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The Cost of the War on Terror

The so-called War on Terror launched by the United States government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has cost at least 801,000 lives and $6.4 trillion

The so-called War on Terror launched by the United States government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has cost at least 801,000 lives and $6.4 trillion according to a pair of reports published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

"The numbers continue to accelerate, not only because many wars continue to be waged, but also because wars don’t end when soldiers come home,” said Costs of War co-director and Brown professor Catherine Lutz, who co-authored the project’s report on deaths. “These reports provide a reminder that even if fewer soldiers are dying and the U.S. is spending a little less on the immediate costs of war today, the financial impact is still as bad as, or worse than, it was 10 years ago,” Lutz added. “We will still be paying the bill for these wars on terror into the 22nd century.”

Notably, the report “does not include indirect deaths, namely those caused by loss of access to food, water, and/or infrastructure, war-related disease, etc.” Indirect deaths “are generally estimated to be four times higher... This means that total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen is likely to reach 3.1 million or more...”

Surveillance and Propaganda in ‘the Free World’

You can’t blow your nose without it being seen. And wait for the next phase, in which Big Brother will hear you laugh.

by Brian Cloughley

A Bloomberg report of October 22 was concise and uncompromising in declaring Russia to be a surveillance state. Harking back to the good old days of the Cold War, as is increasingly the practice in much of the Western media, Bloomberg recounted that “The fourth of 10 basic rules Western spies followed when trying to infiltrate Russia’s capital during the Cold War — don’t look back because you’re never alone — is more apt than ever. Only these days it’s not just foreigners who are being tracked, but all 12.6 million Muscovites, too. Officials in Moscow have spent the last few years methodically assembling one of the most comprehensive video-surveillance operations in the world. The public-private network of as many as 200,000 cameras records 1.5 billion hours of footage a year that can be accessed by 16,000 government employees, intelligence officers and law-enforcement personnel.”

Terrifying, one might think. Straight out of Orwell’s 1984, that dystopian prediction of what the world could become, as noted in one description of how the face of the state’s symbolic leader, Big Brother, “gazes at you silently out of posters and billboards. His imposing presence establishes the sense of an all-seeing eye. The idea that he is always watching from the shadows imposes a kind of social order. You know not to speak out against The Party — because big brother is watching… The face always appears with the phrase Big Brother is watching you. As if you could forget.” Such is the terrifying Bloomberg picture of Moscow where there are supposedly 200,000 video cameras. You can’t blow your nose without it being seen. And wait for the next phase, in which Big Brother will hear you laugh.

In line with the Western approach, there is little mention of surveillance in other cities, but the website ‘Caught on Camera’ has analysed world-wide practices. It reports that there are some 25 million closed-circuit surveillance cameras world-wide and “the United Kingdom [with 4 million cameras] has more CCTV activity than any other European country, per capita… surprisingly, the Wandsworth borough in London in particular has more CCTV cameras than Boston, Dublin, Johannesburg and San Francisco put together. It is estimated there are 500,000 cameras dotted around London. The average person living in London will be recorded on camera 300 times in one day.”

The statistics obtained by Caught on Camera and comparitech differ markedly from those in the Bloomberg story which was retailed throughout the Western world by many news outlets, who increasingly refer to the West as “the Free World”. Comparitech records that as at August 2019 Moscow, with a population of 12.4 million, had 146,000 (not 200,000) cameras, while London’s 9 million citizens were being watched by 627,707 cameras. The picture (if one may use that word) is slightly slanted. To put it another way, London has 68 cameras for each 1,000 people, and the ratios elsewhere are enlightening: Shanghai 113 (China is in treble figures in three cities); Atlanta (Ga) 15; Chicago 13; Baghdad, Sydney and Dubai 12; Moscow and Berlin 11; and St Petersburg, Canberra and Washington DC tie at 5.

The slanting doesn’t stop there, because there are other ways of attacking Russia, spearheaded by such as the Washington Post, which highlighted the Bloomberg surveillance tale. The Post behaves like Big Brother focusing on Winston Smith, the hapless victim/hero of 1984 whose job it is “to rewrite the reports in newspapers of the past to conform with the present reality.” There is an eerie resonance in this, because the Post’s reportage on Russia verges on the obsessively censorious, while it avoids mention of anything remotely positive.

Understandably, the Post relies heavily on such sources as “Meduza, a Latvia-based online news outlet that covers the Kremlin” which reported that the Russian government “passed a law earlier this year that lets Vladimir Putin take all the country’s Internet traffic off the World Wide Web if he decrees that there’s an ‘emergency’.”

The fact that the intelligence services of the West have worked for a long time to devise strategies and tactics to destroy internet services in Russia and many other countries is neither here nor there, but it is important for Western propaganda purposes to condemn Russia for taking measures to counter the manoeuvres of the West’s cyberwar agencies. The Post emphasised that arrangements were made by various Russian ministries and agencies, including the Emergencies Ministry and the Federal Security Service which “is the successor to the KGB, where Putin was once an officer.”

The absurdity of that needlessly-injected personal point is amusing in a way, and serves to highlight the unending reiteration of detail intended to set the western public against Russia. Naturally, there is exclusion of information that could lead to audiences approving of Russia in any way.

The news site Axios states it aims to “deliver the cleanest, smartest, most efficient and trust-worthy experience for readers and advertisers alike” but when it comes to Russia it appears that there could be a bit of selectivity in that delivery. For example, in October the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported approvingly that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol consumption in Russia “has dropped by 43% since 2003” and commented that the WHO had “put the decrease down to a series of measures brought in under the sport-loving president, Vladimir Putin, including restrictions on alcohol sales and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.” But Axios didn’t report it quite like that.

The Guardian also noted that “The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, led an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition, which brought down consumption from the mid-1980s until 1990. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption exploded, continuing to rise until the start of the 2000s. Under Putin, Russia has introduced measures including a ban on shops selling any alcohol after 11 pm, increases in the minimum retail price of spirits and an advertising blackout.” The result has been “increased life expectancies in Russia, which reached a historic peak in 2018, at 78 years for women and 68 years for men. In the early 1990s, male life expectancy was just 57 years.”

This is an amazing societal development. In no other country has there been a comparable initiative that resulted in such a massive and positive shift in community habits.

The BBC was more coy than the Guardian about allocating approval for the remarkable success of the programme, and confined itself to reporting that the WHO “attributed the decline to a series of alcohol-control measures implemented by the state, and a push towards healthy lifestyles.” There was no reference to President Putin, and indeed the credit went elsewhere, because “alcohol-control measures introduced under former President Dmitry Medvedev included advertising restrictions, increased taxes on alcohol and a ban on alcohol sales between certain hours.”

Axios followed suit, and ‘Radio Free Europe’ didn’t mention Presidents Putin, Medvedev or Gorbachev, retailing simply that the “decline in consumption was due to “alcohol-control measures introduced at the beginning of the 2000s.” There were no reports of the achievement in US mainstream outlets or the UK’s resolutely right-wing anti-Russia media. (The Guardian doesn’t carry a Russian flag; it merely reports without xenophobic bias.)

The WHO Case Study provides an admirably detailed timeline of legislature and other developments concerning Russia’s successful drive against alcohol abuse, recording, for example, that in 2018 there was a “presidential decree on ‘National Purposes and Strategic Development Challenges of the Russian Federation until 2024’… including in the field of public health. The aim is to increase life expectancy to 78 years by 2024 and to 80 years by 2030, as well as the proportion of citizens leading a healthy lifestyle and systematically engaging in physical activities and sports.”

Don’t expect such an initiative to be praised or even mentioned by the Western media. Big Brother prefers to slant the cameras.

This article was originally published by "SCF"

35th ASEAN Summit against conflict inside Asia

ASEAN is on the right track. Now, they should work actively and other Asian countries should act properly. If it happens, Asian will get a shining Asia.

by Swadesh Roy

35th ASEAN Summit which was held on 2-3 November in Thailand, represented the theme “advancing partnership for sustainability”. An ASEAN-UN meeting was followed with this 35th ASEAN Summit. In this ASEAN-UN meeting, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres repeated his call for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of displaced Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state. UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres asked many times in many forums including UN for a dignified solution for Rohingya refugees. But for the first time, the UN chief said ASEAN has ramped up their engagement on the Rohingya issue and both Myanmar government and UN have welcomed the engagement.

In fact, the theme of the 35thASEAN summit was an echo of the UN chief’s proposal that he mentioned earlier as well. The recent ASEAN summit’s theme was “advancing partnership for sustainability and they detected two objects which contradict the sustainability for the partnership of the ASEAN nations. Both the objects, the opposition parts Bangladesh and China are not the members of the ASEAN countries but the neighbours.

Photo taken on Nov. 1, 2019 shows a view of the meeting venue of the 35th ASEAN summit and related summits in Bangkok, Thailand. 

One of two objects relates Bangladesh with ASEAN country Myanmar about Rohingya refugee problem. Another object indicates China with the countries Brunai, Malaysia, Philipines and Vietnam about controlling the authority of South-China Sea. Following the ASEAN summit, ASEAN-China meeting also held on 3rd November. In this summit, the leaders of the ASEAN countries said they are very aware about what happens in the South-China Sea. Consequently, they asked everyone for avoiding any activity that leads to more conflict.

The 35thASEAN summit held at that time when Asia is shining. The ASEAN leaders also concerned that the summit’s theme was “advancing partnership for sustainability” and they were focusing keenly to find out the solutions of main two problems of Asia. They urged that without solving the Rohingya refugee problem and the controlling power problem of South-China Sea, it is difficult to implement advancing ASEAN and building the future of that Asia which will lead the economy and the global market of the world.

The geopolitical and economic position of Bangladesh is very important. It interconnects countries between two major rising economy of Asia; China and Bangladesh. Besides, its maritime area, Bay of Bengal is connected with Indian Ocean. In future, geo-political, economic and military power in the Indian Ocean is strategically very important for the Asian countries. Relatively, Indo-pacific Sea line and sea resources will play a significant role in the future military power and economy. Through the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is connected with it. That’s why, like the Indo-pacific Sea, Bay of Bengal also needs a peaceful environment. On the other hand, for the Asian connectivity with the world, Bangladesh is an important corridor. Similarly, it is also important that the economy and the social stability of Bangladesh can advance without any unpredicted interruption. The Rohingya refugee crisis is an unnecessary interruption in the economy and social stability of Bangladesh. Realising this matter of fact, leaders of 35thASEAN summit, put emphasis on the effort to create a conductive environment so that Rohingya’s who are leading a life of refuge in Bangladesh, can reveal themselves in Myanmar’s Rakhine state according to a 52 point statement issued on the ASEAN summit. ASEAN leaders reiterated the necessity of finding a comprehensive and durable solution on the Rohingya crisis by addressing the root cause of conflict in the Rakhine state. They encouraged the continued and effective dialogue between Myanmar and Bangladesh for facilitating the repatriation of Rohingya to their place of Origin, Rakhine.

The UN Secretary General remarks and the position of ASEAN leaders helped to melt the ice of mysterious and brutal Myanmar’s. The Myanmar leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, the Myanmar government will not shrink from its responsibility on the Rohingya issue. The whole world knows, Suu Kyi, do not have the full authority of the Myanmar government. But it is also a step forward regarding Rohingya issue. Now, the Asian countries and the UN even the China and India should empower Suu Kyi that she can sit with ASEAN along with China, India and its counterpart Bangladesh for resolving this Rohingya refugee problem.

Joining this summit, the Bangladesh leader Mohammad Faruk Khan, Chairperson of Bangladesh parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs shared his views with The Bangkok Post, the major daily newspaper in Thailand. He was asked, what do you think about Thailand, a current chair of ASEAN, can facilitate the repatriation of Rohingya people? Mr. Khan answered very intelligently by saying that, “I will not use the word ‘repatriation’, because it is a technical word. Rather, I will use the word ‘return’; the return of Myanmar citizens to Myanmar. We look forward to Thailand impressing upon Myanmar that this is a situation, they must try to solve. Thailand can tell Myanmar, because it has people from different religions and ethnic groups living together in peace which bring respect and development all over the world.” In another point of view, he also expressed his best hope that 35thASEAN summit will take stock of improvement that has been made to take further possible actions for resolving the problem immediately. Mr. Khan’s best hope for extending guideline is also important. In fact, this summit’s resolution will not work properly if they do not take further actions for solving the problems immediately. It is reality that all the ASEAN countries are more vibrant in economically and politically than past. Therefore, ASEAN countries show their power so that they can solve their problem without the help of west, even the United Nations. Myanmar is the member of ASEAN countries and it is easy for them to solve one their member’s unethical work. Myanmar had not only out rooted their 1.1 million citizens and bound them to take a life of refuge in Bangladesh, but also they committed act of genocide; as a member of the ASEAN, Myanmar cannot do this. It is high time ASEAN countries should take necessary follow up about how quickly Myanmar can resolve its own made problem.

On the other hand, Malaysia, Brunai, Philipines and Vietnam along with some other countries of Asia have a problem with China regarding the controlling power of South-China Sea. In fact, China itself wants the total controlling power over South-China Sea because of their dream project Maritime Silk Road and the gas, oil and other resources of South-China Sea. China threatened ASEAN countries which are claiming their authority in South-China Sea that they will give the answer with their canons. In this situation, canon is not the suitable arms for resolving the conflict of South-China Sea. China needs to walk on the way to soft diplomacy. Truly, if they chose the way of canon, the existing big power America will get the proper opportunity showing themselves more physically in the South-China Sea. Then, The ASEAN countries which are part of the conflict will hire the help of America. It will not be a healthy environment for making Asia great. But if China wants to be a greater economy power in the next world, they have to help more efficiently and actively for a great and shining Asia. When Asia will be the destination of world, China will be a greater economy power. Otherwise, it will be engaged in conflict with many old powers like America, Japan and others.

In the conclusion, it can be said that 35th ASEAN Summit is on the right track. Now, they should work actively and other Asian countries should act properly. If it happens, Asian will get a shining Asia.

Swadesh Roy, Senior Journalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a highest state award winning journalist and can be reached at

Babri Mosque verdict and the significance of the inter-communal harmony in India

India has been a cradle of Islamic civilization. It produced some of brilliant Islamic minds in the past. With grace of Allah, India is blessed with some best Islamic scholars even today. They understand the geopolitics of this region and international communities.

by Dr SLM Rifai

The primary objective of this article is not to trace the history and origin of the Babri mosque site rather to evaluate the impacts and implications of this historical verdict. It is not my objective here to gauge and evaluate the credibility of this verdict or dispute over this verdict. This legal verdict would not please some section of the Muslim community all over the world. The objective of archaeological studies indicates that there was not any temple structure underneath Babri mosque. Even there is not any archaeological evidence to suggest Lord Ram was born and brought up in this place according to the supreme court verdict. Contrary to this, there are some older mosque structures and yet, some BJP and RSS Hindu extremists have used the political influence to fabricate archaeological findings to make some false claims. This verdict sound like peace negotiation settlement rather than legal verdict. I personally welcome this kind of legal settlement for some pragmatic and logical reasons as I have outlined here in this article.

Indian supreme court

This verdict is appreciated by many Muslim and Hindu leaders. The supreme court in coloration with some Muslim leaders in UP, have come to this settlement to avoid any kinds of communal tension between two communities. I think this is a wise move by the supreme court and Muslim intellectual community in UP. They have taken this decision taking into consideration many geopolitical, social and religious factors. This is indeed, a wise and comprehensive move. Indian government has put its national security and the protection of Muslim community above this legal case. That is why this case is settled peacefully. It is very much understandable in this part of the world. Politics of Babri mosque case is very much complicated and complex.

I would like to point out here that some Indian academics have done some objective archaeological studies around this problem. Academics by nature of their research ethics and values, do not twist or fabricate their archaeological findings. They must be objective in their research. They cannot alter archaeological findings to please some politicians and RSS extremists. According to professor Varma, archaeology department of Jawaharlal Nehru University. “even today, there is no archaeological evidence that there was a temple under the Babri Masjid.”, “Underneath the Babri Masjid, there are actually older mosques.”. Even the supreme court agrees with this archaeological finding. It is not all about this mosque site rather Indian Muslim intellectuals have given preference to the security and safety of Muslims across the India as a matter of an urgent need and necessity.

Indian Muslims ruled India over 700 hundred years. They have contributed immensely to the nation building process of India and its cultural heritage. In fact, the Indian Muslims have been a cornerstone of Indian economy. They have been an integral part of India. Indian government acknowledges, appreciates and recognises the role of Muslim community in India and yet, some extremist groups in India try to marginalise and isolate Muslim community. Yet, government of India does not want to isolate Muslim community any further. It looks that government has left this case of Babri mosque in the hands of supreme court judges to come to terms with Muslim intellectual community in UP.

Reactions of Muslim legal professionals:

Indian Muslim law association has expressed its dissatisfaction about this verdict. Zafarab Jilani said that “They will examine the top court order and file a review petition within 30 days. Yet, he reiterated that “the Supreme court’s judgment is the law of the land and nobody can say they reject it”. In theory, the court has agreed that this land belongs to mosque. India is a democratic country and Muslim lawyers have every right to challenge this court order professionally in the court of law to review this verdict in accordance with the legal proceeding of the Indian supreme court. I think that they must do this in the greater interest of Indian Muslim community. So that this mosque case would not become a historical precedent for RSS group to claim more and more Muslim land and sacred places. It looks this case has been settled through some kinds of mutual understanding and consideration between two communities.

The reaction of some Indian Muslim politicians:

India is a democratic country. There is no harm in expressing opinions about this case. Indian Muslim politicians, human right groups, academics and journalists have vehemently rejected this verdict. An Indian parliamentarian A. Owaisi said that “There has been discrimination against Muslims, and no one deny it. We are fighting for our legal rights” He rejected the Supreme court decision to allocate alternative land for Muslims. He further said that entire nation is marching on the way of being” Hindu Rashtra”. Muslims have been suffering greatly in recent times in many parts of India. So, it is a moral duty of Indian Muslim political leaders to protect the basic rights of Muslim community. In that sense, Muslim political leaders’ moral responsibility to debate this issue in Indian parliament.

The role of Muslim Intellectuals in UP in this case:

It is reported that a group of Muslim intellectuals from UP have worked out a settlement plan in this case. This group Indian Muslim intellectuals in UP, have handled this sensitive issue amicably and sensibly. We know that this verdict is one-sided verdict and yet, Indian Muslim intellectuals have responded to this verdict rationally and logically away from any emotional attachment. Hindus strongly believe that “Ayodhya” is the birthplace of the deity Lord Ram. This faith is deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of many Hindu people in India. In respecting this religious sentiment of Hindus, the Indian Muslim intellectual community in UP, have agreed with the court verdict to settle this issue peacefully.

Indian Muslims have lost many Muslim souls over this mosque. There had been many communal riots over this mosque. In 1992, a group of Hindu extremists demolished this historical mosque. Since then, Indian Muslim community suffered a lot due to continuous violent attacks on innocent Muslims in many parts of India. So, how far it would be viable to keep this dispute unsolved? It would not be wise to sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of this mosque. There is no doubt mosque is a sacred place for Muslims. It is very much difficult to lose this kind of historical mosque. After all, there is no archaeological evidence to say there was a temple there. Yet, a group of Muslim intellectuals in UP have decided to sacrifice the legal right of this mosque for the sake of peace and community harmony.

I strongly support this position of this Indian Muslim intellectual group in Uttara Pradesh. They want to do this to maintain peace and community harmony in India among Muslims and Hindu community. We should evaluate this verdict in relation to the importance of maintaining peace and community harmony in India. The general philosophy of Islamic law ( Maqasid al-Shariah) dictates that protecting human lives is one of the primary objectives of Islamic law. Of course, protecting faith gets preference over protecting lives and yet, Indian Muslims have given all facilities to protect their faith. They enjoy freedom and liberty to practice Islam. They can do all Islamic rituals in India without any trouble. Giving up this mosque would not make any difference to any Islamic practice. The Supreme court has made a special order to allocate a different land to build a mosque. For this reason, now, Muslim community should focus on promoting peace and community harmony among all communities in India rather than creating some unwanted tension over this issue.

The Holy Qur’an gives preference for peace over conflict and war. The Qur’an encourages Muslims to promote peace at all circumstances. Peace brings more benefits to humanity than conflicts. The Qur’an encourages Muslims to initiate peace process. It encourages them to initiate dialogues and negotiations. It also demands Muslims to make peace between warring factions. This is an internal inter-community issue. This must be resolved through negotiation and dialogues. We all know what these Hindu extremists did in 1992 was wrong. The demolition of mosque in this barbaric way was utterly wrong. No civilised group would engage in this barbaric manner. Even if they want to claim this mosque, even if it is birthplace of Lord Ram, they could have done it through legal pursuit. What they did was utterly wrong. We know that these Hindu extremists do not respect people of other faiths. Sometimes they kill innocent people for the sake of cows. Yet, the Qur’an teaches us not to react to this violence with any kind of violence.

The holy Qur’an tells us that “Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel evil with what is better, and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend. But only those who are steadfast in patience, only those who are blessed with great righteousness, will attain such goodness. (The Qur’an: 41: 35-36). I think that this intellectual Muslim group who negotiated with the supreme court, has done a great job and public service. I think that they have rightly understood the consequence and repercussion of not resolving this issue. This verdict may have upset many Muslims in India and around the world. Muslims all over the world have been emotionally hurt and upset with this decision of the Supreme Court and yet, I do not think this is a defeat. I think that India has created a new paradigm to resolve sensitive religious conflict in this way.

Muslims of India can compare this court decision with many historical incidents in Islamic history During the Hudaibiyah agreement between pagans of Makkah and the holy prophet, Muslims were asked to give up many legitimate rights. This attitude of the prophet annoyed and irritated many of his companions. They wanted to seek justice and equal treatment. Apparently, it was an agreement that went against the aspiration of the Muslims and yet, later it turned out to be one of the greatest victories in Islamic history. Indian Muslim intellectuals have followed the wisdom of this historical incident in this Babri mosque case too.

Apparently, losing such as a historical mosque would be regarded as a dark day in the history of Indian Muslims. No Muslim would accept it. Yet, if this is happening beyond their control, Allah is enough to help them to create a social environment that is conducive to build many more such mosques in India. That conducive social environment must be created by 200 million Indian Muslims in India. So, creating a peaceful India must be one of the priorities of Muslims in India. They must be peace promoters among all communities in Indian soil. Gandhi sacrificed his life for peace and non-violence struggle. His path of non-violence struggle is very much identical Islamic teaching of peace initiative.

India has been a cradle of Islamic civilization. It produced some of brilliant Islamic minds in the past.   With grace of Allah, India is blessed with some best Islamic scholars even today. They understand the geopolitics of this region and international communities. They know their internal problems than any other Muslim scholars from outside. Unlike some rigid Salafi style scholars in the Muslim world, many Indian scholars know how to relate Islamic texts and Islamic teaching into non-Muslim social environments. They have been living as a minority community for decades now. So, this issue would not be a big issue to resolve peacefully. This problem is an internal issue of Indian Muslims so, they should find an internal solution too. There is no need to internationalise this problem. Moreover, today, the Muslim community of India faces many challenges but, all those problems and challenges must be addressed internally. Indian Muslims have been living in Indian subcontinent for hundreds of years, and yet, sometime, Muslims have failed to realise their role and responsibilities. As a largest Muslim minority community in the world, what should be Muslim responsibility in India. Is it to quarrel over one mosque? The Holy Qur’an tells Muslim community should be a witness to humanity.

The Qur’an tells us “We have made you (believers) into a just community. So that you may bear witness to (the truth) before others: Quran: 2:144. So, reaching out with the message of Islam to entire Indian community is one of the primary objectives of Indian Muslims living in India. Muslims have been living in India for centuries and in fact, they have been ruling it for 7 centuries. However, they have failed to reach out with the Islamic message to more than 800 million Hindus. Muslim rulers in India were keen in building palaces, monuments, and big architectural buildings and yet, they failed to build universities and academic institutions. They failed to reach out people with the peaceful message of Islam.

How many of million Hindus know about Allah? How many of them know about our beloved prophet Muhammed? How many of them know about the Holy Qur’an? If they know little about Islam, they have known about Islam not through our good behaviours and attitudes rather through their researching from Sheikh google and social media. Today, sheikh google is full of distorted message of Islam. Sheikh google is not that much different from our Arab Sheikhs in Gulf countries. Like Sheikh google is not witnessing to message of Islam, those ruling elites are not witnessing to the true message of Islam. So, how would 800m Indian Hindus know about Islam unless 200 million Indian Muslims become witness to the message of Islam in India.

We should not make a generalization about this Babri mosque issue. Not all Indian Hindus support the demolition of this mosque. In fact, millions of Indian Hindus oppose the Babri mosque demolition. Yet, some hardcore Hundi extremists ventured into destroy this mosque. It could be less than 5% of entire Indian Hindu community. It would be wrong to blame all Hindus for the mistake of some few extremists. So, Indian Muslim community should win the hearts and minds of Hindu community in India. India Muslim community should not put its community interest in jeopardy due to this mosque dispute. There are more than 10.000 thousand in India. Indian government protect the interest of Muslim community and indeed, it has been protecting religious freedom of Muslim community. So, there is no point in deteriorating the inter-community relationship due to this mosque.

In fact, it is reported that Muslims in UP live side by side with Hindus harmoniously and yet, it was some few RSS extremists from outside areas came to demolish this mosque. So, it is imperative for Muslims to build a cordial relationship with wider Indian communities. Moreover, Indian economy is getting stronger annually. So, it would be wise for any Indian government to avoid communal riots. It would be wise for Indian government to promote peace and community harmony to protect Indian integrity. Peace is paramount for economic development and specially, a country like India, has a huge potentiality to become one of leading economies in the world in coming decades. So, it would be unwise for any Indian government to create any internal tension in any part of India. Indian policy makers, academics, politicians, economists and security professionals are cleaver enough to know all this in this age of Globalization. In fact, PM Modi promised to update all Arabic colleges in India. India is no longer ready to waste the human potentiality of 200 hundred million Muslims. I do not think that any wise Indian government will harm its own citizens in India. We can not blame the entire Indian government apparatuses for the mistakes of some few Hindu extremists.

200 million Indian Muslims are the largest Muslim minority community in the world. They cannot expect much from so called ineptitude Arab Muslim political leaders or any other Muslim countries for that matter. Today, so called ineptitude Arab political leaders have put the notion of the universal Islamic brotherhood into testing. There is no such a thing called as a universal Islamic brotherhood in the minds of Arab political leaders today. They are so busy in protecting their national interest in this material word. Take for instance Saudi Arabia, it did not utter any words about suffering of Palestine and Myanmar Muslims at all at any international forum. Saudi ruling elites have become puppets of Israeli government today. It does not care how many innocent Muslims are being killed in Myanmar. Indian Muslim intellectuals are cleaver enough to read all this geopolitical change in the modern world.

Indian government is shrewd enough to leave this issue to court to decide. So, there is little room for politics. if it is a court decision, Muslim community must obey court order. That is the way modern civic society works. Of course, Muslim community could appeal against this decision. That is their legal right. In that way, Muslims could see if SC repeals its decision. Can Indian Muslim community take this problem into any international courts of justice such as Europe court of justice. I do not think it would be wise to do so. I do not know if there is any legal mechanism to litigate a legal case in any international court against this decision. Even if there is a room for that, Indian Muslim community would not do that at all. Because they love this country so much.

Having said all this, I do not deny the fact that minority communities have been marginalised and discriminated in India in many fields. Around 20% of Brahmins and some other upper casts of Hindus are employed in all high-profile jobs in Indian government. All other communities have been discriminated in India. Many minorities have been discriminated in employment and other career opportunities. Less the 2% of Muslims are employed in some government sectors in some parts of India. Brahmins have been exploiting all Indian communities based on their hierarchical caste structure. In this modern age of globalization, this system of caste is a clear-cut racism, discrimination and mere violation of basic human rights. There are hundreds of human right commissions in the world today. Yet, these brahmin ruling elites are so powerful in India, so western countries cannot speak out against this discrimination. Westerners will speak about this only when their national interests are threatened. Having said this, I think India is dramatically changing today. So, I hope that India will get rid of this caste system in coming decades. Indian rapid economic development demands such a dramatic change.

1) Betwa Sharma, Huffington Post, There Is No Evidence Of A Temple Under The Babri Masjid, Just Older Mosques, 05/12/2018 8:53 AM IST

Donald Trump and his created new M.E. crisis

The western powers did not do enough to protect civilians during the assault on Raqqa, prima facie evidence proved that several coalition attacks that killed and injured civilians violated international humanitarian law.

by Anwar A Khan

The devils would not listen to the Scriptures. Seven decennia are on after the Second World War to meddle into the internal affairs of other nations by America and its administrations. Time has rife enough for their mighty power to diminish. Nature’s own punishment must befall on them to mend them. I have tried to analyse in this piece of article how much misdeed-mongers this evil force of the world look like. The people in general of the U.S. should raise their voices in a louder tone in unison to stop the American government to refrain it from doing more harm to people of all countries across the world. The American citizens should also consider that their own innumerable bright sons and daughters are being killed because of the sinful acts committed by their government(s).

Concerning Iran

Still reeling from recent events in Syria, President Donald Trump and his administration face a looming crisis in neighbouring Iraq. In a country where thousands of U.S. troops have died and thousands more are still deployed, both the United States and rival Iran are backing an embattled prime minister as popular calls for his ouster could threaten their influence and lead to civil war.

The latest round of protests first emerged in Iraq in July 2018, about a year after former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in a campaign that united the Iraqi military, Iran-backed militias, a U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish forces. The unrest has pressured Abadi's successor, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, to the cusp of quitting.

While Iraqis are openly questioning if Abdul-Mahdi can bring unity and restore calm to Iraq, the Trump administration and some lawmakers support the current prime minister. A senior State Department official tells Newsweek, "The prime minister and the team that he has is a good government and probably the best we could have hoped for."

Some lawmakers agree, "Abdul-Mahdi is a friend. I hope he can straighten this out. I think he is a good guy, but corruption is rampant. Young people are tired of it. You see a backlash in Lebanon and you see a backlash in Iraq. Young people wanting their country to deliver better services and more hope," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Newsweek. "I like Abdul-Mahdi, and I think he has the confidence of the Kurds and the Sunnis. But he's got to get his government to be more acceptable to younger Iraqis, and this is sort of a, you know, an 'Iraq Spring,' for lack of a better way of saying it."

The term "Iraq Spring" is a reference to the so-called "Arab Spring" wave of demonstrations that swept the Arab World in 2011 as a mass movement against long-standing leaders failing to address socioeconomic issues that disproportionately affected the region's youth. Once seen as a beacon of hope, however, these protests devolved into deadly civil wars in Libya, Syria and, later on, Yemen—cautionary tales cited by Shiite Muslim militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr in his latest warning designed to urge Abdul-Mahdi to leave.

Neither the U.S. nor Iran want this; however, as they try to assert their own influence through a fragile system now the target of a mass uprising.

Iraq protest flags fire unrest

Iraqi protesters burn items to block the road during clashes with security forces following an anti-government demonstration in the Islamic shrine city of Karbala, south of Iraq's capital Baghdad, on October 25 2019. Two dozen demonstrators were reportedly killed in renewed rallies across Baghdad and Iraq's south by live rounds and tear gas.

Abdul-Mahdi was elected last year as a compromise between influential rival militia leaders Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri. Sadr is threatening a no-confidence vote that could lead to a political breakdown as the top Sairoon coalition, of which Sadr was a member, entered the opposition amid worsening bloodshed. With large parts of the country's infrastructure still decimated, economic woes unaddressed and lingering security concerns, Iraqis from nearly all walks of life have taken to the streets, where reports have risen significantly in recent weeks of deadly clashes with security forces and various militias incorporated into the armed forces.

Iraq has suffered from decades of conflict, stemming back to a devastating eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s and two U.S. attacks in the next two decades, the latter of which saw the overthrow of longtime leader Saddam Hussein. The U.S. installed a new government, representing Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority as a deadly Sunni Muslim insurgency ravaged the country.

ISIS names new leader, spokesperson in a first message since Baghdadi killed

During this period, Sadr and Amiri led Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias that targeted both U.S. troops, who withdrew from the country in 2011, and Al-Qaeda, which rebranded as ISIS and only grew in strength over time. Recent years saw U.S. forces and Sadr and Amiri's groups—known as Saraya al-Salam, formerly the Mahdi Army, and the Badr Organisation, respectively, and now reorganised under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilisation Forces battling the so-called jihadi organisation that came to be known as ISIS.

When Iraq held its first elections since ISIS' defeat last year, Sadr's Sairoon alliance came out on top, followed by Amiri's Fatah bloc. Both men have ties to Iran, but the former has increasingly pushed back on Tehran's growing influence in Baghdad, as the latter embraced it.

Asked if any parties were instigating the deterioration in Iraq's security situation, Shirwan Mirza, an Iraqi Kurdish member of parliament affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), told Newsweek it was "not very clear, but Sadr and Abadi want this." Amiri initially signalled support for Abdul-Mahdi's ousting as well but appears to have changed his mind, possibly under the advise of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, a vastly influential figure in Iraq. Reuters cited multiple sources attesting to a recent meeting between the two men.

Iran has managed to take advantage of regional unrest to establish itself as an active player in nations like Syria, where U.S. lawmakers were still widely focused on Trump's decision to withdraw troops from the country's north, a move that sought to avoid a fight between two partners—Syrian Kurds that helped the Pentagon defeat ISIS and NATO ally Turkey that considers some Kurdish militias to be terrorist organisations. Even amid the fluid situation in Syria, however, more members of Congress were keeping an eye on Iraq, though there was little consensus as to what the U.S. strategy was or should be.

Iraq militia leaders Sadr Muhandis Amiri

Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (L); Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (C), the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces and Hadi al-Amiri (R), who is in charge of the Shiite Muslim Badr Brigades, gave a joint press conference on October 18, 2016 in the holy city of Najaf. The three men and their respective forces were crucial to defeating ISIS and were lately incorporated into the state's security apparatus.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told Newsweek that "the instability and the protests in Iraq raise concern for a number of reasons." "The key is that the Iraqis are partners of ours so the first thing is, what they think would be helpful. The last thing we need to do—because sometimes our involvement can be cause for unrest by some, so we have to do that in a way that the Iraqi government, our partners, think would be helpful," Kaine said. "I don't yet know what they think would be helpful, if anything, so that's all part of trying to figure out what the plan is but the best way for this to happen is for the administration to come forward and 'Okay, here's what we see here's what we think a good plan is, now ask us questions challenge us on pieces of it, and we'll get to a better work product that way."

Russia says Syria Kurd Forces have left Turkey border as U.S. guards Oil

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq during the violent post-invasion period in Iraq and, while he felt the situation had yet to approach open conflict, he called for Abdul-Mahdi to resign before it did.

"This started, obviously, with a push by a lot of Iraqi citizens wanting a government that was less corrupt, more transparent and less abusive," Gallego told Newsweek. "At this point, this is starting to spread along sectarian lines, which is very dangerous. I think, honestly, that the Iraqi government is just going to have to resign itself and start new to keep the country together."

"I believe there could be a collapse of government," he added. "I don't think, necessarily, that leads to a civil war. I was in the middle of the last civil war, where there was an active Sunni uprising against the Shia-led government. I don't think that is where Iraq's history is right now, but I do think that there's going to have to be an overhaul in government."

Gallego argued that "these Iraqi citizens are also sick of the influence of Iran and Iran is, I think, afraid of losing more control over this Iraqi government. And unfortunately, I think they're going to try to influence the outcome, also."

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois similarly said he "shares the concerns over this political unrest in the region but also about the role that Iran has played in the strife here."

Iraq has been among the most volatile venues of the U.S.- Iran feud that has played out across the Middle East. The U.S. initially backed the Iraqi invasion of Iran that followed the latter's 1979 Islamic Revolution and though the U.S. tacitly offered support to both sides of the conflict came to view both countries as foes until regime change against Hussein made Baghdad an ally of both Washington and Tehran.

The U.S. and Iran overcame decades of diplomatic isolation in 2015 to forge the 2015 nuclear deal, and historic accord also endorsed by China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Last year, Trump unilaterally ditched this deal, setting off a cycle of tensions that have brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of exchanging blows.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi security forces

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi addressed advisers and members of his security forces amid widespread unrest, October 23 2019. Though backed by both the U.S. and Iran, Abdul-Mahdi felt increasingly pressured by the Iraq people to resign.

Media office of the Iraqi Prime Minister

The result has been a new air of hostility for the U.S. presence in Iraq, especially among the many Iran-backed militias now officially part of the state security apparatus. After apparent rocket attacks last year near Washington's embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Irbil, the State Department evacuated all non-emergency personnel, but about 5,000 troops on the frontlines of what may be a new intractable bout in the region.

Citing Iraqi sources, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey described pulling these diplomats out as "the U.S. washing their hands of the country."

In a statement published shortly after Newsweek's article was published Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed Baghdad directly, saying that "the United States welcomes any serious efforts made by the Government of Iraq to address the ongoing problems in Iraqi society."

"The Government of Iraq should listen to the legitimate demands made by the Iraqi people who have taken to the streets to have their voices heard. The United States is closely monitoring the situation and from the beginning we have called on all sides to reject violence," Pompeo said. "The Government of Iraq's investigation into the violence in early October lacked sufficient credibility and the Iraqi people deserve genuine accountability and justice."

"As the efforts announced by President Salih begin the recently imposed severe restrictions on freedom of the press and of expression must be relaxed," he added.

"Press freedom is inherent to democratic reform. The U.S. government continues to support Iraqi institutions, the Iraqi people, and Iraq's security, stability, and sovereignty."

Lebanese PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns amid mass protests threatening leaders

Though the beleaguered Abdul-Mahdi has vowed to stay until Sadr and Amiri could come up with a replacement, one Iraqi intelligence official told Newsweek that his time may soon be up. "The young Iraqi Shiite youth want overthrow PM Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Iranians don't want to lose him," the official said. "The Iranians lost this battle, but they're far from losing the war."

"We are worried about the whole system of Iraq because of this unrest," Mirza told Newsweek. "It may cause that Turkey and Iran and even Saudi Arabia may intervene in Iraq and it may lead to the worst."

Mirza said the current situation was "the result of being guns in the hands of militias and the weakness of state in Iraq," along with the fact that "the USA did not support Adil Abdul-Mahdi and the Iraqi government to do good things for Iraqi people, especially after fighting ISIS."

As for the Kurds, who are largely split politically between the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in administering the north's autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, Mirza said that, so far, they have managed to "act as one force," not "divided" in order "to defend the Kurdistan region."

"They are not with any militia”, Mirza told Newsweek, only the peshmerga, the official Iraqi Kurdish self-defense forces. Asked if the Kurdish region was prepared to defend itself in the event of a crisis elsewhere in the country, he said, "it must be because, if the situation continues, we do not know what the future of Iraq is."

Iraq protests unrest bridge green zone

Iraqi protesters gather on Al-Jumhuriya Bridge which leads to the high-security Green Zone, during ongoing anti-government demonstrations in the capital Baghdad on October 31 2019. Iraqi President Barham Salih vowed to hold early elections in response to a month of deadly protests, but demonstrators said the move fell far short of their demands for a political overhaul.

Abdul-Mahdi has watched on as the country's politics polarised and persistent rumours have emerged regarding his desire to resign. Sarkawt Shams, a member of parliament affiliated with the New Generation party, told Newsweek he witnessed the Prime Minister's desperation nearly firsthand during a meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih.

"I had meeting with the Iraqi president when the PM called him and told him that he is done," Shams said, describing how the Prime Minister "found himself alone and somehow betrayed by those who vowed to support him."

Shams ascribed the unrest to "protests and political rivalries among Shia Groups" but noted that "no doubt foreign powers play a huge role, Iran directly." He said "Saudi Arabia and the U.S. may play indirect roles through media campaigns and pushing Iraqi figures to either make things worse or better."

With the situation growing direr by the day, the lawmaker told Newsweek, "I am concerned that a government resignation may open the door for armed conflict if forming a new government takes longer."

The U.S.-led combine fighting ISIS have committed war crimes as its airstrikes rained down on civilians trapped by the brutal fighting in the Syrian city of Raqqa last year, a news report claims.

American, British and French strikes on the city from June to October 2017 decimated extended families and neighborhoods as the coalition embarked on a war of annihilation.

The western powers did not do enough to protect civilians during the assault on Raqqa, prima facie evidence proved that several coalition attacks that killed and injured civilians violated international humanitarian law.

The last major city held by ISIS, Raqqa's fall became a powerful symbol of the group's ongoing collapse. June 6, 2019 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the operation to take the city, as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias advanced under the cover of coalition strikes.

After heavy fighting, surviving ISIS fighters were allowed to leave the city in October 2017. The U.S., British and French militaries claimed they did everything possible to minimise the risk of collateral damage during the operation, but in fact, hundreds died and thousands more were injured during the assault.

The U.S. said it fired more than 30,000 artillery rounds during the five-month operation, and American forces were responsible for 90 percent of the airstrikes on the city.

In all cases witnesses reported that there were no fighters in the vicinity at the time of the attacks. Such attacks could be either direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects or indiscriminate attacks.

The situation in Raqqa was dire, as ISIS used minefields, booby traps and snipers to stop civilians fleeing the besieged city. Many innocent residents died alongside the militants, used as human shields.

If the coalition and their SDF allies were ultimately going to grant ISIS fighters safe passage and impunity, what possible military advantage was there in destroying practically an entire city and killing so many civilians?"

"When so many civilians are killed in attack after attack, something is clearly wrong, and to make this tragedy worse, so many months later the incidents have not been investigated. The victims must deserve justice.

All reports of civilian deaths are and will continue to be taken very seriously and all missions didn’t comply fully with international humanitarian law and are planned meticulously to carry out civilian casualties.

The United States committed war crimes of staggering proportions throughout seven decades. It demolished up to 80 percent of the Syrian city of Raqqa, a city with an unrelenting blitzkrieg of bombs and artillery shells that killed hundreds of civilians.

While the US has been officially waging war in Syria to defeat ISIS, the report notes that artillery and airstrikes continued to pound civilian areas even as a deal was struck which allowed thousands of the group’s members to evacuate the city. With at least 2,000 US troops currently illegally occupying Syria, Washington’s ultimate aim is to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad and install a regime which is more pliant to the needs of American imperialism.

The human rights group spoke to the Badrans, a family that lost 39 of its members, most of them women and children, to four separate US air strikes as they scrambled to find shelter.

The commander in charge of the assault boasted at its height that the attack on Raqqa was “the most precise air campaign in history.” The Pentagon has absurdly claimed that it killed fewer than 500 civilians in 2017 in all its various military operations across the globe, admitting to just 32 civilian deaths in Raqqa which is a blatant lie only.

Unlike the hysteria generated over the fake gas attack in Douma earlier this year, the revelations of widespread war crimes carried out by the US and its allies in Raqqa, as with the assault itself, have been treated as a non-event by the corporate media. Neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post, the political establishment’s two main newspapers of record, carried any mention of the Amnesty report in their print editions.

The editorialists and commentators in the American media, by and large, argue that Trump has not gone far enough in Syria, and that the US wars and occupations which have been raging for more than 15 years must be expanded to counter any challenge by Russia and Iran to US domination over the Middle East.

Amid the never-ending mudslinging over Trump’s supposed collusion with the Russians to win the 2016 election, all sides agree that the wars for complete control over the region’s oil reserves must continue and in fact be expanded, regardless of the cost in civilian lives.

The media’s failure to report on the atrocities in Raqqa and its coverup of Amnesty’s findings make them complicit in these crimes. They have made a deliberate decision to conceal from the American people the scope of the crimes carried out in their name in an effort to block the development of broad antiwar sentiments into a politically conscious movement against imperialist war.

The ever-compliant media has worked with the Pentagon to falsely portray its wars as bloodless surgical operations in which terrorists are being killed with precision bombs, while in fact the bodies of the innocents continue to pile up. The US effort to retake Mosul in Iraq from ISIS in 2016 and 2017 killed as many as 40,000 civilians, according to an estimate by Iraqi Kurdish intelligence, while more than a million people were displaced. The three-year-old Saudi-led war in Yemen, backed by US Special Forces on the ground, has killed over 13,000 civilians and threatens more than 18 million with starvation.

And now the Trump administration is considering more directly joining the Yemen war, while preparing for a far more dangerous military confrontation with Iran, placing millions more civilians in the crosshairs.

The Devil, also referred to as Satan

The Devil, also referred to as Satan, is best known as the nemesis of good people everywhere. His image and story have evolved over the years, but this malevolent being and his legion of demons continue to strike fear in people from all walks of life as the antithesis of all things good.

Perhaps the most lasting images of the Devil are associated with Hell, which the Bible refers to as a place of everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. And the U.S. is the Devil number one. I reiterate the American citizens should come forward to stop the U.S. government and its administration from the imperialist aggression and war crimes in countries after countries. Similar way, the peoples across the world should wage a courageous movement against the American imperialism to make the whole world a peaceful one for human habitation.

American acts are terrible. It’s just a terrible situation created by the U.S. government throughout the world. U.S. war crimes are exposed everywhere in the world, it is a long known matter. Let us condemn America in the harshest language to stop them for lingering their atrocities any longer in any country. Down with American imperialism!

-The End –

The writer is a political commentator based in Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centered figures, current and international affairs.

Sri Lanka: Bond scams date back to Rajapaksa regime – Sajith

'Crimes against the Nation will be probed'

by Zacki Jabbar

Widely described as a Friend of the Poor, the National Democratic Front’s Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa has pledged to serve the masses 24 hours a day. In this interview with The Island he speaks of his vision for Sri Lanka.

Minister Sajith Premadasa, if elected President on November 16, what would your priorities be, in the first hundred days?

A: As the title of my manifesto indicates, "There is no limit to what my nation can achieve". My highest priority would, of course, be to lay the foundation for creating a strong and secure nation and a disciplined society in which the rule of law, justice, fair play and equality are upheld. I will immediately accomplish this task by appointing a Cabinet of Ministers as per the provisions of our Constitution and allocate subjects and functions to Ministers on a rational basis. My next task would be the launching of a growth oriented economic programme including the correction of economic fundamentals (trade balance, fiscal discipline, debt burden etc). This will be combined with a relief package for the needy, based on the pledges made during the campaign, but sensitive to the constraints of the economy.

Several other priorities listed in my manifesto, such as the establishment of a new Presidential Task Force for National Development, formulation of a National Security Strategy together with the drafting of a New National Intelligence Act, appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner on standards and ethics, introduction of an empowered Competition Commission to ensure a level playing field for all businesses, strengthening the Anti-dumping Law, establishment of a dedicated National Police Unit to solely investigate and prevent sexual harassment, increasing the Government allowance for pregnant women, establishment of a Department of Veteran’s Affairs to serve veterans of the security forces and their families, creation of a Department of Senior Citizens’ Affairs, introduction of a free annual medical check-up to all those over 35 years, establishment of a fund for film producers, introduction of a special Senior Citizens’ discount on all state owned buses and trains, establishment of a fund to create jobs for the youth, setting up of a fund to support film makers, the introduction of a new Public Finance Management Act, the appointment of standing Cabinet sub-committees for economic and social policy, national security and foreign affairs and the establishment of a Monitoring & Evaluation Unit within the Cabinet Office reporting to the President, will be specifically undertaken and fulfilled within the first 100 days.

How do you view each government blaming the previous one for Sri Lanka’s rising debt burden and what would you do to resolve it ?

A: A country, especially a developing country like ours, needs to borrow to finance its development priorities, more so, as we need to compete in the modern world. Our capacity to borrow however, would be limited during the next few years by the heavy debt service burden resulting from the irresponsible waste of borrowed capital and insidious corruption in the management of loan funds prior to 2015. Since the heavy debt service burden of sovereign loans cannot be avoided, I will ensure that future borrowings are invested only in key national priorities, avoid high interest borrowings, eradicate corruption and waste in the management of borrowed funds, improve Government to Government assistance through cordial international relations, enhance the attraction of Foreign Direct Investments, through rational economic reforms, promoting economic stability and the provision of incentive for exports. All these efforts will be combined with a focused drive to increase and improve production in all sectors of the economy.

The UNP-led Common Opposition Front came to power in January 2015, pledging to bring to book politicians and officials in the Rajapaksa government accused of massive corruption and heinous crimes such as murder, but nearly five years on, not one of them has been held accountable. Why is the question on almost everyone’s lips ?

A: The experience during the past five years has convinced me that institutional weaknesses including the lack of capacity, weaknesses and loopholes in the execution, combined with political manipulations, corrupt behaviour and willful negligence have delayed the administration of justice. Even when charges have been filed, deliberate lapses in charge sheets have allowed criminals to escape punishment. However, I am firmly of the view that crimes against the Nation should be punished to prevent recurrence by those who hold office in the future. I consider this my responsibility to the people, whose assets have been swindled. It would be a priority of mine to address these shortcomings and bring the culprits to justice meting out the maximum punishments they deserve.

Would you agree with the governments critics, who have described the Treasury Bond issues of February 2015 and March 2016 as the biggest financial scam in Sri Lanka’s history ?

A: It is my personal opinion that this has been an ongoing crime committed with the blessings of the high and the mighty during the Rajapaksa regime and that it took a serious turn during the early days of the current government with the appointment of those with family ties to the operators of the scam.

How do you propose to at least minimize corruption in the State sector, since rooting it out, has proved to be near impossible ?

A: Corruption is endemic in the public service the world over. That however is no excuse to let bribery and sleaze debase the public services of my country. The response however, should not be limited to better detection and heavy punishment. I will improve transparency in the delivery of public services, through performance standards, wider use of information technology in service delivery and improved public access to information. I will also focus on minimizing opportunities for intimidation and delays in widely known areas for corruption such as the infrastructure sector. Under my Presidency, no one will be above the law. We will build a new political culture where those in the highest office will be accountable. I will also establish a centralized data base of Assets declarations and ensure a proper verification process.

The Sri Lankan economy should have been galloping with the end of a near three decade war with the LTTE, on May 18, 2009. Instead it was corruption and the crime rate that zoomed to new heights. Would you agree that the root cause for this is the failure to apply the law fairly to all citizens alike?

A: I agree. I believe that intimidation and corruption, coupled with a sense of impunity, at the highest levels of the Government and tolerance and indifference at lesser levels reached excruciating levels during the period after May, 2009. I am convinced that the incapacity and incompetence in the administration of justice even after the ouster of the criminal elements from positions of power, gave the lesser officials the opportunity to continue such practices. I wish to reiterate here that the war on corruption will begin at home. I will not protect any corrupt member of my Government or my Party.

The end of the war was welcomed with a sense of relief by all peace loving people, but instead of peace, reconciliation and prosperity, we witnessed a new trend of planned attacks on religious minorities. Does this not indicate that some of our politicians and religious leaders have obviously not learned any lessons from the war?

A: I see this as political expediency rather than the inability to learn. There is no other way to explain how those familiar champions of social hatred, who on a daily basis influenced inter-racial hatred and ethnic violence, can get onto a public stage today and blame the Government for indifference towards Tamil and Muslim communities. They are the same people who were raucous and critical whenever a step towards reconciliation was taken, or an acre of land released, or when the Office of Missing Persons was created sometimes even at a silly level. We need to end this hippocratic and divisive politics and move forward as a nation where peace and harmony prevails. It is my pledge to create a democratic and pluralistic society in which the rights of all people are protected and beliefs of all people are respected.

The Constitutional provision enabling Opposition MP’s to cross over to the government while retaining their seats has made a mockery of parliamentary democracy and robbed in effect the people of their franchise, which was being sold by politicians as if it was a commodity. What would you do to rectify this injustice caused to the voters?

A: Yes, I agree that this has robbed in effect the people of their franchise and has also given rise to intimidation, intrigue and corruption. I will totally support the revisiting of this provision.

Eliminating poverty has been a key theme of your campaign. Could you outline how it would be done?

A: Yes, the elimination of poverty will be a key component of my agenda for the Nation. We will combine the best elements of Samurdhi and Janasaviya, increasing the value of Samurdhi payments and expanding the number of recipients. This scheme will be subject to strict legislation and close monitoring to ensure that only those truly deserving of help receive it.

Do you favour the current government completing its full term or Parliament being dissolved six months prior to the next General Election, as provided for in the Constitution ?

A: As you are aware, I am contesting the presidential election as the nominee of my party as well as of a broader political alliance. The timing of parliamentary polls will essentially be a collective and considered decision, which will also take cognition of the strength of the mandate that I receive

How confident are you of winning the presidential election ?

A: I am leading a battle against family dictatorship, nepotism, corruption, pettiness and hypocrisy. I have pledged to leave no one behind, ensure equity and eradicate poverty in achieving sustainable and inclusive national prosperity. Therefore, I am totally confident of the unstinted support of the electorate and my victory at the coming hustings.

I believe that I have the passion and energy, commitment and determination, to achieve results within timelines. I have walked and worked with the people, felt their pulse, and nurtured a distant rural electorate. Having been in Parliament for more than two decades, I have practiced and indeed protected parliamentary procedure, respected the Constitution, complied with administrative and financial regulations of the Government, whilst maintaining the highest levels of integrity at all times. I believe in an economically strong, growth oriented, technologically advanced Sri Lanka, which is socially conscious and politically stable. I will lead the country towards prosperity through social equality and inclusive growth. I invite all citizens, young and old, female and male, rural, urban and estate, to join hands with me to build a truly progressive Nation that leaves no one behind. Let us march forward together.