MonitorsPublished on Dec 15, 2008
This week the clash between Sri Lanka's executive and judiciary became public when the former refused to comply with the latter's direction to pass on the benefit of the internationally low oil prices to the customers by bringing down its cost to nearly Rs 100.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 50

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Showdown between Executive and Judiciary

This week the clash between Sri Lanka’s executive and judiciary became public when the former refused to comply with the latter’s direction to pass on the benefit of the internationally low oil prices to the customers by bringing down its cost to nearly Rs 100. The court not only suspended the Oil Minister but also halted payments to banks stemming from the hedging deal. If the government were to reduce the oil prices to the level recommended by the Supreme Court, it would lose a major source of its revenue earnings at a time when it was in dire need of money in the wake of the ongoing battle with the LTTE. The court became directly involved in the matter after a public interest litigation was filed by a Buddhist monk supported by many opposition parties like the JVP, and businessmen. The government, unwilling to comply with the SC directive,  denied getting a copy of the directive without which, it maintained, the Cabinet cannot take any decision. It is clear that the government, and the President in particular, was deliberately adopting a path of confrontation with the judiciary had been quite critical of several government actions in the past few weeks.

< class="maroontitle">Constitution drafting in progress

Amidst divergent views on running the government and delaying the political process, the CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and other political parties were successful in forming the Constitutional Committee mandated to draft the new Constitution. All together there will be 14 committees including nine legislative parliament committees and one committee will be headed by the CA chairperson. The Committee will comprise of 61-members with all the senior leaders of the major political parties including the Maoist Chairman Prachanda, NC President Girija Prasad Koirala, UML General Secretary Jhala Nath Khanal, MJF Coordinator, Upendra Yadav and the Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party President Mahantha Thakur.

Formation of these committees has paved the way for initiating the process to draft the Constitution. The thematic committees under the Assembly will prepare drafts of the statutes, fix procedures and submit it before the Assembly for debate and final approval. The committee has already started its work process and held its first meeting. In fact, despite all the political differences and interests the major coalition partners seems to be moving ahead with the vital agenda of drafting the new Constitution on time. They have successfully jelled together to initiate the process and also take the peace process to its logical end. The formation of the political committee and initiating the process itself are a clear indication of it.

< class="maroontitle">India  wants Dhaka to act on terror

India warned Bangladesh and demanded action against anti-India forces active in its territory. Pointing to Bangladesh, India’s Home Minster Chidambaram on December 15 said the `eastern neighbour` should not harbour terrorists targeting India. Bangladesh has long been providing sanctuary to terrorist groups like United Liberation Front of Assam and Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami. India has also accused Bangladesh of working hand in glove with Pakistan’s ISI.  India’s concerns and determination are partly galvanized by the recent Mumbai attacks. The new government in Bangladesh, once it is formed after the December 29 elections will be under increasing pressure from India as well as the international community to pull the plug on the terrorist and extremist groups.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh said that it wants a peaceful resolution of the terrorism in south Asia. Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Foreign Adviser of the military backed caretaker government, said, “Terrorists must be identified and punished to deter recurrences. But there is no reason for conflicts between States for this reason. In fact, I have every confidence that the States in South Asia will cooperate with one another to address this issue that cannot be allowed to negatively impact on the relationships among the nations of the region.

< class="maroontitle">Is the MDP going back on its promises?

The week started on a positive note for the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party when the coalition partners reaffirmed their full support to the Anni regime in the forthcoming parliamentary election due to be held in early 2009 in order to prevent the opposition group headed by the ex-President Gayoom from winning seats. “It is only that the MDP is not too keen to go down this path” claims Shaheed Zaki, a member of the coalition. The coalition partners are not too happy with the way the MDP is running the government and they often lament the fact that Mr Nasheed is working under the guidance of his party which makes him inaccessible to most of them. Notwithstanding these facts, all the coalition partners decided unanimously to support the MDP led coalition in the next elections.

MDP’s backing off from its promises did not end with this only. The week also saw the security and protection of the former President Gayoom being removed by the party in power after its supporters protested against the privileges granted to Gayoom under the current constitution. As the ex-president was away attending the Clinton’s Global Initiative meeting convened in early December, the rumours are abuzz that he might not return to the country.        
< class="maroontitle">Extremists oppose ban

Religious and extremist groups in Pakistan like the United Jihad Council, Jamaat-e Islami (JI) came out strongly against the Pakistan government’s decision to order a clampdown on the Jamaat ud Dawa(JuD) and detain its leader Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. They said that in the absence of any proof presented by the Indian government, the clampdown on the JuD is unwarranted.  Calling the Pakistani leaders cowards, the Jamaat-e Islami secretary general Syed Munawar Hassan said that Pakistan’s weak response to the United Nation’s sanctions had encouraged India to adopt an aggressive stance against the country regarding the Mumbai terror attacks. He said that the JuD was a patriotic welfare organization. Jamait Ulema Islam chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that the Pakistan government should instead use the path of reconciliation to cope with extremism and terrorism. 
JuD chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, refused to accept the UN sanctions designating him and his organizations as terrorist outfits and said "the UN sanctions are against Islam and are motivated by the Indian propaganda. These sanctions therefore will never be accepted at all".
World leaders, in the meantime, tried to douse the inflamed passions in the subcontinent triggered by the Mumbai attacks by calling for restraint.  US President George Bush said the Pakistani leadership ’have strong anti-terrorism resolve’ and called for greater regional cooperation. His words were echoed by US Senator John Kerry, recently appointed the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also stressed on Pakistan to adhere to US sanctions in letter and spirit and take over Jamaat-ud Dawa schools and seminaries.  On November 14, British Premier Gordon Brown urged the two neighbours to restart the stalled dialogue process. While announcing a six-million pound program to counter radicalisation, he pointed out that  three-quarters of the terror plots investigated by British authorities originated from Pakistan and that it was "time for actions, not words".

 < class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                                        – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee                         – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                                             – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Kaustav Chakrabarti/Aashti Salman – Pakistan


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