Sri Lankan PM quits to end political deadlock

In this Nov. 3, 2018 file photo, Sri Lanka's then appointed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks to members loyal to him at his office in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Sri Lankan PM quits to end political deadlock

  • Sri Lanka has had no functioning government for nearly two weeks
  • The country runs the risk of being unable to use state funds from Jan. 1 if there is no government to approve the budget

COLOMBO: Embattled Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Saturday after calling for general elections to end the political deadlock that has left the country without a functioning government.
Rajapaksa signed his resignation letter surrounded by party supporters at his home in Colombo 7. Clergy from the island’s three major religions chanted verses to bless Rajapaksa following his decision to step down.
“I will resign from the position of prime minister and make way for the president to form a new government,” Rajapaksa said.
Sri Lanka has been in political crisis since October when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and named Rajapaksa as his replacement. The country’s Parliament has twice rejected the appointment.
Rajapaksa, a former president, is considered a war hero by some for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 after a long civil war. He lost a 2015 re-election bid after facing allegations of wartime atrocities and corruption.
Rajapaksa’s resignation comes a day after the Supreme Court extended a lower court’s suspension of the prime minister and his Cabinet.
Sri Lanka has had no functioning government for almost two weeks and faces the prospect of being unable to pass a budget for next year.
According to Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, general secretary of the ruling United National Party, former premier Wickremesinghe will return to be sworn in as prime minister on Sunday and form a new Cabinet.
In a speech to party supporters, Rajapaksa said that he had no intention of remaining in power unless a general election was held.
“We are now in direct confrontation with a group of political parties that has engaged in various subterfuges to avoid facing elections,” he said.
“What we are confronted with is an attempt to rule the country without holding any kind of election. We cannot implement any of the measures we had planned to prevent this country from becoming another Greece.”
The UNP government has taken out $20.7 billion in foreign currency loans over the past four years, but the political deadlock leaves questions about how the borrowing will be repaid.
Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka’s people would one day “definitely get the change they desire.”
Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana, a legislator and former diplomat in the US, welcomed Rajapaksa’s resignation. “It proves that democracy is still alive in Sri Lanka,” he said.
Rajapaksa’s appointment had plunged the country into chaos, he said.
“Violence was seen erupting in the temple of democracy, the Parliament of Sri Lanka, and its members were seen stooping to the lowest levels of conduct ... to disrupt and agitate,” the analyst said.
However, despite a barrage of attacks on the constitutional principles of the state, the judiciary and legislature had stayed resilient and independent. “If there was anything deserving of praise in the past seven weeks, it is the harmonious functioning of these institutions,” he said.
Azath Salley, a political commentator and leader of the National Unity Alliance, said that Rajapaksa’s resignation had ended the “ordeal of the people.”


Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

Updated 25 March 2019
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Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

  • Daesh may be defeated, but the bigoted ideas that fueled their extremism live on
  • Campaign could not be more timely, with a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Christchurch attacks

RIYADH: Dozens of Daesh militants emerged from tunnels to surrender to Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria on Sunday, a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Men filed out of the battered Daesh encampment in the riverside village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks. “They are fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Jiaker Amed said. “Some others could still be hiding inside.”

World leaders hail Saturday’s capture of the last shred of land controlled by Daesh in Syria, but the top foreign affairs official for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region warned that Daesh captives still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar said. “Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation.”

 While the terrorists have a suffered a defeat, the pernicious ideologies that drive them, and the hate speech that fuels those ideologies, live on. For that reason Arab News today launches Preachers of Hate — a weekly series, published in print and online, in which we profile, contextualize and analyze extremist preachers from all religions, backgrounds and nationalities.


 

In the coming weeks, our subjects will include the Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali, the Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the American-Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane, the Yemeni militia leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, and the US pastor Terry Jones, among others.

 

The series begins today with an investigation into the background of Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who shot dead 50 people in a terrorist attack 10 days ago on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Tarrant is not just a terrorist, but is himself a Preacher of Hate, author of a ranting manifesto that attempts to justify his behavior. How did a shy, quiet boy from rural New South Wales turn into a hate-filled gunman intent on killing Muslims? The answers may surprise you.

Our series could not be more timely — anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK have soared by almost 600 percent since the Christchurch attack, it was revealed on Sunday.

The charity Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents, said almost all of the increase comprised “language, symbols or actions linked to the Christchurch attacks.”

“Cases included people making gestures of pointing a pistol at Muslim women and comments about British Muslims and an association with actions taken by the terrorist in New Zealand,” the charity said.

“The spike shows a troubling rise after Muslims were murdered in New Zealand,” said Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA. “Figures have risen over 590 percent since New Zealand in comparison to the week just before the attack.