Sri Lanka election over but political war awaits – Hector Welgampola

Sri Lanka's new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena screenshot Sri Lanka Mirror Facebook

Commentary: Lanka’s new president won the electoral battle, but the political war awaits

By: Hector Welgampola

With political alacrity, Sri Lankans have voted in a new president thwarting an incumbent’s plan for an unprecedented third term seen as a move to further entrench dynastic power. The cosmic speed of behind-the-scene events before and after the Jan. 8 election took many by surprise.

Was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to quit midway through vote-counting a final act of magnanimity or a crafty move to ensure his political future? Where does it leave the kitchen cabinet of siblings and son, who continue to hold office? Before returning to his native village, Rajapaksa had a final tete-a-tete with soon-to-be prime minster Ranil Wickremesinghe, a longtime friend, though vintage political antagonist. What transpired remains unknown. Only history or future political memoirs will divulge the mystery of the Rajapaksa exit.

Some insights may be discerned from newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena’s speedy decision to be sworn-in within hours of his victory. The ceremony was simple but rich in symbolism. In order to counter witness to the lavish presidential lifestyle of the past, the Gandhian new president had instructed his staff to restrict his inauguration expenses to fifty dollars. He took the oath of office in the presence of a Tamil judge of the Supreme Court, not in the presence of the country’s chief justice, Mohan Pieris, the Catholic appointee promoted by Rajapaksa after impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike.

Reportedly, the installation was unduly speeded up partly to relieve the public regarding fears of an alleged military intervention. Two days before the Jan. 8 election, a Muslim citizen wrote a 13-point open letter to the army commander deploring politicization of the military. All armed forces are under the defense secretary, Rajapaksa sibling Gotabhaya. Social media too reported that even before President Sirisena swore him in as prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe had private discussions with military leaders to assuage army fears of counter politicization, as well as to allay public fears.

Social peace and stability will be essential if the new president is to implement his 100-day program of constitutional reform and return to a just and equitable system of governance. He heads a rather loose coalition of disparate political elements, some of whose retinue may be nursing hopes of political perks and rewards. But the new president’s greatest asset is public confidence and hope for a return to an era of peace and social justice based on the equality of all citizens irrespective of race, religion or political persuasion. He received the unprecedented support of all ethnic groups. His highest percentage of votes came from the Tamil-speaking northern and eastern regions.

After a decade of discrimination, partisan politics, nepotism and corruption, the ethnically and economically fractured nation of 21 million will have thousands of grievances. The religious sector has the unenviable role of soothing their anxieties and championing their just causes. Religious leaders must heed the chiding by the nation and recommit themselves to guiding rulers with diligence and not pandering to their weaknesses. Much fallout of this period of transition could be contained if Church leaders act as Romeros, not as Richelieus.

In a statement to Fides news agency, Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy, has already welcomed the election of Sirisena. The country’s senior bishop expressed hope that the new president would implement the program of anti-corruption, good governance, commitment to development and reconciliation he placed before the country’s bishops.

Hector Welgampola

welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Hong Kong police release Cardinal Zen, protest leaders after “surrender”

Three founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy protest movement, joined by retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, 82, have been released without restrictions after they “surrendered” to police yesterday, Dec. 3, Channel News Asia reported.

Protesters flocked to Hong Kong’s central district in late September and blocked three major intersections to demand free elections in the special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China after the government announced its decision to screen presidential candidates in the 2017 elections.

Cardinal Zen has been quoted telling a pro-democracy demonstration earlier this year that it is time for Hong Kong people to show that they “no longer want to be slaves.” Last Sept. 28, he urged protesting students who had gathered at a public square to go home and continue protesting in other forms after police sprayed the crowd with tear gas. 

Cardinal John Tong-hon of Hong Kong had appealed to the Hong Kong-SAR government to exercise restraint on the second day of the demonstration, after police sprayed tear gas on those protesters. He also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests. 

Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have not issued a warrant of arrest for protest leaders even after officials had called the protests illegal. 

What now for the quest for peaceful reconciliation and democracy in Hong Kong and China?

Read full report on police release protest leaders

 

 

Hong Kong Cardinal Tong appeals to SAR gov’t, protesters – Document

Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong has appealed to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government to exercise restraint on the second day of Occupy Central protests after police sprayed tear gas on people who had massed up in Hong Kong’s Central district and surrounding neighborhoods for the civil disobedience movement. 

Cardinal Tong also appealed to the tens of thousands of protesters, including young students, to keep calm, as he urged Christians to pray for peaceful reconciliation of the conflicting parties in the protests. 

Earlier on Monday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Cheung Tak-Keung told a press conference that around 41 people, including 12 police were injured when protesters charged through police cordon lines yesterday in what media called the “Umbrella Revolution” because people carried umbrellas for protection against tear gas.

Cheung said police warned oncoming protesters and gave them time to comply with orders. He said police used tear gas 87 times in nine locations yesterday. They also resorted to using pepper spray and batons to keep their distance and prevent injuries, the commissioner said. He said police used “minimum force.”

By paralyzing Hong Kong’s financial hub, Occupy Centeral with Love and Peace protests aim to press for democratic change, mainly in allowing citizens to freely choose their top leaders.

Media around the world have been following the protests since they began on Sunday.

 

 

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restrain and calm from protesters - Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restrain and calm from protesters – Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restraint and calm from protesters - Hong Kong Church Document

Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong appeals for Hong Kong-SAR government restraint and calm from protesters – Hong Kong Church Document

Aquino sends Bangsamoro draft law to congress, kicks off stakeholders’ dialogues

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

Cotabato,NJ Viehland

President Benigno Aquino III has submitted to the Philippine Congress the proposed law providing for the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that is seen as key to establishing and promoting peace and development in the southern Philippines.

Bangsamoro entity created by the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

An update from the Institute on Autonomy and Government (IAG) reported that the Senate and House of Representatives can now proceed to deliberate on the draft law. 

Congressman Rufus Rodriguez will chair the Special Committee that will take up the proposed law in the Lower House. The House of Representatives will create a 75-member ad hoc committee to “review, evaluate and propose legislation” based on the draft BBL.

Its functions include:

* Study, deliberate on and act upon all measures referred to it inclusive of bills, resolutions and petitions, and recommend for approval or adoption by the House those that, in its judgment, advance the interests and promote thr welfare of the people;

* Establish appropriate system and procedures to ensure that constituencies, sectors and groups are given sufficient opportunities to be heard;

* Pursue dialogues and consultations with affected sectors and constituencies;

* Require the submission of studies, research and position papers;

* Engage the services and assistance of experts and professionals from the public or private sector as may be needed;

* Conduct hearings and inquiries in aid of legislation on matters within its jurisdiction;

* Act on measures referred to it and render a report to the plenary for its consideration.

Senate discussions will be led by the Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. Members include Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (Vice chair) and member Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Manuel Lapid, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe. Senators Ralph Recto, Alan Peter Cayetano and Juan Ponce Enrile are Ex-Officio members.

IAG in an e-group notice said with the NGO Philippine Center  for Islam and Democracy (PCID) it will continue to report on deliberations on the BBL in Congress.

In Cotabato City, southern Philippines, the institute will collaborate with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines political foundation, Notre Dame University of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation (NDBC) and launch a series of talk shows to foster understanding of the proposed BBL.

The talkshop series will bring together members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), experts, civil society leaders, and key stakeholders to discussions, analysis and debates on the salient features of the BBL certified as urgent by the President for approval by Congress.

IAG senior policy adviser, Oblate Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., meanwhile will reconvene the Bangsamoro Study Circle group in a series of special sessions to study the draft bill for greater participation of stakeholders in the discussion of the issues that confront the general public.

Concerned people are invited to study the proposed law and submit their views and opinion on the draft law to info@iag.org.ph , which will publish  comments on its website’s opinion section. 

IAG will also publish updates on Facebook and Twitter @IAGorgph using hashtag #BBLWatch 

Hong Kong Church calls for genuine dialogue, democracy as political tension rises

Hong Kong diocese has published a statement on universal suffrage and civil disobedience in response to the increasing discussion revolving around the Occupy Central Movement and growing dissatisfaction with the current governmental system in the diocese’s Sunday Examiner newspaper, and the Chinese-language Kung Kao Po on July 28, as well as in daily newspapers in Hong Kong on July 26.

The statement calls for genuine universal suffrage in the territory and an end to what it calls processes put forward by the government that are broadly representative in name only, but not in reality.

Earlier, on July 25, Father Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in a press conference on the statement held at the Diocese Centre explained that the Church in issuing “An Urgent Call for Earnest Dialogue and Responsible Action” did not mean to intervene in political affairs of Hong Kong, but only “wanted to support the universal value of democracy.”

Read the full report on the need for genuine dialogue in Hong Kong’s political polarization published in the diocese’s Aug. 23 Sunday Examiner newspaper issue …