India: Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit draws fire for meeting district officials!

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India: Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit draws fire for meeting district officials!

– Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

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Tamil Nadu governor’s action of talking directly to the officals has been criticized by political leaders in the state who argue Governor cannot do that as there is an elected government, MLAs, MPs, ministers, who would do that job and Governor should not have assumed the role assigned for the state government

 

Tamil Nadu’s newly appointed Governor Banwarilal Purohit seems to have departed from the usual practices of governors in India who just enjoy life at the high bungalows, attend important meetings, inaugurate conferences, etc,  and sign the necessary documents.

 

Governor Purohit on November 14 held review meetings with top district officials in Coimbatore. However, this did not go down well with the opposition, with some politicians objecting to it.  The Governor had arrived in Coimbatore to attend the convocation ceremony of Bharathiar University.

 

Later, in the day, he held meetings with the district officials, including the collector, city police commissioner and corporation commissioner and other senior officials. This has set off a debate over whether the Governor overstepped his Constitutional remit and was interfering in the affairs of the district administration.

 

Informal meeting

 

Governor of a state is constitutional head of that state and the real ruler who governs the state with the help of an elected government. In fact, Governor appoints the cabinet with a team of ministers along with a CM to lead the government and reports to the Governor its performance on a regular basis. If the Governor is not satisfied with the performance of the government he or she can take action to replace it with another ministry.  Governor needs the approval of the federal government for any major change. .

 

The informal meeting of government officials convened by Tamil Nadu’s new Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, in Coimbatore raised eyebrows, as the meeting was ostensibly meant to get a briefing on activities and governance in the district, usually not part of the Governor’s role. The meeting reportedly included Powerpoint presentations by Coimbatore District Collector T N Hariharan and about a dozen senior officials, inviting criticism from several opposition parties in the state.

 

Besides the collector, among the top officials in Tuesday’s meeting with Purohit were the Superintendent of Police, city police commissioner, senior Revenue, PWD, Highways and Health officials and the Coimbatore corporation commissioner, sources said.

 

 

A secretary in the government said that usually the collector and the SP meet the Governor during his/her visit to districts. “Such meetings may also include informal conversations about the district. But a Governor meeting officials and formally demanding a briefing or presentation is unusual,” the officer said.

 

While former Governors confined most of their meetings to the Raj Bhavan in Chennai, Purohit’s office said he will attend more programmes in Coimbatore on Wednesday, overseeing progress of Swachh Bharat scheme in the district, among others.

 

Collector Hariharan said, “It was not a review meeting. He is a new Governor. Unless he knows about the district, he cannot contribute in development.” Hariharan added that Purohit had worked in a similar manner during his earlier stints at Governors of Assam and Meghalaya. Asked whether the meeting was part of usual protocol and briefings formal, Hariharan said, “It was an official but informal meeting.”

 

Reaction

 

Politicians and officials in Tamil Nadu are mindful of the fact that Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi neighbouring Puducherry has already challenged the elected government on several policy and administrative decisions.

 

 

State Congress chief S Thirunavukkarasar said, “When we have an elected government, with a Chief Minister and ministers, the Governor need not to go to districts and meet officials.” The CPI (M) and Dalit party VCK were among other parties that criticised Purohit’s decision to reportedly demand briefing from officials.

Asked about Purohit’s approach, a senior jurist said that there is “nothing unusual” in a Governor meeting officials, as he is the head of the state.

 

Fringe political outfits like Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, led by its chief K Ramakrishnan, tried to hold a black flag demonstration and were removed by the police.

 

All opposition leaders have condemned the Governor’s action as ‘silly’. Objecting to Governor Purohit’s meetings in Coimbatore, CPI (M) G Ramakrishnan said, “This only proves, yet again, that the government here is under the control of the BJP and is acting as its handmaiden”.

 

VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan said: “It is unconventional and unnecessary for the governor to intervene in administration. In Delhi and Puducherry, at least there is a justification for governors intervening in government administration since they are Union territories.”  Congress functionary A Gopanna said: “As far as our constitutional scheme of things is concerned, the Governor, when he or she has any issue to take up with the State government, can get it done through the council of Ministers. It would not be healthy for him to interfere in the functioning of the administration.”

 

But a senior IAS officer recalled that when he was the collector of Tindivanam, he received specific directions to ignore the visit of then Governor M Chenna Reddy, whose power tussles with the then J Jayalalithaa government were infamous. “We used to get directions from the government  not to meet or listen to his (Chenna Reddy’s) instructions. I have never seen such a crisis after the tenure of Governor Reddy,” the IAS officer recalled.

 

 

A bureaucrat TNM spoke to said that it was an abnormal move. Another said, “In the last few decades, TN Governors and Chief Ministers have had an amicable relationship. But I wonder if a CM like Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa would have allowed this?”. Another bureaucrat however disagreed. “The Governor is not familiar with the scenario in TN. Also, it is important that he is familiar with the bureaucracy. As long as he didn’t give them instructions on what to do, such a meeting is well within his rights,” the bureaucrat said.

 

DMK MP and organizing Secretary RS Bharati alleged that the BJP was trying to repeat in Tamil Nadu what it has done in other states while saying, “It is completely unacceptable.”

 

Meanwhile, BJP state president Tamilisai Sounderajan defended the governor and said, “We should look at the meetings in a positive manner. Just because there is no precedent, it doesn’t stop a governor from meeting officials for the welfare of the state.”

 

Unusual Governor

 

Banwarilal Purohit is a public personality inseparably involved in social, political, educational and industrial fields of Vidarbha in Maharashtra.Purohit entered the field of politics in 1977. He had won Maharashtra Assembly election for the first time in 1978 from Nagpur east seat. Soon after, he was re—elected in 1980 from Nagpur south and became a minister in 1982. In 1984 and 1989, Purohit was elected to the Lok Sabha from Nagpur-Kamptee seat and was a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of Defence Ministry. He was re-elected from the Lok Sabha seat in 1996 and served as a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Home Affairs, Member of Standing Committee on Defence and Member of Public Sector Undertaking Committee. Switching between BJP and Congress, he was under criticism and had a difficult time, especially after 2000. He was appointed as the Governor of Assam in 2016, along with the additional charge of Meghalaya. Purohit is also credited with revival of ‘The Hitavada’, an English daily founded by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the mentor of Mahatma Gandhi. Under him ‘The Hitavada’ became a leading newspaper of central India and apart from its headquarters edition at Nagpur the daily also launched editions from Jabalpur, Raipur, and Bhopal.

 

As a full-time Governor, Banwarilal Purohit, who was appointed as TN governor when he was Governor of Assam, was expected to face the challenge of handling the volatile political situation in the state following the unexpected death of CM Jayalalithaa. .

 

Divisions in the ruling AIADMK created problems for the former Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao but he handled well the delicate issue of putting a new government in office. He very tactfully denied Sasikala’s strenuous efforts to become the chief minister after managing the show of taking over the party. Many Party leaders have close financial links with her and hence they supported her. Rao waited for the judgment of Supreme Court on the s disproportionate assets case and his decision has been validated as Sasikala was sent to jail, instead of Madras Fort about which she possibly had been dreaming for years as Jayalalithaa was ill.

 

Later after Palanisamy was sworn to power as CM of Tamil Nadu, O. Pannerselvam also joined his government; there has been a demand from the opposition DMK and Dinakaran, a AIADMK rebel leader and nephew of jailed Sasikala to ask the Palanisamy to prove  hi s majority n the assembly, but Governor Rao did not oblige them as he did not think   Dinakaran and his supporting MLAs oppose the AIADMK government and  that he is angry maybe because  EPS had not made him a minister.

Dinakaran himself told reporters in Chennai he still believed that the Governor would take a “good” decision on the demand of the 19 MLAs owing allegiance to him on the removal of the Chief Minister. He said he was giving time for Palaniswamy to step down on his own.

 

Following the development, the DMK and other Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu accused the Governor of playing a “partisan” role and “passing the buck” by refusing to convene a meeting of the Assembly for the AIADMK government to prove its majority. They demanded a full time Governor for the state.  Indian Home minister Rajnath Singh is believed to have told them that the issue was now within the ambit of “internal affairs” of the AIADMK and the Governor had nothing to do with it.

Reacting to the reported remarks of the Governor, DMK leader MK Stalin alleged that Rao was behind the coming together of the two factions of the AIADMK as he was acting at the behest of the Modi government which was using agencies like the Income Tax department and Enforcement Directorate to threaten AIADMK leaders. Stalin said the Governor was playing politics.

 

The BJP in Tamil Nadu strongly defended the role of the Governor, saying opposition parties were trying to politicize the issue.

 

Tamil Nadu politicians should think beyond vote bank politics and consider the problems people face in the state and think about how to help the people. They must sympathetically consider the d efforts of the Governor Purohit for the state and support him all through.

 

Clearly, TN Governor Purohit is an unusual governor who is eager to play his role in streamlining the state politics and policies of Tamil Nadu government. Possibly he aims at speed up administrative works and attack corruption as Tamil Nadu is one of leading corrupt states in the country with a lot of poverty and illiteracy.

 

Hopefully Tamil Nadu and India as a whole would benefit from Governor Purohit’s earnest efforts to help the Tamils.

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USA should focus on global denuclearization and not just target North Korea and Iran!

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USA should focus on global denuclearization and not just target North Korea and Iran!

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

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President Trump has used dirty expressions to belittle North Korea forgetting that it not a weak nation like Pakistan. Though Trump already claims victory in forcing North Korea to shelve its nuke ambitions, it is now clear that he would return to USA empty handed on that issue.

 

Doublespeak and double standards are the basis of US foreign policy and this has harmed the course of international relations as it seeks to impose its will on every nation on earth, threatening those it does not like.

America threatened Iran on behalf of its terror fascism ally Israel illegally possessing WMD obviously from USA and seeks monopoly of nukes in West Asia. USA has already empowered Israeli fascist regime as the regional super power.

In North Korea’s case USA is just taking the side of South Korea and Japan. Not only it threatens North but also asked Japan and South to attack North.

Apparently, US president Donald Trump  has planned his Asia tour keeping in view  the challenge is facing as  the superpower from a third world North Korea hat refuses to toe the US line of thinking and operations as Israel has been doing.

As the longest tour of Asia by a US president in 25 years, US President Donald Trump has embarked on a 12-day trip to Asia starting on Friday the 3rd November during which he would five countries: Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. In his shuttle diplomatic voyage, President Trump is expected to show a united front with South Korea and Japan while pressing China to take a stronger line with Pyongyang.

Donald Trump has kicked off his 12-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region in Japan. Trump will then visit South Korea and China before traveling south to Vietnam and the Philippines.

Ahead of a trip to Asia starting from Japan, Trump urged Saudi Arabia to choose Wall Street as a venue for the initial public offerings (IPO) of shares of oil giant Aramco in 2018. He tweeted from Hawaii, “Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange. The Aramco IPO is expected to be the largest in history, raising around $100 billion in much-needed revenue for the Saudi kingdom. Saudi Arabia has posted $200 billion in deficits in the past three fiscal years due to the slump in global oil prices. Aramco, which controls Saudi Arabia’s massive energy assets, plans to list nearly 5 per cent of its shares in the stock market. Plans are to list the offering in the second half of 2018 on the Saudi stock market as well as an international exchange, with markets in New York and London vying for the offering.

USA and UK have promoted their policy of rampant corruption in Saudi system, quickly duplicated by all other Arab nations.

 

Donald Trump’s tour of Asia offers plenty to keep the US president cheerful, from lavish state banquets to honour-guard pomp and even a chummy round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Upon arrival in Japan, Trump resumed his characteristic aggressive rhetoric targeting his “foes” like North Korea, Iran and Pakistan warning them of destruction saying that they are on a suicide mission.

 

Challenge of Asia-Pacific policy

Fake news, fictitious threat perception concerning their security by the government makes both USA and Israel strong militarily. USA and Israel always fix their imagined foes trying to target and destroy them, though it remains a fact both cannot be destroyed because of their anti-missile shield and WMD.

Thus any country seeking nuclear energy and WMD to defend their nations and populations from possible enemy attacks is viewed as being the cause of destructive trouble for the super power of USA and Israel.  Of course that is only a known gimmick to threaten and bully the weak nations seeking WMD.

Thus Iran and North Korea are seen as their enemies because USA says they are developing nukes to destroy only USA and Israel.

Former US President Barack Obama tried to “rebalance” the US’ defence and economic policy to counter China’s rise, including with a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that excluded Beijing.

Trump scrapped TTP almost as soon as he entered the White House in January. Amy Searight, a former Pentagon official, told Al Jazeera the “lack of any replacement with a proactive trade policy or economic agenda” has left Washington’s Asian partners feeling anxious.

Trump the property magnate is expected to unveil a new framework at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on November 10. White House officials talk up plans for a “free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Although big questions about the policy remain, a recommitment to rules-based economic fairness may be a solid message, Lindsey Ford, a former Department of Defense official, told Al Jazeera.  “It’s important for people to hear that America First does not mean Asia last; that American prosperity can go hand in hand with Asian prosperity,” said Ford, an analyst at the Asia Society Policy Institute, a think-tank.

Trump’s biggest challenge could be the one thing he cannot seem to change: himself.  He is prone to undiplomatic language that plays badly with buttoned-down Asian officials. Previously on Twitter, he accused South Korea of trying to “appease” its northern neighbour, and criticised Xi for not doing enough to rein in Pyongyang.

The trip is longer and tougher than his first foreign venture to the Middle East in May. He may get irked by Japanese resentment over a US military base in Okinawa, or rallies against the “war maniac” US president on the streets of South Korea. “Among government officials, there are going to be a lot of white-knuckles and held breath throughout the two days of his time in South Korea,” Scott Snyder, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

There is a risk of clashing egos when Trump meets Rodrigo Duterte, the hard-boiled president of the Philippines, on November 13. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend APEC, shifting the spotlight back on to the troublesome probe of election collusion.

China is a safer bet.

 

WMD as deterrent

The US President Donald Trump’s two-week visit to the Asia-Pacific region as  the threat of a military confrontation with North Korea will be high on the agenda in Japan, South Korea, and China.

North Korea is developing its nuclear weapons to defend itself against any future US aggression so it doesn’t endure “the tragic situation of the war-torn non-nuclear countries which became the targets of invasion and plunder by the USA.

North Korea needs nuclear weapons as a deterrent to prevent “invasion and plunder” by the unilateral USA. It is indeed scared of US militarism and condemned the USA and its allies’ “crazy escalation of sanctions, pressure, and military threats” against the communist country that “will get them nowhere”.

The nuclear force of the DPRK has become a strong deterrent for firmly protecting peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the rest of Northeast Asia and creditably guaranteeing the sovereignty and the rights to existence and development of the Korean nation, using the acronym for the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Uriminzokkiri commentary denounced the military build-up near North Korea. “It is ridiculous for the US to try to browbeat the DPRK through such muscle-flexing as deploying nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines near the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity and flying nuclear-capable strategic bombers on it,” it said.

The USA has said it will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” the country. In response, Kim Jong-un’s leadership said it may conduct an atmospheric nuclear weapons test. North Korea dared USA to make the first military move.

In advance of Trump’s visit, three American aircraft carrier strike groups have been deployed to the region, a move military analysts have described as unusual. Stratfor, a US-based intelligence analysis company, noted in a report that the US Air Force also will send a dozen F-35A stealth fighter jets to a base in Japan in early November.

The gathering is a rare occurrence – the last time three US aircraft carrier strike groups convened for a combined exercise was in 2007 – and will give the United States a powerful force within striking distance of North Korea,” Stratfor said.”Taken together, these developments suggest that the United States is preparing for a confrontation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Washington is gearing up to start a war with Pyongyang,” a report concluded.

Michael T Clare, a professor of peace and world-security studies at Hampshire College in the US, wrote: “There can be only two plausible explanations for this extraordinary naval buildup: to provide Trump with the sort of military extravaganza he seems to enjoy; and/or to prepare for a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea.”

Tensions remain sky high after North Korea’s sixth and most powerful underground nuclear test in September, and a flurry of ballistic missile tests in recent months.

Target North Korea

Trump has previously exchanged some fiery rhetoric with North Korea over its ballistic missile tests but aides said earlier last week that he would not go to the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) on the border between the South and North. He is, however, to visit Camp Humphreys, a US military complex south of the capital, Seoul. Trump’s visit to China was incorporated into his itinerary to make Beijing get North Korea on board.

The way the Trump government tells it, the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang is rapidly developing nuclear warheads and the intercontinental ballistic missiles to carry them to a US West Coast city such as Seattle or Los Angeles.

The White House counter-strategy seems to be assuring allies such as South Korea and Japan that the USA still has their back, while getting North Korea’s main ally, China, to economically pressure Pyongyang back to the bargaining table.

That’s a recipe for trouble at Trump-Xi talks from November 8 onwards. Many Trump’s officials believe that Beijing has to help solve the North Korea problem. Not be helpful, but solve the problem. And there’s no easy solution to this, certainly not one that China will find acceptable and low cost.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s calculus is different. Beijing-Pyongyang relations have troughed, but a collapse of the hermit nation could send refugees spilling northwards and land American troops on China’s doorstep.

That’s where the fun stops. These are big tests for a commander-in-chief who does, on occasion, follow the teleprompter and stay “on message”, but at other times becomes frustrated and fires off salvos of brusque, early morning Twitter missives.  It also represents a grueling 12-day slog of speech-making, summits, and tricky sit-downs on a range of trade disputes – and the intractable policy headache of North Korea’s nuclear arms program.

While Trump has skimped North Korea in his maiden trip to the region of Asia Pacific, the trip is indeed focused on that country as he wants to deny nuclearization of that nation. He wants to make a united front among the regional powers including China against North Korea.

Trump has spoken of raining “fire and fury” on North Korea – rhetoric that nudges the region towards a potentially calamitous conflict. He may well tone that down a notch when addressing the National Assembly in Seoul on November 8. He may also be wise to offer some goodies. The US pull-out from TPP came as China was rolling out its multibillion-dollar “Belt and Road” infrastructure development plan across Asia and beyond.  According to Ford, the expected Asia policy must provide a new “economic vision, post-TPP”. Simply renegotiating a bilateral trade with South Korea, and vaunting new ones with Japan and Vietnam, is not enough.

Will there be a war on the Korean Peninsula?

Absolutely there is no chance for a direct US war with North Korea, a close ally of China and Russia –veto members.  Russia and China would reject any US proposal in UN for a war with NK. USA would not dare attack North Korea on its own or under the NATO banner since Russia and China might as well enter the war, making it a beginning of an official WW-III.

There could be possible triggers for war with North Korea that need to be carefully watched. The first possible trigger is a declaration of war by North Korea, especially since the USA has made clear it has not declared war. This won’t happen because Russia and China would not support it. The idea that countries would formally declare war against each other, before commencing hostilities, is a relic of the early 20th century. Although remnants of the practice remain, it was largely outdated by the Second World War as the military advantages of surprise as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the Nazi attack on Soviet Russia, made clear.

The second possible trigger is the North Korea threat of a possible detonation of a nuclear device in the atmosphere over the Pacific. Although the aesthetics of such an act would shock the world as humanity has not seen a nuclear airburst since that done by China in 1980, this would not be the beginning of hostilities. However, if Kim explodes it in international territory, such as the high seas, he faces different rules, such as when Australia and New Zealand took France to the International Court of Justice after French atmospheric testing caused radiation pollution to fall on them, downwind. It was for this reason of pollution that most of the global community concluded an international agreement prohibiting such atmospheric nuclear testing. The third possible trigger is the North Korea threat to shoot down aircraft in international airspace as in, mirroring the territorial sea, 12 nautical miles/22.2km out from the land. Previously in 1969, North Korea did shoot down an American spy plane, killing all 31 members aboard when it was operating in international airspace. At that point, President Nixon did not respond with violence due to a fear of how the Soviet Union and China would react.

Interestingly, upon arriving Tokyo, Trump has asked Japan to attack North Korea by firing missiles to that nation. Japan is yet to respond to US demand. .

After the Second World War, the UN seeking global peace hoped that all members would refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, to which Declarations of War by individual states would become redundant. However, when the North Korean armed forces advanced over the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950, without a declaration of war, it was shown how in vain this hope was. The response to this act of aggression by North Korea was the 84th resolution of the Security Council (when the Soviet Union was absent from the vote) to defend South Korea under the UN flag but with the leadership of the US.

Today, the situation is even more complicated as the North Korean rhetoric of declaring war is not uncommon. Following the 2013 sanctions approved by the Security Council against North Korea for their nuclear test, Kim Jong-un promised a pre-emptive strike against the USA with its nuclear weapons. This was followed by a “Full War Declaration Statement”. This was all part of their assertions that North Korea had scrapped the armistice that ended the first Korean War in 1953.

To show their determination in 2013, North Korea also cut the hotline that enabled direct communication between North and South Korea. Although the hotline was reconnected a few months later, when South Korea closed down the joint Kaesong industrial complex following Kim Jung-un’s fourth nuclear test in early 2016, North Korea condemned the act as a Declaration of War, and then cut the hotline again.

Cutting the hotline is more dangerous than the rhetoric. Hotlines prevent accidental war. South Korea, which has a hotline to China, has been trying to have its hotline to North Korea reconnected. However, the line that is really needed is one between North Korea and Washington. Such best practice has been evident since 1963, following the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the two superpowers recognised the necessity to be able to talk directly, at short notice, whenever required so as not to stumble into nuclear war.

Today, war planes of both USA and Russia keep flying over very close to  each other’s space. Russian military aircraft have flown over 60 times close to Alaska or down past the edge of Western Europe in the past 10 years have shown, no matter how unpleasant such acts may be, such planes may be intercepted and followed, but they may not be shot down if they do not cross into territorial airspace. To ensure that no mistakes are made in this carefully choreographed sabre rattling, certain rules need to apply – primarily, the planes should not be invisible.

If Kim decides to take down one of the American planes flying in international airspace, as his grandfather Kim Il-sung did in earlier times, he would be gambling against the odds that President Trump will not respond with violence.

However, if USA would declare war on North Korea is a trillion dollar question. Will Trump order the Pentagon to attack North Korea disregarding the worst, devastating consequences?

One important question puzzles everyone.  Is USA really sincere about denuclearization? Not at all! It does not want to destroy its own nukes. All it seeks is to force every other country to denuclearize themselves so that entire world fears the superpower. While it is not sincere about global denuclearization, it now asks for denuclearization Korean Peninsula. .

Doublespeak and double standards are the basis of US foreign policy. President Trump has used dirty expressions to belittle North Korea forgetting that it not a weak nation like Pakistan. Though Trump already claims victory in forcing North Korea to shelve its nuke ambitions, it is now clear that he would return to USA empty handed on that issue.

USA should know that piecemeal approach won’t work to achieve denuclearization and it needs to be applied b globally. So long as Israel is allowed to have nukes that too without any legal basis, there is no chance for denuclearization to succeed and win recognition of global nations.

Angry rhetoric against the nations aspiring for their legitimate nuclear faculty won’t work too.

King Salman reform: Saudi Arabia attacks high level corruption: princes arrested, ministers dismissed!

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King Salman reform: Saudi Arabia attacks high level corruption: princes arrested, ministers dismissed!

–       Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

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Saudi Arabia, the birthplace as well as spiritual home of Islam, has been in news in recent years as it makes strenuous efforts to enhance its global profile as a leader of (Sunni) Islamic world. It managed the Arab Spring so well that though the phenomenon had struck entire Arab world, starting from Tunisia, just passed by that nation without making any real impact on the Saudi life and politics. However, Saudi government and the king himself were in anxiety and despair until the “spring” died down.

Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is now seen taking bold steps to cleanse the system off corruption. That Saudi Arabians and royal families are corrupt has shocked the world that thought Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of holy Prophet of Islam, as free from bribery and corruption.

All of a sudden Saudi government decided to check growth of corruption in the Islamic nation, found even many of the royal families within the government corrupt, arrested and put them in jail.  According to initial report, at least 11 princes, four current ministers and several former ministers had been detained in the anti-corruption probe.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has dismissed a number of senior ministers and detained nearly a dozen princes in an investigation by a new anti-corruption committee on Saturday. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, was among those held. The senior ministers who were sacked include Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard.

Those involved in  the historic corruption scandal of Saudi kingdom include: Alwaleed bin Talal, owner of Kingdom Holding group; Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, minister of the National Guard; Prince Turki bin Abdullah, former governor of Riyadh ; Prince Turki bin Nasser, former head of meteorology, environment; Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of MBC media group; Khaled al-Tuwaijri, former president of the Royal Court; Adel Faqih, minister of economy and planning; Amr al-Dabbagh, former president of the General Investment Authority; Saleh Abdullah Kamel, chairman of Dallah al Baraka Group; Saud al-Tobaishi, head of Royal ceremonies and protocols; Ibrahim al-Assaf, state minister and executive of Saudi Aramco; Bakr Binladin, owner of construction company Saudi Binladin Group; Saud al-Dawish, former CEO of Saudi Telecom Company; Khaled al-Mulhem, former director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines.

In a statement King Salman alluded to the “exploitation by some of the weak souls” who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money” for the creation of the anti-graft committee.

The detentions follow a crackdown in September on political opponents of Saudi Arabia’s rulers that saw some 30 clerics, intellectuals and activists detained. Prince Alwaleed, a flamboyant character, has sometimes used his prominence as an investor to aim barbs at the kingdom’s rulers. In December 2015, he called then-US presidential candidate Donald Trump a “disgrace to all America” and demanded on Twitter that he withdraw from the election.

The arrested officials are believed to be being housed in the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel, which two weeks ago held a high-profile investment summit under the auspices of Prince Mohammed. The convention centre next door was used to receive Donald Trump in May, when the US president travelled to Saudi Arabia to reset relations with his country’s long-term ally, which had deteriorated under the Obama administration that had pivoted to Iran.

Saudis really are on the brink of dramatic changes.  In 2015, Mohammed bin Salman became minster of defence. Just a few months ago, he became the head of all the internal security forces because they got rid of the Mohammed bin Nayef, then crown prince. Now he’s taken control of the third most important security apparatus within the country, so he has defence, he is in control of interior and now he is in control of the guards.

Clearly he has the stage set. Clearly all the heads of all the major media networks, newspapers, and commentators were all already groomed, set in motion in order to defend the crown prince and his policies. There are already new songs for the crown prince and his glory, so internally they are definitely setting the stage in terms of the three security apparatuses, the media and so on.

President Trump has given his blessings and support to the crown prince with the hundreds of billions of dollars of promised contracts, so he’s certainly supporting his various ambitions in the region, most importantly that of the confrontation with Iran in the region. This is something that Trump really wants as well as apparently a promised rapprochement with Israel.

 

Rise of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is geographically the fifth-largest state in Asia and second-largest state in the Arab world after Algeria. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south. It is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast and most of its terrain consists of arid desert and mountains.

Saudi Arabia is called in the West as a monarchical autocracy.  Saudi Arabia is considered a regional and middle power.  Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer in 2010–2014. By 1976, Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil producer in the world. King Khalid’s reign saw economic and social development progress at an extremely rapid rate, transforming the infrastructure and educational system of the country; in foreign policy, close ties with the USA were developed.

Saudi Arabia’s command economy is petroleum-based; roughly 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry. Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels (4.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves, comprising about one-fifth of the world’s proven total petroleum reserves It is strongly dependent on foreign workers with about 80% of those employed in the private sector being non-Saudi.

Discovery of oil greatly enhanced the economic and financial prowess of Saudi kingdom. Petroleum was discovered on 3 March 1938 and followed up by several other finds in the Eastern Province. Saudi Arabia has since become the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, controlling the world’s second largest oil reserves and the sixth largest gas reserves. The kingdom is categorized as a World Bank high-income economy with a high Human Development Index and is the only Arab country to be part of the G-20 major economies. However, the economy of Saudi Arabia is the least diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, lacking any significant service or production sector, apart from the extraction of resources.

Saudi Arabia is heavily dependent on oil for income and has been suffering since oil prices crashed from more than $100 a barrel in 2014. The kingdom has been desperately trying to diversify its economy away from the commodity, but is still focused on trying to raise oil values and restore its main income source. Saudi Arabia’s risky plot to raise oil prices to save its economy has failed sending the country into crisis. The kingdom tried to manipulate prices by slashing output to increase demand, but the plan backfired as US shale producers continued to pump more oil. Prices have fallen as low as $43 a barrel and remained well below $50 since the end of May when OPEC announced its plans to tackle oversupply. OPEC members Libya and Nigeria were previously exempt from the cap announced in May, but desperate OPEC and Saudi could now pressure the two countries to comply in the hope of denting supply. Russia has already called on OPEC to cap output from Nigeria and Libya in the near future and it will be interesting to see if any new agreements are proposed for both nations to join the oil production cut agreement.

Among the challenges to Saudi economy include halting or reversing the decline in per capita income, improving education to prepare youth for the workforce and providing them with employment, diversifying the economy, stimulating the private sector and housing construction, diminishing corruption and inequality.

In addition to petroleum and gas, Saudi also has a small gold mining sector in the Mahd adh Dhahab region and other mineral industries, an agricultural sector, especially in the southwest, based on dates and livestock, and large number of temporary jobs created by the roughly two million annual Hajj pilgrims. Virtually all Saudi citizens are Muslim (officially, all are), and almost all Saudi residents are Muslim. Estimates of the Sunni population of Saudi Arabia range between 75% and 90%, with the remaining 10–25% being Shia Muslim. The official and dominant form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia is commonly known as Wahhabism.

According to estimates there are about 1,500,000 Christians in Saudi Arabia, almost all foreign workers. Saudi Arabia allows Christians to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work. Americans enjoy special status in Saudi as they are not punished there for their crimes and there could be some CIA agents too among them who promote corruption and create challenges for Islam as part of their mission. In 1980, Saudi Arabia bought out the American interests in Aramco.

In 1979, two events occurred which greatly concerned the government, and had a long-term influence on Saudi foreign and domestic policy. The first was the Iranian Islamic Revolution. It was feared that the country’s Shi’ite minority in the Eastern Province which is also the location of the oil fields might rebel under the influence of their Iranian co-religionists. There were several anti-government uprisings in the region such as the 1979 Qatif Uprising. The second event was the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca by Islamist extremists. The militants involved were in part angered by what they considered to be the corruption and un-Islamic nature of the Saudi government. The government regained control of the mosque after 10 days and those captured were executed. Part of the response of the royal family was to enforce a much stricter observance of traditional religious and social norms in the country (for example, the closure of cinemas) and to give the Ulema a greater role in government. Neither entirely succeeded as Islamism continued to grow in strength.

This partly explains why Saudi kingdom is touchy of Sunni branch of Islam opposes Iran.

King Khalid died of a heart attack in June 1982. He was succeeded by his brother, King Fahd, who added the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” to his name in 1986 in response to considerable fundamentalist pressure to avoid use of “majesty” in association with anything except God. Fahd continued to develop close relations with the USA and increased the purchase of American and British military equipment. Saudi used a good part of its income from oil sales on terror goods from USA, UK and other western countries.

In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia spent $25 billion in support of Saddam Hussein in the Iran–Iraq War. However, Saudi Arabia condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and asked the US to intervene.[55] King Fahd allowed American and coalition troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia.

As the USA began pushing its own religious and capitalist agenda in the nation of Islam, many Saudis opposed Washington and Saudi Arabia’s relations with the West began to cause growing concern among some of the ulema and students of sharia law and was one of the issues that led to an increase in Islamist terrorism in Saudi Arabia, as well as Islamist terrorist attacks in Western countries

The vast wealth generated by oil revenues was beginning to have an even greater impact on Saudi society. It led to rapid technological modernisation, urbanization, mass public education and the creation of new media. This and the presence of increasingly large numbers of foreign workers greatly affected traditional Saudi norms and values. Although there was dramatic change in the social and economic life of the country, political power continued to be monopolized by the royal family leading to discontent among many Saudis who began to look for wider participation in government

 

Hidden economy and rampant corruption

Oil made many poor Arabs rich and billionaires in a few years. Now Arab government seriously consider  multi-pronged approach to diversify its economy from oil into other fields of economy, including industries, agriculture, services, military equipment production, modernization, etc.

Arabs make huge sums and wealth, both legitimate and illegal. The line between public funds and royal money is not always clear in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy ruled by an Islamic system in which most law is not systematically codified and no elected parliament exists. WikiLeaks cables have detailed the huge monthly stipends that every Saudi royal receives as well as various money-making schemes some have used to finance lavish lifestyles.

Most of rich Arabs keep their wealth in USA and UK. Trump responded in typically combative terms accusing the prince of wanting to control “our politicians with daddy’s money”. Trump tweeted: “Dopey Prince Alwaleed_ Talal wants to control our US politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.” His father, Prince Talal, is considered one of the most vocal supporters of reform in the ruling Al Saud family, having pressed for a constitutional monarchy decades ago.

Al-Waleed had in fact recently promised to donate all his wealth to charity – although he had years earlier purchased a yacht from Trump, and according to Forbes’s profiles, shares the president’s predilection for mocked-up Time magazine covers apparently featuring his exploits.

The highest profile arrest in Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption purge is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a multibillionaire with huge investments in western firms.  Prince Al-Waleed, 62 and one of the world’s richest men, has become one of the most familiar – and progressive – faces of Saudi in western media. While he has the lifestyle, jets, yacht and palace of a stereotypical Saudi billionaire, he has burnished a different image with interventions such as backing rights for Saudi women and denouncing President Trump on Twitter.

The prince, a grandson of Saudi’s first ruler and son of a Saudi finance minister, has an estimated net worth of $17bn (£13bn), according to Forbes magazine – although he has sued them for underestimating his wealth. He came to prominence internationally as a major backer of Citigroup in the 1990s, and more so when continuing to back the firm as its value evaporated during the financial crisis. His investments extended into major media groups, with substantial stakes in Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, Apple, Time Warner, Twitter, and owning Rotana, whose TV channels broadcast widely across the Arab-speaking world.  He has reduced his share in NewsCorp, but his clout was such that an intervention in 2011 in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal was seen as the coup de grace for News International’s Rebekah Brooks, telling the Murdochs from his superyacht in Cannes that “she has to go”.

The investment group he set up in 1980, rebranded as the Kingdom Holding Company in 1996, also owns several global luxury hotel chains, as well as landmark properties such as London’s Savoy Hotel and the George V in Paris. More recently it has backed Uber’s rival ride-hailing firm Lyft. On Twitter in 2015 he called Donald Trump a “disgrace to America” after the Republican candidate floated the idea of a ban on Muslims, and he urged Trump to quit the campaign.

Prince Al-Waleed was an early advocate of women’s employment in Saudi Arabia – hiring a female pilot for his jets, at a time when there was no prospect of women driving on the ground, and speaking out against the driving ban before the regime agreed this year to lift it. His wife, Ameera, who he divorced in 2013, usually appeared unveiled.

Al-Waleed’s international profile was extraordinary – frequently seen with top politicians, Wall Street executives and British royals. But he was an unofficial public face of the Saudi kingdom rather than a key part of the ruling elite – a status underlined by his arrest in King Salman’s crackdown.

His vision has not always matched reality: in a 2013 court case in London, a judge said that Prince Al-Waleed’s evidence in the witness box was “confusing and too unreliable” as he was forced to pay out in a business dispute. And while the prince already owns a Boeing 747 for his personal use, complete with throne, his ambition to have the world’s biggest superjumbo, the A380, refitted with a concert hall, Turkish baths, luxury suites and a parking bay for his Rolls Royce, remains unfulfilled. Despite placing an order with manufacturer Airbus in 2007 at the Dubai airshow, the plane remains on the tarmac in Toulouse to this day.

Hidden economies promote corruption more than the open ones. Transparency deficit automatically causes corruption on a large scale as it had happened in Russia and now happening in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan etc are ordinary third world countries without any definition of good governance and so corruption is the order of the system in these countries.

The regime and system promote and encourage corruption as a state policy.

Anti-corruption probe and purge for accelerated change

Earlier, former British PM Tony Blaire had to resign for serious charges, including ones related to bribery scandals involving top Saudi officals and ministers. But the issue was never raised in Saudi Arabia or Arab world. Saudi government and king himself were keen not to publicize the corruption sandals of their ministers or officals because that would bring bad name for the nation with Holy sites. But the king or government did  not purse anti-corruption drive to cleanse the system and  present a positive image of  Saudi Arabia.

Now for the first time in modern Arabian history a King, namely Salman has ventured to contain corruption prevalent in Saudi life by his launch of the anti-corruption drive and catching the top culprits in the royal dynasty itself red handed. Well done.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has tightened his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge by arresting royals, ministers and investors including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal who is one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen. Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the king and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding, invests in firms such as Citigroup and Twitter. He was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers detained.

The purge against the kingdom’s political and business elite also targeted the head of the National Guard Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who was detained and replaced as minister of the powerful National Guard by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf. News of the purge came after King Salman decreed the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his 32-year-old favourite son who has amassed power since rising from obscurity three years ago.

The new anti-corruption body was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and seize assets. “The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable,” the royal decree said.

King Salman issued a statement saying that the committee shall “identify offences, crimes and persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption”. The committee has the power to issue arrest warrants, travel bans, disclose and freeze accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets, and “prevent their remittance or transfer by persons and entities, whatever they might be”, according to the statement.

The shake-up of the Saudi government comes just months after King Salman replaced his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef with his son Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom’s crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman has been responsible for pushing through a number of changes both at home and abroad since he became first in line to the Saudi crown. Ian Black of the London School of Economics said the move fit a “pattern of accelerated change” since Mohammed bin Salman became heir. “We’ve seen since June this year, very far-reaching changes,” he said, adding: “That was when Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman, was appointed crown prince.”Since Mohammed bin Salman became the crown prince in June, we’ve seen a lot of upheaval. We’ve seen the announcement of this very ambitious Saudi plan to transform the country the Saudi economy, Vision 2030.”

The dismissal of Mitaab bin Abdullah as National Guard minister came shortly after a missile attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport. However, Black said the two were probably not related as the sacking came bundled with changes to other ministerial portfolios.

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has announced an end to its long-standing ban on allowing women to drive, and Mohammed bin Salman has also promised to return the country to a “moderate” form of Islam. Since 2015 Saudi Arabia has been at war against Houthi rebels, who control much of northern Yemen on the kingdom’s southern border.

It is not clear if the Trump visit emboldened the kingdom, which has been locked in a decades-long tussle with Iran for power and influence across the region. Since then, a swath of economic policies has been launched, along with cultural reforms unprecedented in Saudi history. By mid next year, women are expected to be allowed to drive, to enter sports stadiums and travel abroad without the endorsement of their male guardians.

It is also said the arrests were another pre-emptive measure by the crown prince to remove powerful figures as he exerts control over the world’s leading oil exporter. The round-up recalls the palace coup in June through which he ousted his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne and interior minister. MbS, as he is known, was expected to follow at least by removing Prince Miteb from leadership of the National Guard, a pivotal power-base rooted in the kingdom’s tribes. Over the past year MbS has become the ultimate decision-maker for the kingdom’s military, foreign, economic and social policies, causing resentment among parts of the Al Saud dynasty frustrated by his meteoric rise.

Saudi Arabia’s stock index was dragged down briefly but recovered to close higher as some investors bet the crackdown could bolster reforms in the long run. The royal decree said the arrests were in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money.”

Many ordinary Saudis praised the crackdown as long-awaited.

 

Reforms

King Salman’s purge should be seen as a part of his reform policy.

In September, the king announced that a ban on women driving would be lifted, while Prince Mohammed is trying to break decades of conservative tradition by promoting public entertainment and visits by foreign tourists.

The crown prince has also slashed state spending in some areas and plans a big sale of state assets, including floating part of state oil giant Saudi Aramco (IPO-ARMO.SE) on international markets. Prince Mohammed also led Saudi Arabia into a two-year-old war in Yemen, where the government says it is fighting Iran-aligned militants, and a row with neighbouring Qatar, which it accuses of backing terrorists, a charge Doha denies. Detractors of the crown prince say both moves are dangerous adventurism.

The most recent crackdown breaks with the tradition of consensus within the ruling family. Prince Mohammed, rather than forging alliances as the usual strategy, is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the National Guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war.

In September, Prince Mohammed authorised the detention of some of the country’s most powerful clerics, fearing they may not be loyal to his agenda and supportive of his boycott of Qatar, which Saudi leaders accuse of destablising the region. The state moves on the home front followed a striking foreign policy stance earlier in the day that appeared to put the kingdom on a political collision course with Iran. Under Saudi pressure, the Lebanese prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, unexpectedly quit his job, citing Iranian interference across the Middle East. Hariri made his statement in Riyadh after twice being summoned to the Saudi capital during the week.

The attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said the newly mandated corruption commission had started multiple investigations. The decree establishing the commission said: “The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable.”  “The suspects are being granted the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen,” he said. “During the investigation, all parties retain full legal privileges relating to their personal and private property, including funds.”

Prince Mohammed will oversee the corruption commission, adding to his already formidable list of responsibilities, including his role as defence minister and champion of the economic transformation, dubbed Vision 2030, that aims to revolutionize most aspects of Saudi life within 12 years. Prince Mohammed told the Guardian last month that the kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years and pledged to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.

According to Al Arabiya, the new committee, which is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is looking into the 2009 floods that devastated parts of Jeddah, as well as the government’s response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus outbreak.

The interests of the Al Saud would remain protected. Both King Salman and heir apparent Mohammed bin Salman are fully committed to them. What they wish to instill, and seem determined to execute, is to modernize the ruling establishment, not just for the 2030 horizon but beyond it too.

 

Observation: A step in the right direction

Corruption is alien to Islam. The action against corruption shocked the world- not just the Arab nations or Islamic world alone. The world is under the impression, rather illusion that as the Islamic nation Saudi Arabia would not at all allow corruption in any meaner and that Saudis as the decedents of the first ever Muslims of the world would care for projecting a positive way of thinking and living.

The evil of corruption is deep in Saudi Arabia but without any state efforts to contain and reduce corruption the malice has become large scale corrupt practices. The kingdom’s top council of clerics tweeted that anti-corruption efforts were “as important as the fight against terrorism”, essentially giving religious backing to the crackdown.

The state attack on Saudi corrupt machinery at the top level is a well thought out step to root out corruption from the land of birth of Islam and of Holy Prophet of Islam and His infallible companions.

Nearly six months into his tenure as crown prince, which will eventually see him succeed his father as monarch, Prince Mohammed has launched a dizzying series of reforms designed to transform the kingdom’s moribund economy and put the relationship between the state and its citizens on a new footing.

Saudi arrests show crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is a risk-taker with a zeal for reform but the move would enormously strengthen his place in the governance. The move strengthens Prince Mohammed’s control of the kingdom’s security institutions, which had long been headed by separate powerful branches of the ruling family.

Crown Prince is raising the leverage of power in Saudi Arabia. He certainly has the blessings of his father King Salman and he’s determined to make all kinds of changes in Saudi Arabia itself and in Saudi foreign policy, which led to the war in Yemen and the Gulf crisis. But on domestic front, this is new. Not only do we have a new chapter opening up in Saudi Arabia, we have a whole new book: it’s still all done in secrecy. Why those 11 princes, why those four standing ministers? Is it really just to consolidate power or is there more to it?

In the tradition of Saudi Arabia, revolting against the royals is not a good idea. It’s never been recommended. But does it all end with this or will it lead to more?  There have been signs over the last two and a half years that more of this is coming.

Corruption has been rampant in recent generations in Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed had vowed to make business dealings more transparent. The spectacle of royal family members being arrested would add weight to claims of a crackdown on graft. However, such is the manner in which business is done in the kingdom, there would be few senior figures not connected to contract deals that would be considered corrupt in many other parts of the world.

Saudi Arabia’s leadership has pulled off its boldest move yet to consolidate power around its young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arresting 11 senior princes, one of the country’s richest men and scores of former ministers in what it billed as a corruption purge. The move aimed to reshape public behavior in a kingdom where patronage networks often determine business deals and prominent families secure substantial cuts from lucrative contracts.

However, some in the Saudi capital describe the move as a naked attempt to weed out dissent, and political rivals, as the ambitious heir to the throne continues to stamp his authority across most aspects of public life in Saudi Arabia.

The purge aimed to go beyond corruption and aimed to remove potential opposition to Prince Mohammed’s ambitious reform agenda which is widely popular with Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population but faces resistance from some of the old guard more comfortable with the kingdom’s traditions of incremental change and rule by consensus.

 

President Erdogan’s visit to Iran and emerging Turkey-Iran relations!

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INTERNATIONAL OPINION

President Erdogan’s visit to Iran and emerging Turkey-Iran relations!

– Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

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Even as it is losing intentional prestige and credibility as a real mediator for peace anywhere in the world, USA is committed to shield terrorist Israel by misusing its veto from any punishment international community at UN.

As the Turkish diplomatic profile taking a final shape in recent times, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Iran on October 04 to hold crucial talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the outcome of the Iraqi Kurdish referendum and other regional security issues.

Part -1: Common challenges

 

Important visit

 

As USA is still considering further sanctions on Iran, Turkish and Iranian analysts agree that while Erdogan’s visit is important for both countries but Ankara has much more at stake on its outcome than Tehran. Accordingly, Turkey could leverage its warming relations…

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State war crimes: UN urges Sri Lanka to quickly begin investigation!

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State war crimes: UN urges Sri Lanka to quickly begin investigation!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
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Sri Lanka is a soverign island nation in South Asia and claims its prerogative to kill its minority populations mainly Tamils in a sustained manner in order to appease the rich majority Singhalese people – most of them are now have the remote control over the parliament and government

Since it is the prerogative of the Lankan regime to kill its minority community for whatever reasons like Israel that keep killing the defenseless Palestinians,  it claims its carnal operations against the sections of population are not illegal at all. Lankans also say they cannot be punished by any international court. It said it would investigate the war crimes on its own and UN need to unnecessarily worry about the issue, but it has not yet begun the work even after years of peace in the Island nation.

Time is now fast running out for Srilankan regime to prove to the world that its military-police apparatus had not committed war crimes against the minority Tamil community as a part of its military campaign to weaken Tamil movement for equality.

When the UN had announced the possibility of appointing a war crime tribunal to try the war criminals of Sri Lanka, the new government of Sirisena approached the UN – directly and through USA- pleading to give up the war criminal infestation and that Lankan government itself would investigate the war crimes and submit a report to UN.

But till now Sirisena has failed to keep his word given to UN and USA.

A United Nations expert Pablo de Greiff warned that Sri Lanka must speed up its own long-stalled investigation into war crimes by troops or risk action by the international community, Pablo de Greiff, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion of justice and reparation, said Sri Lanka had been slow to deliver on its promise of justice for atrocities during the island’s bloody 37-year civil war.
De Greiff criticised a public assurance given to troops that committed serious crimes by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who along with the former dictator Rajapakse is making strenuous efforts to save the Singhalese military criminals and not to get them punished by International Courts for their excessive war crimes, that he would not allow “war heroes” to be prosecuted for alleged atrocities.
Greiff said allegations of war crimes levelled last month against Sri Lanka’s then-ambassador to Brazil, who was a general during the war era, underscored the risks faced by senior military officers past and present. “As the recent case presented in Brazil against a former member of the armed forces demonstrates, accountability will be sought either here or abroad,” de Greiff said in Colombo on Monday.

The case in Brazil against retired general Jagath Jayasuriya was just the “tip of the iceberg”, de Greiff said. He said Sri Lanka could expect similar efforts by foreign jurisdictions until it had taken steps to ensure a credible investigation of its own. Jayasuriya left Brazil two days after the International Truth and Justice Project, a South Africa-based rights group, filed a case against the former general.
De Greiff said the government’s pledge to pay reparations and prevent future atrocities was no substitute for accountability for past injustices. He urged it to adopt a timeline for achieving this and encouraged closer interaction with the UN human rights chief’s office.

Defeat of LTTE and not of Tamils

Lankan military defeated the LTTE but Sri Lanka’s Singhalese majority and regime itself  think they have defeated the Tamil community in the country and can now ill treat them the way they want. They attack, arrest along with their boats, and even kill Indian fishermen who come to fish at Katchatheevu- their traditional fishing zone. .

Sri Lankan forces that still claim to be totally innocent and committed no crimes, had defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 after a brutal guerrilla war which claimed the lives of at least 100,000 people. The military was accused of massacring up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in their no-holds-barred offensive.
Sri Lanka’s former Rajapaksha regime, responsible for the crimes committed against humanity in the name of “war on terror” refused even to acknowledge the civilian toll of its wartime campaign, drawing censure from the international community.
Sirisena’s government came to power in January 2015 promising justice for war victims, but his government has been accused of dithering ever since. Sirisena, unlike his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse, in order possibly to fool the world, agreed to investigate war crimes but has yet to take the necessary steps to do so.he said so as a part of his “reconciliation move” with the Tamil minority community serving the Singhalese for centuries. The British Empire had taken these Tamils from the then Madras state to work in tea estates in Lanka to increase productivity and profits. Once independent, the Sinhalese majority community began targeting the Tamils denying them even basis rights. Perpetual persecution of Tamils by the Singhalese government gave birth to LTTE to defend the Tamils.
Britain refused to step in to save the Tamils when the Singhalese majority and their government began attacking Tamils and threw them out of work, thereby making them to starve. LTTE began demanding more human rights for Tamils. This led to conflict.
Sri Lanka must know there is no escape from punishment for the crimes it committed against the minority community. Colombo must wake up from sound sleep dreaming about the crimes it committed to win a war against the hapless minority community and institute impartial investigation. Meanwhile UN itself must investigate the war crimes on its own and punish the guilty without any sympathy.
Sri Lankan state crimes
The civil war that began in 1983 between Sri Lanka’s largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (more commonly known as the Tamil Tigers), a separatist insurgent force from the predominantly Hindu Tamil minority, saw atrocities carried out by both sides, and forced over 100,000 Tamils to seek refuge in India.
The exodus was meant to come to an end in 2009, when government forces conclusively defeated the Tigers which ended the civil war. But ongoing human rights abuses against Tamils means there’s still a flow of desperate people prepared to take the huge risks necessary to find sanctuary in India.
After the end of a three-decade-long civil war, some Tamils are still suffering human rights abuses at the hands of the government – desperate to find an escape route. The fishermen of Rameswaram provide a lifeline for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees by smuggling them to safety in India. Some of the boats were involved in transporting Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, and many of those working the boats were Tamils themselves who had come to India through similar means.
A fisherman’s life anywhere in the world is a tough one. But the fishermen of Rameswaram live a particularly precarious existence. The boats are forced to play a sometimes deadly game of cat and mouse with the Sri Lankan navy, who often seize fishing boats they accuse of transporting refugees. The navy sometimes fires on fishing boats it deems encroaching on Sri Lankan waters and over 730 fishermen have been killed in the last 30 years.
Thousands of Tamils are believed to have gone missing during the conflict’s bloody final phase. After the war’s end, journalists, activists and government critics have been abducted by men in white vans in Colombo, the capital, and there are allegations that former Tamil rebels have been tortured in secret detention centres.
Of the 100,000 Tamils in India, 64,000 still live in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, where they receive an allowance, food and education but have no right to work. The Tamil are an ethnic group native to southern India, but Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka are still often looked down upon. Due to lack of proper documentation they are barred from all but the most menial jobs in the shadow economy.
While the Indian government has been dragging its feet for years over granting full rights to Tamil refugees (even to those who have lived there for over 30 years), Mark and Elliott hope that, at the very least, their project represents the fishermen they discovered eking out a living in the shadows of Rameswaram with dignity.
Systematic genocides
Although the civil war between the government and the LTTE officially began in 1983 and ended in 2009, the ethnic conflict has a longer history. The Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR) found that from 1956 to 2004, about 79,319 Tamil civilians were subjected to killings (54053) and enforced disappearances (25266) by Sri Lankan security forces, state backed Sinhalese mobs and the IPKF.
As it can be seen, Tamil civilians who were killed (35323) and disappeared (2483) by Sri Lankan forces, Sinhalese mobs and the IPKF from 1977 to 2004 totals 37,806. This leaves out pogroms before 1977 and massacres and disappearances after 2004. In the Inginiyakala massacre ­of 1956, 150 Tamils were killed. In the 1958 pogrom, more than 300 Tamils were killed. In the Tamil Research Conference massacre of 1974, 9 Tamils were killed. So in total, about 459 Tamils were killed from 1956 to 1974. All in all, 38,265 Tamil civilians were killed from 1956 to 2004. If that figure is added to post-2004 figures (514 + 1102 + 70,000), about 10, 9881 Tamils were mass murdered and forced to disappear by Sri Lankan state and the IPKF from 1956 to 2009.
According to figures published by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in the middle of 2006, 419 persons had disappeared in the Jaffna peninsula since December 2005. … According to a list published on 31 October 2007 by three NGOs, which specified it was not exhaustive, there were 540 cases of enforced disappearance from January to August 2007 … Again, in its 2008 annual report, WGEID stated it was “alarmed” by the large number of cases of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka, noting it had transmitted 43 cases concerning people who had disappeared between February and October 2008 under its urgent procedure. In its report issued in 2012, WGEID cited renewed allegations that more than 500 persons had disappeared between January and August 2007, in Jaffna District, and around 100 persons were alleged to have disappeared between 2008 and 2009 in Mannar District.”
Hence from December 2005 to 2009, around 1102 (419 + 540 + 43 + 100) Tamils were subjected to enforced disappearance, all probably dead. The last phase of the war in 2009 saw an unprecedented scale of mass murder of Tamil civilians within a matter of several months.
The Amnesty International reported in 1998: “In 1995, 55 cases of “disappearances” were reported, particularly from the east of the country and from the capital, Colombo. In 1996, after the army regained control over the northern Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE, an estimated 600 “disappearances” were reported from that area of the country. During 1997, approximately 100 cases of “disappearances” were reported, mainly from Jaffna, Batticaloa, Mannar and Kilinochchi.”
Hence from 1995 to 1997 about 755 (55 + 600 + 100) Tamils were subjected to enforced disappearances. Based on these reports, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal reviewed that from June 1956 to June 2008, at least 10,617 Tamils died from 149 cases of state sponsored pogroms, massacres and bombings. These lists do not include IPKF atrocities.
Regarding enforced disappearances, the Amnesty International reported in 1994: “In the northeast the number who have “disappeared” or been extra judicially executed to date runs to thousands. From 1984 to mid-1987, Amnesty International documented over 680 “disappearances” in the custody of Sri Lankan security forces in the northeast. From mid-1987 to March 1990 the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was responsible for the security of the northeast under the terms of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. During this period, Amnesty International documented 43 “disappearances” there for which the IPKF were believed responsible. After the IPKF had withdrawn, armed conflict resumed in June 1990 between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the main armed Tamil group fighting to establish a separate Tamil state in the northeast of Sri Lanka. Within months, the reported number of extrajudicial executions and “disappearances” reached thousands. In Amparai District in the east, it was estimated that between June and October 1990 alone, some 3,000 Tamil people were killed or “disappeared”.
In another report covering the year 1990, the Amnesty International wrote that, “In Batticaloa town alone over 1,200 people reportedly “disappeared” between June and October.” From these figures we can infer that from 1984 to 1990, around 4880 (680 + 3,000 + 1,200) Tamils were “disappeared” by the Sri Lankan government forces, if IPKF atrocities are excluded (although they were working for the Sri Lankan government’s interests, whether they had intended it or not. In total, about 87,354 (= 10,617 + 4880 + 755 + 1102 + 70,000) Tamil civilians were mass murdered and forced to disappear by Sri Lankan government forces and state backed Sinhalese mobs from 1956 to 2009.
If I count from the TCHR’s report which puts the 1956–2004 figure at 79,319 (including IPKF atrocities), and add post-2004 figures provided by other sources (79,319 + 514 + 1102 + 70,000) about 150,935 Tamil civilians died and disappeared at the hands of Sri Lankan and Indian government forces.
However these figures are incomplete, as some are based on rough estimates and many other atrocities went unreported or not included here. For example, economic embargo (1990–2002) imposed by the government on LTTE controlled areas which resulted in restriction of food and medical supplies had negative impacts on the local economy and health condition of the people and violated the international norms. This can be considered violence against civilians, although it’s not included in these figures.
According to an UN’s internal review report published in 2012, the estimates of the civilian casualties in 2009 run in the tens of thousands: “The Panel of Experts stated that “[a] number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths”. Some Government sources state the number was well below 10,000. Other sources have referred to credible information indicating that over 70,000 people are unaccounted for.

Vaiko attacked in USA by Sri Lankan squad

Sri Lankan regime, like any other nation having committed serious crimes against humanity is scare of punishment and watches through its agents abroad used by its foreign missions to deny any talk of its crimes against Tamils. Tamils are attacked abroad, too.

Lankan state atrocities against minorities are meant to end. A senior Dravidian politician and orator who always protested Singhalese crimes against Tamils, the MDMK chief Vaiko addressed the UNHRC meeting in September and accused the Sri Lankan Government of presiding over sustained “genocides” of Tamils. He also lamented about the lack of any progress in investigations into the atrocities committed allegedly by the Sri Lankan army. A group of Sri Lankans, allegedly former defence personnel, heckled MDMK general secretary Vaiko soon after he completed his address during a debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

After concluding his address for the second time, a group of Sri Lankans allegedly encircled him. A woman in the group yelled at Vaiko, saying that he was not a Sri Lankan Tamil to raise the Sri Lankan issue. Then who should raise such carnal attacks on minorities in Sri Lanka?
Colombo in denial mode

Sri Lanka still claims no harm done to Tamils and Indians and they committed no war crimes. . India never questions them, emboldening them to assert their lies. .

Sri Lankan Navy denies killing Indian fisherman K. Britjo. ‘No Navy personnel has the permission to shoot at poaching fishermen,’ Sri Lankan navy spokesperson said. Sri Lanka has assured India of cooperation in the investigation into the shooting of a Rameswaram-based fisherman K. Britjo.
A group of fishermen returned to the Rameswaram jetty with the body of 21-year-old fisherman K. Bristo, and pointed to an apparent bullet injury on his neck. Fishermen leaders based in Tamil Nadu said he was among the six fishermen on board a mechanized trawler that the “Sri Lankan Navy targeted”.
In 2011, a similar shooting incident claimed two Tamil fishermen’s lives at the Palk Bay. Tamil Nadu fishermen accused the Sri Lankan Navy of opening fire, which the navy denied.
The death of Britso of Thangachimadam made the state as well as central government wake up face the Lankan challenge Saron is getting treatment at Ramanathapuram government hospital. I have ordered the district administration to offer high class treatment to him,” Palaniswami said in a statement
DMK president MK Stalin also condemned the killing of the fisherman and urged Centre to take strong action. “It’s high time the Central Government reacts strongly to this problem. The Central Government cannot be a mute spectator. It should take up this issue with Indian ambassador in Sri Lanka or the High Commission of Sri Lanka in India,” Stalin said.
India’s weak reaction
On June 27, 2017, the Tamil Nadu government expressed concern over the “alarming increase” in number of “attacks” on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy and sought the centre’s intervention for release of 42 of them. Referring to a spate of “distressing” arrests of Indian fishermen from his state in the last few days, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said such apprehensions have a “demoralising impact” on fishermen as well as the people of the state.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he raised the issue of arrest of 14 fishermen in two separate instances by the Lankan navy. “In spite of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between India and Sri Lanka being sub-judice due to the ceding of Katchatheevu islet, the Sri Lankan Navy is continuing its marauding attacks on and abductions of our fishermen,” he said.
He recalled the state urging the Centre to use diplomatic measures to “prevail” upon Colombo “and reverse this trend”. “These instances, occurring on an everyday basis, in which our boats with innocent fishermen are being apprehended with impunity by the Sri Lankan Navy has a demoralising impact not just on the fishermen, but also on people of Tamil Nadu,” he said in the letter.
The people of the state “strongly believe” that the fishermen have a genuine claim to the Palk Bay fishing grounds from where they “are being apprehended,” he added.
The Chief Minister also pointed out that Sri Lanka has not released any of the fishing boats apprehended since January 2015, adding, that this “inhumane strategy” was causing great loss of livelihood to the fishermen. “There was wide expectation among the people of Tamil Nadu that the boats apprehended since 2015 would be released as an outcome of your meeting with the Sri Lankan prime minister in April,” Palaniswami said, referring to Modi’s meeting with Ranil Wickremesinghe in Delhi. “The alarming increase in the frequency of abductions by the Sri Lankan Navy is a matter of utmost concern for the (state) government and the people of Tamil Nadu. An immediate intervention at the highest level is sought to resolve this long standing livelihood issue of our fishermen,” he said.
The Tamil Nadu government was taking “multifarious” steps to convert trawling boats to long liners and gill netters in the shortest possible period, Mr Palaniswami said, adding all transitions take time. “The Sri Lankan policy of abduction of boats in this transition period without respite only indicates its increasing intolerant attitude and the scant respect for the Indian diplomatic efforts,” he said. The Chief Minister urged PM Modi to take the matter up with the highest authorities in the Sri Lankan government and ensure the immediate release of a total of 42 fishermen and 141 boats.
Recently, Indian government on Mar 7, 2017 expressed its concern to the Sri Lankan government over the killing of an Indian fisherman by the Sri Lankan Navy. “Government of India is deeply concerned at the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka,” highly placed sources in the government told TOI. The source added that Sri Lankan Navy has promised a full and thorough investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, protests erupted in Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram after 22-year-old Britso, a fisherman from Thangachimadam, was shot dead o, allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel while he was fishing in a mechanized boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. Two more fishermen reportedly suffered injuries in the firing.
Hundreds of fishermen staged a demonstration at Thangachimadam, demanding the arrest of the Lankan navy men involved in the incident. The protesting fishermen also refused to accept Britso’s body unless foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visits the island and gives them assurance that such incidents will not happen in the future.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced Rs 5 lakh ex gratia for the victim’s family and Rs 1 lakh for the fishermen injured in the shooting. In a statement, the chief minister said the fishermen set out for fishing on Monday in a mechanized boat from Rameswaram fishing base. The Lankan Navy opened fire on the innocent fishermen, without any warning or provocation.
Observation: Will India act or will not?
The issue of Tamil Nadu fishermen allegedly poaching in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters has been an ongoing conflict, with Sri Lanka’s northern fishermen repeatedly raising concerns over their falling catch and the serious environmental damage caused by trawlers originating from India.
As of now, as many as 85 Indian fishermen charged of poaching are in Sri Lankan custody. A total of 146 trawlers seized by the navy have also been held, officials said.
Sri Lanka continued to be arrogant and deals on criminal intent with Indian Tamil fishermen fishing at Katchatheevu because India still refuses to step in to set things right for the Indian fishermen making livelihood at Katchatheevu- their traditional zone for ages. Occasionally, Indian High Commissioner in Colombo meets the Lankan President and other top officals requesting them, on behalf of Indian PM, to be good to Indian fishermen. But that is considered by Lankan regime as Indian weakness.
Meanwhile, in September PM Modi has picked a Tamilian Nirmala Sitaraman to hold the top slotted and heavily leaded Defence ministry of government of India, obviously, signaling a new shift in Indian policy towards Sri Lanka. However, Colombo doesn’t give any importance to the move ans considers it another gimmick of Modi.
Apparently, PM Modi’s choice of a Tamilian for the defence ministry talks a lot for Sri Lankan regime. Sri Lankan military knows if India decides to teach a lesson to Sri Lanka, it won’t take more than a couple of hours to deform that island nation.
One is not very sure what exactly the Indian government is planning in Sri Lanka to settle the fisherman issue. But if a brief attack is preferred by New Delhi and executed, then, it is quite likely that India would control not only Katchatheevu but also Sri Lanka. Then Lankans would cry loud pleading to India not to take Lanka but take away only Katchatheevu. Once India enters Srilanka, an Indian rule would be ensuing as the plight of Singhalese would be the same Tamils have faced all these years. .
Ms. Niramal Sitharaman, who oversaw the commerce and trade portfolio as a junior minister, has joined five other women in India’s cabinet. The prestigious foreign affairs portfolio is also held by a woman, Sushma Swaraj.. . Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also acted as defence minister on two occasions between the mid-1970s and early 1980s. She was assassinated in 1984. Sitharaman’s appointment comes just days after India and China agreed to end a months-long military stand-off at a strategically important disputed area in the Himalayas. New Delhi said both sides agreed to withdraw troops from an area near the Indian border that is claimed by both China and India’s ally Bhutan.
The reshuffle has been cast as Modi laying the groundwork before national elections in 2019, where he is widely tipped to defeat a diminished opposition. His nationally ruling party also governs 18 of India’s 29 states, either directly or in alliance with regional parties.
In the appointment of a Tamilian as defence minister, Tamils expect a massive operation by Indian government in Sri Lanka at least at Katchatheevu to restore the Indians their traditional rights to profess their profession of fish there. If Indian regime refuses any action against Sri Lanka on behalf of Indian fishermen community, that won’t be in the interests of India in the long term.
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References: 1. Genocides of Tamils and Indo-Sri Lanka relations (Modern Diplomacy) http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2418:genocides-of-tamils-and-indo-sri-lanka-relations. 2. Katchatheevu should be brought back to Indian control in order to ensure safe fishing by Indians! March 16, 2017 Abdul Ruff , south Asia Journal–http://southasiajournal.net/katchatheevu-should-be-brought-back-to-indian-control-in-order-to-ensure-safe-fishing-by-indians/

 

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Venezuela’s Maduro mocks US criticism of democracy!

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ok Venezuela’s Maduro mocks US criticism of democracy!

INTERNATIONAL OPINION

Venezuela’s Maduro mocks US criticism of democracy!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

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US democracy drama

 

Democracy and human rights are the two issues on which USA claims advantages and therefore criticizes the weak or anti-capitalist –imperialist nations and, whenever possible, it attacks to further weaken and destabilize them.

Destabilization of entire world except USA thus is basis of US democracy that USA seeks especially in the Islamic world.

It is indeed a perfect anomaly that the super nation which has killed maximum people across the globe during its existence after “discovery” as the closest ally of its English master UK and has also terrorized the humanity, is still talking about democracy, human rights and rule of law.

USA can still talk because it is the super nation effectively controlling entire world, including the nations that oppose US domination.

Though these days Washington does not speak much about democracy deficits…

View original post 3,694 more words

Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be president in Myanmar!

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Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be president in Myanmar!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff

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Myanmar on March 15 started its presidential election in the Union Parliament comprising two Houses. The country’s new president will be elected among three vice presidents. Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has named its candidates to be president, confirming that its elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not a contender.  The three vice presidents are U Htin Kyaw of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, who was elected by the group of presidential electoral college of the House of Representatives (Lower House), U Henry Van Htee Yu also from NLD, who was elected by the House of Nationalities (Upper House), and U Myint Swe from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), who was directly assigned by the military.

The candidate thought most likely to become president, Htin Kyaw, is a close aide. It is however of no consequence as to who win the presidency as Suu Kyi still control the president and his powers. Ms Suu Kyi failed to persuade the military to allow a clause barring her from the presidency to be overruled.  But she has vowed to lead from the sidelines instead.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will control parliament, although a quarter of the seats as well as key government ministries remain in the hands of the military. One of the new parliament’s first jobs will be to choose a president to replace Thein Sein who steps down at the end of March. Ms Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest by the army rulers, is constitutionally barred from standing because her sons are British not Burmese.  There was speculation that a deal may have been done with the military to allow her to take the job

The new government will take power on 1 April – the first freely elected government after more than 50 years of military rule and then five years of military-backed civilian government.
The generals’ inflexibility, in the face of a huge popular mandate, has set the tone for what looks likely to be a period of confrontation between them and the newly elected democrats. It was in November last year that Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), swept the board in the long-awaited general election.

The NLD won nearly 80% of the contested seats and everyone, even the army, agreed that the Burmese people had not just voted for change, they had voted for Suu Kyi to lead. Emboldened by the result, the former political prisoner reached out to her long-time adversaries. In the past four months she has held three meetings with Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. Suu Kyi was exploring the possibility of a grand deal. What the NLD leader needed was the army’s approval for a legally dubious move. She wanted parliament to temporarily suspend the part of the constitution that bars her from becoming president.

 

The NLD won the majority of non-military seats available in parliament in last year’s historic general election, although the army – which still controls a quarter of all parliamentary seats and key security ministries – remains a significant force in Burmese politics. The NLD, which won a landslide in November, has named Htin Kyaw as its lower house nominee for vice president, and Henry Van Thio, an MP from the Chin ethnic minority, as its upper house nominee. Both houses will choose between the NLD’s candidates and those from other parties, but because the NLD holds a majority in both houses, its candidates are likely to be chosen. The winner from each house will then enter a second vote to decide the president of the country. A military nominated candidate will also compete in this vote. The two losing candidates will become vice-presidents.

Suu Kyi  tried right to the last. But there was no deal. Despite a huge win in the election, Aung San Suu Kyi failed to convince the army that her destiny was the presidency. Clause 59F of the constitution which bars her because her sons have British not Burmese passports remains in place, and she has now chosen someone else. It’s Htin Kyaw, who she’s known all her life. He’s a committed member of the party and was by her side when Ms Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010. His most important quality may be the ability to take orders.

Aung San Suu Kyi has made it clear that though she does not have the title – she will still be in charge.  Ms Suu Kyi’s close aide Htin Kyaw, 70, is a quietly spoken man who attended university in the UK. He has a reputation for honesty and loyalty, and has kept a low profile. His father, the writer and poet Min Thu Wun, won a seat for the party at the 1990 election. His wife, Su Su Lwin, is the daughter of an NLD founder, as well as being a sitting MP, and a prominent party member. He has played a senior role at the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, the charity founded in honour of Suu Kyi’s late mother, and has been frequently seen at the NLD leader’s side, serving as her driver from time to time.
The chances of Aung San Suu Kyi becoming Myanmar’s next president have been receding for months. But as parliament puts forward its nominations for the top job, the situation is clear: there will be no last-minute deal, no President Suu Kyi. Those expecting a Nelson Mandela ending to this incredible story will be disappointed. But for Suu Kyi and her many supporters little has actually been lost. This anticlimactic outcome strengthens her politically and diminishes the military in the eyes of the Burmese people.

Clause 59F famously disqualifies anyone whose spouse, children, and even spouses of children, have foreign passports. Suu Kyi’s two children by Oxford academic Michael Aris are British. Supporters of the clause say it protects the country’s sovereignty, but many believe it was drafted by the military to close the door on Suu Kyi. To open that door, the Burmese army would have demanded concessions. That could have meant giving the military the right to choose the chief ministers of several states, and securing promises that the army’s many business interests would be left alone.

So what, then, will the new political landscape of Burma look like?

Suu Kyi famously said before the election that she would be “above” whoever she picks to be president. All Suu Kyi will have to do is pick up a phone to flex her presidential power by proxy. She has lost nothing there. Unencumbered by any deal with the army, Suu Kyi will be freer to pursue her campaign platform from the 2015 election. Her authority is unchallenged within her party and she will now remotely command both presidency and parliament. One of her priorities is likely to be a renewed bid to change the constitution to reduce the army’s power.

The unelected army representatives have already sampled the new order. Suu Kyi’s MPs are demanding that deals made by the army and the former government be re-examined. In a rare moment of drama, all the men in green uniform stood up in the house in protest. In the immediate aftermath of the election, Suu Kyi spoke of being inclusive and creating a government of national unity. That was before the army rejected her overtures. It is expected that the government Suu Kyi leads will be a mix of NLD officials and technocrats.

The 2008 constitution will be the main limit on Suu Kyi’s power. Drafted by the generals, and approved in a sham referendum, it ensures the military retains its political role. The key security ministries (home, defence, border affairs) are appointed not by the president but by the army commander-in-chief. A quarter of the seats in parliament are also reserved for soldiers. That is not enough for them to block legislation, but sufficient to scupper any attempts to amend their constitution. Most importantly, the military is almost certain to have insisted that attempts to chip away at its political power be put on the back burner. So beneath the feel-good headline of “President Suu Kyi”, the army would have consolidated its political role. It’s not clear why the grand deal didn’t happen. Perhaps the army just couldn’t stomach the idea, or maybe Suu Kyi refused to concede enough. For whatever reason, the talks broke down.

 

Much has changed in Myanmar, but the Burmese army has not budged one inch from the red lines it put into the constitution. The democratic experiment, economic reforms and the emboldened Suu Kyi remain in a controlled space that the military designed and now seem intent on preserving.  Myanmar’s independence hero, Gen Aung San, assassinated in July 1947 when Suu Kyi was only two years old was her father. From 1964, studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University, where she met her future husband, academic Michael Aris. She returned to Rangoon in 1988 to look after her critically ill mother during the midst of a campaign for democratic reform.

Suu Kyi organised rallies and travelled around the country, calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections. Demonstrations brutally suppressed by the army, which seized power in a coup in September 1988, placing Suu Kyi under house arrest the following year. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a national election in 1990 – but the military junta refused to relinquish power. Suu Kyi spent protracted periods under house arrest until she was finally released unconditionally in 2010. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She led the NLD to a majority win in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years in November 2015.

Suu Kyi will control both the parliament and presidency without being the country’s president.