MonitorsPublished on Jan 19, 2009
As the army advanced deeper into Mullaithivu to regain other territories under the LTTE control, rumours of Prabhakaran's escape to another country have strongly surfaced. Most believe that he could have either fled via sea to Eritrea, Australia and Myanmar or he may have not been able to flee at all.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 55

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Where is Prabhakaran?

As the army advanced deeper into Mullaithivu to regain other territories under the LTTE control, rumours of Prabhakaran’s escape to another country have strongly surfaced. Most believe that he could have either fled via sea to Eritrea, Australia and Myanmar or he may have not been able to flee at all. There are some who believe that it is not in the nature of Prabhakaran to flee from the country in the face of the reversals. He would prefer to die then to surrender before the armed forces. Possibilities of his coming to India are extremely remote because of the heightened sea vigil by the naval forces on both sides of the border, especially after the Mumbai attacks. Others argue that the LTTE chief might have fled to Malaysia and Thailand, countries with considerable presence of  LTTE and Tamil supporters  since 1980. What fuelled the rumours further was the Sri Lankan forces reportedly firing on an unidentified jet flying at a high altitude  believed to be carrying Prabhakaran. They missed the target. The Sri Lankan authorities described it as an attempt by some outside power to provide safe passage to the Prabhakaran either by air or through a submarine.       

< class="maroontitle">UNMIN's mandate extended by another six months
Following a request from the Nepali government, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) extended the term of United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) by another six more months. The government made the request following its failure to resolve the army integration issue and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants within the stipulated timeframe of six months after formation of the government. In fact, the lingering army integration issue has been creating obstacles, in drafting the new Constitution and exposed the vulnerability of the peace process. Therefore, taking into account the fragile political situation in Nepal, the UNSC agreed to extend the UNMIN's mandate but it proposed to downsize its operation and gradually withdraw its staff members from Nepal. Presently, though, the Nepal government has promised to create conducive political environment for the completion of UNMIN's work, it is to be seen if the UNMIN can finish the task by the end of the current mandate.
Of late, the Nepali government has shown keenness to resolve border disputes with India. However, divergent views existing within the establishment might create obstacles to the progress of possible resolutions. The Nepali Minister for Foreign Affairs, Upendra Yadav, strongly articulated that the government was serious in resolving the outstanding border issue with India. He claimed that apart from Susta and Kalapani areas there were no major border disputes between Nepal and India. He said the government was making diplomatic initiatives to resolve the border issues. Contradicting his argument, experts strongly criticized the government and argued that apart from the Susta and Kalapani, there were 54 other areas (posts) which India continued to occupy, and demanded fencing of the border along the Indian side. 

< class="maroontitle">AL sweeps local polls

On January 22,  the third Upazila (Sub-division) elections were held in Bangladesh. The elections were important as these took place after a gap of 19 years and also these were the first major election that took place under the newly elected Awami League government. The country's first election for the Upazila Parishad (UP) was held in 1985 and the second in 1990. For 480 UPs, 8,187 candidates contested this time.  However, unlike the National Parliamentary elections,  the elections registered a low voter turnout and also recorded some incidents of violence. The Election Commission postponed polling in six upazilas due to massive violence and booth capturing. Although the polls were considered to be non-partisan, Awami League supported candidates swept the elections.

< class="maroontitle">No funding to parties with low support

This week, Maldivian Finance Ministry decided to temporarily suspend funds for those political parties who failed to muster the mandatory support of 3000 people. The parties whose funding was suspended are People’s Party, Social liberal Party, Maldivian National Congress and the Poverty Alleviation Party. Removal of a state funding facility would have negative effects on the state party system as they might resort to some undesirable funding options. While the state funding of the four political parties have been suspended, Dr Hassan Saeed who managed to get the third largest number of votes during presidential elections, have come up with his own party Dhivehi Qaumee Party. While inaugurating the policies and the programmes of his party, he accused other parties of copying his party’s policies like universal public health insurance scheme, the introduction of a one-session classroom system, the building of housing units and public-private partnership during the presidential elections. It is to be noted that all these policies are the official policies of the ruling coalition government of Mohamed Nasheed ‘Anni’.       

< class="maroontitle">Washington renews focus on Pakistan
President Barrack Obama has reaffirmed his administration’s focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Immediately after taking office, Obama appointed veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as America's special representative for the two countries. The new administration is expected to triple non-military aid to Pakistan with a rider that it would be responsible for security along the Durand Line. FATA has long been used by pro-Taliban insurgents as a staging ground for attacks in Afghanistan. With a troop surge on the cards, security in FATA assumes paramount importance to US's success in the War on Terror. The increase in drone attacks inside Pakistan should be seen as part of the Obama administration’s determination to quell the Taliban resurgence along the Durand Line.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      1. Anjali Sharma                                          – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      2. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee                          – Bangladesh
      3. Paul Soren                                                – Nepal, Bhutan
      4. Kaustav Chakrabarti, Aashti Salman – Pakistan


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