Sri Lanka president asks Tamils to re-elect ‘known devil’

Updated 02 January 2015
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Sri Lanka president asks Tamils to re-elect ‘known devil’

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s embattled President Mahinda Rajapaksa has urged minority Tamils to back him in next week’s election, calling himself the “known devil,” as he made a final push for votes in the country’s former war zone.
While he remains popular among ethnic majority Sinhalese voters, Rajapaksa is widely detested by members of the country’s biggest minority after overseeing the brutal crushing of a 37-year Tamil rebellion.
The main Tamil party has already endorsed Rajapaksa’s chief rival Maithripala Sirisena in the January 8 election but the incumbent told voters in the northern Jaffna region that he was committed to improving their livelihoods, pointing to improvements in infrastructure.
“This is my 11th visit to Jaffna as president,” Rajapaksa, who has been in power for nearly a decade, told a rally.
“The devil you know is better than the unknown angel,” he said in Sinhala, speaking through a translator.
“I am the known devil, so please vote for me.”
The 69-year-old, who is South Asia’s longest-serving leader after coming to power in 2005, then listed a series of infrastructure projects that had been completed since the end of the Tamil separatist conflict in 2009.
“We gave you electricity, we gave you new schools and now we want to give you proper water supplies,” he said, in a region that was devastated by the separatist conflict.
Rajapaksa had been due to inaugurate the latest stretch of a reopened rail link from Colombo to Jaffna but he canceled his plans at the last minute, leaving his transport minister to do the honors.
Tamils account for around 13 percent of the 15 million people entitled to cast their ballots next Thursday and their choice of candidate could be crucial to the outcome of what is shaping up to be a tight contest.
Rajapakse had been the clear favorite but a series of defections by allies, including his one-time health minister Sirisena, have thrown the contest wide open and the president now needs every vote he can muster.
Although the economy has been growing at rates of around seven percent in the post-war era, many voters say that ruling party cronies have been the only ones to really benefit.


US top court blocks USS Cole sailors from $315m in compensation from Sudan

Updated 26 March 2019
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US top court blocks USS Cole sailors from $315m in compensation from Sudan

  • Overturns lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets
  • Sudan denies that it provided any support to Al-Qaeda for the attack

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Tuesday prevented American sailors injured in the deadly 2000 Al-Qaeda bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole from collecting almost $315 million in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the attack.
In a 8-1 ruling, the justices overturned a lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets. The decision represented a major victory for Sudan, which denies that it provided any support to Al-Qaeda for the attack in Yemen.
Sudan was backed by President Donald Trump’s administration in the case.
In the ruling, the justices agreed with Sudan that the lawsuit had not been properly initiated in violation of US law because the claims were delivered in 2010 to the African country’s embassy in Washington rather than to its minister of foreign affairs in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
A lower court had levied damages by default because Sudan did not defend itself against allegations that it had given support to the extremist group.
The Oct. 12, 2000, attack killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the Navy guided-missile destroyer as it was refueling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, blasting a gaping hole in its hull. The vessel was repaired and later returned to full active duty.
Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued the government of Sudan in 2010 in Washington. At issue was whether mailing the lawsuit to Sudan’s embassy violated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a US law governing when foreign governments may be sued in American courts.
Writing for the court’s majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said that other countries’ foreign ministers must be reached where they normally work, “not a far flung outpost that the minister may at most occasionally visit.”
Alito expressed sympathy toward the sailors, writing that the ruling may seem like it is enforcing an empty formality.
“But there are circumstances in which the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements even when the equities of a particular case may seem to point in the opposite direction,” Alito said, adding that the case had sensitive diplomatic implications.
Alone in his dissent, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said that allowing litigants to send notices of lawsuits to embassies would comply with both US and international law.
The Trump administration had told the justices that a ruling against Sudan could impact how the US government is treated by foreign courts because the United States rejects judicial notices delivered to its embassies.
The sailors were highly critical of the administration’s position. “Particularly given this administration’s solicitude for veterans, its decision to side with a state sponsor of terrorism, against men and women who are seeking to recover for grievous injuries suffered in the service of our country, is inexplicable and distressing,” they said in a legal brief.
In 2012, a federal judge in Washington issued a default judgment of $314.7 million against Sudan. Individual plaintiffs were to receive between $4 million and $30 million each.
A separate judge in New York later ordered certain banks to turn over assets they had held for Sudan to partially satisfy the judgment. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld those orders in 2015.
A lawyer representing Sudan and a representative for Sudan’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment. An attorney for the sailors also could not be reached for comment.