Sri Lanka mourns worst attack since civil war and other stories in JUST ASIA

This week Just Asia begins with Sri Lanka, which has been traumatized by a series of coordinated bombings on Easter Sunday. More than 350 people were killed and at least 500 wounded in the deadliest attack in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war 10 years ago. The dead included at least 45 children. The blasts targeted three churches, as well as four hotels. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged there was a prior warning about the bombings, and Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundara have been asked to resign from their offices. Just Asia speaks to Basil Fernando for his views on the tragedy facing Sri Lanka.

Next, a Hong Kong court has sentenced activists to prison terms of up to 16 months for their roles in the Umbrella movement protests in 2014. The protests demanded more open elections, and sought to force Hong Kong’s leader to step down. Two professors, Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, and a retired pastor, Chu Yiu-ming, who along with six others were convicted this month of public nuisance charges, were sentenced to 16 months in prison. Five other defendants were also sentenced on Wednesday on related public nuisance charges.

In Bangladesh, police inaction and allegiance with the thugs of the ruling party led to burning a young girl to death. Nineteen-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi was set on fire after filing a sexual harassment complaint against her principal. Although the principal was arrested after Nusrat’s complaint, the ruling party student wing leaders organised protests calling for his release. On April 6, when Nusrat went to school to sit her final exams, a group of persons in burqas
accosted her on the roof and pressured her to withdraw her complaint. When she refused, they
doused her in kerosene and set her alight. She died of her burn injuries on April 10.

Moving to Indonesia, tensions are running high in the country after the April 17 elections, as both presidential candidates claim to have the most votes. Most pollsters currently have incumbent President Joko Widodo leading the presidential race with about 54 percent of the vote, while Prabowo has 45 percent. Prabowo rejected early results showing Widodo ahead of him, claiming the results are partisan and not credible. This is causing conflict among supporters and raising political tension.

In Nepal, Human Rights Watch is calling on authorities to comply with Supreme Court rulings and international standards before appointing new transitional justice commissioners to address violations during the 1996-2006 civil war. The present terms of the two commissions ended in February 2019. The government is attempting to rush through an appointment process without proper transparency or consultation, which is failing to gain the trust of victims.

In Burma, a presidential amnesty last week ordered the release of more than 9,500 prisoners, including 16 foreigners. The pardon marking the country’s traditional new year did not see the release of two Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters reporters. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are serving seven-year sentences for breaking the Official Secrets Act. They say they were framed because of official displeasure over their reporting on the crackdown by security forces on members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state.

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