The Mahinda Rajapaksa government last week faced several setbacks locally and internationally.The US government proposed a 20 percent aid cut to Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksa government came under pressure from the Muslim countries to act against the anti-Muslim campaign being carried out in the country.Also, the Commonwealth lawyers passed a resolution at a conference in South Africa calling for the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s suspension from the Commonwealth.Amidst all these pressures, the Rajapaksa government was also faced with the criticism over the increase in attacks on the country’s media. The statements made by government spokespersons on the second attack within a few days on the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper did not help the state’s image.However, a delegation of resident heads of 15 Islamic countries in Sri Lanka, met with President Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees last week.Diplomatic heads from Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were present at the meeting.According to the Government Information Department it was to discuss various matters of mutual interest pertaining to both domestic and international arenas.The President had assured the delegation that the government would not tolerate anyone perpetrating acts to create communal or religious disharmony.In usual fashion, Rajapaksa has said that if anyone has proof and evidence of such incidents, they should hand over that information, and action would be taken promptly.It is learnt that Muslim countries are displeased with the silence maintained by the Rajapaksa government over the hate campaign being carried out by the Bodhu Bala Sena against the Muslim community.The Muslim community fired the first salvo against the government during the recent visit of Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani.Muslim politicians and other members of the community met with him prior to his meeting with the Defence Secretary and briefed him of the current situation in the country.Pakistan is especially under pressure to address the plight of the Muslim community since it played a key role in securing the support of other Muslim nations for the Rajapaksa government when the second US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was taken up for a vote at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.Islamic nations that have been closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka had also asked Pakistan to intervene.Following Jilani’s meeting with members of the Rajapaksa government, coincidentally, senior members of the Bodhu Bala Sena, Ven. Galagodatte Gnanasara Thero and Ven. Vitharandeniye Nanda Thero travelled overseas to the US to expand the organization amongst the international community.The Bodhu Bala Sena is now focused on expanding its branch network within the country as well. Executive committee member of the organization, Dilantha Withanage has said that it would set up branches in Kalmunai in the East and Jaffna in the North.However, the diplomatic heads of 15 Muslim nations had also expressed their serious concerns to the President.They have pointed out the assitance provided by the Muslim countries to the Rajapaksa government.In the backdrop of aid cuts from Western nations, the Rajapaksa government is well aware that it has to play its cards properly with the Muslim countries to avoid further isolation.
The Rajapaksa government also received a blow last week in the Commonwealth front as well.A resolution on Sri Lanka was ratified at the 18th Commonwealth Law Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.The Law Society of England and Wales called for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth.It has announced its support for the high-level international resolution, which was ratified at the conference calling for resolute action against Sri Lanka following ‘repressive actions’.The resolution was ratified at the conference by the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association (CLA), the Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA), and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA).According to the Law Society of England and Wales, the resolution includes, “a call upon the Members of the Commonwealth to place Sri Lanka on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting on 26 April 2013 and suspend it from the Councils of the Commonwealth; and a plea for the Members of the Commonwealth to reconsider the holding of the next Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.”The resolution followed reports of serious breaches of the rule of law and judicial independence in Sri Lanka, including the controversial impeachment of Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake in January 2013, the Law Society of England and Wales said in a press release.Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President of the Law Society of England and Wales has said, the Law Society adds its voice to those calling for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth.“When our shared values, including those respecting human rights and the rule of law, are under threat, we must act resolutely and hold firm,” she has said.“We cannot sit back and watch as the independence of the Sri Lankan judiciary continues to be eroded. We cannot remain inactive as politicians fail to abide by court orders. We cannot look away as members of the legal profession face gross and persistent harassment. We remain committed to supporting those who do uphold the rule of law in Sri Lanka.”The resolution would undoubtedly add more strength to the campaign carried out by some countries against the holding of the CHOGM summit in Sri Lanka this year.Sri Lanka is already facing a problem in meeting the initially anticipated numbers for the summit in Colombo.Hotel rooms that were earlier blocked to provide lodging for the CHOGM delegates are now being released due to the decline in numbers.However, the CMAG meeting on April 26 would be crucial since the Rajapaksa government could seriously face a problem in holding the CHOGM summit this November.
Violence in the North
The Rajapaksa government amidst all these issues in the international for a is also coming close to the deadline set by the government on holding Northern Provincial Council elections in September 2013.The government since last year has been saying it would hold elections to the North in September 2013. That has been the assurance given to India and even at the UNHRC in March.Be that as it may, as the time gets closer, the Rajapaksa government has not shown any interest in discussing about Northern elections.Instead the incidents that have been taking place in the North in the past few months are in fact deterrents to holding an election in the North.There have so far been five attacks on the media in the North since January this year with the Uthayan newspaper owned by TNA MP E. Saravanapavan receiving the brunt of it.Reports from Jaffna state that the situation in the North is getting worse with many areas being subjected to Sinhalization with many people from the South being resettled in the North.According to opposition politicians, the government through attacks on the media and protests in the North is now setting the stage to re-introduce emergency regulations prior to the Northern Provincial Council elections.“Once emergency regulations are in place, the government would be in a position to manipulate its way during the Northern Provincial Council elections,” a senior opposition parliamentarian said, adding that it is also an indication of how nervous the Rajapksa government is to face an election.