World Bank joins IMF in criticism of Ukraine’s anti-corruption draft law

Police officers stand guard outside the Ukrainian parliament as protesters take part in a rally and call for the deputies to recognize Russia as an aggressor state in Kiev, on January 16, 2017. The World Bank has joined the IMF in criticizing a Ukrainian draft law to create an anti-corruption court. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2018
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World Bank joins IMF in criticism of Ukraine’s anti-corruption draft law

KIEV: The World Bank has joined the International Monetary Fund in criticizing a Ukrainian draft law to create an anti-corruption court, the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported on Monday, citing a letter from the lender to the presidential administration.
In response to international pressure to speed up the process, President Petro Poroshenko submitted a new draft law to parliament in December, but the IMF and now the World Bank say the legislation is not in line with recommendations from the Venice Commission, a European rights and legal watchdog.
Ukraine’s Western backers have long called for the authorities to establish an independent court to handle corruption cases. Slow progress has delayed the disbursement of foreign loans.
The World Bank’s country director, Satu Kahkonen, has written to the presidential administration to express the bank’s concerns about parts of the bill, Ukrainska Pravda said, publishing what it said was the text of the letter in full.
“We believe that the draft law requires the following revisions to bring it into alignment with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and satisfy the requirements of the World Bank’s estimated $800 million Policy-Based Guarantee to support key reforms in Ukraine,” she said, in a letter dated Jan. 15.
Among its recommendations, it says the court’s future jurisdiction needs to be better aligned with that of anti-corruption investigators and prosecutors.
The World Bank in Ukraine did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Ukrainska Pravda report.
The letter cited echoes one sent by the IMF to the president’s office earlier in January which warned that the draft law did not guarantee the independence of the court.
The presidential administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, in response to the IMF’s letter, it denied the law was not in line with Venice Commission recommendations and said the authorities had the political will to create an independent anti-corruption court.
Since its 2013-14 pro-European uprising, Ukraine has received $8.4 billion from the IMF and over $5 billion from the World Bank among other backers, helping it to return to growth of over 2 percent in 2016.
However the disbursement of funding was held up last year over perceived backtracking on reform commitments that raised doubts about the authorities’ will to eliminate corruption and modernize the economy.


Tension builds in row over women’s entry into Hindu temple in Kerala

In this file photo taken on October 18, 2018 Indian Hindu devotees are pictured at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala. (AFP)
Updated 23 min 36 sec ago
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Tension builds in row over women’s entry into Hindu temple in Kerala

  • Hindu women demand their right of religious freedom as 41-day festival approaches
  • Kerala polarized over female entry into the hilltop temple

NEW DELHI: Tension in the air as Sabarimala Hilltop temple in the South Indian state of Kerala is being prepared to open on Nov. 17 for a 41-day Hindu festival.
The tension pertains to the entry of females between the ages of 10 to 50 into the ancient temple of Ayyappa, a deity who devotees believe is celibate and abhors the entry into the temple of women of marriageable age.
The Indian Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in the last week of September, laid down a rule that bars the entry of young women into the temple. This led to a severe protest across the state, with women being stopped forcefully from entering the temple.
Last month, when the temple opened for six days, at least 12 women tried to enter the hillside temple but a violent crowd blocked their passage, with police looking helpless. At least 560 women in the barred age group have enrolled for the annual pilgrimage that starts in less than a week.
“We are taking all kinds of steps to see that devotees can pay their obeisance to the deity in a peaceful manner,” S. Sreejith, the Kerala inspector general of police, told Arab News.

Political mileage
Before coming to the temple, devotees observe celibacy for 41 days and avoid all kinds of meat and alcohol. They also don black robes for the period.
“The soul of any temple is the deity inside. The deity Aayyappa is a bachelor and that’s why the entry of young women is regulated in the temple,” says Rahul Easwar, a Hindu right-wing activist with close links to the Sabarimala temple.
Talking to Arab News, Easwar said: “We will never say anything against the Supreme Court. We are fighting for our rights to believe and our rights to have our own faith.”
However, women rights activist Kavita Krishnan claimed that “the entire controversy is clearly politically manufactured by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”
The BJP is looking for political mileage in Kerala — the state where it is a small marginal player,” added Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association.
She pointed out that “the entire debate is concocted. It is well known that women’s entry was allowed until the 1990s, and it was stopped upon a court order. The Supreme Court order has only undone that order.”
The local government of Kerala, a coalition of communist parties, supports women’s entry into the temple.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a news conference on Saturday, said: “Opposition to changes in customs is quite natural. But there is no going back. Toilets, bathing facilities and accommodation facilities at Nilakkal will be set up for women devotees. The current crisis is temporary.”
K. Surendran of the BJP, however, said: “This is a matter of belief and the court should not interfere. Why does the court not interfere in the affairs of other minority religions?”
The BJP spokesperson in Kerala told Arab News: “The women who want to enter the temple are not devotees but activists. They are not believers.
“The local government is trying to polarize the issue by supporting women’s entry because it wants to gain the support of other religious minorities,” added Surendran.
Sandhya Acharya, a woman devotee who has registered to go to the Sabarimala temple, told Arab News that there is an “attempt to deny entry to women by calling them activists.
“Why should there be discrimination in the house of God in the name of gender?” she asked.
Rajesh Krishnan, a Kerala-based activist and intellectual, said: “The whole issue has polarized the society in Kerala. The issue has become all the more vicious after the BJP entered the debate and saw it as an opportunity to win over the people and make an entry into the southern Indian state.”
Around 42 review petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court and Tuesday the Apex court will decide whether it should revisit its judgment or not.