Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #19, 22 June 2023, Thursday

The Maldives: MDP's President Nasheed leaves the party

UN states Taliban's women ban makes recognition impossible

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #19, 22 June 2023, Thursday

By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H


Focus of the Day

Political Instability in the Maldives: NIAS NR Update
On 21 June, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed sent a letter to the Maldivian Democratic Party's Chairman Fayaz Ismail, announcing his resignation. This move was long anticipated on the sidelines of forming a new party called 'The Democrats.' The supporters of Nasheed have been hinting for a long time at the possibility of him becoming the presidential candidate for the newly spearheaded party. In response to the resignation, Fayaz Ismail stated that Nasheed's departure would pave the way for all other parties to move forward in their chosen paths. Further, he wished "well and success" to Nasheed. 

Despite his resignation from the party, his possibility of leading the new party is hindered currently as the Election Commission failed to issue a permit for the 'Democrats' party's registration. The latest meeting of the EC to decide on the permit was boycotted by three out of five members of the Election Commission, thereby halting the party's future. 


High Court orders non-intervention in the screening of authorized films
On 22 June, the Patan High Court issued an interlocutory order ordering the non-intervention of the screening of films passed by the censor board. On 15 June, the Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Balendra Shah, tweeted, raising objections about a line in the film referring to Sita as the daughter of India, asking it to be removed. On 18 June, he posted another update on Twitter, stating that the screening of all Indian movies would be banned in Kathmandu from Monday. This was soon followed in many other places, causing a halt in its screening nationwide, citing issues of law and order. The Nepal Motion Picture, therefore, appealed at the court, seeking a solution in the wake of the nationwide ban. However, Shah challenged the order, stating that the government and the court had become 'slaves to India.' ("Court rules against KMC's decision to ban the screening of Indian films, Mayor Balendra Shah challenges order," The Kathmandu Post, 22 June 2023)

Steps towards self-sufficiency 
On 22 June, Kuensel reported on the import dependency of Bhutan. Bhutan has long pursued self-sufficiency as a national dream, but increasing import figures and recent shortages of eggs have raised concerns. To address this, Bhutan needs to diversify agricultural practices, promote sustainable farming, and cultivate crops that can substitute imports. Building local industries, improving infrastructure, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and investing in education and skill development are crucial. By taking these measures, Bhutan can achieve true self-sufficiency and ensure a prosperous future grounded in sustainability, sovereignty, and self-reliance. ("Addressing the challenges of import dependency," Kuensel, 22 June 2023)

Dhaka ranked the seventh least liveable city
On 21 June, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister organization of the Economist, published the annual Global Liveability Index for 2023. Dhaka, with 43.8 points, ranked 166, thus making it the seventh least liveable city in the world. Vienna topped the list as the most liveable city, while Damascus was ranked as the least liveable city. The EIU ranks 173 cities around the world using 30 factors, both qualitative and quantitative, across five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. ("Liveability Index: Dhaka ranked 7th least liveable city," The Daily Star, 22 June 2023)

MFC calls on positions of influence to speak up for the press and journalists
On 22 June, issuing a statement, 11 member countries of the Media Freedom Coalition(MFC) expressed their concern over the death of journalist Nadim. Emphasizing the important role of journalists in asking difficult questions, reporting the facts and promoting the free flow of ideas, it called to hold to those responsible for attacks on journalists. Golam Rabbani Nadim was the Bakshiganj correspondent for Ekattor TV and Daily Manabjamin; and the Jamalpur correspondent for Bangladeshnews24.com. On 15 June, he died from injuries after being attacked by nearly 12 people on 14 June. Nadim's family believes the attack was a retaliation for his recent report on Mahmudul Alam Babu, the chairman of Shadhurpara Union Parishad. The MFC is a partnership of over 50 countries to 'advocate for media freedom and safety of journalists and hold to account those who harm journalists for doing their job.' ("Media Freedom Coalition expresses concern over journalist Nadim's death," The Daily Star, 22 June 2023; "Media Freedom Coalition: an overview," Gov.uk, 25 February 2020)

US sanctions on regime-owned banks to curtail imports of weapons to Myanmar 
On 22 June, The Irrawaddy reported that new sanctions were imposed by the US Treasury on the Myanmar defence ministry and on the regime-owned Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB). Brian E. Nelson, US Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said: "Burma's military regime has leveraged state-run access to international markets to import weapons and materiel, including from sanctioned Russian entities, to continue its violence and oppression." The banks are primarily involved in foreign-currency exchanges and currency conversion from kyats to US dollars and euros, and vice versa. The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said that since the 2021 coup, the regime acquired goods worth USD 1 Billion. Major General Zaw Min Tun, the junta spokesperson, said that the sanction would not affect the regime financially as there are no accounts of US banks in the two banks. Following the US announcement, the rate of dollars rose from 2,960 to 3,100 kyats which led many money changers to halt dollar transactions. (Hein Htoo Zan, "US Slaps Sanctions on Myanmar Junta Defense Ministry, Regime-Run Banks," The Irrawaddy, 22 June 2023)

Pheu Thai Party need not have to bow before MFP: says MP-list party members  
On 21 June, the Pheu Thai Party MPs raised the matter regarding the House speaker post in a seminar for the new MPs of the party. The Pheu Thai party that secured 141 seats in the 14 May elections, ten seats less than the MFP, now insists on not bowing down before the MFP. Earlier, some party executives emphasized taking the deputy speaker posts as the Pheu Thai Party came second in the elections with a vote share of ten million people. Pheu Thai MP-list Adisorn Piengkes said:" We cannot let the MFP take the House speaker seat. We have several candidates suitable for the post … Pheu Thai has 22 years of political experience, and it is not a branch of the MFP." Cholnan said most members agreed that a Pheu Thai candidate should be the House speaker. Phumtham said he would lead the negotiators to discuss the cabinet allocation with MFP. He proposed that each party get fourteen cabinet seats, with the MFP entitled to the PM position. ("Speaker tussle rages onBangkok Post, 22 June 2023)

Divorce laws to be amended for the convenience of modern societal needs says Minister of Justice
On 21 June, Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, during a debate in the parliament, stated that the divorce laws would be changed to suit the needs of modern society. During a debate on the Anti-corruption Bill, MP Talatha Athukorala stated that the spouse of an education officer demanded a divorce from her after finding out about her attempt to indulge in a homosexual relationship. In response, Rajapakshe said that Sri Lanka does not have laws pertaining to this issue but plans to bring amendments to the divorce laws to suit such queries. ("Min. says new divorce laws soon after homosexual stir raised in Parliament," Daily Mirror, 22 June 2023)

French vessel Dupuy de Lôme arrived at Colombo Port
On 21 June, the Sri Lankan Navy welcomed SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) collection French vessel Dupuy de Lôme at the Port of Colombo. The vessel arrived on a formal visit and was received with naval tradition. It is further scheduled to depart Colombo on 27 June. This vessel arrived after a year when a Chinese intelligence-gathering vessel Yuan Wang 5, was docked at Hambantota Port which was alleged to track satellites, rockets and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles. ("French research vessel here," The Island, 22 June 2023)

MDP's President Nasheed leaves the party
On 21 June, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed sent a letter addressing the Maldivian Democratic Party's Chairman Fayaz Ismail, announcing his resignation. In the letter, he stated that the present circumstances in Maldives made it difficult for him to continue with the party. Notably, Nasheed played a pivotal role in the formation of the MDP. ("Nasheed shakes up Maldives politics; leaves MDP," Avas, 22 June 2023)

On 21 June, Central Hithadhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed announced his resignation from the Maldivian Democratic Party through a tweet. His resignation comes within moments of Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed announcing his resignation from MDP. With Rasheed's departure, the number of MDP legislators to leave the party has increased to 15. ("Central Hithadhoo MP Rasheed resigns from MDP alongside Nasheed," Sun.mv, 21 June 2023)

Minister urges Defence force to take over
On 21 June, MP Mohamed Saeed stated that the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) should take control of the country. During a press conference organized by the opposition, he made these remarks while raising concerns over the deadlock in the parliament. Further, he listed a series of accusations related to the maritime dispute with Mauritius and the appeal case of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. He added, "There is no more saving this country from MDP. Every time they come into power, a large part of the country is sold. The country is enslaved." ("Opposition: MNDF come out, take control of country," Sun.mv, 21 June 2023)

Election Commission in a stalemate as three commissioners boycott 
On 21 June, three of the five Election Commissioners refrained from participating in meetings chaired by the committee's president Fuad Thaufeeq. The three include Ali Nashath, Mohamed Asif and Dr Mohamed Zahir. They demanded the stepping down of Faud from his post. The latest meeting was held to decide the issuance of a permit to 'The Democrats' for their registration as a political party which failed to proceed with an inadequate quorum. It is notable that Nashath and Asif previously voted against permit issuance to the party. ("Elections Commission also falls to a deadlock," Sun.mv, 21 June 2023)

Saudi and Iran relations tense despite rapprochement efforts
On 21 June, CNBC reported that Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Farhan visited Tehran to foster bilateral relations with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. The meeting resulted from Iran and Saudi Arabia's agreement to resume diplomatic ties and reopen embassies. Regional analysts state that the powers continue to have divergent geopolitical and religious goals, and despite the efforts, nothing has been resolved ("'Things will just have to be accept as tense': Saudi-Iran relations have a long way to go despite rapprochement efforts,CNBC, 21 June 2023)

Large-scale arrests
On 21 June, UN News reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran issued large-scale arrests and detentions during the nationwide protests following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022. The New Iran human rights report, has recorded that 582 civilians have been executed, of which 256 were drug-related offences in 2022. Security forces killed more than 44 children. UN deputy human rights chief Al Nashif stated numerous allegations and torture and ill-treatment of civilians by the security forces during arrests and interrogations. ("Record executions, large-scale arrests and detentions: New Iran human rights report,UN news, 21 June 2023)

UN states Taliban's women ban makes recognition impossible
On 22 June, Al Jazeera reported that the UN stated it would be impossible for the Taliban to gain recognition following its restrictions on women. Despite appeals, the Taliban have not changed their restrictions on women. The UN has stated that male staff will not replace female national staff, as suggested by Taliban authorities. UN envoy Roza Otunbayeva reported the decree to life bans is unpopular in the Afghan population. ("Afghan women ban makes Taliban recognition near 'impossible':UN,Al Jazeera, 22 June 2023)

IOC warns Afghanistan over denying sports to Women on Paris Olympics status 
On 22 June, AP news reported that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) expressed its concerns and warned about Afghanistan's team status for the 2024 Paris Olympics due to its ban on women's access to sports. The IOC stated that women were often intimidated against sports by the Taliban. The Afghanistan issue is scheduled to visit the IOC board in Mumbai in October. ("IOC warns Afghanistan about Paris Olympics status over denying sports to women and girls,AP news, 22 June 2023)


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