Sirisena takes oath as Lanka’s president

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Updated 09 January 2015
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Sirisena takes oath as Lanka’s president

Common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, who emerged winner at the Thursday’s presidential poll took office as the president of Sri Lanka on Friday, while the opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe took oath as prime minister from the new president.
Supreme Court judge Justice Sri Pavan administered the oath to the new president in the midst of a large gathering at the Independence Square in the Sri Lankan capital.
“I will maintain democracy, rule of law and independence of judiciary supported with a new political culture,” said President Sirisena, thanking all voters irrespective of their choice of candidates, for helping the government conduct an election free of violence,” he stressed. He also remembered with due respect the people who sacrificed their life, got physically and mentally hurt due to harassment caused by unruly elements during the pre- poll period.He pledged to give a new social interpretation to people’s life in Sri Lanka.
“I will develop a new foreign policy which would maintain friendly relations with all countries for the betterment of the Sri Lankan nation.”
“I will also pave the way to set up a government free of corruption, fraud, nepotism and felony,” he added. He also said that he has a 100-day program to abolish the executive presidency.
“I will create a background necessary for providing a balanced service to the country by immediately stopping the state media being used as a propaganda weapon of the ruling party. I will consolidate to the maximum media freedom and the right of information,” he stressed.
The outgoing president, who left the official residence for his Medamulana residence in his village, thanked the people of Hambantota for the unprecedented support given to him during his tenure of office.
Sirisena, a commoner and former health minister defeated the incumbent president, polling 62,17,162. Rajapaksa obtained 57,68,090 votes.
In his brief speech, Sirisena thanked the outgoing President Rajapaksa who facilitated a smooth transfer of power and the election department for the excellent job done to conduct a fair and free poll. US Foreign Secretary John Kerry said that his government is ready to join hands with Sirisena in his forward march toward good governance.


Call for Kashmir shutdown on Sunday in protest against crackdown on activists

Updated 51 min 9 sec ago
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Call for Kashmir shutdown on Sunday in protest against crackdown on activists

  • India has beefed up security forces in Kashmir after last week's suicide attack in Pulwama
  • The attack, claimed by Kashmiri separatists, killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary troops

NEW DELHI: Separatist leaders in Kashmir have called for a shutdown on Sunday in protest against the “illegal detention” and “arbitrary arrest” of some of their colleagues and the deployment of an additional 12,000 troops in Kashmir valley.

In a strongly worded statement on Saturday the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) called the arrest of the senior separatist leader Yasin Malik and the crackdown on 200 Jamaat-e-Islami cadres and leadership, including its chief Ameer Abdul Hamid Fayaz,  “dictatorial” and “arbitrary.”
It said that “nocturnal raids across the valley look to be a part of the continued policy of suppression of pro self-determination leadership and narrative.”
“The last 30 years have shown that jailing and intimidating activists and leaders will not deter them from their path, nor will it stop people from demanding the resolution of the Kashmir dispute through self-determination,” said a statement issued by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik.
The separatist leaders also condemned the pressure tactics being used by the government against some of the local media.
Amid the crackdown on the valley-based separatist leaders New Delhi has also started deploying 12,000 additional troops in the valley.
“We are keeping two things in mind — to control the situation emerging out of the arrests of the separatist leaders and to be ready to hold elections in the valley parallel to the national elections,” a senior officials in Srinagar told Arab News.
After last week’s Pulwama suicide attack that claimed more than 40 lives of paramilitary personnel in South Kashmir, there has been a considerable build-up of troops in the valley. 
The crackdown on the separatists coincides with the crucial hearing on Article 35-A in the Supreme Court on Monday. The article grants special rights and privileges to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and has been challenged by a section of the Hindu right wing in the Supreme Court.
The nocturnal arrests of the activists and separatist leaders have come under criticism from the valley-based mainstream political parties.
“In the past 24 hours Hurriyat leaders and workers of the Jamaat organization have been arrested. Failure to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Mahbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
She questioned “under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas.”
The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ally in the valley Sajad Lone also questioned the wisdom of the crackdown.
“Large-scale arrests took place in 1990. Leaders were ferried to Jodhpur and many jails across the country. Things worsened. This is a failed model. Please desist from it. It won’t work. Things will worsen,” said Lone in a tweet.
However, Dr. Hina Bhat of the BJP justified the arrest of the Hurriyat separatist leaders.
“If you want to bring peace in Kashmir it is important to remove all the ingredients which are causing disturbance in the state, be it separatist or Jamiat,” said Bhat, a Kashmir-based leader.
“Why you think we should go and talk to militants who are killing their own people. We are not killing these separatist leaders, we are just removing them from the scene.”
“We have tried and gave enough chances for the dialogue process with Pakistan. What happens is that when we trust Pakistan we are backstabbed and we cannot trust Pakistan for a dialogue process,” he added.
She told Arab News that “the government is taking appropriate steps to bring back peace and life in the state.”
“The militants in the state are brainwashed individuals and they pick up guns because of their personal reasons not to fight for the cause of Kashmir. Youth are being misguided and brainwashed by the separatist leaders for their political agenda. They work as the agents of Pakistan,” asserted Bhat.
Kashmir-based analyst Professor Siddiq Wahid said that “Delhi is practicing a cynical policy at its best.”
“In the last 24 hours, the fog has cleared and it is becoming apparent that the BJP is spinning Pulwama in the interests of electoral politics. Their war-cry was to isolate Pakistan, so it has not succeeded because international support for this is non-existent. Yet it has successfully stirred the BJP base,” added Wahid.
He told Arab News that “Delhi continues its policy of denial of dispute and at the same time making the Kashmiri eminently more insecure in India. It is disastrous.”