Pope Francis says Sri Lanka should seek 'truth' over civil war

Updated 14 January 2015
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Pope Francis says Sri Lanka should seek 'truth' over civil war

COLOMBO: Pope Francis called on Sri Lanka to uncover the truth of what happened during its bloody civil war as part of a healing process between religious communities, as he arrived in Colombo a few days after the island’s wartime leaders were voted out.
Soon after landing in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, Francis appeared to make the case for a truth commission to investigate the 26-year civil war, an election pledge of the government voted into office on Thursday.
“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity,” he said, draped in a long garland of yellow and white roses.
Francis was speaking at Bandaranaike international airport, where he was met by President Maithripala Sirisena, troupes of dancers and a children’s choir. Sirisena said the visit was a blessing for his new government.
The pontiff departed past a long line of costumed elephants, reaching their trunks toward his open-topped white jeep, which briefly came to a halt surrounded by crowds lining the road. The motorcade’s slow progress through the late morning heat appeared to tire the 78-year-old and he canceled a meeting with bishops.
“Due to the hot sun he could not go,” said Sri Lankan Church spokesman Cyril Gamini. The Pope attended a later meeting with the president as scheduled.
Francis is the first pope to visit Sri Lanka in 20 years.
Fighting between the mainly Hindu Tamils and the and mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority ended in 2009 with a crushing defeat for the Tamils. A 2011 UN estimate put the death toll from the final army assault at up to 40,000 civilians.
Pope Francis had first-hand experience of devastating civil strife as a priest in his native Argentina during its “Dirty War.” A subsequent 50,000-page truth report revealed shocking details of kidnappings, rape and torture by the military junta.
Francis will spend two days in Sri Lanka before heading to the Philippines as part of a trip aimed at shoring-up the Church’s presence in developing nations. The week-long tour is his second to Asia.
The Pope carried a message of inter-faith dialogue, chiming with the new government’s push for religious harmony.
“My government is promoting peace and friendship among our people after overcoming a cruel terrorist conflict. We have people who believe in religious tolerance and coexistence based on centuries old religious heritage,” Sirisena said.
However, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, was doubtful the new government would agree to a UN inquiry into the end of the war. Sirisena was acting defense minister as the war wound up.
“Sirisena has also said he is not going to back an international investigation,” said Ganguly.
About 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. Hindus make up about 13 percent and Muslims 10 percent. Catholics are about 7 percent, split between ethnic Sinhalese and Tamils.
Francis will canonize Sri Lanka’s first Catholic saint on Wednesday, and visit a pilgrimage site that was shelled in 1999.

Human dignity
Francis called for a more inclusive society in Sri Lanka, in comments that seemed directed at former president and wartime leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who lost office after a resurgence in religious tensions and anger at alleged corruption.
“The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society,” he said, speaking under the hot morning sun.
Rajapaksa is feted as a hero for ending three decades of war. He also presided over a period of fast economic growth and infrastructure reconstruction.
However, he refused to allow a fully independent inquiry into alleged war crimes and presided over a period of growing repression of religious minorities as well as political opponents.
Rajapaksa’s rule coincided with isolated attacks led by hard-line Buddhist monks against churches and other Christian centers.


Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

Updated 19 July 2019
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Pakistan ex-PM in custody of anti-graft body amid Qatar LNG case

  • Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds
  • Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for 13 days, a day after he was arrested in a case involving a multibillion-rupee liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract to Qatar.
Abbasi, who is also the vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) party, was presented before Judge Bashir Ahmed of an accountability court on Friday morning. The case has been adjourned until Aug. 1.
Speaking to journalists before his appearance at the court, Abbasi called his arrest “an attack on democracy.”
Last year, the NAB ordered an inquiry into Abbasi over the alleged misappropriation of funds in the import of LNG that the agency says caused a loss of about $2 billion to the national exchequer. He is also being investigated for allegedly granting a 15-year contract for an LNG terminal to a “favored” company. Abbasi rejects the allegations.
PML-N Sen. Mushahid Ullah Khan said Pakistan was facing “the worst energy crisis of its kind” when his party came to power after the 2013 general election, and the LNG deal was quickly finalized with Qatar to overcome it.
“The industry was shutting down with thousands of people getting unemployed, but this LNG supply helped us reverse the tide,” he told Arab News.
Khan said Pakistan’s LNG contract with Qatar was “the cheapest possible deal” the country could have gotten, and rubbished allegations of corruption and kickbacks.
“If there is something wrong in the contract, why is this government not reviewing it?” Khan asked.
Pakistan is currently receiving a supply of 500 million cubic feet per day of LNG from Qatar under a 15-year agreement at 13.37 percent of Brent crude price. It is a government-to-government agreement and the price can only be reviewed after 10 years of the contract.
“It is the worst example of political victimization by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government,” PML-N Chairman Raja Zafrul Haq said on Friday after the accountability court remanded Abbasi in NAB custody. “Shahid Khaqan served the nation with dignity and did not commit any wrongdoings,” Haq added.
Abbasi was arrested on his way to Lahore to address a news conference along with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday.
He served as federal minister for petroleum in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he finalized an LNG import deal with Qatar. Abbasi then served for less than a year as prime minister following the resignation of Sharif in 2017.
On Thursday, Pakistan opened technical bids of four international companies for the supply of 400 million cubic feet per day of LNG for a period of 10 years to fulfil the country’s rising energy requirements.
Officials told Arab News that a Qatari delegation, led by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in June, resented that Islamabad had ignored its lowest offer of 11.05 percent of Brent for the fresh deal, and instead floated tenders seeking provision of LNG for 10 years from international companies.
The secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy said: “Yes, this is true. Qatar expressed its annoyance, but we are following our rules. Qatar has not submitted its bid to participate in the process.”
Khan won power last year vowing to root out corruption among what he describes as a venal political elite, and views the probes into veteran politicians — including Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari — as long overdue.
The NAB’s campaign has become a topic of fierce political debate in Pakistan, and its focus on the new government’s political foes has prompted accusations of a one-sided purge. The government denies targeting political opponents.
Commenting on Abbasi’s case, former NAB prosecutor Munir Sadiq said the anti-corruption watchdog would file a reference against Abbasi in an accountability court for prosecution, but only if it found irrefutable evidence against him.
“This case is now at the evidence-collection stage, and the NAB will file a reference in the court if it finds irrefutable corruption evidence against Abbasi during the investigation,” Sadiq said.
He added that any inquiry against Abbasi would be shelved after 90 days if corroborating evidence of corruption was not found.
“If a weak case will be filed against the accused, then he will surely receive support from the court,” Sadiq said.