control and is often criticised for being partial towards the ruling dispensation. The defeat of the Bill, which could have made media more open and accessible, has been severely criticised by the Maldives Media Association along with the opposition parties. The Opposition faced its second defeat when the ruling DRP  managed to pass its proposal terming the revised constitution as the ‘New Constitution”. The debate brings to a close the bitterly fought debate between the ruling and the Opposition parties about the nature of the Constitution, clearing the way for Gayoom to contest for two more terms as a Presidential nominee in addition to his previous six five-year terms. 

< class="maroontitle">Judicial trouble

The Yusuf Raza Gillani government faced its first real challenge in sorting out the judicial mess left behind by President Pervez Musharraf. The Murree declaration agreed to by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif called for restoration of the judiciary. Musharraf, imposing Emergency in November last, sacked Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and other judges who were proving to be difficult for his regime. As per the agreement between PPP and PMLN, the Chief Justice along with other judges is to be reinstated within a certain time-frame. The trouble is there is too much at stake in this political game. Chief Justice Chaudhary has a known antipathy towards the military and intelligence agencies and has time and again brought the law books on them. Chaudhary’s reinstatement would certainly mean reopening of some of the cases which the intelligence agencies found it irksome. In fact, Chaudhary was sacked in March 2007 because of his insistence on probing the `disappearance` cases deeply. A refreshed judiciary might also strike down all the laws enacted by the Musharraf government which could mean a review of the amnesty granted to Asif Ali Zardari in corruption cases. PPP, therefore, has been keen on resolving the issue by a three-step strategy—change the judicial rules to limit the services of the Chief Justice to two years, reinstate Chaudhary but quickly retire him honourably and offer him a gubernatorial post soon thereafter. In fact, he has already been offered the position of Governor in Balochistan. PMLN and lawyers are not so keen on such a strategy; the latter is adamant about full restoration of the judiciary and has threatened to relaunch their agitation if the Gillani government failed to keep its word. Gillani would need all his negotiating skills to emerge from the first real test to his government. 

< class="maroontitle">Contributors

      • Anjali Sharma                  – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Wilson John                    – Pakistan


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