Modi visits Lanka’s Tamil heartland

Updated 15 March 2015
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Modi visits Lanka’s Tamil heartland

JAFFNA: Narendra Modi visited Jaffna on Saturday, making a highly symbolic first trip by an Indian prime minister to Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged northern Tamil heartland after urging greater autonomy for the island’s largest minority.
The Jaffna peninsula in Sri Lanka’s far north was worst hit by the country’s 37-year civil war that killed at least 100,000 people, mostly Tamils, and remains heavily militarised.
Officially, Modi was there to launch construction of a cultural center funded by India and formally hand over thousands of houses to families made destitute by decades of war.
But his visit was also a demonstration of regional superpower India’s support for Sri Lanka’s Tamils, who share close cultural and religious ties with those in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
On Friday he held talks with Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena and urged the government to fully implement a 1987 constitutional provision giving Tamils greater autonomy in the majority-Sinhalese nation.
“Sri Lanka has lived through decades of tragic violence and conflict,” Modi said on Friday.
“You have successfully defeated terrorism and brought the conflict to an end. You now stand at a moment of historic opportunity to win the hearts and heal the wounds across all sections of society.”
India has long supported greater autonomy for the minority group, but Tamil leaders said Modi’s comments were particularly strong.
Sirisena came to power in January promising ethnic reconciliation and accountability for alleged war crimes committed by security forces under the command of former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The United Nations has said it is encouraged by his government’s commitment to ethnic reconciliation and accountability for the alleged atrocities committed in the final stages of the war that ended in May 2009.
The UN Human Rights Council this year delayed releasing a report on alleged war crimes by Sri Lankan forces to give the new government time to establish a credible domestic mechanism to investigate allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed.
But the UN has also urged the government to immediately release Tamil detainees and demilitarise former conflict areas to build confidence.
Hundreds of Tamils are believed to be in custody without trial, while the military still occupies large amounts of land belonging to Tamils.
Modi, who called Sri Lanka a “paradise on earth” during a banquet Sirisena hosted on Friday night, will return to Delhi on Saturday after a two-day visit to the Indian Ocean island.
On Friday he pledged $1.81 billion in financial assistance to Sri Lanka, which had turned to China for economic aid under former strongman Rajapaksa’s decade-long rule.


Philippine Congress moves a step closer to expanding Islamic banking

The Central Bank shall exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks. (Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2018
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Philippine Congress moves a step closer to expanding Islamic banking

  • Establishment of more Islamic banks in Southeast Asia and the Middle East will benefit more than 10 million Filipino Muslims
  • The Central Bank will exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks

MANILA: The Philippines has moved a step closer to opening the country to the wide range of banking and other financial services available through Islamic banking and finance.
The move comes after the House of Representatives recently approved on second reading a proposed bill providing for the regulation and organization of Islamic banks in the Philippines.
In an emailed statement to Arab News, Congressman Henry Ong said the “eventual enactment of the (proposed) law would be one of the historic moments in Philippine banking history.”
The country’s first Islamic bank, according to the lawmaker, was created in 1972.
“With this imminent new law, there will be more Islamic banks not just for Mindanao but also for the rest of the country,” said Ong, who is chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries.
Parallel to this bill’s movement through Congress, the Philippine Stock Exchange has its Shariah index of stocks on the PSE where some 60 securities are listed.
Ong noted that the establishment of more Islamic banks, especially those based here in Southeast Asia and in the Middle East, will greatly benefit the 10 million-plus Filipino Muslims, many of whom are “unbanked.”
He pointed out that this is so as the proposed measure will make available particularly to Filipino Muslims, “a vast array of banking, lending, and investment products and services.
“Mindanao’s economy will reap great harvests because of this bill. Filipino Muslims in the Middle East and Southeast Asia would most likely be able to send more remittances to their families and friends. Businesses in Mindanao will have more financing options to grow,” Ong said.
“Upgrading and expanding Islamic banking and finance will help stimulate economic growth in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, as well as in Filipino-Muslim communities in Metro Manila and other urban areas nationwide,” Ong continued.
The lawmaker likewise emphasized said that aside from providing the people of Mindanao more banking options, Arab investors and bankers will have more reasons to participate in the growth of the Philippine economy.
“More Islamic banks means more direct investments, including investments by international Islamic banks especially those here in ASEAN, the Middle East, and even Africa,” he said.
Under the proposed bill, Islamic banking business refers to banking business with objectives and operations that do not involve interest (riba) which is prohibited by the Shari’ah and which conducts its business transactions in accordance with Shariah principles.
Section 3 of the bill also provides that the Central Bank’s Monetary Board may authorize the establishment of Islamic banks. It may also authorize conventional banks to engage in Islamic banking arrangements, including structures and transactions, through a designated Islamic banking unit within the bank.
Under prescribed rules and regulations, it may also authorize foreign Islamic banks to establish banking operations in the Philippines under any of the modes of entry provided under Republic Act No. 7721, as amended, otherwise known as “The Liberalizing of Entry and Operations of Foreign Banks in the Philippines.”
The Monetary Board may regulate the number of participants in the Islamic banking system, taking into account the requirements of the economy, the preservation of the stability of the system, and the maintenance of healthy competition.
The Central Bank shall exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks.
The bill further mandates that Islamic banks shall be responsible in ensuring compliance with Shari-an principles. For this purpose, it shall constitute a Shariah advisory council composed of people who have knowledge or experience in Shariah and in banking, finance, and law.