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Maldives:IFJ critical of inaction on Journalist sexual harassment case

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Nearly 17 months since a senior female Maldivian editor was allegedly sexually harassed by an officer in the Maldives presidential communications team, the International Federation of Journalists has voiced its concern at the inaction by the country’s government and authorities on the case. The IFJ has taken its concerns to the Maldives President, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, and reinforced the need for the Maldives to address impunity at all levels – including sexual harassment.

The case relates to the reported sexual harassment of the editor of The Edition, Rae Munavvar, by the communications secretary of the president’s office, Hassan Ismail, which allegedly took place at the presidential office in February 2019. According to Munavvar, the communications secretary harassed her and threw her an offer of a training and exclusive access, including on foreign presidential visits if she agreed to spend time with him in a resort or his apartment. Following the incident, The Edition reported the case.

Despite this, nearly a year on and frustrated that the issue had not been taken up for investigation, Munavvar lodged a formal complaint with the President’s Office and the Maldives Police on January 21, 2020 and February 4, 2020 respectively.

The IFJ has been informed that despite this, Maldives Police only recently summoned Hassan Ismail on July 12, prompted by outrage after the Edition journalist published a tweet expressing her frustration over the handling of the matter. Maldives police have since advised the case is currently under investigation.

Meanwhile, activists have been protesting at the deficiencies between government assurances and action on the issue of sexual harassment. On July 12, the #JaagaEhNei movement gathered to call for the punishment of the perpetrators of sexual injustices to the fullest extent of the law.

The IFJ said: “Inaction is akin to impunity for crimes against journalists, which is an issue this administration has vowed strongly to address. Sexual harassment in the media is a serious issue and there is no excuse for due process on this crime – particularly in the halls of power.”

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Appointment of ministers advanced; govt. to abide by 19A, restrict number to 30

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Defence portfolio to remain unassigned

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has advanced the swearing in of the cabinet of ministers to Wednesday (12). Earlier, the swearing in was to take place at Dalada Maligawa on Friday (14). The venue remains the same.

Sources told The Island that the government would abide by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in early 2015 until a new Constitution could be introduced or shortcomings in the current one rectified.

The SLPP has won 145 seats. Besides the SLFP, several smaller parties which secured seats back the government.

The UNP and the UPFA got together to form a national government in 2015 to appoint more than 30 Cabinet ministers.

The new government could appoint 30 ministers in addition to the President, who is the head of the Cabinet. The lion’s share of ministries would be shared among the SLPP members while the National Freedom Front (NFF), the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), the MEP, the SLFP, etc., would receive the remaining slots. The EPDP, which contested the

Aug 5 election on its own, will receive a Cabinet portfolio; the CWC, which contested on the SLPP ticket, is entitled to one.

The Defence portfolio is unlikely to be assigned to anyone until a constitutional amendment is introduced to enable President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces to hold that post.

President Rajapaksa refrained from assigning the defence portfolio when he appointed caretaker cabinet soon after his swearing in as the President, last November.

The 19th Amendment has deprived the President of the right to hold ministerial portfolios.

 

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Hasina calls MR over SLPP’s victory

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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday congratulated Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on the victory of ruling SLPP party in the Aug 5 elections.

In a message to Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sheikh Hasina said the victory of the ruling party is a reflection of the trust and confidence of the people of Sri Lanka in the present leadership of the country, said PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim.

She said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have been working, based on their close relations on various issues of common interests like accelerating inter-country connectivity, containing terrorism and militancy as well as climate change.

Hasina described the living of a large number of Sri Lankans in Bangladesh as an example of excellent bilateral ties between Dhaka and Colombo.

In her message, the prime minister especially recalled her bilateral meeting with Mahinda Rajapaksa during his official visit to Bangladesh and exchange of views between the two countries in various international events to accelerate bilateral issues.

She said Dhaka has been working on to give the bilateral relations a stronger footing during the tenure of Mahindra Rajapaksa in the government.

Hasina said both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will work together to establish peace, harmony and prosperity in South Asia.

The prime minister invited her Sri Lankan counterpart Rajapaksa to visit Bangladesh at his convenience.

 

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Amaratunga stakes claim for sole UNP National List slot

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… if Ranil not interested

by Zacki Jabbar

The UNP leadership is scheduled to meet today to decide who should get the National List seat the party received at last week’s general election.

Senior UNPer John Amaratunga said yesterday that as number one on the party’s National List, he would stake a claim to the seat if leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was not interested.

All indications were that Wickremesinghe was not keen on being in the legislature at this juncture and would focus on restructuring the party, he noted.

Amaratunga recalled that he had served the UNP as a loyal member and been elected to Parliament over a period of four decades. “That is why, I was placed on top of the National List,” he added.

No one should forget the senior leadership’s contribution to the party through thick and thin, the veteran UNPer said, stressing that seniority had to be recognised and rewarded and gratitude practised if society as a whole was to evolve for the better.

Amaratunga hoped that the unfortunate recent past could be forgotten and the United National Party and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya came together at some point in time because there was hardly any difference in their policies and most importantly neither propagated racism as a means of capturing power.

 

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