Monday December 16, 2019
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President Of Sri Lanka Suspends The Parliament, Political Turmoil

Under his government, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured and some fled the country fearing for their lives.

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Sri Lanka's former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, front left, is sworn in as prime minister before President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Sri Lanka ’s president suspended parliament Saturday even as the prime minister he fired the previous day claimed he has majority support, adding to a growing political crisis in the island nation.

Chaminda Gamage, a spokesman for the parliamentary speaker, confirmed that President Maithripala Sirisena had suspended parliament until Nov. 16.

The suspension came while ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was holding a news conference in which he asserted that he could prove his majority support in parliament.

Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet Friday and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, creating what some observers said could be a constitutional crisis in the South Asian island nation.

 

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Sri Lanka’s ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts during a news conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, VOA

 

Constitutional crisis

Wickremesinghe said parliament should be allowed to resolve the political crisis.

“As far as the prime ministership is concerned, the person who has the majority support in parliament has to be the prime minister, and I have that majority of support,” he said. “When a motion of no confidence was moved (in the past), we defeated it showing that the house has the confidence in me.”

“It is not necessary for us to create a crisis. It is not necessary for the people of the country to suffer,” Wickremesinghe said.

Tensions have been building up between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe for some time, because the president did not approve of some of the economic reforms being introduced by the prime minister. Sirisena was also critical of police investigations into military personnel accused in the abductions and disappearances of civilians and journalists during Sri Lanka’s long civil war, which ended a decade ago.

 

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Sri Lankan former President Mahinda Rajapakse addresses journalists at his residence in Colombo, Sept. 22, 2018. Rajapakse has been appointed the Sri Lanka’s new prime minister. VOA

Strongman returns

Rajapaksa ruled Sri Lanka as president for nine years beginning in 2005, accumulating immense power and popularity among the country’s majority ethnic Sinhalese after overseeing the military’s brutal defeat of ethnic Tamil rebels in May 2009, ending the 25-year civil war. Some supporters hailed him as a king and savior.

But he also was criticized for failing to allow an investigation into allegations of war crimes by the military. Under his government, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured and some fled the country fearing for their lives. He lost a bid for re-election in 2015 amid mounting allegations of corruption and nepotism.

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His return to power as prime minister could signal that Sri Lanka is sliding back to an era of violence against political opponents, critics and journalists, observers said. (VOA)

Next Story

Southeast Asian Activists Pressurize Regional Govts to Offer Climate Action Plan

Southeast Asian Environmental Activists Say Region Must do More

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Southeast Asia Phuket
Like much of Southeast Asia, Thailand has numerous islands, including Phuket. VOA

By Ha Nguyen

Southeast Asian environmental activists  – including young counterparts to teenage activist and Time magazine person of the year Greta Thunberg – are concerned they are not getting the attention that the climate emergency deserves, complaining that the region’s authorities are leaving this month’s climate negotiations in Madrid, also known as COP25, without committing to new climate action plans for 2020, as other nations have done.

The negotiations are meant to find a way to carry out the plans, agreed to in Paris in 2015, to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. However they have broken down as negotiators cannot agree on how much rich nations should spend to support poor nations to enact the plans. Many Southeast Asian governments want such supporting funds but their constituents also say the governments need to promise more dramatic emissions decreases.

“The situation is critical: our youth are mobilizing and striking because they know that there are only 10 years left for governments to act for them to have a decent future,” Sarah Elago, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, said. “Why is it that children are doing more than the governing adults?”

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Singapore said it has to spend $72 billion over the next century to construct sea walls and reclaim land around the island. VOA

Like the Philippines, almost every nation in Southeast Asia has islands or long coastlines, making them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Consequently, the region’s activists are particularly concerned that their governments did not offer forceful action plans at COP25, formally known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was supposed to conclude on December 13 but continues as of press time.

Activists have exerted pressure on regional governments to offer a climate action plan but those governments say they are doing their best, as developing countries that did not create the problem.

Some say there is little point in offering action when there is none from the United States, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions until being recently overtaken by China. Developing nations around the Asia Pacific and elsewhere are paying the price because of polluting industrialized nations, according to Basav Sen, climate policy director at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

“Our country, as a matter of policy, prioritizes enriching its oil and gas industry over preserving the ecosystems upon which billions of people rely for their food, water and homes,” he wrote in an op-ed for the newspaper USA Today.

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Malaysians live on the water in Penang, leaving them vulnerable to sea level rise caused by climate change. VOA

He recommended “responsible world governments could publicly shame the U.S. government for its climate policies.”
Southeast Asia must do more, however, Abel Da Silva, a member East Timor’s National Parliament, said.

“We cannot stay on the sidelines of this catastrophe,” said Da Silva. “Southeast Asia is contributing to climate change through its reliance on coal, its deforestation and haze crisis, and its lack of ambition in its climate action plans.”

The region has to “reverse this shameful historical trend and right our past wrongs on the climate,” he said.

Nations generally submit action plans on how they will decrease greenhouse gas emissions at the annual U.N. climate conference. Although nations do other things to deal with climate change, such as constructing walls against rising water levels, emissions are the main issue.

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Laos, which is trying to develop hydropower dams as a main industry, is the only Southeast Asian nation to set a goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 – it is also the only nation in the region that is landlocked. (VOA)