MonitorsPublished on May 11, 2009
After days of speculation and diplomatic haggling, the United Nations Security Council finally decided to discuss the humanitarian issue in Sri Lanka arising out of the ethnic conflict in the island nation.
South Asia Weekly Report 71

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Under international pressure, UNSC discusses humanitarian issue

After days of speculation and diplomatic haggling, the United Nations Security Council finally decided to discuss the humanitarian issue in Sri Lanka arising out of the ethnic conflict in the island nation. The Security Council agreed to discuss the issue after the pressure exerted on it by the international community, mainly the United States. Sri Lanka, however, tried hard to prevent the issue being brought to the Security Council’s table, describing it an internal issue. The US also opposed the grant of a $2 billion loan to Sri Lanka by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Meanwhile, Japanese humanitarian assistance consisting of tents, jerry cans, plastic sheets, sleeping mats and mosquito nets reached Sri Lanka. With the end of the final phase of polling for the parliamentary election in India, the Tamil issue has gone off the boil. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, also made it clear that India has no plans to send in its armed forces to secure a truce in Sri Lanka and advised other political parties who are openly advocating partition of the island nation to let international law take its own course.    
< class="maroontitle">Madhav Kumar Nepal looks all set to head the new government

With a comfortable majority on its side, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) is poised to form the new government under the leadership of senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. Earlier, after advice from constitutional experts, the UML-led coalition submitted 350 signatures of Constituent Assembly (CA) members to the Speaker of the Parliament, Subas Nemwang, for formation of a majority government under its leadership. In total, 22 political parties, which include the Nepali Congress (NC), Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Terai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP), Nepal Sadbhawana Party (NSP), Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and CPN-United extended support to the new coalition. The Unified-Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), however, with a total strength of 240 members, including two from the CPN (United), has decided not to join the new government.

Apparently, Speaker Nemwang is expected to hold consultations with all the political parties and decide on the date for the Legislature-Parliament meeting, where he will officially invite the UML-led coalition to form the next government. It will, however, be difficult for the new government to function smoothly. Despite its earlier commitment of not to obstruct the parliamentary proceedings for formation of new government, the Maoists CA members have decided to stop the House proceedings until the President’s move is rectified. Thereby, the new government will face difficulties in tackling the political problems if the Maoists do not cooperate.

< class="maroontitle">Bangladesh wants Pakistan to say sorry for 1971 genocide

The usually cordial relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan went into a tailspin after Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni, in a surprise move, urged Pakistan to apologize for the genocide committed by its army during the 1971 war for independence.  The foreign minister also demanded immediate repatriation of Pakistani nationals stranded in the country since independence. Pakistan rejected Bangladesh’s demand and said the matter was resolved with the signing of the Tripartite Agreement in 1974, under which it expressed regret for the incidents that took place in 1971. Bilateral relations between the two countries might sour up further as Bangladesh prepares to try the 1971 war criminals.

In a separate development, Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia for establishment of a 1000 megawatts nuclear power plant. NN Spasskiy, Deputy Director of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) and   Mosharraf Hossain, acting Chairman of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, signed the MoU on behalf of their respective countries. This deal follows closely on the heels of a similar MoU signed with China earlier. Bangladesh will compare the both the proposals, before deciding to award to contract of one of them.

< class="maroontitle">Gayoom’s party record victory in parliamentary elections

After much dilly-dallying, the Maldives Election Commission declared the result of its first-ever multi-party parliamentary elections. The results show a comfortable working majority for the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), which fought the elections in collaboration with his brother Abdulla Yamin’s People’s Alliance (PA). While President Mohamed Nasheed’s ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) secured 26 seats, Gayoom’s party secured 28 seats along with PA, which got seven seats. Though the DRP won 39,000 (25%) votes, the MDP pipped it to the post by bagging about 48,000 (31%) votes.

Experts criticized Nasheed for contesting the polls solo and not with the alliance partners. Nasheed, however, now has a loyal batch of 26 MPs in the Majlis, which could easily block impeachment proceedings against him in future. Given the presidential ambitions of most of the opposition leaders, the possibility of bringing about such a measure cannot be ruled out. The only fear is that the victory of the DRP and the PA will create obstacles in the smooth functioning of the government.

< class="maroontitle">Biggest migration in history since 1947
The ongoing military operations in Swat to flush out the Taliban have resulted in the displacement of over 834,000 people, raising serious issues concerning relief and rehabilitation. These numbers, given out by the United Nations officials, are in addition to 500,000 people who had left their homes to escape the Taliban and the Pakistan armed forces from different areas in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Both Pakistani and UN officials call it the biggest-ever migration since 1947. Although the international as well as government agencies have moved in fast to put up refugee camps to accommodate the fleeing residents of Swat and other areas, the numbers reaching these camps have been too high to be accommodated. Their numbers are likely to multiply in the days ahead as the army prepares to expand the military offensive into newer areas, namely Waziristan. People in these areas have already begun moving out. A large number of people are fleeing to other provinces -- southern Punjab, Sindh, particularly Karachi and Balochistan -- raising fears of ethnic tension in these areas. Karachi has already witnessed a round of violence between Pasthuns and Mohajirs last November. There are also fears that the Swatis who are forced to flee their homes might be easy to recruit for extremist groups like the Taliban in the near future. The involvement of Jamaat-ud Dawa, the parent organisation of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) in the relief operations in Swat refugee camps, only strengthens such fears.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

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