Sri Lanka pledges ‘political solution’ in war-torn north

Updated 29 March 2015
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Sri Lanka pledges ‘political solution’ in war-torn north

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has pleadged a “political solution” for the island’s war-torn north, where ethnic minority Tamils have long demanded greater autonomy.
During a two-day visit to the Tamil heartland of Jaffna, Wickremesinghe also repeated his government’s promise of national reconciliation six years after the island’s ethnic war ended, his office said in a statement on Sunday.
“If you want a stable and secure country, we must have a political solution (with Tamils) and move forward,” Wickremesinghe said in an address in the Jaffna peninsula on Saturday and released by his office in the statement.
He did not give details of any proposed political agreement with Tamils, many of whom have for decades pressed for regional autonomy rather than full independence.
Tamil Tiger rebels, however, fought for outright separation but were crushed in a military offensive in May 2009 — ending 37 years of ethnic bloodshed which had claimed at least 100,000 lives.
“The war is over, but we do not have unity among ethnic communities,” Wickremesinghe said. “Tamils have shown their willingness to ensure reconciliation. We must have a political settlement and move forward, protecting peace and stability.”
In the January presidential election Maithripala Sirisena defeated long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, who enjoyed support among majority Sinhalese but failed to bring about reconciliation with Tamils.
Rajapaksa had also refused to cooperate with a UN-mandated investigation into allegations that troops possibly killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians while defeating the separatists.
Wickremesinghe said his government has won support from the UN Human Rights Council to establish a credible domestic inquiry into alleged war crimes.
The new government has already taken steps toward reconciliation since January, including by lifting travel restrictions to the north and beginning to return Tamil-owned land taken over by the military.
In a major sign of rapprochement, the country’s main minority political party, the Tamil National Alliance, attended last month’s national day celebrations hosted by Sirisena, for the first time in four decades.


Philippine president wants to end anti-drug war in three years

Updated 21 March 2019
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Philippine president wants to end anti-drug war in three years

  • Philippines being investigated for extrajudicial killings
  • Anti-drug campaign signature policy of president

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he wanted to finish his war on drugs in three years, defying an international probe into his controversial and deadly campaign to rid the country of narcotics.
Duterte, who came to power in 2016, has made a ‘war on drugs’ the hallmark of his administration. 
But it has been reported that 20,000 people have been killed in what rights groups call a wave of “state-sanctioned violence.”
The firebrand president remains unfazed by the condemnation, and the cases filed against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his crackdown.
He insisted he would assume full responsibility for any consequences due to his decision to enforce the law, telling a military audience his goals.
“I’d like to finish this war, both (with the) Abu Sayyaf (a militant group) and also the communists, and the drug problem in about three years … we'd be able (to) ... reduce the activities of the illegal trade and fighting to the barest minimum.
“I’m not saying I am the only one capable (of achieving these goals) ... I assume full responsibility for all that would happen as a consequence of enforcing the law — whether against the criminals, the drug traffickers or the rebels who’d want to destroy government.”
Earlier this month, the Philippines withdrew from the ICC, citing the global body's interference in how the country was run as the reason.
On Tuesday, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines would continue despite its exit.
But the government has said it will not cooperate with the ICC, and has even warned its personnel about entering the country for the investigation.
There are Filipinos who support Duterte’s campaign, however, and believe it works. Among them is former policeman Eric Advincula.
He said there had been an improvement in the situation since Duterte came to power. 
“For one, the peace and order situation has improved, like for example in villages near our place where there used to be rampant drug peddling,” he told Arab News. 
“The price of illegal drugs is now higher, an indication that the supply also went down. Also, it was easy to catch drug peddlers before because they were doing their trade openly. But now they are more careful, you can't easily locate them.”
Official data from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in February indicated that 5,176 ‘drug personalities’ were killed in the anti-drugs war between July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2019.
More than 170,000 drug suspects have been arrested during a total of 119,841 anti-narcotics operations in the last two and a half years.