MonitorsPublished on Jun 16, 2008
In a total reversal of its earlier stand, the Sri Lanka government agreed to open talks with the LTTE claiming the outfit as one, though not the sole, representative of the Tamil demands. Surprisingly, no preconditions for talks are imposed by the government but at the same time,
South Asia South Asia Weekly 24

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Talks with LTTE ?

In a total reversal of its earlier stand, the Sri Lanka government agreed to open talks with the LTTE claiming the outfit as one, though not the sole, representative of the Tamil demands. Surprisingly, no preconditions for talks are imposed by the government but at the same time, it has also ruled out the possibility of reviving the defunct Ceasefire Agreement. Both the parties had had six rounds of talks following the ceasefire in 2002. LTTE had pulled out of talks in 2006 after the government forces intensified their offensive against the group in the North. Significantly, Sri Lanka and LTTE both ruled out the possibility of Indian intervention in their internal matters. A media report had quoted a Sri Lankan Minister for Community Development and Social Inequity Eradication  P Chandrasekaran calling for Indian intervention in facilitating the talks. Addressing a press conference in Tiruchi, the minister said “They are aware of our efforts. With Norway withdrawing from the peace talks, there is a need for a mediator. India has the moral duty and right to intervene in the Sri Lankan crisis.”

< class="maroontitle">Political deadlock continues

This week, the three big parties-- the CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML)-- reached an agreement on the contentious issue of integration of the PLA combatants into the national army and amendment to the interim constitution. But the question of power sharing remained unresolved. The parties are still at loggerheads over the issue of power-sharing with  NC adamant with its proposal to make NC president Girija Prasad Koirala as the first President of the country. NC argued that it was essential to appoint Koirala as the President in an effort to maintain a balance of power in this transitional phase. The  Maoists are opposed to this proposal, and Koirala’s candidacy, but quite willing to to support the UML candidate for the presidential post. With the Maoists and UML refusing to support Koirala’s presidential candidature,  NC have hinted that the party would not be part of the next government and rather it would sit in the Opposition. In fact, senior leaders of the Maoists and UML have reached an agreement to support each other’s candidates for the posts of Prime Minister and President. The UML have already proposed former general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal as the presidential candidate. Apparently, the political dispute between parties over the issue of power-sharing and presidential candidature is prolonging the political deadlock and formation of the new government. 

< class="maroontitle">Economic worries in Maldives

The Governor of the Maldivian Monetary Authority (MMA) this week warned the establishment that the country is facing dim economic prospects in the form of a spiraling inflation and the currency crisis due to the US $ 90 million budget deficit this year. In order to bring down effectively the growing demand for the free media expression, the People’s Majlis introduced a defamation bill making false allegations against anyone a civil offence. The bill is compensatory in nature. The draft committee has also introduced a provision of Presidential Immunity from criminal offences in the Constitution.

On the domestic political front, the opposition party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has handed over the reigns of Party Presidency to its Vice President Ibrahim Hussein Zaki due to the prolonged absence of its actual President Dr. Munavvar from party activities. The decision was said to be taken at the behest of its Presidential nominee Mohammed Nasheed Anni who is often criticized by his own party members for his dictatorial tendencies.  
< class="maroontitle">President vs Parliament

Pakistan’s struggles to come to terms with the new found democracy continued during the week with two key leaders, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, making a renewed bid to patch up differences and sustain the coalition which replaced the Musharraf regime in February this year. Both the leaders have been tugging at the rope from opposite ends, threatening to topple the coalition government they had steered in the glow of the February 18 electoral victory. Sharif, leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N, has in fact pulled out of the government but without letting it collapse on the issue of restoring the judiciary. Sharif cannot let the coalition go down so soon, not before his arch rival, President Pervez Musharraf, remained in Islamabad. Zardari, on his part, too needs to keep the coalition going as it is party’s future which is at stake, with or without Musharraf. Both the leaders therefore have kept their communication channels open despite publicly aired differences. Last week, both of them met again and seem to have arrived at some compromise on Musharraf. Zardari, who has been against impeaching Musharraf, is now ready to ditch the former General to keep his party intact in Islamabad.  Amidst this heat and dust, Musharraf remains adamant about not quitting, daring the political parties to impeach him.

< class="maroontitle">Khaleda Zia release delayed

The release of former Prime Minister and leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia, and her two sons, Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman, have been deferred after backstage negotiations failed. Zia’s discharge was expected to follow the release of Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina last week. Rahman in the meantime has been diagnosed to have a broken spinal cord which his supporters was the result of the torture in the prison. Media reports said Khaleda Zia’s condition was that she would not file any petition for her release nor would she accept any precondition. The caretaker government refused to accept her stand.  The government believed that as an undertrial prisoner, Khaleda Zia had to apply for release. A newspaper quoted Communication Adviser Maj Gen (Retd) Golam Quader as saying that the government was actively considering Khaleda Zia’s release in accordance with law of the land. The government has also been making reconciliatory moves to encourage smaller political parties to prepare for the December elections.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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


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