Nearly 250,000 people couldn’t vote ‘for various reasons’: Mali govt

Malian opposition presidential candidates (L to R) Mountaga Tall, Choguel Maiga and Soumaila Cisse talk during a press conference about the results of the first round of the presidential election, on August 6, 2018 in Bamako, ahead of the second round scheduled on August 12. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2018

Nearly 250,000 people couldn’t vote ‘for various reasons’: Mali govt

  • The government had earlier said that 715 polling stations had remained closed out of a total 23,000 nationwide
  • The jihadist violence has spread from northern Mali to the center and south of the country and spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts

BAMAKO: The Mali government on Monday published a list of 871 polling stations which were unable to operate during last week’s presidential election due to outbreaks of violence, adding that almost a quarter of a million people had been unable to vote.
A total of 245,888 voters — mainly in northern Timbuktu region, central Mopti and Segou in the south — “were unable to vote for various reasons” during the July 21 election, the ministry of territorial administration said.
The government was responding to calls by the opposition and the European Union to provide more details of the contested vote results.
The three main opposition candidates in Mali’s presidential election announced Sunday they were mounting a legal challenge in the country’s constitutional court alleging “ballot box-stuffing” and other irregularities, after incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took the lead in the first round of voting.
Keita won 41.42 percent of the vote in July’s presidential poll, according to provisional results, easily ahead of the second place rival Soumaila Cisse with 17.8 percent. They are set to contest a runoff vote next Sunday.
The government had earlier said that 715 polling stations had remained closed out of a total 23,000 nationwide.
Two days after polling took place the European Union pressured Mali to present a “complete and detailed list” of polling stations where a key presidential election could not be held due to violence.
Security was a central issue during the campaign, in which 73-year-old Keita is seeking re-election with the international community hoping the poll will strengthen a 2015 peace accord.
In Mali’s north, where the state is barely present, armed groups who signed the peace accord helped to ensure security.
The vote was monitored by observers from the European Union, the African Union, the regional ECOWAS grouping and the Francophonie organization.
Violence also marred the lead-up to the election, despite the presence of 15,000 UN peacekeepers, 4,500 French troops and a much heralded five-nation anti-terror G5 Sahel force.
The jihadist violence has spread from northern Mali to the center and south of the country and spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts.
On Monday 18 of the presidential candidates denounced an “electoral hold-up” and called for a major protest in Bamako on Tuesday.
The constitutional court is due to officially announce the first-round results on Wednesday.
Mali, considered a linchpin state in west Africa’s troubled Sahel region, is one of the world’s poorest countries, with most people living on less than $2 a day.

Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

Updated 21 May 2019

Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

  • Madrasas to be absorbed by Ministry of Education in wake of Easter Sunday attacks
  • More than 100 arrests have been made following the rioting. A curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday refused permission for a planned $10 million (SR37.5 million) Shariah university in one of the country’s main cities.

And in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks on hotels and churches, the premier also announced that all madrasas would be brought under the umbrella of Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry.

The latest moves by the Sri Lankan government follow widespread unrest on the island, with anti-Muslim riots having caused damage running into millions of dollars.

Wickremesinghe’s orders came after a fact-finding report into the university compiled by MP Ashu Marasinghe. He recommended that the institution, being constructed at Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, should be privately operated and titled Batticaloa Technology University. The new education complex is located close to the township of Kattankudy where suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, Zahran Hashim, lived and preached his messages of hate and violence.

The Sri Lankan government analyst’s department said on Tuesday that DNA tests proved Hashim died in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

President’s Counsel, Ali Sabry, a prominent lawyer and political analyst, told Arab News on Tuesday that the premier’s announcement was welcome.

“We don’t need a Shariah university at this juncture when there is a lot of suspicions on various Islamic topics that need to be clarified by Islamic theologians following the suicide attacks by Muslim extremists,” Sabry said. He stressed that the country’s main focus should be on strengthening ways to ensure peaceful coexistence among all communities.

The Sri Lankan University Grants Commission had a set of guidelines to license new universities, and Wickremesinghe’s latest recommendations would also be included among the requirements for a new university, Sabry added.

The prime minister’s ruling on madrasas (Islamic seminaries) would provide more transparency on the activities of the institutions, he said. “Their curriculum and their co-curricular activities should maintain a common standard and these madrasas should prepare the students to make them fit into society instead of just learning Arabic and Islam only.”

M.R.M. Malik, director of the Muslim Affairs Ministry in Colombo, told Arab News that currently all madrasas function under his ministry. “There are 317 madrasas throughout the island with an estimated 25,000 students. In addition to the local teachers, there are 38 Arabic teachers and 85 foreign students,” he said.

Most of the teachers are from Egypt, Pakistan and India, while many of the overseas students studying at the madrasas are from Libya, Pakistan, Jordan and India.

Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen told Arab News that the local community had never wanted a Shariah university. However, he said the proposed curriculum for the madrasas should be constructed in consultation with Islamic scholars and the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, revealed that damage caused by anti-Muslim riots had reached nearly Rs900 million (SR19.2 million). The governor was speaking to Arab News following a visit to some of the worst-affected villages on the island.

“Speaking to the families of the vandalized properties, it’s clear that an organized gang had attacked these earmarked properties owned by Muslims,” said Salley. “One child, whose father was killed in his presence, is still in a state of utter shock and dismay.” He added that turpentine oil had been poured on the face of the dead carpenter by his killers and set on fire.

The governor urged the authorities to bring the attackers to justice. He added that the government would provide compensation to victims of wrecked properties.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasakera said that more than 100 arrests had been made following the rioting, and that a curfew had been lifted and life was returning to normal.