by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, has made a second visit to Sri Lanka within a few months. PriorMore
On Wednesday, May 17, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso decreed the dissolution of the National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament, using the “cross-death” constitutional mechanism. Lasso argued that there was a “serious political crisis and internal commotion” in the country and that the dissolution of the opposition majority parliament was a “constitutional solution” and a “democratic action.” Lasso’s decision came a day after the parliament began an impeachment hearing against him. He is accused of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.
Following Lasso’s announcement, the left-wing opposition Citizen Revolution Movement (RC) rejected the dissolution of parliament, calling it a “desperate and unconstitutional action.” The RC said that it was Lasso’s “strategy” to avoid the impeachment trial that could have removed him from office.
“The decree issued by President Guillermo Lasso is evidence of the triumph of the impeachment. This desperate and unconstitutional action is a strategy of a hopeless government that seeks to avoid the vote to remove it, without caring about the people. He is clinging to his post, instead of allowing the country to revive. The Citizen Revolution -as it has always said and maintained- places its positions at the disposal of the Ecuadorian people. This is the moment for the country to change. Lasso will not be able to stop the judgment of history. Soon the patient but present people will wake up, with our people we will triumph,” stated the RC.
The conservative Social Christian Party (PSC), Lasso’s former electoral partner, also questioned the legitimacy of Lasso’s move and rejected claims of a serious political and internal crisis.
from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service
A study published by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has revealed that economic sanctions, often illegally imposed, have a lasting negative impact on the populations in targeted countries and almost never achieve their stated goals.
The study “Human Consequences of Economic Sanctions” by Francisco Rodriguez, examines the evidence and arguments presented in 32 studies of sanctioned economies, mostly poor and Global South countries. It concludes that “[it] is hard to think of other policy interventions that continue to be pursued amid so much evidence of their adverse and often deadly effects on vulnerable populations,” particularly when they are extremely ineffective in achieving most of their stated goals.
The study finds that they affect the living conditions of the majority population of the targeted countries by making them poorer and more precarious. This is largely because targeted governments have a reduced capacity to maintain social and economic policies that support most of the population, especially the most vulnerable.
The CEPR report also notes that the negative impact of economic sanctions on people is well-known by policymakers and experts. Often, the report says, the worsening of economic conditions in targeted countries is precisely the intention of the measures, in the hope that there will be political upheaval in response.
With 99.65 percent of votes counted in the elections to the Greek parliament held on Sunday, May 21, the conservative New Democracy (ND) party led by incumbent Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis emerged as the single largest party with 40.79 percent of the votes and 146 seats. However, it fell short of a simple majority. The major opposition party, Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, secured only 20 percent of the votes and 71 seats (-15). The liberal-socialist PASOK-KINAL coalition and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) significantly improved their performance, winning 41 (+19) and 26 seats (+11), respectively. The elections saw a turnout of 60.92 percent despite that voting was compulsory.
According to reports, ND is unwilling to form a coalition with any other party and Mitsotakis has expressed willingness to go for a repeat vote in June where he might get a majority due to different electoral rules.
The elections were held amid a great deal of dissatisfaction with the major political parties. The ND government’s attacks on the rights of workers across sectors, especially health and education, were met with protests from trade unions. The government also faced a backlash after a horrific train accident and a wire-tapping scandal.
Under the ND government, austerity policies intensified. Close to 30 percent of Greeks are at risk of poverty or social exclusion and real wages of workers have declined by 25 percent since 2007. Greece has also been a key supporter of Ukraine, sending weapons and tank operators and spending 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense, more than any other NATO member.
from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service
Fighting continued in Sudan hours before a ceasefire agreement was to take effect between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Monday, May 22. The warring parties had signed the agreement on May 20. Around 850 civilians have died since fighting broke out on April 15.
Concerns remain about whether the ceasefire will hold as earlier agreements were violated. This is the first time the warring parties have signed a written agreement with a mechanism for monitoring. A Monitoring and Coordination Committee is to be established, comprising three representatives each from the SAF and RSF, and three each from the US and Saudi Arabia, which have been jointly facilitating the negotiations in Jeddah.
While welcoming the agreement, spokesperson of the Sudanese Communist Party Fathi Elfadl told Peoples Dispatch that this committee is insufficient to monitor and ensure compliance. “It does not include a single representative of the civilians who have been suffering the most,” he said.
The warring parties have committed to ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers and allowing humanitarian assistance delivery. Elfadl said that the humanitarian corridors should not be controlled by the SAF or RSF but by organizations like the doctors’ union and the Sudanese Red Crescent. He added that neighborhood resistance committees, which have been at the forefront of mass protests and relief work, should receive and distribute the aid.
Around 24.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the Revised Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service
The name of China’s first domestically-built large cruise ship was unveiled in Shanghai on Friday.
“Adora Magic City” aims to offer a unique and immersive cruise experience that seamlessly blends Eastern and Western cultures, with Shanghai serving as its home port in the inaugural season, according to details released at an event held by the municipal culture and tourism bureau and China State Shipbuilding Corporation Cruise Technology Development Co., Ltd. (CCTD).
Jointly designed and built by the CCTD and Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., the cruise ship, measuring 323.6 meters in length with a gross tonnage of 135,500 tonnes, can accommodate up to 5,246 passengers and is expected to be delivered by the end of 2023.
After the successful delivery of the cruise ship, an array of international routes will commence between the home port of Shanghai and neighboring countries serving as the destinations. In addition, medium and long-term routes will be launched to enhance cultural exchanges between China and other countries. (Xinhua)
Plans are underway to establish a dedicated ‘Social Intelligence Unit’ aimed at safeguarding children and young individuals, according to State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon. The minister highlighted the recent alarming incidents involving teenagers and stressed the importance of implementing measures to protect the future generation. The formation of this unit will be pursued in collaboration with schools across the country to ensure the safety and well-being of children.
In a visit to the Sri Lanka Police College in Kalutara, State Minister Tennakoon expressed the need for timely reforms in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and emphasized the necessity of extending its reach to rural youth in the North and East provinces. The minister called for a comprehensive replacement of outdated models, citing inefficiencies and the lack of crucial qualities such as personality, practicability, knowledge, and leadership among young graduates.
During the visit, State Minister Tennakoon acknowledged the contributions of the Sri Lanka Police College and urged all police ranks to work together in shaping a bright future for upcoming generations. The event included a ceremonial Guard of Honour, a tree-planting gesture, and the presentation of a memento to mark the occasion.
In an official visit to Sri Lanka, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Afreen Akhter, reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to supporting Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. During her stay, which concluded on May 17, DAS Akhter engaged in a series of consultative meetings with government officials, highlighting the longstanding diplomatic relations between the two countries, which recently marked their 75th anniversary.
One of the key highlights of DAS Akhter’s visit was the discussion of the $270 million in new support that the United States has provided to Sri Lanka over the past year. Encouraging the Sri Lankan government to continue implementing economic reforms and transparency measures under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, DAS Akhter emphasized the importance of sustained collaboration and progress in ensuring long-term economic stability.
During her meeting with Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe on May 15, DAS Akhter stressed the significance of ongoing reform efforts in Sri Lanka. She further urged the government to foster collaboration with civil society, emphasizing the need to consider all voices in the legislative process, including pending legislation such as the Anti-Terrorism Bill. The United States continues to advocate for an inclusive and transparent approach in addressing important national issues.
DAS Akhter also held productive discussions with State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya and State Minister of Defense Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon. Their talks covered various areas of mutual interest, including collaboration in maritime security and addressing shared regional challenges. The United States and Sri Lanka reaffirmed their commitment to working together to ensure peace, stability, and security in the region.
Before her departure, DAS Akhter took the opportunity to meet with a small group of journalists to further strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Sri Lankan media. This interaction provided an opportunity to exchange perspectives and foster a better understanding of the common goals and challenges faced by both countries.
DAS Afreen Akhter’s visit to Sri Lanka underscored the United States’ commitment to supporting the country’s economic recovery and strengthening bilateral relations. The $270 million in new support, along with ongoing collaboration on various issues, demonstrates the mutual desire for enhanced cooperation and shared prosperity between the United States and Sri Lanka.
In commemoration of Ranaviru month, a time dedicated to honouring the sacrifices made by military and police personnel for the country, we turn our attention to a remarkable story of resilience and compassion. Today, we shine a light on “Anchorage,” a permanent home for two critically wounded sailors located at Walisara, Sri Lanka. This facility serves as a sanctuary for naval personnel who have sustained severe disabilities in the line of duty.
Anchorage, an exquisite eco-friendly building constructed by the Navy Civil Engineers, stands proudly adjacent to the Aqua Golf Driving Range, providing a scenic view of the lake. It was made possible through generous funding by the SLN Seva Wanitha Unit and was officially inaugurated by the then Navy Commander, Admiral Piyal De Silva, on July 1, 2020.
This sanctuary is now home to two sailors who were wounded in separate incidents while bravely serving their nation. Leading Seaman (SBS) B M R K Basnayaka, a member of the elite Special Boats Squadron, suffered critical injuries on November 10, 1995, during an operation off Illankanthai, Trincomalee. Petty Officer M D N W Piyasingha of the Fast Attack Craft Squadron, also critically wounded, endured his injuries on September 16, 2001, off Point Padró, Jaffna. Both sailors, due to spinal injuries, have lost mobility below the waist and require assistance in their daily activities.
Tragically, as these sailors fought to defend their country, they also had to face the loss of their parents. Being bachelors and with their siblings’ children growing up and venturing into their own lives, the sailors found it increasingly challenging to manage on their own. Recognizing their plight, the Sri Lanka Navy took the noble initiative of constructing Anchorage, a safe haven where these war heroes could receive the care and support they deserve until their last days. The Navy’s dedication and compassion deserve applause.
The devoted staff at Anchorage ensures that both WIA sailors receive daily exercises, physiotherapy sessions, necessary medical care, and assistance with daily routines. They also arrange short trips for them in a specially designed van, allowing them to visit their relatives on a monthly basis. Additionally, the sailors are provided with proper nutrition and remuneration, but it is the appreciation and support from the community that truly motivates them to live fulfilling life.
As we observe Ranaviru month, let us remember and honour the sacrifices made by our military and police personnel. Anchorage stands as a testament to the enduring gratitude we owe to those who have selflessly served our nation, ensuring the peace and security we enjoy today.
Colombia’s first leftist president Gustavo Petro sounded the alarms about a brewing coup plot against him. He told participants during an event in Sucre at which land was turned over to dispossessed peasants, “For the first time there is a president that, instead of trying to take the land away from peasants to keep it or give it to his friends, he is trying to give the land back. And now some former colonel says that this deserves a coup d’état… these coups are resisted and overcome through the mobilization of citizens.”
Petro was referring to statements made on May 11 by retired Army Colonel John Marulanda during a debate on La W radio. Marulanda said that the mobilization of retired members of the military is a sign that Colombia is “following the steps of Peru” wherein “the reserve forces were successfully able to defenestrate a corrupt president.” He added, “Here we will do our best to defenestrate someone who was a guerrilla fighter.”
On Wednesday, May 10, around 3,000 retired members of the Armed Forces mobilized in the Plaza Bolívar against Petro’s government. The retired members particularly take issue with Petro’s plan for “Total Peace,” in which the government has engaged in peace talks and negotiations with numerous armed groups and established several bilateral ceasefires. Retired army personnel also criticized progressive reforms promoted by Petro and members of the Historic Pact, such as the health care reform and labor reform. Many in the mobilization demanded “Out Petro!” and particularly opposed him for being a former member of a guerrilla group. In this context, Marulanda’s words have sparked concerns of a coup plot against Petro.
Over 700,000 people have been internally displaced in Sudan since April 15, when an armed conflict began between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The IOM spokesperson, Paul Dillon, said at a press briefing in Geneva on May 9 that the number has doubled in the prior week after IOM had previously estimated on May 3 that 334,053 had been displaced, 72 percent of them in West Darfur and South Darfur States.
In the states of South Darfur, North Darfur, and Central Darfur, clashes between the SAF and RAF began soon after they started fighting in Khartoum, killing many civilians, as Mohammed Alamaldin, a civil society activist from West Darfur’s capital Genena, told Peoples Dispatch.
However, in his own state, community members—including youth, women, and elders—had managed to secure a local agreement between SAF and RSF “to wait until the winner is determined in Khartoum.”
The locally negotiated truce lasted for a little over a week before forces clashed on April 24. Amid the ensuing insecurity, the armed conflict between West Darfur’s ethnic militias escalated, killing over 250 and wounding 300 civilians between April 27 and May 3, according to Alamaldin. On May 12 and May 13 alone, 280 were killed and over 160 were injured.
from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service