MonitorsPublished on Jun 08, 2009
Sri Lankan Chief Justice Sarath N Silva, who retired recently, ruffled many a feathers when he appreciated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for not dismantling the judicial system in northeastern Sri Lanka.
South Asia Weekly Report 75

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Outgoing Chief Justice praises LTTE, slams the government

Sri Lankan Chief Justice Sarath N Silva, who retired recently, ruffled many a feathers when he appreciated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for not dismantling the judicial system in northeastern Sri Lanka. He said the guerillas never tried to gun down the Sri Lankan legal personnel working in the courts there. He recalled that lawyers and judges working for the LTTE courts occasionally came over to seek the advice from the government run courts in the Northeastern areas. In fact, it is the Sri Lankan judiciary that has inflicted maximum damage on the LTTE by sentencing the now dead LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran to 200 years of imprisonment, by demerging the North and East and by canceling the Post Tsunami Operational Management System (P-TOMS), which would have entitled the LTTE access to World Bank aid. Chief Justice Silva said despite these provocations the LTTE did not retaliate. He also criticised the government for detaining more than 280,000 Tamil civilians and forcing them to live as refugees in inhuman conditions. He advised the government not to implement the 13th amendment, describing it as a “hurriedly pieced together document”. The 13th Amendment was a result of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka talks.

During his ten-year tenure Chief Justice Silva was known for taking independent decisions, many of which put the judiciary and executive at loggerheads.  Silva has been succeeded as Chief Justice by Asoka de Silva, who took oath as the 32nd Chief Justice of Sri Lanka on June 8.         

< class="maroontitle">Trouble brewing up for new Nepal government

Crisis is looming large over Nepal’s newly-formed government under the leadership of Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML). The crisis arose soon after an agreement was reached between Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Nepali Congress (NC) President Girija Prasad Koirala for the distribution of ministerial portfolios in order to expand the cabinet. According to the pact, the NC and UML got six ministerial berths each, four were allocated to the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF), two to Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) and one each to other allies. The NC and UML have kept all the plum portfolios, including Defence, Home, Foreign Affairs and Finance and offered the MJF Education, Agriculture and Cooperatives and Industry and Physical Planning and Works portfolios.

Apparently, the UML and NC’s closed-door power-sharing deal have angered the Madhesi parties. The Madhesi parties, important allies of the new government, expressed dissatisfaction over the NC and UML’s agreement. The MJF, which played a pivotal role in the formation of the government, has already hinted that it would walk out of the government if it did not get the Home Ministry. The Madhesi parties have also decided not to join the government and have extended outside support.

< class="maroontitle">Awami League government presents its first Budget

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on June 11 presented a $16 billion Budget for the financial year 2009-10 in the Parliament. The Budget, the first for the present Awami League government, gives large outlays for poverty reduction programmes, boosting agriculture, enhancing rural and industrial development and increasing the social safety net for the poor. Muhith also said that efforts will be undertaken to create jobs and attract investment. Awami League rode to victory on the back of its promise to reduce prices of essential commodities, alleviate poverty, create more jobs and provide better infrastructure and facilities. Muhith’s Budget gives special focus to education with 12.5% of the total expenditure allocated to it. This allocation is the second highest, just below public administration, which attracted highest amount of allocation of 16.2%. The allocation for the defence has been increased to $1,218,337,315.14, up from $1,218,337,315.14 of the last budget. The GDP is seen at 5.9%. But with the global economy slowing down, it will be a challenge for the country to maintain its economic growth next year.

< class="maroontitle">Arbitrary dismissal of army personnel triggers opposition outcry

The dismissal of four army officers with exemplary track records by the government headed by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has raised suspicion among members of the Majlis about the real intentions of the ruling party. The reason given by the government for their dismissal is their alleged violation of army regulations under Article 31 of the Constitution. The article empowers the Ministry of Defence to dismiss employees for not showing up for work, misconduct, criminal offence or violating any other regulation. The arbitrary dismissal of the army personnel elicited a strong reaction from the opposition parties, who have already submitted a bill demanding curtailment of the presidential prerogative of appointing and dismissing the heads of Police and the Maldivian National Defence Force. If passed, the President would have to seek the approval of the Majlis (legislature) before making any appointment or dismissing the staff of these two forces.   

< class="maroontitle">Military operations against Baitullah Mehsud anticipated

In the face of relentless suicide attacks by the Taliban and increased pressure to ‘do more’ from the United States, the Pakistan Army looks set to launch an offensive against Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan. Since military operations began against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Malakand division, Baitullah Mehsud retaliated by carrying out a series of bombings, seven in Peshawar alone in the past month. The latest attack on Friday (June 12) that killed Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi, one the most vocal anti-Taliban cleric in Lahore finally, resulted in a formal police complaint being registered against Mehsud.
With greater consensus in favour of army operations against the TTP, security forces launched an operation in Bannu, a small district adjoining South Waziristan and claimed to have killed more than 100 militants. On Saturday (June 13) fighter jets targeted two TTP compounds in South Waziristan, the headquarters of Baitullah Mehsud.
A sustained offensive against Baitullah Mehsud, howsoever crucial, will push the already overstretched army to the edge. When the army last launched an operation in South Waziristan, it faced the humiliation of more than 300 soldiers being taken hostage. Furthermore, any offensive against Baitullah Mehsud will inevitably result in another wave of suicide attacks, a contingency that law enforcement agencies in Pakistan are hardly prepared for.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                       – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee       – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                             – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Kaustav Dhar Chakraborti – Pakistan
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