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Sri Lanka has commended the UK's move to maintain the proscription of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation. In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry in Colombo said that that the government has been made aware that the UK Home Secretary has decided to maintain the proscription of the LTTE under the UK Terrorism Act No. 7 of 2000 following the judgement of the Proscribed Organizations Appeals Commission (POAC).
The Commission has rejected the application of a LTTE front organization to de-proscribe the group in the UK. "The LTTE, therefore, remainsa proscribed organization in the UK, as in over 30 other countries worldwide, including in the EU region," the Ministry noted.
"The LTTE was initially proscribed in these countries due to the group's brutality and atrocities targeting civilians and democratically elected leaders, involvement in organized crime and other criminal activities that impacted global and regional security. "The continued retention of the LTTE's proscription worldwide, is a recognition of the continued threat posed by the remnants of the group working through its international network, which continue to finance terrorist activities, radicalize youth towards violent extremism and cause ethnic disharmony and disrupt cohesive living in every country in which they are active," it added.
The slow and equally destructive death of democracy has arrived in Sri Lanka. Photo by Unsplash
The UK listed the Tamil rebel group which fought for a separate territory from the Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka, as a terrorist outfit in early 2000. However the POAC in October 2020 decided to delist the LTTE as a proscribed organization following an appeal filed in May 2019 by the front organization challenging the decision. The Commission held that the UK Home Office's decision to keep the LTTE proscribed as a terrorist organization was "flawed and unlawful".
However Sri Lanka, which militarily crushed the LTTE in May 2009 after the 30-year-long war, appealed against the Commission's decision stating that there are "sufficient evidence to prove that the remnants of the LTTE and groups aligned with its terrorist ideology are active in foreign countries, working to incite violence and destabilize" the island nation. India banned the LTTE after the rebel group was accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. The ban had been periodically renewed and in May 2019 the Central government extended the ban for five more years under sub-sections (1) and (3) of Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967).
(Article originally published at IANSlife) IANS/SS
Keywords: Sri Lanka, LTTE, POAC, UK
Almost half of Afghanistans population is in need of emergency relief assistance, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said. The last few days have seen deadly escalation in fighting in Helmand, Kandahar, Herat, Kunduz and Nimroz provinces, adding untold sufferings to the people in a country where over 5 million people have already been displaced internally, IOM said.
As the number of people displaced due to conflicts around the country increased to more than 359,000 newly displaced in 2021, IOM said it will continue to support the people of Afghanistan, providing emergency shelter, core relief items, emergency health services and protection assistance to the displaced persons.
Apart from the internal displacement dynamics, Afghanistan continues to see record numbers of undocumented returnees in 2021; over 680,000 Afghans returned in the first seven months of this year, according to the Border Monitoring Team of the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation (DoRR).
"The country is also in the throes of a third wave of Covid-19 and a severe drought. These factors leave almost half of Afghanistan's population in need of emergency relief assistance, with the needs expected to continue to rise," IOM said.
Children in Afghanistan endure some of the worst forms of child labour, from being recruited into the armed conflict, to brick production, in agriculture and mines, and most visibly on the streets as beggars and porters. Photo by The Chuqur Studio on Unsplash
In an earlier report, IOM had said that more than half of children aged 5-7 in Afghanistan are engaged in work of some kind.
The Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened the situation as loss of livelihoods, coupled with school closures, is likely to have precipitated increased reliance on child labour for families struggling to make ends meet.
Over 18.4 million Afghans -- almost half the population -- are now in need of humanitarian support, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
This poverty, coupled with the upsurge in violence since intra-Afghan peace talks began last September, has seen unprecedented numbers of undocumented Afghan migrants returning from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.
Between January and May 2021 alone, more than 490,000 undocumented Afghans returned -- an increase of 42 per cent over the same period in 2020, of which more than half are deportees.
"Undocumented returnees often return worse off than before they left because they have sold property or borrowed money in order to pay for their passage," noted Floriane Echegut, IOM Afghanistan's Protection Programme Manager.
"The drivers of outward migration are largely due to insecurity and lack of income, but when people are forced to return, these issues are compounded by the deteriorating situation here. Sending school-age children out to work is often essential to the survival of these families, but it places the children at significant risk," Echegut said.
Children in Afghanistan endure some of the worst forms of child labour, from being recruited into the armed conflict, to brick production, in agriculture and mines, and most visibly on the streets as beggars and porters.(IANS/HP)
(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at Sanjeev.firstname.lastname@example.org)
In stateless societies, the rule of law is usually suppressed. In such societies, people turn into unfree pawns as a result of worsening political conditions.
The arrival of anarchy to the island nation of Sri Lanka is due to a series of factors. It is mainly driven by the worsening domestic political environment, curtailment of democracy, weaponising and the exertion of undue influence on courts and Judiciary.
The recent political victimisation of neutral agencies is an attempt to rewrite rules by its politicians. Against this backdrop, the growing human rights conditions and arbitrary pardoning of criminals will weaken the rule of law. Such a dangerous tilt, away from democratic forms of governance will drag the nation towards an autocratic footing.
Democracies 'can be dissolved spectacularly like from a coup detat or a less dramatic but equally destructive manner', argues Steven Levitz and Daniel Ziblatt in their book 'How Democracies Die. The slow and equally destructive death of democracy has arrived in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankans were confined to their homes during the lockdown following the government's 'disciplinary project', while the government was engaged in releasing a convict using a prison side door.
"The pardoning of Duminda Silva, whose conviction the Supreme Court had upheld in 2018, undermines rule of law," explains US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B Teplitz, referring to the Presidential pardon given to the former Member of Parliament and ally of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The former Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala questions, "Today, those found guilty of the most serious crimes in our law enjoy presidential protection while the judges and police officers who brought them to justice have targets on their backs."
The Presidential pardon comes when the Sri Lankan government faces multiple challenges, especially weeks before the European Union (EU) has pinpointed the abuses of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and growing human rights concerns in the country.
A warning to withdraw its GSP+ concession is already on the table. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemning the decision expressed concern that "Presidential pardon of Duminda Silva, a former MP convicted of the murder of a fellow politician, is another example of selective, arbitrary granting of pardons that weaken rule of law and undermine accountability."
Sri Lanka's Bar association (BASL) questioned President Rajapaksa on the decision of the selection method and raised severe concerns on the administration's position towards rule of law. The decision from the government was not an ad hoc decision. The release was carried out along with the release of several other PTA detainees. Why was such a decision taken especially at a time of significant external pressure?
Human Rights Concerns
In a lengthy televised address on June 25, days after the release of the former MP, Rajapaksa stated his progress in his development plan and continuous commitment to rule of law, not referring to the PTA nor the pardoning act. The new European Union Parliament adopting a resolution to withdraw the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) is a clear warning to the Sri Lankan regime.
European Parliament adopted a resolution on June 10 calling for the repeal of Sri Lanka's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
Further, the resolution highlights Sri Lanka's 'alarming path towards the recurrence of grave human rights violations…accelerating militarisation of civilian governmental functions, the reversal of important constitutional safeguards, political obstruction of accountability, exclusionary rhetoric, intimidation of civil society, and the use of anti-terrorism laws.
The regime has failed to address the human rights concerns adequately highlighted multiple times, and procrastination in its process is the reason for this action by EU Parliament. Earlier in March, the government rejected the UNHRC resolution, giving a clear signal of the government's position of 'no external interference' towards the reconciliation process.
Ironically the real concern of many in the country is the absence of a reconciliation process. The departure from the internationally accepted process and continuous denial by the state on minority concerns is evident. The government has already lost its direction from a progressive path towards a more autocratic posture.
Jehan Perera correctly observes this ground reality, explaining that "The reality on the ground is that wounds of the country's 30-year war have not healed. The attempts to promote healing have lacked commitment. Thousands of acres of land in the North and East continue to be under military control. This island was once lived on and cultivated by the Tamil people. Today it is being used by the military, some of it being cultivated, some is used for recreation purposes including hotels, and some of it for security purposes. Thousands of families still await news of the whereabouts of their loved ones despite an Office on Missing Persons which has yet to give a ruling on even a single missing person although four years have elapsed since it was set up. There are also still a few hundred persons in detention for a large number of years, some exceeding a decade in prison without trial".
The government's denial and non-commitment will worsen the relationship with the EU and other western democracies.
Nearly 60 per cent of Sri Lankan exports benefit from preferential terms of trade from the EU's GSP+ and US GSP schemes. The EU is Sri Lanka's largest export market with 30 per cent of the total, while the US is the largest single export market at 27% of the total merchandise exports.
Sri Lanka's exports, including apparel, fisheries, ceramic, and rubber that uses the GSP concession, will be directly impacted. Sri Lanka has duty free access to 7, 200 products with the EU GSP+ Concession. It is estimated that the withdrawal of this concession would wipe out a significant chunk of foreign exchange earned through exports.
"We are concerned with the EU Parliament's resolution," says Sri Lanka's Export Development Board Chairman.
The present state of the economy with the pandemic has been a challenge to Sri Lankan exports 'especially to the apparel industry' admitted even by President Gotabaya in his recent address, and GSP withdrawal will add significant pressure to the Sri Lankan economy.
The government's senior Ministers have ignored the GSP+ withdrawal warning saying that they are ready to move forward without the concession.
However, K.D. Vimana, a policy analyst at Advocate, an economic think-tank, explains that the government needs to understand the merits of GSP+, and it is vital to retain the concession, when at present the country is facing a severe economic crisis, especially with serious issues in debt repayments, lack of foreign exchange and a balance of payment crisis.
"Understand the merits of it," warns the analyst.
President Gotabaya's regime has developed a norm towards weaponizing unfavourable outcomes towards their favour catering to the majoritarian Sinhalese Buddhist voter base. The outcome at the UNHRC resolution in Geneva in March, the EU GSP+ saying we can do without it or releasing a convicted parliamentary member for murder in the name of justice, is a move in the same direction.
The political strategy of this administration is to cater to the majoritarian voter base by making claims of protecting the nation's sovereignty from foreign interference. This narrow-minded political strategy does not fit all cases when certain decisions have no relevance. The very act of convicting one regime and arbitrary pardoning from another regime is a sign of weakness, not a strength in the process.
According to a senior political scientist in Sri Lanka, "in the coming months, Sri Lanka's judicial sector will undergo significant reforms along with continuous interference despite a promise to amend the constitution".
When assessing Yale Professor Juan Linz's work on 'The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes' and 'How regimes paint a rather bleak picture of their ability to survive', the Sri Lankan case provides ample evidence of the regimes domestic political behaviour to survive.
The public's loss of trust in its democratic institutions is a visible characteristic that can have a long-term impact on the country's stability. An essential ingredient according to Linz is 'the belief in the legitimacy of democratic institutions as a factor increasing the likelihood of stability in a democracy'. The coming anarchy to the entire nation is in the breakdown of its democracy. This for sure will worsen economic conditions.
(Asanga Abeyagoonasekera is a geopolitical analyst and author of 'Conundrum of an Island '. The views expressed are personal) (IANS/AD)
Celebrities have millions of followers on various social media platforms. In 2020, some of the stars managed to gain more traction than others owing to controversial statements they made as well as important announcements.
Here’s IANS list of the year’s biggest social media celebrities:
SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT
His death played out like loud drama on news TV, and the fallout was direct on social media. Fan clubs took over, venting ire on everyone from his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, to her mentor Mahesh Bhatt to Bollywood’s nepotism brigade. No one was spared.
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As Sushant’s family members — particularly, sister Shweta Singh Kirti — went viral on a daily basis sharing nostalgia and updates about the investigation of his death, others like Kangana Ranaut, Ankita Lokhande, and Shekhar Suman got big hits on their respective social media pages by simply discussing or posting about Sushant. #Justiceforsushant began trending soon after his death on June 14 and continues to be a discussed topic six months after his death, as the probe is still on. Sushant must be a rare celebrity who became a bigger social media celebrity after death than he was while he lived.
For years, her social media accounts had been handled by her team. In 2020, she decided to join Twitter saying: “This year, I have seen the power of social media, and I observed that how the whole world has come together in the fight for Sushant (Singh Rajput), and we have gained success… All this has given me a lot of hope, and I have an aspiration that through this we can launch reforms for new India… and that is the reason for the first time I have come on Twitter.”
Ever since she took over managing her social media, she either won hearts or got slammed by people, including her fraternity members for sharing her strong opinions on nepotism, drug menace in Bollywood, and more. Her latest war on Twitter is ongoing, with Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh over farmers’ protest.
Soon after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death in June, many celebrities expressed their grief on social media. Karan was one of them. But the tribute didn’t go down too well with the late actor’s fans amidst the whole nepotism debate. The filmmaker, who has worked with many star kids like Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, and Ananya Panday, was slammed for casting celebrities’ children and not talented outsiders like Sushant. In fact, Karan continues to be targeted online. Whenever he posts about his personal or professional life on social media, Sushant’s fans remind Karan about the late actor.
In August, a trade expert announced on Twitter that Sanjay Dutt has been diagnosed with lung cancer. While some netizens wished for his speedy recovery, others didn’t have kind words to say and trolled him for being a star kid and former drug addict. Around the same time, the trailer of his film “Sadak 2”, also starring Alia Bhatt, was unveiled.
Amid the raging talk of nepotism, the trailer got instant dislikes. Netizens made fun of it with memes. Then in October, Sanjay shared with his fans that he had “come out victorious” in his battle with cancer. Some alleged that all this while he was “faking” his illness, but most people showered him with warm wishes. In any case, the widespread reaction he drew made Dutt one of the most-discussed Indian celebrities online this year.
Well, talking about fakes, singer Neha Kakkar, who has over 50 million fans on Instagram, knows how to do it in style. She recently made headlines by posting her photo with a pregnant belly. It turned out to be a fake stunt, to promote a new song. Just weeks before, Neha was the talk of the town for marrying singer Rohanpreet Singh. Before the marriage ceremony photos came out, many thought it was just a gimmick, as earlier she was involved in a wedding publicity stunt with singer-show host Aditya Narayan.
With a strong “ARMY” of fans constantly backing them, the South Korean boy band is generally among the biggest topics of discussion on social media. This year was more special as they created history. The band, comprising RM, Jin, Jimin, V, Suga, and Jungkook, topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Dynamite”. It is their first single sung entirely in English.
Fans poured their love and celebrated the achievement by talking about it on social media platforms. A few weeks ago, they earned a 2021 Grammy Awards nomination in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. As much as it was a dream for the band to get nominated in a major Grammy category, it was a big moment for their admirers too. What’s more? Their new single “Life goes on” also bagged the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100.
The “Black Panther” star died in August after silently fighting colon cancer. The final tweet, posted on his verified account, announcing his demise got as many as 7.5 million likes. Many left RIP messages including his “Avengers” co-star Mark Ruffalo, who commented: “It was the highest honor getting to work with you and getting to know you. What a generous and sincere human being. You believed in the sacred nature of the work and gave your all. Much love to your family. And much love from all of us left here.”
In September, the “Captain America” star posted an explicit photo by mistake. Even though it was quickly deleted, it got many reactions on social media. He didn’t immediately address it, but days later he tweeted: “Now that I have your attention.VOTE Nov 3rd!” That again became a popular tweet. It got about 1.2 million likes.
Earlier this month, the “Black Panther” star shared a post on the Covid-19 vaccine. The video tweeted by her featured host Tomi Arayomi expressing skepticism about vaccines in general and specifically the one for the coronavirus. Netizens soon criticized her for sharing the video. She seemed to be taking all the criticism well for some time as she went on to respond to many fan messages. But soon, she deleted her Instagram and Twitter accounts.
The “Juno” star, formerly known as Ellen Page, recently came out as transgender and introduced himself as Elliot Page. The tweet got 1.8 million likes, and the news was received warmly by many. Some heaped praise on him for being an “inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people”. (IANS)