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Sri Lanka parties petition court

against parliament dissolution


Supporters of

Sri Lanka’s fired prime minis-

ter and a top election official on

Monday challenged in court the

president’s sacking of parliament,

upping the ante in a political cri-

sis that has sparked international


President Maithripala Siris-

ena late Friday called snap elec-

tions and dissolved the legisla-

ture, two weeks after sacking the

prime minister and installing the

divisive Mahinda Rajapaksa in his


The United States has led a

chorus of international voices ex-

pressing concern over events in

the strategically important Indian

Ocean island nation of 21 million


Three political parties hold-

ing an absolute majority in par-

liament and an election com-

missioner, one of three officials

tasked with conducting polls, on

Monday asked the Supreme Court

to declare the president’s actions


Commissioner Ratnajeevan

Hoole was among 12 petitioners

arguing that Sirisena had violated

the constitution.

In the five-page petition,

Hoole said Sirisena broke the law

in calling the snap elections for

January 5 after a string of uncon-

stitutional moves since October

26 when he fired Ranil Wick-

remesinghe, the prime minister.



National Party (UNP), the main

opposition Tamil National Alli-

ance (TNA) and the leftist JVP, or

Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Rauff Hakeem, second right,

walks out from the Supreme Court after filing a petition against Presi-

dent Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of the legislature, in Colombo, on



Afghan forces suffer heavy

casualties in Taliban raids



stan —

A suicide bomber blew

himself up in the Afghan capital of

Kabul on Monday, killing at least

six people near a police check-

point, including policemen, of-

ficials said, but no militant group

has yet claimed responsibility.

Six people were killed in the

explosion, said Najib Danish, a

spokesman for the interior minis-

try. Ten policemen and civilians,

including women, were injured in

the blast.

The attacker on foot deto-

nated his suicide vest close to the

checkpoint near a school in cen-

tral Kabul, which is in the same

area as the finance and justice

ministries and close to the presi-

dential palace.

Police spokesman Basir Muja-

hid said he was about 20 m (66 ft)

away from the blast, near where

a demonstration had broken up

some 30 minutes before.

“I took four bodies away but

there were more on the ground,”

he said, without giving further


The attack came as Afghan

security forces suffered scores of

casualties in heavy fighting, offi-

Afghan medical staff members with stretchers wait outside a hospital of

the Italian aid organization Emergency in Kabul on Monday.


Suicide bomber kills six near police checkpoint in Kabul

Flying high! Senior Air

India pilot grounded

after failing alcohol test


India’s air

safety watchdog on Monday

suspended the license of a se-

nior Air India pilot, who is also

the carrier’s director of opera-

tions, for three years, a day af-

ter he failed two breathalyzer

tests before a flight to London

from New Delhi.

This is the second time

Arvind Kathpalia has been

in trouble over alcohol tests.

He was suspended for three

months in 2017 for allegedly

refusing to take breathalyzer


“The privileges of his li-

cense have been suspended for

a period of three years from

11.11.2018 as per the provisions

of applicable regulations,” a

spokesman at the Director-

ate General of Civil Aviation

(DGCA) said in a statement.

Kathpalia, who sits on the

airline’s board, told Reuters

the DGCA directive “is a rule

and so it is meant to be fol-

lowed”. “At present, I don’t see

how” to contest it, he added.

On Sunday, he had said that

he would contest the results of

the tests and claimed he was

the victim of internal feuding

within the loss-making state-

owned airline.

An Air India spokesman

could not be reached for com-


India is one of the world’s

fastest growing aviation mar-

kets with about 20 percent

growth in the number of pas-

sengers taking domestic and

international flights over the

past few years.

More than 1 million flights

departed from the country last

fiscal year, ended March 31, ac-

cording to DGCA data.

Between 2015-2017, 132 pi-

lots in India failed a breatha-

lyzer test during the manda-

tory pre-flight examination,

the Minister of Civil Aviation

Suresh Prabhu told parliament

in August.

Of these, 112 pilots were

first time offenders and their

pilot license was suspended

for three months. Fifteen pi-

lots were repeat offenders and

had their license suspended

for three years, Prabhu said.

The license of one pilot,

who failed the test for the

third time, was canceled while

four expatriate pilots lost their

foreign license for failing the


In 2017, Kathpalia was sus-

pended for three months when

he had allegedly refused to

take a breathalyzer test before

a flight to Bengaluru from New

Delhi, the DGCA said.

In August 2018, the Indian

Commercial Pilots Associa-

tion, a trade union represent-

ing pilots of the state-owned

carrier, filed a court case

against Kathpalia requesting

stern action against him over

the missed breathalyzer tests

and other behavior.

— Re-


Bangladesh election pushed

back after opposition appeal


Bangladesh authori-

ties on Monday announced they

were delaying next month’s gen-

eral election by a week follow-

ing an appeal from the country’s

opposition alliance, an official


“The vote will now be held

on December 30,” Election Com-

mission spokesman S.M. Asa-

duzzaman said.

The Bangladesh Nationalist

Party (BNP) had protested the

Dec. 23 election date announced

last week, saying more time was

needed to prepare for the poll.

The BNP — whose leader

Khaleda Zia is behind bars —

had asked for an extra month to

campaign against Prime Minis-

ter Sheikh Hasina.

The prime minister, who is

running for a third consecutive

term in office, has been accused

of cracking down on her op-

ponents ahead of the poll, with

thousands of BNP activists de-

tained in recent months.

A party spokesman warned

the opposition could reconsider

its decision to contest the elec-

tion if an even playing field were

not assured.

“Our activists are still being

arrested,” BNP spokesman Fakh-

rul Islam Alamgir said in Dhaka.

“We have said we would

definitely rethink our decision if

this doesn’t stop and an environ-

ment is not created for a vote.”

The BNP boycotted the 2014

election over fears it would

be rigged, allowing Hasina to

walk into a second term unchal-



India’s PM to get a test in state

votes as general election looms


India began

on Monday the first of five state

elections to be held in coming

weeks, important tests for Prime

Minister Narendra Modi as he

plots a course that he hopes will

ensure him victory in a general

election due by May.

Voters in the central state of

Chhattisgarh went to the polls on

Monday to elect representatives

for 18 of the state assembly’s 90

seats in a staggered poll compli-

cated by logistical problems and

left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million

people has been ruled by Modi’s

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

since 2003, and he will be hoping

to hold on to power.

“Some unholy people have

handed guns to children who

should have pens in their hands,”

Modi told a rally in the state on

Friday, referring to the rag-tag

guerrillas battling government

forces from forest hideouts.

“They’ve finished the lives of

our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election work-

ers had to be flown in to remote

polling stations by helicopter be-

cause of the danger posed by the


Modi called for voters to back

his BJP and its vision of “devel-

opment for all”.

The final phase of voting in

Chhattisgarh, which is known for

its coal, iron ore and bauxite re-

serves, will be on Nov. 20.

The BJP was the preference

of about 43 percent of voters

in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage

points ahead of the main oppo-

sition Congress, according to a

survey released last week by the

Lokniti-Centre for the Study of

Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be

in the neighboring central state

of Madhya Pradesh, where the

BJP is slightly ahead of Congress,

according to polls, and in the

northwestern state of Rajasthan,

where Congress is expected to

emerge victorious.

A good performance by the

BJP in the elections would help

it deflect growing criticism over

unemployment and a crisis in

the countryside over falling farm

prices and wages.

Elections will also be held for

assemblies in Telangana in the

south and Mizoram in the north-


The BJP has sent top leaders

to campaign in Chhattisgarh, in-

cluding Yogi Adityanath, a fire-

brand Hindu priest and the BJP

chief minister in Uttar Pradesh


Adityanath has been appeal-

ing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist

base and on Sunday accused the

opposition of blocking construc-

tion of a temple for Hindu deity

Ram on a disputed site in Uttar


The destruction of a mosque

on the site by a Hindu mob in

1992 sparked deadly riots across

the country.

— Reuters

Indian voters line up to vote at a polling station in Sukma in Chhattisgarh state on Monday.


Myanmar prepares for Rohingya returnees, but UN warns against force



Bangladesh —

Myanmar of-

ficials said on Sunday the coun-

try was ready to receive more

than 2,000 Rohingya Muslims

sheltering in Bangladesh on Nov.

15, the first group from 5,000

people to be moved under a deal

between the neighbors struck

last month.

But more than 20 individuals

on a list of potential returnees

submitted by Bangladesh have

told Reuters they will refuse to

go back to northern Rakhine

state from where they fled. Ban-

gladesh has said it will not force

anyone to do so.

The United Nations also

says conditions are not yet safe

for their return, in part because

Myanmar Buddhists have been

protesting against the repatria-


The UN’s refugee agency

said late on Sunday that Rohing-

ya refugees should be allowed

to go and see the conditions in

Myanmar before they decide to

go back. “It depends on the other

country, whether this will actu-

ally happen or not,” Win Myat

Aye, Myanmar’s Minister for So-

cial Welfare and Resettlement,

told a news conference in the

commercial capital of Yangon on

Sunday, referring to Bangladesh.

“But we must be ready from

our side. We have done that.”

Abul Kalam, Bangladesh Re-

lief and Repatriation Commis-

sioner, said he was hopeful the

process could begin on Thurs-

day. “The return will be volun-

tary. Nobody will be forced to go

back,” he said.

The countries agreed on

mid-November for the start of

repatriating some of more than

700,000 Rohingya Muslims who

fled a sweeping army crackdown

in Myanmar last year.

They say soldiers and local

Buddhists massacred families,

burned hundreds of villages, and

carried out gang rapes. UN-man-

dated investigators have accused

the army of “genocidal intent”

and ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar denies almost all

of the allegations, saying securi-

ty forces were battling terrorists.

Attacks by Rohingya insurgents

calling themselves the Arakan

Rohingya Salvation Army pre-

ceded the crackdown.

Myanmar does acknowledge

the killing of 10 Rohingya by se-

curity forces in Inn Dinn village.

— Reuters

Myanmar government spokes-

man Zaw Htay speaks during a

press conference in Yangon on



People’s Liberation Front jointly

filed the action.

TNA spokesman M. A.

Sumanthiran said the Supreme

Court agreed to rake up the pe-

titions immediately considering

the importance of the issue.

“We are also asking for an

interim order” for an injunction

against preparations for the elec-

tion, which would be two years

ahead of schedule, Sumanthiran


Court officials said Chief Jus-

tice Nalin Perera and two other

judges decided to fast-track the


Sarath Amunugama, Sirisena’s

anointed foreign minister, told

Colombo-based diplomats Mon-

day that he expected a verdict

within five days.

Legal experts say the dis-

solved parliament would have to

be restored if the Supreme Court

holds with the petitioners. If not,

the Jan. 5 election will have to go


Independent election moni-

tors have also questioned the le-

gality of the snap poll announced

by Sirisena.



holed up in the prime minister’s

official residence, and both he and

Rajapaksa are attempting to run

parallel administrations.

On Sunday night, speaker

Karu Jayasuriya urged civil ser-

vants to defy Sirisena’s “illegal


But later Sirisena defended his

actions, saying violence among ri-

val MPs could have led to “civil

unrest” across Sri Lanka if the

legislature had met as scheduled

this week.

“Had I allowed the parliament

to meet on November 14, there

would have been violence in the

House and it could have spread to

our villagers and towns,” Sirisena

said in a televised address.

“I acted to prevent civil un-


Sirisena’s rivals maintain that

he had no constitutional power

to sack the assembly until it com-

pletes four-and-a-half years of its

five-year term that ends in August


Only China has recognized

the appointment of Rajapaksa,

who during his decade as presi-

dent until 2015 relied heavily on

Beijing for diplomatic and finan-

cial support as the West shunned


While in power Rajapaksa

ended Sri Lanka’s four-decade

civil war by crushing the separat-

ist Tamil Tigers. But 40,000 eth-

nic Tamils were allegedly massa-

cred in the process.

Seventeen journalists and me-

dia workers were killed during his

time in power, and Rajapaksa and

his family have been accused of

using his period in office to line

their pockets through corruption.

Monday’s meeting of diplo-

mats called by Amunugama was

boycotted by several Western

diplomats while others sent low-

level representatives, diplomatic

sources said.


cials said on Monday.

About 50 security forces were

killed in attacks late on Sunday by

Taliban fighters on check posts

around the southwestern city of

Farah and nearby districts that

triggered hours of fighting, re-

gional officials said.

At the same time, about 25

Afghan commandos were killed

in the central province of Ghaz-

ni, where the Taliban have been

battling militia from the mainly

Shi’ite Hazara community in the

districts of Malistan and Jaghori,

a conflict colored by hostility be-

tween ethnic Hazaras and Pash-


“Fresh troops have been sent

to Malistan and Jaghori but the

people are also cooperating and

have stood up against the insur-

gents,” Army General Chief of

Staff, Mohammad Sharif Yaftali,

told reporters.

Some commandos had been

killed or wounded, he added, but

gave no details.