Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Black money and CVC: political battle continues

Atleast 21 Indians have allegedly stashed black money in their accounts with Lichtenstein Bank and just 24 hours before the government on Wednesday will tell the Supreme Court why these names cannot be disclosed now, the Opposition has upped the ante with NDA Chairman LK Advani himself taking on the UPA for its reluctance to disclose these names.

Advani said, "We hope that the Supreme Court will force the government to disclose these names."

The government has taken refuge in the the double taxation treaty with Germany for not making these names public. This stand was questioned in the Supreme Court and later the government had agreed to provide these details in a sealed envelop to the apex court.

The BJP had earlier raised the issue of black money in the run up to the last general elections, but failed to evoke much response. Now with the UPA battling corruption charges on multiple fronts, renewing the demand may add to government's discomfort.

The BJP is not letting up any pressure on the appointment of the CVC with government justifying Thomas's appointment in its affidavit before the apex court. Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj has tweeted taking on the government on its affidavit on CVC's appointment, accusing it of destroying institutions.

She tweeted, "Central Government's affidavit on CVC is on expected lines. This is in conformity with Congress tradition of destroying institutions."

The Opposition has clearly raised the bar, launching attacks on multiple fronts and with the government reluctant to concede any ground, the current Parliament impasse could well spill over to the budget session as well.

US Sees Political Progress in Tunisia Despite Turmoil

State Department says it thinks new unity government making progress toward political reform despite continuing disputes over its make-up

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it thinks Tunisia’s new unity government is making progress toward political reform despite continuing disputes over its make-up. U.S. officials believe the events of the past week in Tunisia, in which authoritarian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was driven from power, have implications for the region.

The State Department is downplaying the continuing turmoil in Tunisia’s interim administration, and says it believes the country’s politicians are making progress toward a credible electoral process.

Four ministers, three of them from the country’s trade union movement, resigned Tuesday, only a day after being appointed, complaining that the transitional government includes too many holdovers from the ousted Ben Ali government.

The new leadership has promised parliamentary and presidential elections within six months through no dates have been set.

Briefing reporters, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States is closely monitoring developments and believes the interim government is moving in the right direction despite what he described as political "jockeying."

"I think the interim government in Tunisia is moving ahead," he said. "They have taken some steps to begin the process of reform. They’re opening up space for the media to actually report on what’s going on. They have brought some opposition leaders into the government. Obviously there’s a debate going on as to whether more needs to be done. There is a process underway inside Tunisia and we will be looking to see if there are ways in which we can provide support."

Public protests drove President Ben Ali from power Friday, only a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a political forum in Qatar, said that many Arab governments risked “sinking into the sand” unless they liberalized their political systems and economies.

In his comments here, spokesman Crowley sidestepped a question as to whether the United States is worried about a chain reaction of friendly Arab leaders being deposed. But he said governments in the region need to be responsive to public needs and concerns.

"There is this pent-up desire for reform in the region," he said. "It is important for governments to listen to their people, and it important for governments to respond to their people. We want to see political reform occur. Governments are hard-pressed, obviously, to create political, social and economic opportunity for their people. We are a partner in this process, but clearly it is important for governments to listen to their people and to take affirmative steps to meet the aspirations of their people."

Crowley said the situation on the ground in Tunisia has improved somewhat in the last two days, but that the United States Tuesday conducted an evacuation flight from Tunis to Rabat of 70 U.S. diplomatic dependents and private citizens.

The action was in keeping with a travel alert for Tunisia issued by the State Department Sunday, which advised U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to the North African country, and announced an "authorized departure" of family members of U.S. diplomats.

PNoy names leftist as political adviser

In an unusual move, President Aquino has named a non-party mate as presidential adviser for political affairs.

The President announced his appointment of Akbayan president Ronald Llamas at a gathering in MalacaƱang on Wednesday night to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Liberal Party (LP).

Akbayan is a coalition partner of the LP, and Llamas himself is a key adviser of President Aquino as well as LP president and former Senator Mar Roxas.

Palace officials present said the President described Llamas as "matagal nang kasama at kaalyado (a long-time ally)."

Llamas, in turn, vowed: "Plano kong seryosong isulong ang mga reporma at mga pampulitikang proyekto ng ating presidente para baguhin ang sistema ng korupsyon at kahirapan ng ating bansa."

(I plan to seriously pursue reforms and political projects of the president in order to change the system of corruption and poverty in our country.)

Presidential advisers are usually party mates of the President to ensure that political policies are aligned with party principles, and for better coordination with other party members.

Aquino earlier appointed Llamas as member of the board of directors of the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Rao steps up political parleys, dinner diplomacy

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao busied herself with political parleys on the second day of her three-day visit to Nepal. On Wednesday morning, she met Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala and discussed government formation, constitution drafting and status of peace process after exit of the UN mission in Nepal.

She also met Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) chief Jhalanath Khanal later in the day and got to know their views on the same issues.

Nepal’s three main parties—Maoists, NC and CPN (UML) are locked in a fresh struggle over heading the next government after 16 rounds of voting in parliament failed to elect a new prime minister.

They have time till Friday to forge a consensus or else another round of voting to elect the PM by majority vote is likely.

After hectic meetings, Rao is slated to engage in dinner diplomacy with leaders of Madhes-based parties at a reception held in the evening.

The Madhesi-parties from Nepal’s Terai region are crucial in formation of the next government as they have 82 lawmakers in parliament.

During her discussions with caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Tuesday evening, Rao had made it clear that India would support a government led by any party in Nepal.

In the past, Maoists have accused the southern neighbour of scuttling their attempts at regaining power by putting pressure on Madhesi parties not to support Dahal in the PM poll.

Taking time off from meetings, Rao also visited Pashupatinath temple, the most popular Hindu shrine in Nepal, to offer prayers and inquire about the security of Indian priests.

Rao will meet Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala on Thursday where she is expected to raise the issue of the long pending extradition treaty between both nations.