Who is Mahinda afraid of?

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Posted in , ,

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( September 1, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Political analysts are intrigued by what Mahinda is studying with much interest these days. It is, without a doubt, reports submitted to him by his political intelligence sources, in particular about the political leaders who attended Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera's latest and much publicized meetings. He must be wondering who, among them will come to challenge him for the Presidency. A close study of his probable thought process on this matter will yield interesting results.

Chandrika – A dangerous customer, she will try to rope in as many ministers as possible. After all, most of them held cabinet portfolios because of her. Maithri, Susil, Nimal Siripala and the lot; they are unreliable and could easily gang up with Chandrika. They could rest assured of ministerial posts under Chandrika also. With Chandrika in the fray it will be a home and home contest, not a government and opposition battle. SLFP electoral organizers will remain neutral marking time. Under me, Sirisena and Nimal have less power than under Chandrika, because Gota, Basil and Namal are above them in the power structure. A look at Chandrika's disadvantages shows, JVP will never support her. UNP's old wounds inflicted by her are still festering. They would surely not support her. Wimal's allegiance is not dependable. JHU though will not support Chandrika. Tamil, Muslim and Catholic votes will be hers when it comes to an election.

Ranil – It will be not easy for him to contest. JVP, JHU, Wimal and the lot will shun him like the plague. Our ministers will not switch allegiance even if Chandrika promised anything to them because they know Ranil is a born loser. Even SLMC will not want to be on a sinking ship. In that scenario if Ranil comes forward to contest me, it will be easy going for me.

Fonseka – Irrespective of who does and does not support him, one sure thing is that neither JVP nor Ranil will back him. Even if he is chosen as the common candidate, I have nothing to worry. Perhaps JHU, some of our ministers, even Wimal and SLMC could help him. But his civil rights issue hangs over his head like the sword of Damocles. So there is no threat.

Shirani – She is apolitical, no truck with any political party. No Political enemies also. She is a professor and a former Chief Justice. If she wins the contest with me UNP, JVP and even SLFP could all claim she is their candidate. With Chandrika's backing she is the best possible candidate to turn the ministers and other supporters to her side. She is a Sinhala, Buddhist 'osari'-clad lady in the image of Mrs. Bandaranaike. A sure vote-puller.

She is like a village lass with fitting speech competency. She could gather all those who opposed the unjust impeachment to her side. Her critics, though not many, point out that she gave a judgement in favour of the 18th Amendment. Even Neville Samarakone, JR appointed CJ, faced the same criticism when he approved some amendments to the 1978 Constitution, as required by him; but people regarded him a hero when he came out hard on JR later, even giving public speeches against him.
More importantly, JVP's Common candidate nominee at the 1988 Presidential Election was Neville Samarakone. Above all other common candidate aspirants, Shirani has the best credentials for drawing crucial international support to her side. Her highly significant sacrifice of the highest legal office of the country without being cowed down by a rushed impeachment motion against her, roundly criticized by international legal authorities, or by subjecting her to an unending long series of legal action. She is the only new woman candidate in the field who could give me a fight. If she comes she would be like Chandrika in 1994. A new leader as I was in 1995. People generally like new leaders in politics. As she is apolitical even JHU, Wimal's party and TNA will support her. She poses a threat to me.

This is how Mahinda will analyze the situation at ground level. Above all of them, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera stands as a colossus challenging him. Mahinda knows he is the one and only person among all who could cut loose his Sinhala, Buddhist anchor, setting his political ship adrift in a sea of turbulence. Moreover, even if Chandrika, Shirani or Fonseka enter the Presidential race, he knows very well that Ranil will also make his own pitch. But, if Ven. Sobhitha Thera enters the race Ranil will lose the wind in his sail. Even Wimal, Champika and others of that ilk will join the Ven. Monk's bandwagon.
In this scenario, what will Mahinda do? Mahinda is undoubtedly smitten with fear of the political developments yet to show up. A clear pointer to his anxiety is a statement made to the media by his trusted lieutenant Minister Dulles Alahapperuma. He had said that "enemy forces are working together to undermine the freedom we have won at great cost." In the beginning, before Ven. Sobhitha Thera entered the fray, Mahinda was calm and collected when he said he was ready to give a Presidential Election if the Opposition wanted it. But later he changed his tune and asked his party hierarchy whether they wanted a Presidential Election or a Parliamentary Election as Ven. Sobhitha Thera's movement started gathering momentum.

If Ven. Sobhitha Thera remained aloof from active politics, Mahinda could have had an easy romp to his goal. But, even in spite of Ranil, if Ven. Sobhitha Thera's movement fields a candidate with JVP support, he has a good chance of defeating Mahinda. Even if he loses with a small margin, Ven. Sobhitha Thera's movement and the challenger will be the effective Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition challenging the government at the next Parliamentary Election. Delving into the political history of the country one could easily find many instances when candidates sponsored by movements born out of people's sincere commitments have been singularly successful. In 1956 Bandaranaike was sponsored by a Buddhist movement which promoted the Buddhist Commission report.

Chandrika, in 1994, followed the same pattern to come to power sponsored by the Free Media movement and NGOs. In the first part of '90's the Free Media Movement brought together all forces to defeat Premadasa. This is the third time a window of opportunity has opened up for a future leader to shine bright. If it is not taken at the high tide, which is now, and whoever misses the chance to do so will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

(The writer is a senior journalist and editor of the Mawbima, a sister newspaper of the Ceylon Today where is piece was original appeared.)

Australians on Genocide of Tamils

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , , ,

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( September 2, 2014, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Members of the Sri Lankan Diaspora have been discussing the merit of the book “Sri Lanka’s Secrets: How The Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away With Murder” by Australian media personality Trevor Grant.

The conclusion is quoted to be “There is always one thing that despots forget as they go about their business of murder and terror. You can kill thousands of people, but you can never kill the human spirit.”

To me Aborigines of Australia are outstanding examples of this everlasting human spirit. Migrant nations are developed through such democratic process. Given that Aborigines are oldest settlers in Australia the vertical subjective system needs to be led by Aboriginal values. Every migrant using the vertical subjective system has the duty to bring to her/his mind’s eye the Aboriginal elder of that part of Australia or of Australia as a whole. To take over that position as if there was no one else above us is effective genocide. Under the subjective system – the first believer is the head. Many Australians do express their respects to First Australians during Public ceremonies. But this does not extend to Courts and Public Administration where subjective powers are used on the basis largely of British laws. If for example, the Police arresting me on the basis of Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 – had paid their respects to Eddie Mabo – the Aboriginal leader who fought through the legal system to uphold Land Rights common to his community – the Police would have found the Vice Chancellor guilty of wasting Public Resources. But because the Police used the subjective powers of White Australian leaders they were denying the claims of First Australians and were effectively committing genocide. Under the time based subjective system – the eldest person is the subjective leader. In Australia’s case this is Aborigines. In the case of Tamils, this is upheld by Ganesh – the Hindu Deity depicting the intellectual path and the first born of Lord Shiva (Consciousness) and wife Shakthi (Energy).

The more progressive alternative for Australia is the 360 degree view assessment through the system of democracy. Under those circumstances – the Police ought to have recorded as their own observations only one sixth of the big picture. Mine, the Vice Chancellor’s the University Legal Officer’s, the Director of Human Resources and the Chancellor’s ought to have formed the rest of the picture at equal depth. The Chancellor’s assessment of me ought to have been the guidance as far as depth was concerned. That picture eventually happened and the Vice Chancellor was dismissed. The Energy needed for the global picture was developed by me through various parts of the University – the Government being represented by the Police.

Likewise in the case of Sri Lankan Government – the big picture is formed through :

(1) The Sri Lankan Government’s actions through its armed forces
(2) Tamil victims’ expressions independent of other groups
(3) The United Nations which listed the Tamil Tigers as a Terrorist group
(4) The Sri Lankan Public
(5) The Global media
(6) The person/s developing the big picture that they seek to show

To an Australian of Sinhalese origin who stated that I was identifying with LTTE terrorists, I responded:

‘In the system of democracy – one needs 360 degree view. This is an approach taken by Germans and later by many Western groups in HR management. Hindus depicted it through Lord Muruga’s 6 faces. (Please see excerpt below from my book). LTTE claimed that they were freedom fighters. The Tamil Community as a whole did not dispute / override this. If you conclude that identification with LTTE means that I am a Terrorist – then you are confirming what Grant says – that you are using subjective force external to me – to judge me – and you would get all the wrong answers in relation to participation in truly global forums.’

Like with Racism, Genocide could be conscious or subconscious. Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan states in relation to this, under the topic ‘Ethos of Ethics’:

“Often, we adults know right from wrong. But we carefully lull ourselves into thinking that some small wrong, doesn't matter, if it benefits us, and doesn't seem to do much wrong to others. And then we continue along that path, as the unethical behavior grows in magnitude.”

To me that is how subconscious genocide happens. Tamils who failed to produce their work independent of the Government also contributed to this. The LTTE and other militant groups that killed Tamils also contributed to this genocide. Subconscious influences need to be diffused through group power. Those with positive Energies in this regard – need to include the perpetrators – be they the LTTE or the Government of Sri Lanka.

The question here is whether Sri Lankans are to educate mainstream Australians or mainstream Australians qualify to educate Sri Lankans? As a member of minority group in Australia as well as in Sri Lanka – I am choosing the confidential path of including the needy (those needing transformation) as part of my world.

Sri Lanka's Secrets
How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder
By Trevor Grant

With a foreword by Geoffrey Robertson QC

Author Trevor Grant in conversation with Julian Burnside AO, QC, and official launch of Sri Lanka's Secrets, 14 August at Readings Bookshop, Carlton, 6 for 6.30pm

As the civil war in Sri Lanka drew to its bloody end in 2009 the government of this island nation removed its protection from UN officials and employees, who, along with other international observers, were forced to leave the conflict zone. President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his inner circle wanted, it seemed, a war without witness.

The end result was the deliberate slaughter of an estimated 70,000 innocent civilians. However, many survivors, and some who died, were able to capture on camera the horrifying conclusion to the war and the cruel deprivations of the internment camps that followed. Today, through their images and testimony, Rajapaksa stands accused of war crimes.

In Sri Lanka’s Secrets experienced journalist Trevor Grant presents the shocking story of the final days of this war, alongside the photographs and eye-witness accounts of many Tamils, including Maravan, a social worker who fled to Australia by boat after being tortured by soldiers seeking his folio of photographs.

Grant also details the continuing torture and abuse of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and some national governments’ ongoing support for a regime that has abandoned any pretense of democracy. Foremost among these enthusiastic supporters has been the Government of Australia, cynically preoccupied with ‘stopping the boats’ fleeing Sri Lankan state terror. At any cost.


Trevor Grant has worked as a journalist for more than 40 years, as a reporter and specialist feature writer for The Age and News Ltd in Melbourne, mostly in the sports arena. He now works as a broadcaster and writer on activist issues in Australia, and as an advocate for refugees through the Tamil Refugee Council and Friends of Refugees.

Pakistan: Emerging Democracy or Hall of Shame

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , , ,

| by Mahboob A. Khawaja

( September 2, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The nation’s capital is under siege for over two weeks. People want political change and justice to their grievances that is nowhere to be seen. The demonstrators are not hired agitators but real people standing for hard core moral principles and democratic values. Islamabad depicts chaos, extreme insecurity and frightening trend of political mismanagement and failed governance. PM Sharif was already on a life support system of his own making. Now, the oxygen tank is fast running out of the life maintaining system. Nawaz Sharif has lost sense of direction and political maturity to see the mirror and to resign from the powerhouse gained by rigging the 2013 elections. Undoubtedly, Sharif lives in a matrix of lies. He does not have the courage to encounter a truthful statement. Informed Pakistani masses can tell the difference between the truth and a lie.

Pakistani protesters beat a police officer during a clash in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. — Photo by AP

The millions Freedom March to Islamabad is self-evident of this public awareness. According to the DAWN news media report of 1st September, 3 political activists were killed and 450 demonstrators wounded by the police action. In a knowledge-based 21st century age of reason and people’s rights, the people are met by brutal force to change their thinking and motives for political change. A reality check filters out the truth that Pakistan’s democracy faces formidable turbulent challenges even at its infancy without moving forward. When elections were held in May 2013, it signaled a glimpse of a proactive change-making impulse away from the four military coups’ previously consumed precious time and opportunities to bulldoze the imperatives of systematic political change to take roots on its own. Conscientious new generations of educated and intelligent Pakistanis look for hope and are desperate to evolve a system of institutionalized political change to ensure protection of human rights, freedom and dignity and respect for law and justice and a sustainable future. Not so, the traditional elite comprising of the old feudal lords and most being the by-products of military coups are tantamount to dispel any signs of freedom and human dignity out of the box. At stake is the integrity of Pakistan and its future under the old echelons of the few thugs and political conspirators. Those who sabotaged the political change process include the Bhuttos, Zardari, Sharif and few infamous Generals producing the junk history.

The so called politicians have stolen few adhesive labels from the contemporary history to claim political parties: The Muslim League (N), The Muslim League (Q) The Muslim League ( H), The PPP, The National Awami Party, The MQM and lot more. Analyzing critically, these turn out to be just titles, names and fake images carved out by individuals and small vested interest groups who could not find a place in people’s thoughts and inspiration for the good of Pakistan. Across the Pakistani public mind, they are no more than transitory migrating birds that come to grab political powers through intrigues and backdoor conspiracies and in some case with foreign powers keen to make Pakistan a satellite for their own strategic priorities. All rational calculations point out to a new people’s spirit and movement demanding peaceful political manifestation for the good of the country.

Pakistani nation faces many critical perils in its search for a peaceful democratic future.
It is challenging to talk about the current perils that the society faces with unknown serious implications for its future-making, as often prevalent political wickedness will try to silence the truth tellers to bring the real issues to public mind and stance. Those who assume power via intrigues, political corruption would not relinquish it without a powerful jolt from the masses. Miss Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari were no angels or moral political characters but essentially the by-products of most corrupted illegitimate democratic system of governance in Pakistan. It would be hard for historian to find a rationale and justification for the time and opportunities these individuals took to undermine the political future of Pakistan. Enriched with egoistic political imagination of their own, they dreamed of glory and triumph at the cost of ruthlessness, corruption, degeneration and viciousness. The present and future generations are captives of their favorite perversions and political insanity.

No wonder, why Islamabad is under continuing siege by the political activists – one group is led by the new generation activist Imran Khan, the former captain of Pakistani cricket team. The other by a religious scholar Dr. Tahir -ul -Qadri, whose Lahore Minhaj ul-Quran Center was brutally attacked by the police resulting in massacres of many peaceful participants and wounding hundred of others for no obvious reason. It is hard to imagine how rationality could overcome insanity being perpetuated by the Sharif brethren at provincial and national levels over the Pakistani nation. None appear to signal the scenarios of peaceful transformation of serious issues into workable solutions. Lacking political imagination and legitimacy, Sharif brethrens have used power to deal with sensitive issues of public communication and result-oriented political dialogue. Political failure and corruption allegations are nothing new to the profile of Nawaz Sharif. He was twice dismissed as Prime Minister on corruption charges. Do the Pakistani electorates know the value of their vote at the ballot box when and if they had opted for Sharif to be the next political leader?

Vengeful and paranoid, Nawaz Sharif is eager to maintain the Muslim League (N) powerhouse even though he is alleged to have rigged the outcome of the 2013 national elections. Some of his close party associates appear resentful of police actions against the demonstrators. The news media reports cite two members of the Pakistan Election Commission confirming Imran Khan’s allegations that last year elections were rigged by Sharif. This is a critical problem in need of legal discourse and justice. The endless political lies and deceptions by the ruling elite have created a delusional culture of governance in Islamabad. It is woeful how publicly known thugs, crime riddled people have come to facilitate political governance over almost half of a century in Pakistan. They overwhelmingly dominate the political thinking for elections, buy and sell people’s interests, support institutionalized system of corruption, uneducated people lacking moral and intellectual values assume power- the known political imperatives turned beliefs into talking points and emotional crutches - making masses stand firm against the odds of being fired at or getting killed. Reports indicate that Sharif has brought-in special police units from Punjab replacing the Islamabad security apparatus to ensure swift action against the demonstrators. This was the time and opportunity for REASON and political dialogue and not for flying bullets, public beating and crushing the will and spirit of the people for political change. Pakistani politics tells clearly being a house of liars and self-egomaniac people and Sharif is doomed failure. The Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif has cautioned the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resolve the issues by peaceful means. It is hard to imagine that Nawaz Sharif is a man of any principles to leave the office under moral scrutiny or logical persuasion unless pushed out by force.

Pakistan’s enemies are within not elsewhere. Nawaz Sharif (The Muslim League (N) is a stolen name and reference from the Pakistan freedom movement and his associates are mostly nameless and shapeless political characters. They enjoy life on public time and money and depleting monetary resources. Across the nation, trade and commerce are at a standstill. Common people have been deprived of their livelihood by massive public demonstrations and sitting-in at Islamabad. Law and justice are terribly ruptured by the political meddling of the few and their self-geared priorities. Pakistan’s freedom, integrity and economic lifelines are being undermined by the ruling elite. They have no sense of time and history how the future will happen in a logical and peaceful manner of co-existence between the rulers and the ruled. Pakistan’s worst enemies are those who are unable to listen to voices of reason and peaceful activism for change. Even if Sharif calls the joint house of the parliaments, ordinary people know well that Sharif must go. Democracy without people is not a democracy but autocracy and absolute authoritarianism in full swing shedding public blood and destructions to maintain neo-colonial law and order. The use of security forces and power against the people will not resolve the problems - the absolute power, a draconian strategy to dispel the notion of freedom. It is shameful for a functional democracy if any and as harmful in short terms as deadly and anti-freedom in long terms for the sustainability of a free nation. The ruling elite and the people live in a conflicting time zone being unable to understand the meaning and essence of the Pakistan Freedom Movement. Pakistan faces multiple chronic problems which could undermine its future. What is the cure to the current problems? There is no magic pill to deal with all critical situations except a comprehensive new approach for ‘Anew Pakistan’ originating out of the corrupt box to imagine political change and institutionalized developmental future. The masses have experienced tormenting pains and hopelessness for too long. Nawaz Sharif is not a leader of any vision, or proactive leadership traits. His political past and present is a burden on the moral and intellectual conscience of informed Pakistanis. Nawaz Sharif must go. The allegations of election rigging must be investigated. It will provide a logical breathing space for a planned and workable remedy to a highly critical political crisis and for a sustainable Change goal - if a new Government of National Unity is formed under a non-partisan and non political leader of moral and intellectual integrity for a period of two years; a New Constitution is framed with new public institutions under leadership of new generation educated people and then a new election could give meaning and clarity to the purpose of democracy and to transform the ideals of a progressive legitimate functional democracy. In “Pakistan: Anatomy of Turbulent 68th Independence Day” (The Cyrano’s Journal Today, USA: August 14, 2014), this author offered the following plausible solution to the current crisis and a foresight to safeguard the political future of Pakistan:

All the monsters of history are to be found among the absolute leaders exercising absolute power in disregard of the interests of people. The milestones appear clear and the message well articulated by the masses that Sharif must go. He is not a leader with any rational political imagination to envisage any plan for political change and nation-building…….. Moral and intellectual corruption and gangsterism is the order of Pakistani politics operated by the few families. Sharif and his associates have stolen millions to buy real estates in UK and elsewhere. So did Asif ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto and Musharaf too. All enjoy records of dismissal on corruption allegations and charges….. The ideals of the Pakistan Freedom Movement must be revisited and incorporated into the making of the future. To undo the darkened past and reshape the turbulent present, Pakistan desperately needs educated people of new generation and ideas, equipped with visionary and proactive ideals to rebuild public institutions and essential political capacity to safeguard the national integrity, survival and future as a Muslim Nation moving forward to pursue progressive political change and social and economic development infrastructures for the deprived people. The nation is boxed in by most cruel, incompetent and unproductive politicians. Its agriculture heartlands are increasingly becoming barren, business is destroyed, trades, commerce and social lifelines are ruined by the bogus War on Terrorism, public trust is crippled and creativity for change is crushed by ruthless authoritarian rulers. The masses are fed up with daily sectarian killings and political bloodbaths. None of the politicians seem to have standing to regain societal trust and restore normalcy to public law and order. Pakistan urgently needs a savior, not Sharif or the few Generals. The solution must come from the thinking people of the new educated generation – the intelligent Pakistanis to facilitate hope and optimism for a sustainable future of the beleaguered nation.

Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in global security, peace and conflict resolution with keen interests in Islamic-Western comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of several publications including the latest: Global Peace and Conflict Management: Man and Humanity in Search of New Thinking. Lambert Publishing Germany, May 2012.

Muslims and NDA Government: Emerging Trends from the First 100 Days

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , , ,

| by Mazher Hussain
Views expressed in this article are author own

( September 2, 2014, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Muslims who are over 13.4 % of the population of the country and constitute 73 percent of the minority population (as per 2001 census) are recognised as the most backward among all minorities requiring special attention for their development. The other issues that plague the Muslim community are communal violence coupled with social and systemic exclusion. Hence any holistic approach for a meaningful advancement of Muslims must necessarily include provisions for development; mechanisms to ensure security; and appropriate policy formulations to secure genuine inclusion. In fact in the Indian context, the issues of security and inclusion of Muslims are critical and determine the development trajectory for the community.

Prima facie, the trends emerging from the first 100 days of the Modi Government do not appear positive for the Muslim community on any of the essential parameters of security, inclusion or prospects for development.

Fringe on Centre Stage: Portent for Violence and Polarisation

The first major concern of Muslims since the swearing in of the BJP government is the possibility of increased violence against the community. Though the BJP Election Manifesto for 2014 mentions ensuring a peaceful and secure environment, it is clear that a wide range of fringe groups espousing violence and professing allegiance to the Hindutva ideology seem to be striving towards occupation of the centre stage.

Incidences of violence started right from the day of counting of votes on 16th May 2014 when two mosques were attacked near Mangalore in Karnataka and continue through attacks on Muslims in Pune, conflicts in Hyderabad, riots in Saharanpur and other incidences of tensions and conflicts in different parts of the country. More than overt violence, it is the series of virulent statements being issued by leaders of different Hindutva groups, including some BJP leaders, and the launch of a systematic campaign around “Love Jihad” and statements like those of BJP MP Yogi Adityanath "If they take one Hindu girl, we will take 100 Muslims girls," are all vitiating the atmosphere like never before to instigate polarisation and could result in outbreak of violence at a large scale.

Modi government came to power on the promise of development and jobs for all and any violence adversely impacts the processes of development. Hence it will be in the interest of the government to ensure that there is no violence in the country so that the promise of development and jobs for all is realised and the government can seek a successful re-election in 2019. This would be an ideal scenario and Plan A for the government. If the government is indeed confident and keen about the success of Plan A alone, then it cannot allow any instigation to violence by any one and will be required to take immediate and exemplary action.

However, the first 100 days have shown that the government has not taken any strong action or sent a clear message to rein in the fringe Hindutva groups who are consistently vitiating the communal atmosphere in the country. This indicates that preparations for putting in motion Plan B- of coming back to power in 2019 through communal polarisation - seem to have started with all earnestness and may continue to be operative on the fringes and acquire centre stage if and when Plan A appears to be failing. Whether Plan A or Plan B would be a dominant strategy for elections 2019 could become clear by mid 2018.

In so far as Muslims are concerned, the issue of security has already come under a cloud during the very first 100 days and the community could face constant threats in the coming years.

Political and Systemic Exclusion of Muslims

Given the extent and history of backwardness of Muslims, any meaningful and accelerated development of the community requires the government to first put in place appropriate policies like reservations, special Sub Plans and separate budget statement for expenditure reporting (like it is in the case of Dalits, Tribals and Women) that could eliminate the impediments that cause social and systemic exclusion of the community and only there after any programs and schemes for development could be initiated and implemented effectively.

This requires appropriate and effective interventions in the political sphere where most policy decisions are taken. The previous UPA government, with an eye on Muslim votes, had started some initiatives for policy transformations in the field of reservations and Sub Plan but could not operationalise them. BJP, with a traditional antagonism for the Muslim community and no dependence on the Muslim vote to come to power (as shown in the 2014 General Elections), will not be interested in any such transformational policy initiatives for the Muslim community and it has amply demonstrated this in the Union Budget for 2014 even though the repeated slogan both before and after elections by none less than the Prime Minister is Sab Ka Saath- Sab Ka Vikaas (Every one included- Everyone developed).

Another problematic to positive policy formulations for the Muslim community by the BJP led government would be very low participation of Muslims in the ruling BJP at all levels. During 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party gave tickets to only 7 Muslims out of the 482 candidates it fielded (just 1.45 per cent) and none of its Muslim candidates could win- making it the first time that the ruling party has no Muslim member in the Lok Sabha and only one Muslim as a Minister in the entire Union Government taken from the Rajya Sabha. The fact that BJP did not induct any more Muslims in the government despite having one more senior Muslim member in the Rajya Sabha, even when it gave place to defeated candidates or to those who were not members of either house of Parliament shows that there can be very little representation for Muslims in the present government and in the echelons of policy making.

The approach of the government to the policy requirements of the Muslim community can be further gauged from the very first statement of the lone Muslim minister in the Union Cabinet (charged with the Ministry of Minority Affairs) who declared that Muslims are not a minority!

Unpromising Budget

The BJP manifesto for 2014 General Elections had promised to give adequate focus on the development of minorities, particularly Muslims but only 0.7 percent of Total Plan Fund of Union Budget 2014-15 has been earmarked for minorities who constitute 19.5% of the population. Only one new scheme under “Up gradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods” for development of minorities through skill up- gradation has been introduced but there is no fund allocation for 2014-15. Another addition is the allocation of Rs. 100 crore made for Madrasa Modernisation Programme, under the Department of School Education.

The total allocation for minorities made in the Interim Budget have been retained and in the Budget Estimate for 2014-15 the allocation for Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) has increased to Rs. 3, 711 crore from Rs. 3, 111 in 2013-14 (Revised Estimate). But records show that there are huge gaps in allocation of resources, utilisation of funds and programme implementation for the development of minorities. The Ministry of Minority Affairs was able to utilize only 78 percent of the total outlay earmarked in the 11thPlan period and actual utilization of the Budget Estimate by the Ministry was as less as 60.41 percent for the year 2012-13 and was at its lowest at only 39.33% in 2007-08.

It is clear the inclusion of Minority related programs in the budgetary processes through a separate budget statement in the Union Budget as is already being done in the case of women, children, SCs and STs (for expenditure reporting) will greatly help in a more robust utilization of the budget allotted and facilitate optimal development of the community. But the Budget 2014-15 is totally silent about this and it is uncertain if the present government would undertake the radical policy transformations that the development of minorities would require.

UK’s MI6 aided torture of Nepal rebels: Report

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | Monday, September 1, 2014 | Posted in , ,

( September 1, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) British secret service MI6 has been accused of aiding Nepal’s authorities in the torture of Maoist rebels during the South Asian country’s civil war.

The accusations were made by author Thomas Bell in his new book Kathmandu citing sources in the Nepalese security establishment on Britain’s involvement in the country’s decade long civil war.

Bell said British authorities funded a four-year intelligence operation in Nepal in 2002 that financed safe houses and provided training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal’s army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID).

The British agency “also sent a small number of British officers to Nepal, around four or five — some tied to the embassy, others operating separately,” said Bell.

According to Bell, the British officers trained Nepalese authorities on how to place bugs, penetrate rebel networks and groom informers.

The sources said “British aid greatly strengthened” NID’s performance, which led to dozens of arrests, of which a number “were tortured and disappeared.”
One of the sources, a Nepalese general with close knowledge of the operation, argued that there was no doubt that British authorities realized that some of those detained would be tortured and killed.

Furthermore, Bell said that a senior Western official told him that the operation was cleared by Britain’s Foreign Office.

Bell said the findings revealed that “while calling for an end to abuses… the British were secretly giving very significant help in arresting targets whom they knew were very likely to be tortured.”

Tejshree Thapa, senior researcher at the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, commented on the book’s findings saying, “Nepal’s army was known by 2002 to be an abusive force, responsible for… summary executions, torture, custodial detentions,” adding, “To support such an army is tantamount to entrenching and encouraging abuse and impunity.”

Nepal’s civil war between the government and Maoists lasted between 1996 and 2006 and left more than 16,000 people killed.

An excerpt from Thomas Bell’s fascinating Kathmandu

It’s obvious that Kathmandu is a nest of spies. The South Koreans and the Japanese are there to watch the North Koreans... The North Korean embassy is so poor it has to run a restaurant (called Pyongyang) to finance itself. The NID (Nepal intelligence wing) trails Pyongyang’s manager as he travels halfway across town, to save few rupees on the price of melons and mangos in the bazaars south of New Road. The North Koreans also make money by selling Viagra, which they apparently produce themselves. According to Nepali assessments, it works...
Cover for Kathmandu.

The Chinese are there to watch the Tibetan refugees. They are said to run extensive networks under the cover of volunteer teachers and language institutes, NGOs, restaurants, and small businesses; and they place agents among the refugees themselves before they escape across the mountains. A neighbourhood like Boudha, where the refugees gather, is jumping with informants and watchers.

The Indian intelligence agency RAW operates a station of scores of officers, because the Pakistani ISI uses Nepal to infiltrate counterfeit currency into India. Explosives have been found in Kathmandu in houses linked to Pakistani diplomats, and when an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu was hijacked in 1999 Pakistani diplomats were implicated. But mostly the RAW works on infiltrating and manipulating Nepali political parties, and many other institutions. ‘RAW’s not like a normal intelligence agency,’ a Western intelligence officer said. ‘It doesn’t do intelligence, it does political interventions.’

Restaurants and coffee shops where diplomats do their business are kept under domestic surveillance, but this is mostly to see which Nepalis are talking to whom. Nepalis don’t seem to spy on foreign governments very seriously, but they spy on each other with vigour...

About half of the NID is apparently still dedicated to spying on the government of the day’s political opponents, which must create a bewildering maze of personal calculation, because the organization is stuffed with political appointees, and the government changes so often. I arranged to meet an NID man at an Italian restaurant in Thamel, the tourist district… The intelligence man was fat, with short bulging fingers bound in gold rings; the rings bulging with coloured stones. He’d brought an underling along. We ate nothing, but quickly went through several gins and tonic while the underling clutched a bottle of beer. When I made a joke, that the guys playing carom outside a certain politician’s house were probably his colleagues, the NID man seemed to think I was being serious, and turned to his underling to ask if it was so. Then he offered me a story, about a man on surveillance duty who was getting his shoes cleaned while he loitered outside the Teaching Hospital. The target moved, and he had to take to his motorcycle with one shoe missing. ‘The shoe shine guy was probably a spy too,’ I said. ‘Yeah, a static post for the Indians! It’s like that now, so many people watching the same target, and when he’s gone to bed they’re always the last ones around: our guy, the Nepal Police, the APF, the army, RAW...’


There is no question that the British knew how the army treated prisoners. The British ambassador protested strongly to the Chief of Army Staff around the beginning of 2002, after a man who was collecting his father’s Gurkha welfare pension was arrested from a British Gurkha Welfare Centre, taken to an army camp, and summarily shot. The Doramba killings were raised at a meeting between the king and the British foreign secretary in London in August 2003. In December of that year, Amnesty International circulated a list... of nine people who had ‘disappeared’ in Kathmandu in the previous three months. A few days later the National Human Rights Commission published a list of hundreds of ‘disappeared’ people in the newspapers… The UN’s report on torture and disappearance at the Bhairabnath Battalion in late 2003 came out in May 2006, five months before Operation Mustang was closed down.

British public statements, and private discussions with the Nepali authorities... emphasized the need to protect human rights. Funding was provided to human rights NGOs… The Red Cross registered 1,122 detainees in the Kathmandu Valley between 2001 and 2006, but less than a third of their visits were to military establishments, to which they were rarely granted access. According to the Red Cross, 1,401 people were still missing from all parts of Nepal in 2012... There are eighty missing people in the Kathmandu Valley whose fate is unknown and a further seventeen for whom there is information that they are dead but whose remains have not been found…


By late 2004 it seemed that King Gyanendra was planning a coup to seize power outright. MI6 had strong indications of this from sources inside the palace and army… Through their senior contacts the British spies tried to pass their advice to the king, that a coup would be a bad move for the monarchy. An extra layer of cover was added to Operation Mustang when the High Altitude Research Centre was formally registered as an NGO on November 11. Around December that year the British and American ambassadors both sought assurances — and received them from the king personally — that no coup would take place… the final timing of the coup, on February 1, 2005, seems to have been a surprise to the British…

…the timing of the coup played havoc with all kinds of shipments. There were tons of military hardware waiting to be delivered, but the king forfeited it to the suspension of military supplies that Nepal’s vexed allies now imposed. Within months the army was running low on ammunition. ‘If he’d waited a few weeks the trucks would have been in Nepal,’ a general lamented. ‘But it was an auspicious day, an auspicious time, given by the astrologers.’

The same general said, ‘The king must be wise enough to understand. He must have a good ear for listening, but he lacked that...’

‘Unfortunately King Gyanendra couldn’t manage the political strings,’ said a top policeman…

Another general put it simply: ‘The Maoists had a better agenda’.

The war was a political issue, and in the end India managed the political strings...

Broadcasting regulations of Bangladesh and a debate

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , , ,

| by Swadesh Roy writes from Dhaka

( September 1, 2014, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) In Bangladesh, private television is a new phenomenon; it has been started from 2000, but it has been spread recently. If anyone sees in very narrow sense, there are no broadcasting regulations in Bangladesh like the regulations of print and publications. It is true, in Bangladesh print and publications act is nothing more than the article 39 of the Bangladesh constitution. Article 39 says, “39(1) freedom of thought and conscience is guaranteed. (2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency of morality, or in relation of contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence- (a) the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and (b) freedom of the press, are guaranteed.”

According to this guide line of the constitution and the Penal Code of Bangladesh (PCB) is good enough for the press freedom of Bangladesh. Besides that, in Bangladesh constitution, article 7(1) says, “All powers in the Republic belong to the people, and their exercise on behalf of the people shall be effected only under, and by the authority of this constitution.” So it is clear, in Bangladesh every citizen can exercise his all kind of power under the constitution, Similarly press freedom can be exercised only under the constitution. Any person and any profession are not above the constitution.

Bangladesh government has now declared a broadcasting regulation according to the article 39 and article 7 of the constitution. Government is thinking that, like press and publication act for the newspapers and books, a regulation is needed for the broadcasting because in Bangladesh there is no regulation for television and radio. If anyone asks me, do you think this broadcasting regulation is needed? My answer will be negative. I will say, our constitution and PCB is good enough. There is no need of any extra broadcasting regulation. The editor, director even the journalists of the Radio, TV and newspapers are the citizen of Bangladesh; a citizen of Bangladesh must obey the constitution of Bangladesh. So he or she should run his media under the authority of constitution. Therefore, if he or she runs his media house under the constitution that is good enough for the people and the country; even for the government. Even it is obvious that, every working journalist should know the constitution and the related penal code and they should think every time before writing and broadcasting, is it under constitution or not? So press freedom and regulations all are depended upon the editing of the media. That is why some times the work of editor is compared with the work of president of a country. Both have to always be cautious regarding constitution and the people of the country. However, it is true many countries have a broadcasting regulation. In that sense, the Government of Bangladesh can think about it. Besides a group of journalists are interested on it even some union leaders of journalists who work with the government as a party worker, they insisted government. However, thanks to the government for not taking any step for bypassing constitution.

After all, the million dollar question is that, why the government is interested to make a broadcasting regulation? In my article, I have told that private television is a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. On the other hand Bangladesh is not a political established country besides in this country there are huge amount of terrorists' black money. The sector of private television is new, so in this sector there is huge shortage of experience manpower. Simultaneously, market is small, so there is an unethical competition. Besides these two, terrorists’ black money is working in many televisions. So they are trying to disestablish the government. Sometimes inexperience manpower pulls down the TV near to face book for lack of their quality, knowledge and experience. That is harmful for media. Even than anybody can say in Bangladesh, the broadcasting media is no better than social media. All over the world in many ways million or billion numbers of social reaction or social comment and some unedited news are coming out. We call that social media. But the world should think about this name. Media must be edited. Which we are calling social media, it is not edited. So it should not be called as media, it may be at least social forum. This so called social media or social forum and some irresponsible televisions of Bangladesh are now harmful for Bangladesh building healthy economy and washed out terrorism. Government has shut down in the mean time two televisions they were directly broadcasting against the constitution, they were broadcasting in favor of a terrorist group who wanted an Islamic fundamentalist constitution in Bangladesh. Besides that, terrorist groups of Bangladesh have hosted huge number of web pages and they are posting always fake and harmful matters for the country and for the people.

However, after declaring the broadcasting regulations, a group of journalists are very much against it but most of them are leaning with Jammat-E- Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist party, both are Islamic Fundamentalist party. Even some of them demand the release of one of the fundamentalist and criminal Mahamudur Rahaman who made ICT crime in favor of war criminal of Bangladesh, when he was a so-called editor. So this debate is not main concern. Now in Bangladesh, it is needed that, media should run under the authority of the constitution and need a strong ICT act. Besides Bangladesh should filter the social media or forum because it should remember that Bangladesh is a country, which was a den of terrorist, now it is being washed by the good leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

Swadesh Roy, Executive Editor, The Daily Janakantha,Dhaka, Bangladesh and he is a regular columnist for Sri Lanka Guardian, he can be reached swadeshroy@gmail.com

Bangladesh: Political violence persists

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , , ,

( September 1, 2014, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) According to information gathered by Odhikar, in August 2014, six persons were killed and 497 were injured in political violence. 31 incidents of internal violence in the Awami League and three in the BNP were recorded during this period. In addition to this, two persons were killed and 351 were injured in internal conflicts of the Awami League while 22 persons were injured in conflicts within the BNP.

Full text of the report is follows;

Bala Tampoe Bids Adieu

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , ,

( September 1, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) General Secretary of the Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union and trade unionist - Bala Tampoe has passed away.

He was 92 years of age.

The Mother of All Blowback

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , ,

| by Eric Margolis

( September 01, 2014, Boston, Sri Lanka Guardian) President Barack Obama is being lambasted by US Republicans for admitting that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the rise of the militant group, ISIS, or Islamic State, as it’s now known.

Given that the US had made an unbelievable mess of its Mideast policies, the president is right to pause and think, something his shoot –from- the- lip Republican critics rarely do. They are demanding the US attack both Iraq and Syria without asking “what then oh brave Washington warriors?” These are the Republicans who ardently supported George Bush’s catastrophic invasion and destruction of Iraq.


The problem is that too many cooks in Washington are spoiling its Mideast soup. In his magnificent new book, “The Sleepwalkers,” Prof. Christopher Clark of Cambridge describes how World War I was in part ignited by small numbers of anti-German officials in France, Russia, Serbia and Britain who often undermined their own government’s moderate policies.

The same process occurred under President George W. Bush when cabals of neocon officials in the Pentagon, State Department, CIA and media drove the US into a calamitous war whose negative effects are still being felt.

Today, other pro-war cliques in official Washington are at it again, each trying to dominate policy. Add a bunch of pro-Israel billionaires who have bought both the Republican and Democratic parties, apparently including Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.

President Obama has always found it extremely difficult to impose his will on all these different factions, even more now that he’s a lame duck. He has repeatedly made clear that he wants to avoid any new wars, but while allowing drone attacks to increase.

Both party politics and the need to shore up America’s shaky Mideast imperium – which I call the American Raj – are pushing Obama towards military action.

So we see small numbers of US troops being sent back to Iraq – enough men to get the nation stuck in a new conflict but not enough to make a major difference. In short, the worst of both worlds.

Now, Obama is being pressed to attack Syria, an idea so crazy it takes the breath away. Obama is largely responsible for the current disaster in Syria – nearly 200,000 dead and three million refugees. Once thriving Syria, the real heart of the Arab world, has been devastated. President Vlad Putin may not save Obama this time.

The US sponsored and armed the uprising against the Assad regime, which had brutally ruled Syria for 43 years. France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations backed the campaign to overthrow Assad, as a way to damage Iran, Syria’s principal ally. The result: a bloody war of attrition that is slowly being won by Damascus.

Worse, the western intervention in Syria produced what is known in the intelligence business as “blowback”- in this case the Mother of all blowback.

The Syrian jihadist supported by the western powers and, for some baffling reason, Turkey, ran amok. A previously unknown band of gunmen known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were trained and armed in Jordan by CIA, then turned lose on Syria.

ISIL became ISIS, then the by now notorious Islamic State(IS) which has been rampaging across northern and central Iraq. What makes IS so effective is that the major portion of its leaders and soldiers are veterans of President Saddam Hussein’s army, notably the Republican Guard. With IS is the last surviving Saddam insider, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

When the US first invaded Iraq, Saddam predicted it would face the “Mother of all battles.” Westerners laughed. Eleven years later, the laughter has been silenced. Iraq continues to fight on and it is no longer safe for foreign oil companies. Saddam’s revenge.

The Islamic State is the perfect example of Nietzche’s over-used maxim, “what does not kill us makes us stronger.” It has risen from the ruins of Iraq and Syria to challenge the American Raj.

“Light” bombing by the US in Iraq won’t stop the IS. Pentagon chiefs now say US air power and special forces must go into Syria. This is standard Obama procedure: inching forward and launching trial balloons to test public opinion. But it’s clear the American public does not want new wars no matter what the pro-war media and bought Congress may say.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia. http://ericmargolis.com/

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

Due Process Of Law Must Protect Those Who Seek The Missing

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , ,

| The following statement issued by the National Peace Council

( September 1, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances was marked on August 30. On this day, families of disappeared persons in Sri Lanka, and friends and activists, gathered in Vavuniya in the North, to once again publicly appeal to find the missing persons, at least know the truth of what happened to them, and hold those accountable to justice.

Image Courtesy: Vikalpa
Previously in March this year, several Human Rights Defenders were arrested. Several of them were subsequently released following local and international protests. But one of them, Balendran Jeyakumari, continues to languish in prison. She has been a leading campaigner for the rights of those who have gone missing during the war, and of their families. Jeyakumari is a victim herself who lost three of her four children in the war. Two of them were killed in the course of the war. The third, a boy aged 15 at the time he went missing, is alleged by her to have been taken into government custody. Her remaining child, a girl aged 13, has been pictured in the media carrying the photograph of her missing brother, and asking for her brother’s return.

The arrest and detention of Balendran Jayakumari under controversial circumstances and without being brought to trial, raises the question whether those who speak out on behalf victims of the war are being targeted for arbitrary punitive action. Due process of justice requires that the suspects should be tried before courts without being held for long periods under detention. The Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is a widely criticized law, allows individuals to be detained for up to 18 months without charge. But it was for use during the war. Today, Jayakumari is detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for over five months by a court order and languishes in the Boosa detention centre which is at the other southern corner of the country.

We note that the army spokesperson has been reported as saying “Jayakumari was taken into custody for harboring an armed criminal wanted in connection with an ongoing investigation. Her young daughter was also taken into protective custody as there was no adult in the neighbourhood willing to give shelter to her.” If so she can be charged in courts. But so far, to our knowledge, no credible evidence has been produced by the government to substantiate the allegation against her that she was involved in aiding and abetting the purported LTTE revivalists who were shot death by the military in April. Indefinite detention without charges gives rise to the reasonable suspicion that Jeyakumari is being penalised, deprived of her fundamental rights, for speaking out on behalf of those families seeking the whereabouts of their missing loved ones.

Jeyakumari’s ongoing detention by the government continues to send a chilling message to Sri Lankan human rights defenders that their activism may be punished with similar arbitrary action. We also concerned for Jeyakumari’s mental wellbeing and physical safety as allegations of torture are being made against the law enforcement officials. It is this type of ongoing human rights violations that drive many people to support the call for a credible and independent UN investigation into what happened in the last phase of the war, and continuing human rights violations at present.. The arrest of Jayakumari can conceivably be portrayed as an attempt to cause fear among victims of the war who have not had any relief from the State and may wish to take their cause before the UN Inquiry.

In view of the disputed and controversial nature of the facts, the National Peace Council appeals to the National Human Rights Commission to look into this case and any other similar cases where persons are detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act without being brought to trial. We also believe that the abuse of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to detain persons to intimidate and silence them highlights the need for its repeal and re-affirms the citizen’s right to speak out and campaign for human rights and justice.

Governing Council: The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe to visit Sri Lanka

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , , ,

| The following statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo

( September 1, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Prime Minister of Japan, His Excellency Shinzo Abe has planned to undertake an official visit to Sri Lanka from 7th to 8th September 2014, at the invitation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It may be recalled that President Rajapaksa paid an official visit to Japan in March 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Japan.

It is 24 years since the last visit of a Japanese Prime Minister to Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka is confident that this visit will enable both countries to further consolidate and expand the existing robust relations, particularly in trade and economic cooperation.

Prime Minister Abe will be accompanied by a high level delegation, which also includes business leaders from several Japanese companies, notably small and medium sized enterprises, ranging from infrastructure to food industries. Japan has been a key partner in Sri Lanka’s socio-economic development and the forthcoming official visit of Prime Minister Abe will be an important milestone in further enhancing bilateral relations. 

China denies full democracy for Hong Kong

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | Sunday, August 31, 2014 | Posted in , ,

Electoral framework allows direct elections in 2017, but rules out direct nomination of candidates by voters.
( August 31, 2014, Hong Kong SAR, Sri Lanka Guardian) China has endorsed a framework for the first direct election in Hong Kong in two years, but stopped short of allowing citizens of the special administrative region from directly nominating candidates, which activists have been demanding.

The announcement snuffs out hopes for a democratic breakthrough in the regional financial hub [EPA]
The National People's Congress Standing Committee decided on Sunday that the city's next Chief Executive will be elected by popular vote in 2017, "upon nomination by a 'broadly representative' committee", the official news agency Xinhua reported.

"Since the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake, there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner," the Standing Committee said in their decision.

Al Jazeera's Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said the decision is a "direct slap" at pro-democracy activists, who have been demanding for their right to decide who their candidates should be.

"It's a decision that everyone had feared," our correspondent said.

Political reform has been a constant source of friction between Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and the mainland since the former British colony was handed back to Communist Party rulers in 1997.

Beijing is already hailing it as a milestone in democratic reform.

However, Beijing will tightly curb nominations for the leadership poll to filter out any candidates it deems unacceptable.

Only two or three "patriotic" candidates will be allowed on the ballot and open nominations will be ruled out.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said that Chinese leaders are worried that Hong Kong voters would elect a leader, who would directly challenge the Communist Party leadership.

With the decision, China wants to remind the world and Hong Kong voters that "it is ultimately in-charge of Hong Kong," he said.

Instead, candidates must be backed by at least 50 percent of a 1,200-person "nominating committee".

That committee is meant to be "broadly representative" of Hong Kong interests, but will be similar in composition to an existing election committee stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists.

It is a formula that will rile Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists, who plan to blockade the city's Central business district in the coming weeks.

'Occupy Central'

On Saturday, Hong Kong's public broadcaster RTHK said 5,000 police will be deployed for the "Occupy Central" protest, heightening the sense of unease. The city's 28,000-strong police force is already on high alert.

Hong Kong's democracy advocates remain deeply distrustful of Beijing despite assurances from the mainland.

"Even if we accept a fake democracy model, there's no assurance at all, that for the next vote, there'll be real democracy," said Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy lawmaker.

Wang Zhenmin, a prominent legal scholar and Chinese government adviser who was flown to Hong Kong by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to talk about the 2017 election, said it is time for "practical and realistic steps".

Willy Lam, a Hong Kong political analyst, however, told Al Jazeera that Hong Kong voters are "very angry" that China is "reneging" on its promise during the 1997 handover. And he predicted "substantial protest" starting on Sunday evening.

The proposed electoral framework will still have to be endorsed by two-thirds of Hong Kong's 70-seat legislature.

With pro-democracy lawmakers holding more than a third of the seats, the proposal will likely be shelved.

Senior Chinese officials have repeatedly warned activists against their "illegal" protests and said they would not back down.

On Friday, China also repeated its warning against foreign interference, saying it will not tolerate the use of Hong Kong "as a bridgehead to subvert and infiltrate the mainland".

The Occupy Central movement has not yet won broad support among Hong Kong's middle class, who are concerned about antagonising China and disruptions to business, but strong measures by China or the Hong Kong police could change that.

Al Jazeera and agencies

Economics and Elections

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian | | Posted in , ,

| by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“When the social contract is abrogated, when trust between a government and its citizens fails, disillusionment, disengagement or worse follows.”
Joseph Stiglitz (The Price of Inequality)

( August 31, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Most Lankans do not earn enough to make ends meet, according to government statistics.

53% of the urban population, 73% of the rural population and 81% of the estate population do not receive the minimum income necessary to pay for food and other basic needs, according to the Department of Census and Statistics.

“A family of four in the urban sector needed an income of Rs. 59,000 for their monthly food and other basic requirements, while a family of four in the rural sector needed Rs. 37,560 and a family of four in the estate sector Rs. 29,000.” And the absolute majority of families in all three sectors do not earn this minimum monthly income.

Obviously the fancy projects so beloved by the Ruling Siblings, from Arcade Independence to Lotus Towers, have no relevance whatsoever to the actual lives and needs of most Lankans.

A hungry man cannot be convinced that his stomach is full. But he can be made to believe that his hunger is a temporary condition. In the past the Siblings did manage to convince a large segment of the populace (probably a majority) that economic deliverance is just round the next bend.
No more. As the CPA surveys demonstrated, hope of economic betterment has eroded sharply between 2011 and 2013 – not just among Tamils and Muslims but also among Sinhalese.

In 2011, 70% of Sinhalese thought the general economic situation will improve in the next two years. In 2013 only 38.5% of Sinhalese thought the general economic situation will improve in the coming two years . A decrease of 45% in just two years amounts to a radical change in public perception. A change which can impact, perhaps even decisively, on politics, especially electoral-politics.

There is a yawning gap between what most Lankans want the government to prioritise and the actual Rajapaksa priorities. According to the CPA Survey, a majority of Lankans think the government should focus on cost-of-living, poverty and education issues. Fancy infrastructure projects and beautification programmes are not a priority for the Sinhalese either, who want the government to focus on cost-of-living (58.5%), health (33.1%) and reducing poverty (33%).
How can people not lose hope given this chasm between what they want the government to do and what the government is actually doing?

The prospect of a dimmer future is not just a matter of conjecture but also of hard facts. According to a confidential report by a ministerial subcommittee, revenue as a percentage of the GDP has been declining over the years. In 2011 revenue was 14.3% of the GDP; in 2012 it declined to 13% ; an even sharper decline happened in 2013, when the ratio fell to just 11%.

The regime’s grandiose revenue estimates for 2015 are thus nothing but pie in the sky, ‘unrealistic and unachievable.’

The Committee also warns against that cornerstone of Rajapaksa economics - excessive reliance on indirect taxes: “It is not prudent to continue our over-reliance on indirect taxes and must rely instead on a direct tax effort. We must ease taxing of goods for consumption and services regardless of the people’s income levels and avoid placing burdens on the poorer households” . The Committee has opposed another Rajapaksa habit - that of giving generous tax exemptions to favoured investors. Most pertinently, the Committee has warned that over time “neither savings, investments nor revenue have increased other than generating a higher rate of consumption.”

In a nutshell, the Rajapaksas prepare budgets based on non-existent revenue; they give concessions to the rich while imposing unbearable burdens on the poor and the middle classes; their over-reliance on indirect taxation is pushing prices – especially of essentials – up; consumption, be it governmental or popular, is based not on earnings but on debt.

Not only is the regime wasting the country’s meagre income on unproductive, wasteful and unnecessary ventures; it is also encouraging the people (especially the middle classes) to adopt an equally unsustainable living pattern. We have a country, a government and a people ensconced in a borrow-and-spend bubble.
Bubbles do not last. This is probably the main rational reason for early national elections.

Last time national elections were held early, so that the Rajapaksas could benefit fully from the rosy afterglow of victory. This time the main (non-superstitious) reason for early elections would be economics, the fear that in two years, the façade would have cracked too much and illusions would be in shorter supply than necessary.

Wrong Economics; Economic Wrongs

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa prides himself on his efficiency. Facts and figures tell quite another story. According to a report presented to parliament by the Auditor General, the UDA has been making loses since 2006. By 2011, the UDA’s accumulated losses amounted to over Rs. 1,230 million (1.23 billion rupees).

And when the UDA makes a profit, it does so the Rajapaksa way, via sleight-of-hand. Again, according to the AG’s Report, “Even though the Authority had realised a profit before tax of Rs.242 million in 2011, the profit was due to a receipt of Rs.532 million from the General Treasury….” In other words though the UDA claimed to have made a profit in 2011, in actuality, it made a massive loss of Rs.290 million!

Then there is the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport; in May its total earning was Rs. 16,185/-; not profit; but income ! Incidentally one wonders how many litres of water are spent per day on maintaining this loss-making colossus while ordinary people and animals of Hambantota and Moneragala are tormented by acute thirst.

Despite the precarious state of governmental revenue, the Rajapaksas gave another signature tax break this month – to casinos. “…12% Value Added Taxes and 2% Nation Building Tax charged on existing casinos were removed and replaced with a mere 5% gaming revenue.” An understandable largesse, given that most of the exiting casino owners are Rajapaksa acolytes, including Dhammika Perera, businessman and Secretary to the Ministry of Transport.

The deficit caused by sky-rocketing expenditure and plummeting revenue is bridged by borrowing, mostly from China. Sri Lanka has received “an estimated $4billion worth of loans, grants and aid…. Nearly 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s infrastructural projects….are being funded by Chinese banks.” Most Chinese funds come not as grants/aid but as loans – meaning higher interests and stringent conditionalities, including political ones. This will worsen relations with Delhi, with PM Modi taking a tougher line on ethnic and fishing issues to punish the Rajapaksas for their dependence on Beijing. Rajapaksa economics is creating a vicious circle in the arena of foreign relations as well.

As the efficacy of razzle-dazzle to sustain false hopes fades, the Rajapaksas will embrace ethno-religious racism with increasing vigour. Imaginary enemies, from resurrected Tigers and Jihadists to Catholic Action and Western conspiracies, will be used to frighten Sinhala-Buddhists into clinging to the Kurrakkan shawl.

Moneragala is a test case. It hints at the lengths the Rajapaksas will go to, to maintain familial power and prestige. The greater the economic malaise, the more lethal the election violence; 2015 will be far bloodier than 2010.

  1. Question Time reveals colossal waster pf public funds while masses struggle – Chandani Kirinde – The Sunday Times – 27.7.2014
  2. http://www.scribd.com/doc/182597529/Top-line-survey-results-Democracy-in-post-war-Sri-Lanka
  3. The Island – 10.6.2013
  4. Light on revenue: Cabinet subcommittee says 2015 revenue targets undrealistic and unachievable - Sandun Jayasekara – Daily Mirror - August 23
  5. The UDA not just makes losses; it also breaks the law with impunity. For instance, “The Auditor General also noted that even though the Authority had been informed by the Attorney General in writing that the UDA was not authorised to establish a company for managing rest houses, the Authority had established a company named UGA Rest House, exceeding its legal powers. The company had been renamed as Lanka Rest House Company with effect from Nov.15 2010.”
  6. http://sundaytimes.lk/140427/news/uda-losses-since-2006-total-rs-1230-million-auditor-general-93978.html
  7. http://lankacnews.com/english/news/may-income-rs-16185/
  8. http://www.ceylontoday.lk/22-71278-news-detail-good-for-casinos.html
  9. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/08/sri-lanka-economy-reliance-china-infrastructure-20148256345589851.html

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