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Time to Dismantle World Football’s Edifice of Corruption

Dawn arrests in 5-Star Zurich hotels. A special press conference called by US Attorney Loretta Lynch to present a charge sheet of what she called “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” international corruption spanning decades and involving eye-watering kick-backs, fixed tournament allocations and rigged presidential elections . . . Except we’re not talking about an authoritarian statelet here. Not in the slightest. No, this is all about the latest attention-grabbing developments in FIFA, world football’s governing body. Here’s my old friend David Goldblatt’s take on the FIFA corruption scandal – an extraordinary story that he has been following closely, writing about and… More

Ex-Sri Lanka Army Chief would ‘welcome’ war crimes investigation

‘My conscience is clear’. ‘The army as a whole, I can give the assurance that we never committed war crimes”. . . . . Brave, not to say fighting talk from Sarath Fonseka in an interview feature in the UK Guardian published today. Simply ascribing the crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military in the final stages of the civil war to the acts of ‘individual offenders’, as he does here, is at best delusional on Fonseka’s part, at worst a case of being knowingly ‘economical’ with the truth. Overall, the irresistible force of international human rights focus on the… More

18 May 2015: War Commemorations in North and South

For the first time since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in May 2009, this year it has been possible – albeit not particularly easy – for the Tamil population of the island’s North to hold public ceremonies commemorating their war dead. (Caveats include no public mention of the LTTE or use of their symbols; an effective ban on ceremonies in the Mullaitivu area, where the final and bloodiest stages of the war took place; and an often heavy police  presence at all events). In addition, in advance of the day President Sirisena announced that it would no longer… More

Bibi: The Hidden Consequences of His Election Victory

Trenchant, if depressing, analysis of the recent Israeli election results by an insider who knows what he’s talking about. A few shards of hope too. In particular, author David Shulman’s depiction of the way in which Israeli occupation and the slide towards de facto apartheid rule over the Palestinains is not only humiliating and oppressing the Palestinian population, but also eating away at the moral and ethical core of Israeli society is both highly persuasive – and relevant to other countries embroiled in wars of conquest, subjugation, combatting terrorism etc. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/apr/23/bibi-hidden-consequences-his-victory/

The Walk Of Shame

To mark the sixth anniversary of the ending of Sri Lanka’s civil war in May 2009, Frances Harrison has published a devastating piece in The Colombo Mirror. I say devastating avisedly, because the stories of pain and suffering endured by Tamil survivors, primarily women, both during the conflict’s final stages and since she conjures up have a genuinely nightmarish quality to them. I am one of the people Frances alludes to in the article who found they could only read her 2012 book, Still Counting The Dead, in small doses – and even that sometimes felt like putting yourself through… More

Freedom Party Blues II

  Divided and confused, the SLFP is morphing into President Sirisena’s greatest vexation, with its shifting allegiances towards his predecessor, determination to scuttle his reform agenda and frustration that he has chosen to govern with their archrival UNP. Long but percipient analysis of current Lankan political dynamics from Dharisha Bastians, for my money one of the country’s best commentators. Her conclusion: the best thing that could happen in current circumstances is fresh parliamentary elections, and sooner rather than later. Let’s see if that is what happens . . . See the article at: www.ft.lk/article/419453/Freedom-Party-Blues-II  

Should Europe open its borders – or shore them up?

Three expert voices interviewed in the context of EU Foreign Policy Supremo Federica Mogherini’s request to the UN Security Council earlier this week to pass a resolution authorising military action against migrant smugglers operating in Libyan and international waters: ‘[Europe has] constructed the irregular migrant as a security object when 99.9 percent are not: they present no security risk. The more we started to close our borders, the more migrants were forced to start using smugglers. The biggest misunderstanding is that by attacking smugglers you solve the issue. You only increase the dependency of migrants on smugglers . .  …. More

Kandyan Dancers

A lovely couple of pictures of girls in traditional costume awaiting the arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry in Kandy during his visit to Sri Lanka last weekend. Ambiance almost as much Bolshoi as Kandy . . .

Books R Us

In the 1980s, as Gorbachev came to power and perestroika led to profound changes – initially in the Soviet Union and subsequently among its communist allies – as a journalist I covered political developments in Central-Eastern Europe. Eventually my focus settled on Poland, a country I first visited in summer 1983, just as Poles were preparing for Pope John Paul II’s momentous return visit to his home country and the lifting of martial law imposed in December 1981. Subsequently I spent much of the annus mirabilis of 1989 in the country researching Poland: The Rough Guide (Penguin), published in 1991, and described by The Warsaw… More