MonitorsPublished on Feb 02, 2009
Last week, president's brother and defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa slammed Non-government organizations, domestic and foreign particularly United Nations and International Committee of Red Cross for being pro-LTTE and anti-government.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 57

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Sri Lanka slammed NGOs, Ambassadors

Last week, president’s brother and defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa slammed Non-government organizations, domestic and foreign particularly United Nations and International Committee of Red Cross for being pro-LTTE and anti-government. He had even gone to the extent of accusing them for being on the payroll of the LTTE. He instructed them to put forward the true picture of the ethnic conflict before the international community and asked them to leave immediately if they cannot work jointly with the government. Besides, president’s brother also rebuked ambassadors, especially those from Germany and Switzerland for being biased towards the rebel group. In addition, several foreign channels like CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera were also reprimanded for showing to the world false and disturbing video clippings from Tamil websites. Of late mob attacks on India’s SUN TV office and International Committee of Red Cross in Colombo has only tarnished the image of Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. In the past few years, nearly 16 journalists were killed in violent attacks and many were wounded. International Federations of Journalists have rated the country as the most dangerous for media workers in the world.

< class="maroontitle">Army establishment heading towards confrontation
The recent recruitment process in the Nepal Army has led to new controversy pitching the Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa ’Badal’ and Chief of the Army Staff, General Rukmangat Katwal against each other. Following the dispute, Defence Minister Thapa alleged that the NA structure is not abiding by the government’s directive and following undemocratic means. He directed the NA to abide by the directive of people’s representative and warned of action if it does not stop recruitments immediately. However, the NA did not pay heed to the government’s order and justified it saying it is filling-in vacant posts rather then strengthening its position.

The recent controversy has certainly raised serious doubts on the Maoist-led government’s intention and the Nepal Army’s sincerity. The civilian government led by the Maoists wants to exercise its power without even taking its coalition partners into confidence. This is one reason why the coalition partners and the main opposition party Nepali Congress have justified the recruitment process. However, after the proclamation of Federal Democratic Republic, the NA is supposed to work under the civilian government’s purview but its recent move has raised apprehensions. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of November 2006 also states that both the NA and PLA will not make new recruitments. Though, the issue seems to be small but probably the timing is wrong and against the spirit of the peace agreement. Moreover, any new development related to the army will certainly have implications on the integration issue and impinge the peace process.

< class="maroontitle">Dhaka to renew transport agreement

On February 6 the newly elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took two important decisions that would enhance economic relations between India and Bangladesh. The decisions were approving of a) renewal of the bilateral trade agreement that will enable both the countries to use their waterways, roadways and railways for transportation of goods between two places in one country through another; b) signing of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPA). The trade agreement was first signed in 1972 which was revised in March 2006 during the Khaleda Zia’s government (2001-06). However, the treaty could not be executed completely due to the internal political constraints of the country. This present government is planning to utilize the treaty to its optimum to gain economically as it would not only help to earn revenue by giving transit rights to India for transporting goods to north east India.. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demanded that the government should discuss the issue with it before signing the treaty and it will not accept any thing which will be against country’s interest. It further said that it will suicidal for the country to the present government grants transit rights to India.

On BIPA, the treaty will encourage bilateral investment as with the signing of the treaty both the countries would consider each other as one’s most favoured nation (MFN). We might see more of such treaties in future also as Prime Minister’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad. Azad said, “We will sign similar treaties that will bring welfare and development for the country and it’s people.”

In another important development, Sahara Khatun, Home Minister, on February 6 2009 has strongly condemned the Pakistan’s investigation agencies claim of Bangladesh’s involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks in November 26 2008. The minister said that militants and terrorists do not belong to any territory, country and she is shocked at Pakistan’s claim.

< class="maroontitle">Withering of a Supreme Court

Within Judiciary, a new battle has sprung up between the Supreme Court and the Judicial Service Commission which is an independent body responsible for dealing with the appointment, transfer and dismissal of the judges in the country. Earlier this week, it was the total allocation of budgetary grants to the Judicial Services Commission that irked the Supreme Court and now it is the transfer or rather a demotion of a High Court judge to an inferior court without the knowledge of the Highest Court of land that has made the matters worse. Though the constitution clearly defined the functions of the judicial commission, it failed to outline the measures and the procedures through which such steps can be taken. The proper procedure to allocate funds between the Commission and the judiciary is also missing. Following the tussle between the two institutions, the country lawyers have criticized the overstepping of Commission’s jurisdiction as it will severely undermine the authority of the Supreme Court and will also disturb the scheme of separation of powers enshrined in the new constitution.                 
< class="maroontitle">Humanitarian Crisis in Swat

The clash between the security forces and the militants in Swat has seen a manifold increase in the number of displaced people from the valley. Local authorities and people estimate that over 600,000, out of a population of 1.5 million have been displaced over the past year. The Taliban has used extreme steps to terrorise the people into their control, which includes indiscriminate killings and a decree to ban educational institutions for women; in congruence with their brand of Shariah. 

Most of the people have fled to the refugee camps in Mingora and the adjoining Malakand Agency; which incidentally also provides shelter to the tens of thousands of displaced people from the adjoining Bajaur Agency. The condition of these refugee camps is abysmal; the people lack basic facilities like food and clothing, live in non-winterized tents and suffer from diseases caused by the lack of hygiene and nutrition. The children are the most vulnerable to these uninhabitable conditions; deprived of food and clothing, they have to attend schools in the open.

There are rising apprehensions about the spill over-effects of the war in Swat to urban centers of other provinces. Karachi is one such problem area, where Taliban infiltration has been on the rise. In a recent interview to a foreign newspaper, Sindh Governor expressed concerns over Karachi facing “a challenging situation” due to the threat of the Taliban.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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