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Former President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, August 31: Pranab Mukherjee, India’s former President and one of the country’s most admired political leaders, died here on Monday. He was 84.

Mukherjee had suffered a fall at his Rajaji Marg house and had been operated to remove a blood clot in his brain on August 10. Doctors on Monday morning warned that there was a decline in his condition and he was in septic shock due to infection in his lung.

Soon after, his son Abhijit Mukherjee also tweeted a request to people, asking them to pray for his father. “He is a fighter & with all your good wishes & prayers , He will surely recover !” Abhijit tweeted.

Three hours later, Abhijit made the announcement on social media. “With a Heavy Heart , this is to inform you that my father Shri #PranabMukherjee has just passed away in spite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital & prayers, duas & prarthanas from people throughout India !,” Abhijit tweeted.

The veteran politician would often speak of his humble beginnings and his amazing journey from the flickers of a lamp in a small Bengal village to the chandeliers of Delhi.

A quintessential Congressman for five decades, the seven-time parliamentarian had worked as a teacher and journalist before taking his first steps in politics. His first stop in Delhi was the Rajya Sabha in 1969, the House that re-elected him four more times before he won his first Lok Sabha election from Bengal’s Jangipur in 2004. He was re-elected in 2009.

Mukherjee, who was seen as a formidable political strategist, draftsman and parliamentarian with an astute legal mind, prospered in Delhi. He first made it to Indira Gandhi’s council of ministers in 1972 and never looked back, going on to hold some of the most powerful portfolios – finance, commerce, external affairs and defence – in Congress governments.

He was considered the sharpest mind and the prime trouble-shooter in the government led by Manmohan Singh, who he had appointed as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor in the 1980s.

His last stop in public life was Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mukherjee, a nominee of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, was elected India’s President in 2012. By the time he exited Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2017, he left the legacy of a president who spoke his mind to the government and yet, kept the bridges and friendships intact.

In January 2019, Mukherjee was also named for the country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who described him as the “outstanding statesman of our times”.

As news of his death emerged, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the veteran politician who had guided him when he first came to Delhi from Gujarat in 2014, ready to take charge as prime minister. “He has left an indelible mark on the development trajectory of our nation. A scholar par excellence, a towering statesman, he was admired across the political spectrum and by all sections of society,” PM Modi tweeted.

 

 



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Bipartisan US Congress legislation calls for self-determination for Eelam Tamils

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Wiley

…proposes South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo style solution

A controversial resolution has been introduced to the US Congress calling on the United States to work towards an independence referendum for Eelam Tamils and recognize the genocide committed against them by the Sri Lankan state.

The resolution, introduced by Wiley Nickel, is the first of its kind to be brought to the US Congress. It comes as Tamils marked the LTTE’s defeat 15 years ago, with May 18 commemorated as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, worldwide.

The resolution calls for the “no recurrence of past violence, including the ‘Tamil Genocide’, by supporting the right to self-determination of Eelam Tamil people and their call for an independence referendum for a lasting peaceful resolution”.

It goes on to detail historic Tamil support for independence and how “similar conflicts have successfully been democratically, peacefully, and legally resolved by exercising the right to self-determination by the people in countries such as South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo via independence referendums with support from the United States and other countries”.

It resolves that the House of Representatives:

(1) urges the United States to strengthen diplomatic channels with the Eelam Tamils and collaborate toward peace and stability in the South Asian region of the Indo-Pacific;

(2) urges the United States and the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights of the Eelam Tamil people and work toward a permanent political solution based on their right to self-determination that is democratically and peacefully approved by them through a universally accepted process of independence referendum; and

(3) recognizes the genocide against the Eelam Tamil people by Sri Lanka.

The resolution has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Susan Wild, Danny K. Davis, Nicole Malliotakis, Mike Carey, Donald G. Davis, Summer L. Lee, and Jeff Jackson.

The full text of the resolution: “This conflict shattered families and communities, leaving deep scars that are still felt to this day,” said Nickel as he addressed the United States Congress today (May 15).

“My resolution recognizes the genocide in Sri Lanka and affirms the right of Tamils to self-determination through a democratic process.” Nickel stated that the resolution “emphasises the need for a peaceful and democratic solution to ongoing tensions in Sri Lanka”.

“It advocates an independence referendum, a process that has been used successfully to resolve similar conflicts in other parts of the world. This echoes our commitment to democratic principles and underscores our support for human rights globally.”

“The resolution is a significant step forward in our struggle for self-determination,” said an Eelam Tamil activist who worked closely with US representatives, from Washington DC. They were present alongside dozens of others, as Nickel spoke.

“This is the first time that support for an independent Tamil Eelam has been publicly and explicitly advocated for at the United States Congress. Fifteen years since the end of the Mullivaikkal genocide, our struggle is continuing and support for it has only grown. We are not a defeated people.”

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Refugee from Sri Lankan now Labour Party Mayor of UK town

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A smiling Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan (left) at a ceremony where he was accepted as the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

…worked in India, Uganda and Ruwanda before arriving in the UK

A Sri Lankan Tamil, who fled the country during the conflict, has been appointed the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

According to the British media, Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan is the first Hindu to hold that position. Members of Ipswich’s Hindu community attended Wednesday (15) evening’s ceremony, with celebrations at the nearby temple planned for later in the week.

Having fled Sri Lanka, Elavalakan lived and worked in India, Uganda and Rwanda before moving to the UK, the media reported. He initially moved to Ilford, in east London, before moving to Ipswich in 2006.

Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan has taken over the ceremonial role after a unanimous vote at Ipswich Borough Council’s annual meeting.

“I’m so happy today, and very proud to be Mayor of this great town,” the media quoted Elavalakan as having said.

Council leader Neil MacDonald, who proposed the nomination, said Elavalakan would get to read out a general election result during his year in office.

“The announcement by a refugee who fled war and persecution, and who has made a new life and contributed to society here, will send a message,” MacDonald said.

Dr. Sachin Karale, Chair of Ipswich Hindu Samaj, said: “It shows the great diversity and multiculturalism of Ipswich town that a Hindu man is becoming Mayor. I’m really proud.”Elavalakan’s wife, Manchula Elavalakan, will be his consort.

The Mayor’s theme for the year will be “support and wellbeing” with his two chosen charities Genesis Orwell Mencap and Cancer Support Suffolk. ‘Ipswich is my home town’

“When I came for one project here, in Ipswich, I felt the people were very friendly,” he said. “So I decided, Ipswich is my home town.” He became a Labour councillor for St John’s ward in 2014.

“Having lived in many different countries and experienced many different lifestyles, I have always been interested in helping those that need it,” he said. “I am passionate about empowering communities and representing those in need.” Elavalakan is not the first Ipswich Mayor from the Indian sub-continent, however.

Kavas Jamas Bashah was born in Mumbai and was a senior officer of the Indian Civil Service.

He retired to Ipswich and became Mayor in 1925.

The town elected its first Mayor, Benjamin Brame, in 1836, following the Municipal Corporations Act the previous year which reformed local government and made Ipswich a municipal borough. Its first female mayor was Mary Whitmore, in 1946.

She was a suffragette and member of Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and was made MBE in 1951 for her contribution to public services.

Albert Grant became Ipswich’s first black councillor and mayor of Ipswich in 1995.

He moved to the UK in 1955 at the age of 21 and has dedicated his life to tackling racism and fighting to secure equality and justice.

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Govt. asked how it intends to counter US-Eelam lobby

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Dr. Wasantha Bandara

‘Far worse than Canadian declaration of Tamil genocide’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Patriotic National Movement (PNM) spokesperson Dr. Wasantha Bandara said that the government should explain how it intended to counter the powerful Eelamist lobby seeking to divide the country on ethnic lines with the help of the US, a self-appointed world policeman.

Dr. Bandara said so commenting on a resolution that had been introduced to the US Congress calling on the government to work towards an independence referendum in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and recognise the genocide committed.

Dr. Bandara pointed out that the US move should be examined also taking into consideration the continuing Western support extended to the Khalistan movement seeking an independent state in India’s Punjab region.

The civil society activist said that the so-called bipartisan resolution had been timed for the 15th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s triumph over the separatist terrorist agenda.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bandara said that the US resolution meant that though the LTTE’s conventional military/terrorist power had been eradicated in the battlefield, the Eelamist lobby was busy in Western capitals.

According to him, the US-British led grouping pushed Sri Lanka over the accountability issue as part of their overall strategy to pressure the government on a solution that would end the country’s unitary status.

Dr. Bandara asked how could the government and the Opposition remain silent when the US-backed Eelamists’ push for a solution similar to self-determination granted to South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo through ‘independence referendums’ with support from the United States and other powerful countries.

The heightened threat to our unitary status should be one of the major issues at the forthcoming presidential poll, Dr. Bandara said, demanding that all political parties state their positions on the US moves.

Dr. Bandara said that the government should set the record straight in Washington and Geneva where agendas inimical to post-war Sri Lanka were being hatched.

Dr. Bandara said that successive governments, including the current dispensation, should be ashamed of their failure to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

The US move, unless countered, could be far worse than the Canadian declaration of Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18 and sanctions on former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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