MonitorsPublished on Feb 09, 2009
Barely a year after eastern Sri Lanka witnessed a ray of hope under the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP)-Sri Lanka Freedom Party coalition led by former LTTE child soldier Pillayan, things have been going from bad to worse.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 58

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Eastern imbroglio

Barely a year after eastern Sri Lanka witnessed a ray of hope under the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP)-Sri Lanka Freedom Party coalition led by former LTTE child soldier Pillayan,  things have been going from bad to worse. Internal dissensions between the first-ever Tamil Chief Minister Pillayan and the TMVP leader Col. Karuna have crippled the government.  When Karuna returned home after his prison term was over in Britain, the Rajapaksa government offered him membership of the Parliament which Karuna duly accepted. Emboldened by the favours granted by the ruling party, Karuna announced his resignation from the TMVP and expressed his desire to join the ranks of the ruling party. Describing Pillayan as an immature and inexperienced Chief Minister, Karuna also made it clear that with his departure TMVP will dismantle as most of his supporters will also join the UPFA coalition. On the other hand, Pillayan accused the government of not giving him enough powers to start development projects in the province.

< class="maroontitle">Major jolt to the Unified CPN-Maoist Party

In a major setback to the Unified CPN (Maoist), an influential senior Maoist leader from Terai, Matrika Prasad Yadav announced the formation of a separate political entity. The announcement  came at a time when the Unified CPN (Maoist) was celebrating the 14th anniversary of People's War. Justifying the announcement, Yadav accused the senior Maoist leadership of clinging on to the power rather than addressing the pressing issues of the country. He blamed them for not stopping rampant corruption and address the Madhesi issues. He said the party had deviated from the original path. He said  the new party will opt for more "Revolutionary Path" to solve the problems the country is undergoing. Apparently, cracks have begun to emerge in the recently united Unified CPN (Maoist) party. At one point of time, it used to be considered the only well organised and disciplined party.

< class="maroontitle">New President takes charge

Two important developments that took place in the week were--Swearing in of the new President; and Indiam External Affairs Minister’s visit. On Feb. 12, Zillur Rahman, veteran Awami League leader and close associate of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was sworn in as the country’s 19th President. Zillur Rahman, nominated by the ruling Awami League, was elected unopposed. Though Zillur Ahmed’s election as the President was welcomed by the people of the country, there was skepticism about his ability to act independently of the Prime Minister. Athough, a President is the titular head of the government and real power is vested with the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, his role becomes crucial during the caretaker government. The caretaker government collectively reports to the President. In Bangladesh a caretaker government is formed before the parliamentary elections. The skeptics cite the example of the previous President Iajuddin Ahmed, who, on the advice of the Prime Minister, damaged the democratic process in the country.

The India-Bangladesh ties got a major boost following the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on February 9. During the one-day visit,  he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and many of her cabinet colleagues including Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni and Commerce Minister Lt.Col. (Retd) Faruk Khan. The major outcome of the visit was signing of two important agreements viz; Bilateral Trade Agreement and Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. These two agreements will enhance economic relations between two countries.

< class="maroontitle">Maldives has come on its own

The newly formed government of Maldives began taking independent policy decisions on some controversial issues. The country recognised Kosovo, an Islamic state that has declared its independence from Serbia last year. Notably, Maldives’ two big neighbours India and Pakistan have yet to grant any recognition to Kosovo. In a second such instance, former political prisoner and now the President of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed criticised the military government of Burma for keeping the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. In a strongly worded letter written to Ibrahim Gambari, UN special envoy to Myanmar, Nasheed asked him to take strong measures to secure the release of the pro-democratic leader. Another proactive step was the decision to send a small contingent as a humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in north Sri Lanka.                    
< class="maroontitle">Pakistan shares Mumbai probe 
In a major development, Pakistan for the first time admitted that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were 'partially planned' in Pakistan. The details of the probe conducted by the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) were handed over to the Indian High Commissioner on Thursday (February 12, 2009). Advisor to Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik also disclosed the registration of cases against eight suspects under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Those arrested include the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack – Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Hammad Amin and Zarar Shah – all linked to Lashkar-e-Tayeeba, the terrorist group that carried out the attacks. However the government clearly diluted Pakistan's prominence in the attack by claiming a part of the funding was 'transferred from Spain and Italy'. Furthermore Malik also said that a 'system of various other countries', were involved, with fingers being pointed at Europe and the US. Through these disclosures, Pakistan has also ttempted to put the ball in India's court by seeking clarifications on issues that have no direct bearing on the Mumbai attacks.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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