MonitorsPublished on Mar 22, 2014
Independent of the fate of the UNHRC vote this time, the recent referendum in distant Crimea should be a shocking eye-opener to Sri Lankan stake-holders of the 'ethnic issue', 'accountability calls' and all attendant concerns.
Sri Lanka: UNHRC, Ukraine-Crimea and the 'neo cold war'
< class="heading1">Analysis

Independent of the fate of the UNHRC vote this time, the recent referendum in distant Crimea should be a shocking eye-opener to Sri Lankan stake-holders of the ’ethnic issue’, ’accountability calls’ and all attendant concerns. At this rate, they could soon find either the Tamil community, or the Sri Lankan nation, or both, becoming mere pawns in the international war of high-stakes in which they would have next to no say, directly or otherwise.

The pace of the Ukraine developments and the consequent Crimean referendum should have taken even the people and political leaderships concerned by surprise. If the ethnic players in Sri Lanka have not got a hang of what’s happening there, they could and should be forgiven. The fact that the SLT Diaspora is also equally shocked into silence, when they should have ordinarily urged Russia already, for backing a referendum-demand in Sri Lanka should show that they are as much confused as any other. Or, they possibly do not want to upset the UNHRC apple-cart when the Anglo-American authors of the upcoming resolution are seen as having already ’diluted’ their draft, yet with a real hard-line improvement expected to be put to vote this time round.

Drawing from the Crimean referendum, the Sri Lankan Government should ask itself about the non-issue-specific mood, if any, among its international backers, on a popular vote of the kind, which is what the hard-line sections of the Tamils, particularly the Diaspora, has been at for long. On the other, the Tamils, particularly the inland political leadership, should study the possible consequences of the current phase that they have allowed the Diaspora and the latter’s international backers to lead them on, and its resultant impact on their professed position on a ’negotiated settlement within a united Sri Lanka’.

’Cold War’ back to Europe?

Since the conclusion of the Second World War, all military/militant engagements have inched towards South Asia, closing in on India in particular, for no particular cause or reason. Whether involving regional and/or extra-regional players, State and/or non-State actors, a la Vietnam, West Asia/Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, or those involving two nuclear neighbours in Indian and Pakistan in particular, South Asia has seen ’em all closing in from the larger Asian periphery on either side.

It’s thus for the first time in seven long decades that Europe faces at least the theoretical possibility of ’hot war’, should events in and about Ukraine-Crimea lead to one. That Ukraine-Crimea, unlike all the orchestrated popular uprisings of the post-Cold War era has kicked off the ’second Cold War’ is there for all to see. Notwithstanding Croatia, Kosovo, or Georgia, which were all localised to specific locales in Europe (apart from Yemen, Egypt and Libya, elsewhere) and whose course and result were tailor-made and almost scripted in advance, the ’Ukraine-Crimean episode’ has the potential to trigger the revival of a forgotten and forgettable global past.

One, the Ukraine unrest and the consequent the Crimean referendum, and the quick-fix Russian decisions and resolve have stalled the Euro-American juggernaut for the selective and provocative advancement in the name of ’democracy and freedoms’ across the world in the post-Cold War era. Two, it has brought ’Cold War’ unease and discomfort to the heart of Europe. Three, it has provoked the post-Cold War Moscow enough, to join issue head-on with the West, without looking the other way, as in the case of the earlier, ’Orange Revolution’ and the like, some of them in the immediate neighbourhood of the erstwhile Soviet Union - and forming a part thereof.

Short-cut to success

Possibly knowing the short, medium and long-term consequences for the nation and Europe and the rest of the world as a whole if the intermediary Ukraine impasse were allowed to hang in the air for long, Russia obviously took the short-cut to success by facilitating the quick and quick-fix referendum in Crimea. Clearly, it does not want to provoke the West beyond a point, nor does it want to be provoked into initiating a more dangerous course, whose ultimate consequences none today is in a position to predict.

If the West handed down a fait accompli to Moscow in Ukraine, Russia has since returned the compliment. Either, it’s scores settled and quits for all sides, or the Ukrainian revolution and the Crimean referendum would become the bargaining-chips for a dialogue process. In either case, the US-led West on the one side, and Moscow on the other have seem to have consulted the real stake-holders in any serious way. Nor can they be expected to do so, even if there were to be a reversal of any kind on the ground, even theoretically speaking.

China too has been cautious in not pre-judging Ukraine-Crimea developments. Nor has it shown great enthusiasm in siding exclusively with either party. Definitely, the Chinese do not want to be drawn into a war, cold or hot, that is not theirs to begin with. Yet, considering the irritants flowing from its recent unilateral moves on territorial issues with Vietnam and Japan, it cannot play the isolation game all by itself. Nor can play the game in isolation. It will have to end up choosing one or the other in what is now an European affair. That will have to determine the American disposition to China’s territorial interests in the latter’s neighbourhood, and Russia’s in its own neighbourhood - Ukraine-Crimea, in this case.

The Ukraine-Crimea issue may even die its natural death after a few moves, some of them false too, by either player. Yet, the world will not be the same again, as the West has scripted and sketched thus far in the post-Cold War era. They now have Russia to contend with, and the larger Europe to reckon with. Russia itself will have to decide whether it should continue to be seen as playing second fiddle to China - or, pretend to be a partner on the latter’s terms - and if such an equation is for real.

Does it mean that Russia is ready to take on the West on the latter’s ’invasive/interventionist’ trail elsewhere, too? Or, will Moscow be content, for instance, with defending its ’supreme national interest’ in the immediate neighbourhood and periphery, not wanting to - and equipped to -- revive the ’Cold War’ past? If latter is the case, it will need allies and friends across the world. Small as they may be otherwise in terms of size, economies and militaries, such nations, a UNSG veto is what many of those nations would expect in return.

However, in economic and military terms, Russia by itself may find some of their expectations unsustainable after a time. Moscow will have before it the Soviet past. Over-stretching its military-economic aid was among the causes for the collapse of Soviet communism, almost overnight. Nations that had got used to Soviet aid, assistance and more suddenly found that the tap had gone try for no fault of theirs. They too have memories.

Referendum demand in Sri Lanka

The Crimean referendum is a stand-alone issue for Russia.Moscow need not judge the long-pending Tamil demand for a referendum of the kind in Sri Lanka by its own immediate concerns in Europe. Diplomacy is all about not taking universal or moral positions, but having the tact to explain away individual situations individually. The US and the rest of the West too have gotten away with it all in the past.

Yet, nearer home, the Sri Lankan Government will have problem, justifying to the Tamils the conflicting Russian position on referendum in Crimea and the former’s demand for one in the North and the East. More importantly, the Russian position on Crimea is going to embolden the Sri Lankan Tamil (SLT) Diaspora, and inject fresh hopes into their agenda for a separate nation, possibly without blood-shed.

If not on the ground, or in the UN and elsewhere, but at least in debating clubs across the world, they would be happy to see that those speaking for Russian support to Sri Lanka are embarrassed. They would move on with their self-motivating, self-falsified hopes of a ’separate state’ and urge their suffering people back home to wait and wait and wait for the ’promised land’. They alone would continue to live in peace and prosperity in the lands that they had promised themselves decades ago while their brethren back home continue to live in despair, not even a distant hope.

The TNA, over the years, might have to take one more wrong step, post-war, one more time. Alternatively, the methodologically and mechanically divided leadership might have to find ways to discharge their legitimate duties to their population within a ’united Sri Lanka’, as they have promised themselves, their suffering people and the world at large. Post-insurgent communities elsewhere are known to have quickly developed an aversion for their ’legitimate rulers’ as the latter continue to blame their present inefficiencies to the past, and blind-pledge the people’s collective future to their own inefficient present.

Tempting as the Crimean referendum may be for ’Tamil separatists’, any demand of the kind nearer home in Sri Lanka, rather than in the SLT Diaspora homes far away, will have consequences. For starters, critics of the TNA in the majority ’Sinhala-Buddhist’ community would tell a larger, post-war, ’neo-Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist’ constituency, that they had been proved right in dubbing the party as an ’LTTE stooge’. Having committed itself to a ’political solution within a united Sri Lanka’, any turn-around at this stage, or even later, whatever the provocation and justification, will only be misunderstood - and/or misinterpreted -- even by the Tamils’ traditional sympathisers across the country.

Global muscle-flexing

In geo-strategic terms, any fallout of the Crimea referendum has the potential for reviving and recasting a ’neo-cold war’ all over again. Alternatively, any respite from a revival of the kind could involve compromises and compensations, between the global powers, now and/or later. Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, the Tamils included, will have no role. But they could be used (up) as pawns in a game that they did not play, nor did they want to play, nor did they understand.

As if to assuage possible Sri Lankan anxieties of every kind just now, and just days ahead of the Geneva vote, Russia said that its principled position on Sri Lanka and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report, was aimed at assisting the post war recovery process. "We support Sri Lanka’s efforts towards post-conflict recovery, development and complete reconciliation on the basis that there cannot be external interference and pressure," said navy Captain Igor Pavlov, Military, Air and Naval Attache to the Embassy of the Russian Federation, speaking at the ’Defender of the Motherland Day’ function in Colombo.

Local media reports also quoted Pavlov "pointing out that the two countries had an excellent understanding on a range of multilateral issues, he pledged continuous Russian support to Sri Lanka internationally and at global forums". He said "there is ample scope for developing the extensive exchanges, including military-technical cooperation. Our bilateral relations are based on mutual respect and understanding".

Independent of Russian sentiments for and on Sri Lanka - and also owing to that -- the existing and emerging ethnic situation is a ripe case for global muscle-flexing and for re-creating the forgotten Cold War bloc system. For now, however, Ukraine-Crimea, and not Sri Lanka, is at the centre of the same from the Sino-Russian camp, as had been anticipated at the commencement of the UNHRC session. Reports at the time had claimed that the two UNSC veto-powers, along with Iran and Cuba, among other ’Friends of Sri Lanka’, would move a counter-resolution to the Anglo-American draft. This has materialised, however.

Independent of UNHRC, but also owing the Ukraine-Crimea crisis, the much talked-about Indian Ocean sea-lanes and their security could still be the focal-point, either for a show-down or a settlement - the latter, real or illusory. Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, the Tamil included, cannot escape either. Between them, and otherwise, too, the Government and the people, starting with the Tamils, will have to decide if this is what they wanted, and have aspired for themselves and their nation. They would also have to decide if they wanted Sri Lanka to instead become the eye of what promises to be an emerging global geo-strategic storm, as against what remains an one-sided western initiative at Geneva.

Worse still for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans - and also their Indian Ocean neighbours starting with India -- such a course alone would have ensured an end to the a possibly emerging ’neo-cold war’ in Europe -- without ending the ’neo-cold war’ per se on the global arena. Re-focussing the neo-cold war to South Asia’s Indian Ocean neighbourhood would have meant that the extra-regional powers had successfully shifted the ’cold war’ dynamics all over again to where it had always belonged - and where it was possibly supposed to belong, too.

Such a scenario could also facilitate the emerging super-power in China better than if Europe were to be the theatre of the neo-cold war. Simply put, the waters around Sri Lanka need not be as placid as it has been with the exit of the ’Sea Tigers’, what with the Anglo-American lease deed on Diego Garcia too coming up for possible renewal by 2016.

Reviving political negotiations

It is in this overall context, the recent London observation by India’s Minister for External Affairs, Salman Khrushid, assumes greater significance and immediate relevance. He said that the Tamils in Sri Lanka should revive political negotiations with their Government. According to Khurshid, such a course alone would give India the leverage to make the Sri Lankan Government give the Tamils their due.

Two long years of UNHRC proceedings has taken a course of its own, rather than serving as leverage for the international community to ensure speedy initiatives from the Sri Lankan Government on political negotiations. ’Accountability issues’ is no more the means to an anticipated/acceptable end to the ethnic issue, as may have been promised, or hoped for. Instead, it has become an end in itself, both for its promoters, and now for the Sri Lankan State, the Government, the majority Sinhala-Buddhist polity and their constituencies, too.

No stake-holder in Sri Lanka has thus been left with the time, energy and not certainly the inclination to revive the political negotiations between any two UNHRC sessions in Geneva, which come every six months. Almost from the commencement of the UNHRC process, Sri Lanka has been consistent in not wanting its supporters in the international community -- committed and/or fence-sitters -- to get the wrong message that Colombo was weakening and dithering, after all. Ditto, too, with the Tamils and the TNA, back home. This has created a deadlock of sorts, which needs to be broken if a political settlement were to be brokered.

The Indian concerns for reviving the political negotiations have to be thus understood in the context of the current deadlock in the Sri Lankan processes - as different from Sri Lanka-related processes - as the former alone could end the ethnic stalemate, if at all, and for good. The legitimate concerns of the Indian neighbour on the stability in and of Sri Lanka should flow from the contribution -- or the absence of it - originating in turn from the current UNHRC-like processes.

The intervening international mention of applying a more direct R2P regimen in and upon Sri Lanka, going beyond what the US-led UNHRC resolutions have stated - or, hidden - over the past two years, have consequences for the continued stability of Sri Lanka, without such a course encouraging to ending the ethnic stalemate, as had been hoped for. The concerns of a post-poll government in New Delhi cannot be any different. Nor can/will it continue to be influenced by the externally-orchestrated ’Tamil Nadu factor’, if the post-poll coalition scenario could/would help such a course, or even encourage one, precisely for the same reason(s).

(The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter)

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghanistan: Coalition forces withdraw, but job not done yet

Niharika Betkerur

Two major NATO countries and long-term allies of the US took steps last week towards fulfilling their commitment to remove all combat troops by the end of 2014. Canada pulled out its combat troops last week, bringing its Afghanistan mission to a formal close after 12 years of war and loss of 158 military lives. The British troops pulled out of frontline outposts in Helmand, where they were heavily involved during their 13-year-long mission, which cost the lives of 448 British soldiers.

The Canadian troops took command of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2005 and fought alongside Afghan and coalition forces in the province in 2010-11. They were also involved in the training of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in Kabul. The presence of the troops helped develop a vast network of roads throughout Kandahar Province, improving economic conditions and extending the reach of governance. Senior officials praised Canada’s role in combat operations as well as training, with Maj-Gen Dean Milner, Commander of the NATO Training Mission, saying that the troops had made a real difference in Kandahar.

However, these achievements are in danger as Kandahar is the home of the Taliban and is seen by its leaders as their spiritual centre. This means that they will try to take back the Province once foreign troops leave the country.

Another major coalition partner of the US has also started reducing its military presence in the country. The British troops shut down all but one Forward Operating Bases spread out over the province, rolling back to their main military base at Camp Bastion. At the height of their involvement, the UK had deployed 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, though during the 2009 troop-surge Britain’s contribution was minimal (only 500 troops) and did not compare with the 60,000 additional troops deployed by the US.

During his visit to Helmand in December last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that their troops can be proud of their achievements in the Province for having accomplished their mission. The mission, he said, was to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. However, this is still not guaranteed.

The possibility of the Taliban taking over Provinces in the South and the East still exists and ANSF institutions are yet to be fully tested. For them to be fully equipped to face off security threats from across the border will take time and NATO officials should not be patting themselves on their backs yet.

Losing interest?

It is also evident that most NATO countries are suffering from war- weariness. Some in the US are even losing interest as they no longer see the strategic importance of Afghanistan. China and Iran are both occupying significant portions of the strategic and foreign policy discourse among American experts. With the recent move by Russia to exert its dominance in its traditional sphere of influence around the Black Sea, American eyes have been drawn back to their long-term rival.

Furthermore, the American public is expressing more interest in looking inward and focusing on domestic issues rather than solving problems half way across the world, a sentiment that is being echoed by the two major political parties. The stalemate over the BSA has arrested discourse on Afghanistan in the US and has led to a standstill on that front, while other developments take precedence.

A fall in interest levels was evident from the low attendance at the Senate Armed Forces Committee meeting with ISAF Commander, Gen Joseph Dunford, on 12 March, where he warned that a complete troop-withdrawal will lead to the regrouping of al-Qaeda. He said that as long as a new Afghan President is elected by August and an agreement is signed with him, the ISAF will have plenty of time to leave a residual force behind, the size of which must be between 8,000 and 12,000. This hearing came two weeks after US President Barack Obama had instructed Pentagon to start preparing for the zero-option.

External support crucial

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in his last parliamentary speech the same week that his country does not need US soldiers to stay beyond 2014 because the Afghan army, which protects 93 percent of the country, is ready to take-over. These comments are perfectly in line with the nationalistic statements that he has been expressing in recent years.

The ANSF is severely impaired in several crucial sectors like technical intelligence, countering IEDs, multifaceted engagement, and air power. Hence, foreign troops and foreign-funding are both essential to the survival of the Afghan State.

Though NATO countries are pulling out their troops from Afghanistan, they are not completely abandoning the war-torn country and are aware that it would take a lot more support and assistance to stabilise the country. Canada has promised to give $ 330 m to help sustain the ANSF. Sweden recently pledged $ 1.2 b in aid, to be used over various sectors in the coming decade. India, China and Iran are three regional countries whose commitment to post-2014 Afghanistan is guaranteed due to their own national interests. Despite sour relations, the US can be expected to stay on in an advisory role.

International coalition forces are leaving Afghanistan after 12 long years with a sense of relief as well as a cautious sense of accomplishment. The security situation has improved considerably in areas, democracy has taken root, and evidence of institutional capacity is being seen. The NATO forces have been responsible in extending governance structures to areas that were nearly destroyed under the Taliban rule. But NATO countries must be wary of congratulating themselves prematurely as the job is not yet done.

(The writer is a Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

< class="heading1">Country Reports


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gen Wardak withdraws from presidential poll

Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak withdrew his name from the presidential elections scheduled for 5 April. He becomes the second candidate to withdraw from the race in the past two weeks after Qayum Karzai had withdrawn his name earlier this month.

Although Mr. Karzai endorsed the candidature of Zalmai Rassoul, Gen Wardak is yet to announce his endorsement for any of the remaining nine candidates.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 16 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">More endorsements for presidential candidates

A group of religious scholars in Kabul endorsed Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf’s candidature for the upcoming presidential elections. Mr. Sayyaf, during his meeting with the scholars, promised the proper implementation of Islamic law in Afghanistan as a means of promoting lasting peace and stability in the country.

In the meantime, another presidential candidate, Zalmai Rassoul received the backing of religious scholars in the Ghorband Valley of Parwan province in northern Afghanistan.

Mr Rassoul also received the support of the Afghanistan Youth Movement - the country’s largest youth group. The organisation’s leader Najeebullah Saleemi claimed that Mr Rassoul provided the most persuasive plans for addressing the problems confronting the Afghan youth. As 70 percent of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 25, the endorsement by the youth organisation could prove decisive in the April elections.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tolo News, 17 & 20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Taliban ups violent attacks

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul, which led to the death of nine people, including four foreigners. The four Taliban attackers who were in traditional Afghan dress hid six small pistols in their socks and penetrated several layers of security at the Serena hotel, in the heart of the Afghan capital.

The Afghan Intelligence officials are questioning the security personnel at Serena Hotel as inside involvement in assisting the Taliban has not yet been ruled out. The Taliban had earlier attacked Serena Hotel in 2008 as well, killing eight persons at the time.

The attack on the Kabul hotel came at the same time as the Taliban stormed a police station in Jalalabad killing at least 11 people. Similarly, a bicycle bomb in Ghazni province killed three people and injured another seven.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaama Press, 19-20 March 2014, Tolo News, 19-20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Qanooni named new VP

Mohammed Younus Qanooni has been chosen as the new first Vice-President of Afghanistan. Mr Qanooni has served as the country’s Interior Minister and the Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament. He will be replacing Marshal Fahim, who passed away last week.

Mr Qanooni was nominated at a meeting comprising the country’s leading Government officials and politicians. His name will be forwarded to the Lower House of Parliament for endorsement.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Pajhwok, 18 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">AL domionates third phase of Upazila elections

After a poor performance in the first two phases of upazila (sub-district) elections, the fortune of the ruling Awami League (AL) showed upward curve in the third phase of the six phase election. The result of the third phase of Upazila election was declared this week. The ruling party managed to outshine its archrival Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

In the March 14 elections held in the 81 upazilas across the country, the ruling party candidates won 39 chairman posts and the BNP supported candidates emerged victories in 28. Interestingly, Jamaat-e- Islami, the BNP’s key ally, secured seven chairman posts, while Jatiya Party, an ally of AL, bagged none in the third phase.

In the initial two phases held in February this year , the BNP and Jamaat-backed candidates put up a strong performance in the 213 upazilas winning a total of 93 chairman posts, while the Awami League won in 81 and Jamaat 20. Results of the third phase now take those numbers to 124 chairmen for Awami League, 124 for the BNP, 27 for Jamaat-e-Islami, 2 for Jatiya Party and others 16. However, the third phase was marked by sporadic violence and irregularities.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 19 March 2014; The Hindu, 18 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda, son face graft charge

Former Prime Minister and chief of leading Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Begum Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rehman have been charged of corruption by a court in Dhaka.

The charges allege that an illegal fund was used to buy land for a charity named after her late husband, President Ziaur Rahman. However, her lawyer denied the charges and said that it was not true that Begum Zia had collected around $ 1 million in donation for the charity.

Begum Zia’s party claim that the charges are politically motivated and it is an attempt by the government to malign her image

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 20 March 2014; Dhaka Tribune, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Examining Teesta flow

Responding to Bangladesh’s concern over drastic reduction in the flow of water in the Teesta, India has agreed to the proposal of sending members of Joint River Commission and experts to Gajaldoba in West Bengal soon. The two sides agreed at a meeting between visiting Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and his Indian counterpart Sujatha Singh at the South Block in New Delhi.

The issue of water flow in the Teesta figured prominently in talks between the two foreign secretaries, just a day after Haque had flagged Bangladesh’s concern over the issue during his meeting with Indian Water Resources Secretary Alok Rawat. Gajaldoba is the point where Teesta, which originates in Sikkim state in India, enters Bangladesh flowing through West Bengal.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Daily Star, 21 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China expert to be next Indian envoy

For the first time, India will be sending a China expert as the next Ambassador to Bhutan, India’s important neighbour. Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) and currently South Block’s best known "China hand", is slated to take over from V P Haran from August 1.

Bambawale’s name is yet to be announced, though the Bhutan Government has already accepted his appointment. The decision to send Bambawale is significant. China is looming large in Bhutan’s strategic sights —both on its borders and on the Tibet issue.

Meanwhile, India and China are getting ready to hold their next round of strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing next week, where Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will lead the Indian delegation. It will be the last such dialogue before the UPA government calls it quits.

The issues on the table, however, will remain beyond the life of any government —market access for Indian companies including in the service sector and pharma, removal of non-tariff barriers etc. India is also trying to attract Chinese investment in the infrastructure sector.

India and China are also close to a boundary agreement, which will include the border with Bhutan, particularly the sensitive Chumbi Valley area.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Times of India, 15 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Modi to contest from Varanasi

Overcoming protracted wrangling over seat-allocation, the Bharatiya Janata Party announced that the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi while party president Rajnath Singh would be shifted from Ghaziabad to Lucknow.

The party leadership succeeded in persuading senior leader and sitting Varanasi MP Murli Manohar Joshi to shift to Kanpur. Similarly, another senior leader from Uttar Pradesh, Lalji Tandon, has had to vacate his Lucknow seat for his party chief. Both had been reluctant to do so.

Mr. Modi, however, may have to contend with Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi.

Among the other prominent names who figure in the list of 98, of which 55 are from UP, are the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley who will be contesting his first Lok Sabha election from Amritsar, Varun Gandhi from Sultanpur, Kirron Kher from Chandigarh, Shatrughan Sinha from Patna Sahib and Maneka Gandhi from Pilibhit. Party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi will be the party candidate from New Delhi, while Rao Inderjit will contest from Gurgaon.

Meanwhile, the Congress party released its second list of candidates which included six Union Ministers, namely M. Veerappa Moily, V. Narayanasamy, K.V. Thomas, Shashi Tharoor, K.C. Venugopal, and Mullapally Ramchandran —and two Ministers who stepped down owing to corruption allegations —Pawan Kumar Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay. Despite the allegations, no FIR or charge sheet was filed against either of them.

The Congress lost a crucial ally in K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti after he ruled out an alliance with the national party. He, however, expressed his willingness to support the Congress if it was in a position to form a government at the Centre. BJP on the other hand found cause for hope in Tamil Nadu by piecing together an alliance with the DMDK led by actor Vijayakant. Two other regional parties, the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, are already committed to seat adjustments with the BJP.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 14 & 16 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC stays execution in gang-rape case

The Supreme Court on Saturday stayed till March 31 the execution of death penalty of two of the four convicts in the December 16 gang-rape and murder case, a couple of days after the Delhi High Court upheld their punishment awarded by the trial court. "We stay the execution of Mukesh and Pawan till March 31, 2014," a Bench comprising Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Shiva Kirti Singh said in an urgent hearing on a holiday.

Mukesh and Pawan in their appeal submitted that they were denied a fair trial due to public and political pressure and that they were not allowed to take the service of the lawyers of their choice.

They further contended the trial in the case was started on January 21, 2013, under public/political pressure, contrary to the legal provisions with sole object to hang them and other accused persons."There are glaring evidence for miscarriage of justice on records for procuring false statement under torture by the prosecution," the petition submitted.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Hindu, 15 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">14 pc rise in arms imports

According to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India remains the biggest buyer of arms in the world, importing nearly three times as many weapons as its nearest competitors China and Pakistan over the last five years.

The total volume of arms sales was up 14 percent in 2009-13 compared to the previous five years and imports of weapons rose by 111 percent in the same time period. Its share of total global arms imports increased from seven to 14 percent, SIPRI said.

India replaced China as the world’s biggest arms buyer in 2010. With its domestic defence industry struggling to manufacture high-tech arms, India is in the midst of a defence spending binge as it struggles to keep up with better-equipped Chinese forces and a range of military challenges in its volatile neighbourhood.

The main supplier of arms in 2009-2013 was Russia though India has been diversifying its weapons sources lately, looking increasingly towards the US. Figures from IHS Jane’s released in February showed that India became the biggest buyer of US weapons last year —with total imports worth $ 1.9 billion, and a string of large-scale purchases including Boeing’s C-17A transport aircraft and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.

Pakistan increased its weapons acquisitions by 119 percent, growing from two percent of the global total to five percent during that period, the study said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Times of India, 17 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Access blocked to 1962 war report

A classified Indian army report that analyses the causes of India’s military defeat in the 1962 border war with China was blocked hours after it was posted on the internet. A large section of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report was recently posted by Australian journalist and author Neville Maxwell on his website. Maxwell, the New Delhi correspondent for The Times, published his controversial 1970 book "India’s China War" based on this report.

Attempts to access his website appeared futile. The blockage set off Twitter speculation of the hidden hand of Indian government censors. The report is still highly classified and the Indian government has resisted making it public.

Only two type-written copies of the report, prepared by two Indian army generals, Henderson Brooks and Prem Bhagat in 1963, are believed to exist. One is the office of the defence secretary, the other in the Indian Army’s Military Operations directorate, both located on the first floor of the South Block in New Delhi. Maxwell’s revelation admits to the possibility of a third copy of the report.

Maxwell, 87, wrote in his website of the frustration in not seeing the report being declassified after over half a century. "The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial," he wrote on his website.

He recounted his attempts to give the report to five Indian newspaper editors since 1992. All of them refused saying the leak of the report would create a furore and that there would be little or no productive analysis of its contents.

< class="text11verdana">Source: India Today, 18 March 2014, The New Indian Express, 20 March 2014, BBC, 19 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC ’no’ to plea for delaying polls

The Supreme Court has rejected a petition seeking to delay the parliamentary polls of 22 March until all five members had been named to the Elections Commission (EC) under Article 168 of the Constitution.

The petition was filed by Jumhooree Party (JP) Youth Wing President Moosa Anwar, who had successfully fought a case on the presidential polls last year, leading to the court ordering postponement and a 16-point guideline to the poll panel.

The court was yet to take a decision on another petition from Anwar, seeking to disqualify Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, for challenging the Supreme Court order, removing EC President and Vice President of from their posts.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MNDF has no role in politics: President

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said that Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) does not have any role in politics. "I want peace within the MNDF. In a small country like ours, politicians and people with political ideas often get caught up in politics, but politics is not something that people in uniforms have any role in," he said.

President Yameen said that MNDF officers must be disciplined, and ensure protection and security for the country. He also called on retired MNDF officers to continue to respect their service, and said that the conduct and speech of some retired officers cause distress to some officers in service.

"MNDF officers are disciplined and trained to take the lead to defend the nation and its people. This attitude need not change upon retirement. Their behaviour and manner of speaking, though seldom, is causing distress to officers in service," he said.

At a campaign meeting elsewhere, President Yameen compared allowing international actors to criticise the Supreme Court and its verdicts as being similar to allowing people to criticise the tenets of Islam. "This is a message I am giving especially to (former) President Nasheed. If you want to maintain the eminence, dignity and sovereignty of Maldives, do not allow foreign entities to criticise the final verdicts released from the courts of law?If you allow them to do so, you are giving them the freedom to criticise the Islamic tenets that we have amongst us."

Calling on Nasheed to stop criticising the judiciary, President Yameen stated that this government will not create commissions to investigate events that occurred in the past. He further stated that the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives will not try to ’mete out punishments’ to general members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

President Yameen also said that he would implement a policy of pardoning persons convicted of minor offences and undergoing various periods of imprisonment. "I will implement a policy starting on the first of the coming month where clemency for all prisoners, except those serving time for serious crimes, will be offered," he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 20 March 2014, Minivan News, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Police promise peaceful polls

Maldives Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has said that the police will utilise all resources at its disposal to ensure a peaceful parliamentary poll. The police was fully prepared for the election, he said.

"Police officers will be present to maintain security at all ballot box locations in Male, the islands, and abroad. Unrest in relation to the election will not be tolerated," he said.

Commissioner Waheed said that it is the wish of all Maldivian citizens that the election be conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner. He also called upon candidates, representatives of candidates, and political parties to ensure that no unrest took place during the elections.

Meanwhile, the police has received more complaints regarding money and gifts being distributed in exchange for votes. The police said that these activities disrupt order and encourage division in the society, as well as obstruct the efforts to ensure a peaceful election, and added that the complaints in this regard would be investigated in association with the Elections Commission.

< class="text11verdana">Source: SunOnline, 21 March 2014, Minivan News, 20 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">By-elections for 28 parliamentary seats

Myanmar will hold by-elections later this year to fill 28 unoccupied parliamentary seats, its top elections official said Thursday, letting contending parties test the political waters about a year ahead of the next general election.

Union Election Commission Chairman, Tin Aye, announced the timing in answering a question from a member in Parliament’s Lower House. He said the polls would be held after the monsoon season, which ends in October. The exact date will be set three months before the vote.

The by-elections should indicate the strengths of the ruling army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party and the opposition National League for Democracy party led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the two main parties expected to contest the general election in late 2015.

Suu Kyi’s party boycotted the 2010 general election as undemocratic but participated in April 2012 by-elections, winning 43 seats out of 45 seats at stake. She agreed to take part after President Thein Sein’s reformist government changed the election law.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Associated Press, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Infra projects ’risk’ political uncertainty

Uncertainty about reforms to Burma’s military-dominated Constitution threatens to undermine foreign investment in major infrastructure projects such as the ambitious Hanthawaddy International Airport project, a business risk assessor said.

The assessment from Business Monitor International (BMI) follows the collapse of negotiations on an airport contract between Burma’s Department of Civil Aviation and a consortium led by South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corporation.

"We believe this breakdown once again supports our concerns about the financial viability of large-scale airport projects. We highlight there is scope for a breakdown in political stability within and this poses a major downside risk to these airport projects," said London-based BMI.

"It is increasingly likely that the government will fail to amend the Constitution in a meaningful way before the 2015 general elections. A failure to address the most pressing issues in the current Constitution would have repercussions for the ongoing reform drive, which could destabilize already challenging business environment," BMI said in its latest risk analysis newsletter for Southeast Asia.

The government had named Incheon last August as the winner of a tender to develop Hanthawaddy in a so-called public-private partnership (PPP) with the government. But the Ministry of Transport was quoted by Reuters last week saying there had been a "major change in project policy" which required the South Korean firm and three other shortlisted for the contract to resubmit bids.

The new deadline for bids is April 22, but the ministry admitted to Reuters that the delays would push any completion date for the US$1.1 billion airport back beyond 2018.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Irrawaddy, 20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt says ’public service’, journalists see propaganda

Rangoon-based journalists say they cannot accept a public service media (PSM) Bill submitted to Parliament’s Lower House by the government on Monday, criticizing the legislation as a self-serving proposal put forward by the Thein Sein administration.

A number of journalists told The Irrawaddy that they believed the law, if enacted, would not provide the general public with a real service, and would instead be used as a tool for government propaganda.

On 17 March, the Ministry of Information (MOI), while submitting the bill to the Lower House, stressed that the PSM legislation was developed with expertise from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), and was drafted with the public good in mind. It envisions a transformation of state mouthpieces like the New Light of Myanmar newspaper and broadcaster MRTV into "public service media."

"Public service broadcasting is needed in a country like Burma, but not a newspaper of such a kind," journalist Sithu Aung Myint told The Irrawaddy. "A newspaper should not be placed and published under the ’public service’ label. Such practice doesn’t exist internationally."

If the bill is adopted, he said it would be used as a government propaganda vehicle ahead of national elections in 2015, in which many expect the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party will unseat the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Under the PSM bill, 70 percent of total funding for public service media outlets would come from taxpayers, while the rest would be provided by advertising revenue, newspaper sales and international funding.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Irrawaddy, 20 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Govt partially rolls back fuel price hike

The Government on March 21 partially rolled back fuel price hike that it announced on March 14 and also agreed to form a parliamentary committee that will come up with ways to adjust fuel prices in relation to international prices.

The Government and the opposition parties reached an agreement after the opposition stalled the House for two consecutive days protesting the fuel price hike. The opposition parties, including UCPN-Maoist, however, were demanding that the hiked fuel prices be rolled back completely until the parliamentary panel came up with its report on the vexing issue.

But the opposition agreed to partial roll-back after the government agreed to take measures to reform NOC and form a parliamentary panel. Addressing the House, Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Mahesh Acharya said fuel prices would not be hiked until the parliamentary committee submits its report within 30 days of beginning its work. The committee will suggest modalities for adjusting prices and engaging private sector in importing and selling fuel. It will also suggest ways to develop alternative energy.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Himalayan Times, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Japan aid for micro-irrigation

The Government of Japan on March 20 provided financial assistance of Rs 10.66 million to a local non-governmental organization (NGO) in Dhading district to construct a micro-irrigation system which aims to empower the rural community there.

Local Effort for Social Transformation-Nepal (LEFT), recipient of the assistance, will implement the irrigation system through construction of three intakes, three reservoir tanks, 18,050 meters of pipeline, and 240 distribution taps.

The assistance is extended under Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects (GGP) scheme, according to Masashi Ogawa, the ambassador of Japan to Nepal. The improved irrigation system is expected to benefit 1,310 people in 164 households.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’New strategies for food security’

UN Resident Coordinator in Nepal Jamie McGoldrick said at a seminar on 20 March that Nepal should implement new strategies to ensure sustainable food security.

Speaking at a seminar on ´EU-ASIA Policy Dialogue on Food Security in the Context of Climate Change´, organised by the Center for South Asian Studies, McGoldrick urged the Government and stake-holders to introduce new strategies in view of possible challenges like food crisis and climate change.

"Mid and Far Western development regions of Nepal are the most vulnerable to the negative impact of more erratic rainfall and decline in winter precipitation," he said. Despite many years of support to ensure food security in Nepal, the progress figures are still not make pleasant reading, he added.

"Nepal has made some progress in recent times but still it is amongst the most at-risk countries in the world in terms of prevalence of stunting, underweight and anemia," he said, adding, "41 percent of children under five are stunted and 29 percent are underweight and 46.2 percent have anemia."

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">PM congratulates cricket team

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala telephoned skipper Paras Khadka in Bangladesh to congratulate the Nepali cricket team for registering a nine-run victory over Afghanistan on March 20. "I would like to thank you, your team and coach on behalf of the Government of Nepal as well as the Nepali Congress for heightening country´s reputation by winning international matches abroad," the Prime Minister said, during a conversation with the skipper.

CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal has also congratulated team Nepal for its victory. "We hope that the Nepali cricket team will gift us numerous happiness in days ahead," he said in a press release. UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has also lauded the Nepali cricket team for its "historic achievement"

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">On back-foot in Geneva

Amid reports of rights violations and non-compliance by the Government, Nepal attended the 110th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, where the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the transitional justice mechanism dominated the Nepal review session on 18-19 March. The Government, however, failed to convince the international committee on the state’s commitment to fulfil human rights obligations.

The NHRC’s independence was one of the 26 issues that the UNHRC had asked Nepal to explain. According to the ’Paris Principle’, a national rights body needs to be independent and competent to promote and protect human rights.

Earlier on 18 March, the NHRC and civil society members had briefed Nepal’s rights situation to the international committee, with instances of rights violations and non-compliance of the government.

According to an NHRC report, the Government has implemented only eight percent of the recommendations made in 735 cases of serious human rights violations. While the government has doled out only relief and compensation packages, it has not launched any criminal prosecutions yet.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Ekantipur, 20 March 2014


< class="heading12boldGeorgia">’ISI chief knew Osama’s whereabouts’

A report in The New York Times stated that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew where the al-Qaeda leader Osama-bin-Laden was hiding in Pakistan. Osama-bin-Laden was killed in May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in a US commando operation.

The newspaper has alleged that a Pakistani official has stated that the US has direct evidence about the ISI chief’s knowledge of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.

According to the inside source that the paper has mentioned, there was a special desk at the ISI specifically for bin Laden and it worked independently. It was led by an officer who did not report to any higher authorities.

The paper has also reported that the former president Pervez Musharraf was involved in the conspiracy to remove Benazir Bhutto from power

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 19 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Senior bureaucrat feared kidnapped

A senior bureaucrat, Dr.Amjad Shahid Afridi, is feared to have been kidnapped in Peshawar after his car was found abandoned at the Chach interchange on the motorway on Thursday.

The police say that Dr. Afridi was staying at the shahi mehman khana, a government-run guest house in Peshawar, after his transfer from Islamabad to the provincial capital. Dr. Afridi has held the positions of KP’s secretary education and provincial secretary for information technology amongst others.

< class="text11verdana">Source:, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Electricity from India

Pakistan has sent the draft of the initial power trade deal to India despite opposition from various quarters, setting the stage for importing electricity from India. The World Bank has offered to finance the feasibility study and transmission line to import 1200 megawatts of power.

A pre-feasibility study was completed to identify the routes for electricity import.

India will respond to Pakistan after going through the draft for the initial deal. Pakistan will, initially, import 500 MW of power to be enhanced to 1200 MW at a later stage.

Different quarters in Pakistan have criticized the proposed deal with India. However, media reports state that preliminary discussions with India are underway and tariff matters still need to be finalized.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Express Tribune, 20 March 2014

Sri Lanka

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UK for UN-backed Sierra Leone-type war crimes tribunal

An unprecedented British push for a war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka on the lines of UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone has surprised even those who have been calling for an international investigation into atrocities allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE during ’Eelam War IV’.

Authoritative government sources said that the UK would have made its last move at the behest of influential LTTE activists in that country. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has unveiled the British plan amidst ongoing western efforts to persuade Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to announce his backing for US-led resolution scheduled to be voted next Thursday (March 27). India voted for US-led resolutions against Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013.

In an opinion column published in The Hindu on 17 March, Hague said: "Seeking the truth and justice helps to put countries on the right track toward reconciliation. Sierra Leone is a good example. Special Court convictions drew a definitive line under a tumultuous period of Sierra Leone’s history and addressed impunity in response to victims’ needs to promote healing."

Asked whether what UK’s position would be on an international mechanism to investigate atrocities, including those allegedly committed by the IPKF during its deployment in Sri Lanka, a spokesperson for the British High Commission in Colombo said: "As we have previously said and as our Prime Minister said during his visit to Sri Lanka in November last year, we are supporting a call for an independent international investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka, in the absence of a credible, transparent and independent domestic process."

According to him, "The UK takes allegations of war crimes seriously, including those allegations of wrong-doing by our own armed Forces. For example, allegations relating to Iraq that have been brought to our attention are subjected to thorough examination - including through the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, independent Public Inquiries, and in the UK and European courts."

The official directed The Island to submit two others queries to British Foreign Office. One question was about Mr Hague’s position as regards India’s culpability in causing terrorism in Sri Lanka in the 1980’s against the backdrop of former Liberian President Charles Taylor being moved to a high- security British jail after his sentence for aiding and abetting war crimes in the neighbouring Sierra Leone was upheld by a UN-backed tribunal. We also asked the British High Commission whether the UK had taken up the Sri Lanka issue at the UNHRC before the end of the conflict in May 2009.

Although our questions were sent to London Press Office on March 18, the Foreign Office has not answered them despite reminders. The same queries were subsequently forwarded through the British High Commission in Colombo but there was no response.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone established jointly by the government of Sierra Leone and the UN had been mandated to try not only human rights violators in Sierra Leone but those external elements which had caused terrorism. The Appeals Chamber Judges of the court on 26 September 2013 upheld Taylor’s conviction that was made by the Trial Chamber in April 2012.

President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, during a recent official visit to Washington, had pointed out that an international investigation could upset Sri Lanka’s relations with India. Reuters quoted Weeratunga as having said: "If there is an international investigation, the whole period has to be investigated - from 1980’s onward - which includes the two-year tenure of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force, which will upset India and our relationship with India."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pillay equates Sri Lanka with North Korea

The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, has equated the government of Sri Lanka with that of North Korea during a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister, Yun Byung-se at the onset of the ongoing 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Well-informed sources said that Pillay had demonstrated her hostility towards Sri Lanka when the top level South Korean delegation met her during the high level segment. Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister, Prof. G. L. Peiris, too, had been in Geneva during the high level segment of the session.

Sources alleged that it was a calculated move to influence South Korean government to throw its weight behind the US-led resolution against Sri Lanka scheduled to be taken up next Thursday (March 27).

South Korea is at present a voting-member of the UNHRC comprising 47 countries divided into five regional groups.

Alleging that Pillay had been campaigning openly in support of the US resolution, government sources said the former South African official was pursuing an agenda of her own.

Responding to a query, sources recalled the circumstances under which Pillay compared the human rights situation in Sri Lanka with that of Russia. She declared spending more time on Sri Lanka than Russia due to deteriorating situation here.

Ms. Pillay’s offensive meant that she was prejudiced and therefore Sri Lanka couldn’t accept her office playing any role in an external investigation into atrocities allegedly committed during the conflict here, a high-ranking Sri Lankan government official said.

An External Affairs Ministry official said that Sri Lanka had never faced an attempt to compare Sri Lanka with North Korea even at the height of the northern war.

< class="text11Verdana">Source: The Island, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arrest of HR ’activists’: France, US condemn Govt

France is supporting US-led bid to move a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Rights Council (UNHRC). The French embassy in Colombo has issued a statement quoting the Spokesperson of the French Foreign Ministry as having said: "France is concerned about the recent arrest in Sri Lanka of several human rights defenders who are recognized and respected for their actions in this area. We call on the authorities of Sri Lanka to fully guarantee respect for the rule of law.

France is closely monitoring the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. It currently supports the drafting of a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council, in order to remind the authorities of Sri Lanka of the need to implement measures to ensure national reconciliation, which requires respect for human rights under all circumstances and actions to combat impunity."

The French embassy issued the statement close on the heels of the US mission expressing concern over recent arrests.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Australia stalls on UN call

The Abbott Government is resisting a push by its closest allies to establish a UN investigation into war crimes and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, where Australia has returned more than 1100 failed asylum-seekers in the past 18 months.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed Australia had not co-sponsored the resolution and wanted a motion to reflect "progress" in "reconstruction and rehabilitation" in Sri Lanka.

Australia has previously co-sponsored resolutions at the UN’s Human Rights Council expressing concern on Sri Lanka’s record but is understood to have exasperated the US, Canada, Britain and the Europe Union by not yet backing this one, which for the first time calls for an independent and comprehensive inquiry into the allegations. Bishop said the government wanted to see a final text of the resolution before deciding whether it would co-sponsor the same.

"Sri Lanka has made progress since the end of the violent civil war in 2009, including on reconstruction and rehabilitation and we expect this to be reflected in any final text," she wrote in an email. "We encourage all parties to take a constructive approach to assist the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka."

Any inquiry could place Australia’s policy of returning Sri Lankan asylum- seekers in jeopardy. Returning asylum seekers to a country where there remains a genuine fear of persecution is illegal under international law.

’ Under a policy begun under the Rudd government, Sri Lankan asylum- seekers are put through a stricter process to prove they are refugees, denying them access to legal advice and the right of appeal.

"Australia’s approach looks like capitulation to the wishes of the authoritarian Sri Lankan regime," Human Rights Law Centre advocacy director Emily Howie was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Daily Mirror Online, 20 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">CBK’s allegations timed for Geneva: President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has asserted that former President Chandrika Bandaranaike’s recent letter to him was timed for the campaign against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC summit in Geneva.

Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, in a letter dated March 21, 2014, sent to Mrs. Kumaratunga stressed: "Many allegations made by you in this letter against the government, the police and Intelligence Services of this country are lacking in even a shred of proof to justify such charges of a serious note."

Weeratunga said that President Rajapaksa wanted you to be assured that there was absolutely no surveillance of your telephone and e-mail communications, and of your residences in Colombo and Horagolla.

The Presidential Secretary was responding to a letter dated 5 March, received by President Rajapaksa on 12 March.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Hakeem fires another salvo at BBS

SLMC Leader and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem has once again come out strongly against the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS), which he says is ruining the country.

He made these comments, addressing his party candidates contesting the Western Provincial Council elections of 29 March from the Kalutara district.

Minister Hakeem accused the Secretary of the BBS, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, of making derogatory statements and said that he felt sorry for the prelate who did not practise and preach ’ahimsa’ in keeping with the tenets of Buddhism.

Hakeem said that he always respected the Buddhist clergy but he was duty- bound to speak for the Muslim community and take up their problems. Just because he had made statements to the international community regarding the issues facing the Muslims in the country, he had not acted against the interests of the country, the SLMC leader said. The SLMC would never bow down to extremists, he said.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 21 March 2014

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">NPC chief secretary takes CM to court

Vijayalakshmi Ramesh, the chief secretary of the Northern Provincial Council, has filed a fundamental rights violation application in the Supreme Court complaining that the Chief Minister of the Province C.V. Wigneswaran, from the day he became the Chief Minister had been attempting to interfere with her employment.

The Chief Secretary has submitted that aforesaid attempt to remove her from office, without a valid reason, is wrongful, arbitrary, illegal and malicious. The appointment of the chief secretary came under the purview of the President. The powers vested in her are by legislative, executive and constitutional processes. But she is not given powers to transfer, employ appoint, or remove employees of the provincial council. There is an apparent infringement of fundamental rights.

She has been subjected to arbitrary, discriminatory treatment and her right to engage in her lawful occupation is being denied. She wanted the court to declare the same, the petitioner has complained.

Among the respondents are Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Governor of the Northern Province G.A. Chandrasiri, Chairman of the Public Services Commission Dr. Dayasiri Fernando, the Secretary to the Minister of Public Administration and the Attorney-General.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Island, 20 March 2014

< class="brown12verdana">Contributors:
Afghanistan: Aryaman Bhatnagar;
Bangladesh: Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee;
Bhutan & Myanmar: Mihir Bhonsale;
India:Niharika Betkerur;
Nepal: Pratnashree Basu;
Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy;
Pakistan: Taruni Kumar

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.