3 December, 2022

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Give Amnesty To Protestors As Next Step

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

None too soon, President Ranil Wickremesinghe appears to be putting the brakes on the government’s policy of repression in dealing with public protests. His decision to initially sign the Gazette notification declaring key areas of Colombo to be High Security Zones was roundly criticized by human rights organisations including the government’s own Human Rights Commission. The business sector also complained that this decision, which appears to have been made by the security establishment, would be injurious to business. Revoking the High Security Zones made practical sense in view of the dubious legal basis of the declaration. The High Security Zones were to be set up under the Official Secrets Act which has hardly anything in common with the purpose of the new regulations.

The High Security Zone concept, which was practiced in the North and East of the country during the time of war, would have made it difficult for vehicles to even park on the roads without first obtaining special permission. There were also legal cases filed in the Supreme Court alleging violation of constitutional rights. The president would also have been aware of the resolution on Sri Lanka that is about to be presented for a vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. As many as 26 countries have agreed to co-sponsor the resolution, of which 10 are current members of the UNHRC. Sri Lanka is finding itself isolated in terms of human rights in the eyes of the international community which can have costly consequences in terms of reducing the international sympathy and support that the country needs at this time.

The president’s early resort to the security forces to clamp down on the protest movement came as a surprise as his prior track record would have suggested a more nuanced approach to dealing with public agitation. As a follow up to the revocation of the High Security Zones, the president needs to consider revamping government policy on addressing the protest movement. So far the government approach has focused on suppressing the protest movement, on the justification that it will destabilize the economy through strike actions and by chaos on the streets. However, in Sri Lanka’s democratic system a policy of repression is unlikely to be workable. A government that is reluctant to go to the polls must not use the security forces as its prop. The president’s withdrawal of the High Security Zones in Colombo may be understood as an acknowledgement of this reality.

Declare Amnesty 

There is general acknowledgement that the president is the most suitable for the task of negotiating with, and making the political case, for more international aid to come to Sri Lanka. During his recent visits to foreign countries he met with top world leaders and would have made his mark. However, it is also important that the president should make his mark on the Sri Lankan people. He needs to win the trust of the people who did not vote for him. Having consolidated himself following his election by parliament to be president, he needs to take a more pro-active role in addressing the roots of the protest movement and not simply quashing its manifestations. There is a need to inform the people what the government will be doing to directly address the terrible impact of the economic crisis on the poorer sections of the population.

There is a widespread sense that those arrested for being members of the protest movement ought not to be subjected to the heavy hand of the law. At the present time, both in Geneva and in Sri Lanka, government spokespersons are denying the severity of the problems that exists. Successive governments denied the excesses that occurred during the war period, both in Geneva and at home. In Sri Lanka the majority of the population were prepared to go along with the denials of war time excesses due to the nature of the ethnic conflict that pitted the ethnic communities against one another. However, a policy of denying the impact of the economic crisis on the poor will not be able to garner similar support from any community in Sri Lanka and will end up pitting the majority of people against the government, just as happened during the height of the Aragalaya.

A declaration of an amnesty for all those accused and arrested for being part of the protest movement would be an act of follow-up statesmanship considering the controversy these arrests are causing both internationally and nationally with the human rights groups and the general public. The ongoing arrests of some who have been part of the protest movement have been justified on the basis that they engaged in violence or supported it. Others are accused of having burnt down the houses of government ministers, including the president’s own ancestral house which contained his family library and valuable works of art. Some have been arrested without being charged before the courts.

Magnanimity, empathy and fairness are very powerful in binding the community together. This is an opportunity for the president to show his empathy with all those others who down the years have lost their own homes to violence, during the two JVP insurrections and during the long period of the ethnic war. The government plans to compensate its members who lost their houses. It needs to also compensate those who lost their lives due to government failure, the most recent being those who died standing in long lines, or when their substandard gas cylinders exploded.

Accept Truth

At present, the government is denying the veracity of studies done by international organisations, including UN organisations, on the extent of the malnutrition and stunting that affects children. They are also denying the veracity of claims of corruption in the procurement of fuel and other large contracts, even in the midst of economic crisis. It is also doing little to ameliorate these problems. The government points to the restoration of reasonable supplies of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and electricity which can create an impression of normalcy, but only for those who can afford the much higher prices at which these commodities are available. The government’s denials of the unequal distribution of the burden will ring hollow with the masses of people, whose support is needed if the government is to govern in a stable political environment.

Instead of denying the existence of problems, the government needs to accept their existence and take measures to address them. This applies to both the problems within the country and that are being discussed internationally. It needs to recognize that its denials have got no traction in Geneva, which is why Sri Lanka has had to face nine resolutions, each one getting more difficult to respond to. The resolution that will be voted on in the UN Human Rights Council later this week will call for greater support for the UN’s evidence gathering mechanism that has already been set up and to provide more support to those countries that pursue universal jurisprudence for crimes committed by Sri Lankan political and military leaders anywhere in the world.

The government needs to use every opportunity it can to seek the support of the international community. With the draft resolution now presented, the eyes of the international community are upon Sri Lanka. While it is too late to change the draft resolution, which will be soon voted on, the government can still seek to restore goodwill among those that are pursuing the resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva. An amnesty for those who participated in the protest movement could send a positive signal that the government is willing to heed the concerns of the international community regarding human rights and democratic freedoms. The possibility of amnesty to be part of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which there is acknowledgment of past violations, expression of regret and accountability for them can also be explored.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    1

    …. ‘He needs to win the trust of the people who did not vote for him’.
    Did anybody vote for him?
    .
    …. ‘the majority of the population were prepared to go along with the denials of war time excesses due to the nature of the conflict that pitted the communities against one another’.
    What an admission, – Denials of war time excesses is bogus!
    .
    …. ‘amnesty for all those accused and arrested for being part of the protest movement would be an act of follow-up statesmanship’.
    Now, Jehan Perera is speaking!

  • 3
    11

    Gehan Perera is asking the Government to declare a sweeping amnesty to all Aragalaya protesters irrespective of the gravity of the offences committed, including the arsonists. He doesn’t mention it but does he also include those who carried out the street lynchings? After all, they, too, were part of the Aragalaya protests.

    No responsible-minded person would ever make such a request from the Government. All are equal before the law and the Aragalaya law-breakers cannot have a special status. Contrary to what Gehan thinks, such an amnesty would actually increase the possibility of more mayhem, destruction and even bloodshed in a future revival of the Aragalaya. Appeasement never works. JR later regretted granting a pardon to the JVP insurrectionists.

    • 2
      11

      Continued from last comment.

      At least the U.S. cannot accuse Sri Lanka of any violation of human rights in view of its treatment of the Capitol Hill rioters. According to a Time magazine report,

      Quote
      More than 840 people have been arrested for storming the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, with charges ranging from obstruction of an official proceeding to assault…
      Only around a quarter of those arrested—185 individuals—have received criminal sentences, while the rest are waiting for their trials or haven’t yet reached plea agreements. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, 80 defendants were sentenced to periods of incarceration, with longer prison terms for those who engaged in violence or threats…

      The Florida man who hurled wooden boards and a fire extinguisher at police officers guarding the Lower West Terrace tunnel of the Capitol was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison—the longest sentence given to anyone charged in the Jan. 6 riot.
      Unquote

      What happened at the Capitol Hill was a Sunday picnic compared with the violence and mayhem that occurred in consequence of the Aragalaya.

    • 9
      1

      LG, I never heard you being so vocal when hundreds of Tamils and Muslims were attacked, killed or their properties destroyed. I guess your testament doesn’t consider them as fellow human being. FYI, your own Presidents (Gotha, Mahinda, MS, soon RW) gave amnesty (pardon) to court sentenced murderers, rapist and other criminals. U.S is not accusing Lanka for punishing those who are guilty. The latest resolution sponsored by U.S and to be passed soon in Geneva, says who ever involved in violence (government or protesters) should be made accountable. Do you have anything to say about people who dissent being framed or charged for trivial reasons. In U.S , ex President, Trump too is facing multiple legal issues, is there any in Lanka ??

      • 1
        7

        Here’s a part of the Time report that I didn’t quote:

        Quote

        An additional 57 rioters have been sentenced to periods of home detention, while most sentences have included fines, community service and probation for low-level offenses like illegally parading or demonstrating in the Capitol, which is a misdemeanor.

        Unquote

        By your standards, these “low-level offenses” should be considered “trivial,” yet the U.S. took them seriously. Therefore I see no difference between way the U.S. and Sri Lanka have dealt with the respective protesters in their countries. As far as I know, all Aragalaya protesters who have been arrested have violated the laws in some way.

        Offences, whether serious or trivial, should have consequences. Some time ago, I was booked for changing lanes at a wrong place even though it was safe at the time but I accepted my fault and paid the fine. So shouldn’t, for example, the guy who took a selfie while sitting in the President’s chair face the tune for this “trivial” offence?

        By the way, you have an uncanny gift of picking on side issues. What do you have to say to my main point, stated in the first para. of the first comment (Jehan Perera requesting a sweeping amnesty)?

        • 5
          1

          LG, I do not have any uncanny gift like you ( living in Lanka ) to decide which is trivial or not .You seems already have decided for others. I did not mention any thing about entering Presidential or official residence. ( didn’t even mention the word Aragalaya). You avoided answering about presidential amnesty for not so trivial offences and justice for affected Tamils and Muslims but quoted paying penalty for safely changing lanes ??? I was not commenting on Jehan but your hypocrisy. Hoping you will not make me say any further

          • 4
            0

            Uncanny gift of picking on side issues ??? According to LG 1) Presidential pardon to murderer , rapist, drug peddler 2) Thousands of minorities still looking for justice are side issues compared to charging a person who took selfie sitting on fugitive’s chair. What do you have to say to my main point ?? OMG, was there any , other than sounding like a fifth grader. “Gehan ( it’s Jehan , first try getting the name right) is asking to declare sweeping amnesty, he DOESN’T MENTION IT,” hence you decided to insinuate.

          • 0
            1

            Okay, then I misunderstood you.

            I now see that you comment has absolutely no relevance to my comment you “replied” to. If I had understood you properly, I wouldn’t have replied to you at all. Forgive me this wrong!

  • 12
    1

    The law should be applied equally, not to give amnesty to protestors. First, the then PM Ranil supported the Aragalaya should be punished. It is he who arranged illegal way to abduct Gota from this country illegally. The First incidence violence was from former PM Mahinda and his group.
    What investigation has done to those criminals. Most of the Criminals are in the parliament as ministers and Presidents whereas innocents are in the jail under PTA. Where is the law? Where is the democracy?

    • 5
      1

      Ajith: I Hope Jehan Perera will read your comment. Your comment will awaken him and others to REALITY. Thanks for your explicit answer.

  • 9
    0

    When we talk about the ROOTS of the current ARAGALAYA movement, first foremost we need to talk about the Tamil politicians protest against the “Sinhala Only” brought in by SWRD Bandaranayake.
    If the Sinhala Buddhists had NOT insisted on that policy and had kept English, Sinhala and Tamil as OFFICIAL languages exodus of Burghers and Tamils would not have happened. A country’s PROGRESS economically socially and politically depends on the INTELLECTUAL capacity of its citizens. Once when CBK was the President, she had told one of SLA service person not to write in high flown English as her Ministers will not understand. We have so far had low grade Politicians as LAW MAKERS.
    Ranil W should also go after the people who got out of the Temple Trees to attack the NON-VIOLENT protestors at the GFG. We need the CID to investigate the role of Avant guard of Senathipathi.

  • 4
    0

    Magnanimity, empathy and fairness binds says JP. That is what life is all about. Where are the perfect ones in our nation, whom I long to see govern but definitely not seen in parliament. Why do presidents release murderers and other prisoners each year. We all need pardon for something. Tonight starts Yom Kippur day for atoning of sins of whole year for the Jewish people, and the whole nation stops moving and have fasting prayer at western wall or synagogues. This experience makes the nation so vulnerable to enemy attack but in unity gets clean. If only, if only our president gets enlightened and releases the aragalaya protesters, he will see an unimaginable miracle in this nation, an unbelievable provision of a beggar turned intent deliverer.

  • 5
    1

    Having the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Sri lank is proving that the country is not stable by imposing Security Zone and tourist impression as war Zone. The simple theory. Ranil cannot pull the trump card to prove that sri lanka is set for right direction. But pushing himself to fall in failure list on front of the world. The spider fell 7 times on 8th attempt the spider was successful, President has fallen 7 times and get drowned in the eight. Unable to take far-sightedness cautious measure. Why he is revoking decision.

  • 0
    5

    I wanted to write two comments for the last couple of days. One is about the starving children in Sri Lanka whom I remember every time I eat rice. The other is about Russia’s annexation of four oblasts in Ukraine.

    Sri Lanka’s “mushroom protesters” who sold poverty in the community to access foreign funds and NGO funds are nowhere to be seen.

    Contd’

    • 4
      2

      I demand President Ranil Wickremasinghe to address child hunger AS A MATTER OF URGENCY.
      When it was revealed that a number of school children fainted during the morning assembly in one of the schools, the first thing the heartless government did was deny the news and set up a Media Unit to Counter Disinformation!!!! How much money was allocated to this stupid unit?
      When the IMF approved US$2.9 billion to Sri Lanka, the first thing the corrupt government did was appoint a large Cabinet of Ministers, most of whom were accused of shady deals in the past. They have already identified projects such as building stadiums, jogging paths, casinos, brothels and night clubs in the name of tourism to rob IMF money.
      In 2016, when Mahinda Rajapaksa lamented about starving children in Anuradhapura, we believed that he would at least provide meals to children when he was back in power. Instead, he passed corruption to his sons, who set up a number of companies to rob government money. Today, they are the biggest money launderers in Asia. They can never deceive Sinhalese Buddhists with “crocodile tears” ever again.

      • 0
        7

        I demand President Ranil Wickremasinghe do the following immediately to address starvation and malnutrition in school children:-
        1. Launch a “School Breakfast Programme”.
        2. Set up a “School Breakfast Fund” under the President so that wellwishers can donate money.
        3. Assign Army Commander Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage as the Head of the School Breakfast Programme and entrust the Sri Lanka Military to provide breakfast to school children.
        Why did I choose the Military?
        My first reason is to avoid corruption. If the government calls for tenders, it will end up handing over the project to Rajapaksa affiliated company.
        My second reason is, the Military has all the resources and talents. Former Army Commander General Mahesh Senananayake built a number of buildings within a record time and launched agricultural programmes. His successor, former Army Commander General Shavendra Silva built Covid-19 Quarantine Centres within 24-48 hours and hospital wards within 1-2 weeks. It will take less than 48 hours for the current Army Commander to build emergency kitchens at Army camps near schools. A lot of talent in the Army is wasted.
        My third reason is to retain government money within the government itself.
        Contd’

        • 0
          6

          4. The easiest breakfast to provide school children is “boiled or tempered chickpeas”. They can be delivered to schools in the කල්දේරම (cauldron) itself and serve directly from the pot. Children could be asked to bring a lunch box from home and those who have younger siblings at home could be asked to bring two lunch boxes. Wellwishers should be encouraged to donate lunch boxes to schools directly.
          5. I learnt that Ceylon Biscuits Ltd has reduced its prices. The Sri Lanka Military may place an order for them to supply Munchee Tikiri Marie in 40g packets (which will contain 8 biscuits) as an additional meal for children.
          6. The Sri Lanka Military can start spinach farms which is one of the easiests vegetables to grow. Harvest can be done as early as 4 weeks and can be added to chickpeas.
          7. Another idea is to grow oats which are packed with nutrients. Archaeologists have found that oats and barley have been grown in Horton Plains tens of thousands years ago.
          8. Herbal Porridge is also an easy breakfast to make for school children. Again, wellwishers can be asked to donate herbs to the nearest army camp on certain days.

          • 3
            1

            Good ideas Champa/ but in a country where former rich becoming country s middle class as of today the question arises about the well wishers ?
            Are they not extincting ?

      • 1
        0

        Champa,
        “They can never deceive Sinhalese Buddhists with “crocodile tears” ever again”
        Your motives declared are sound and sensible??
        However, YOU COULD DENY THE OPPORTUNITY TO THE ROBBERS/lOOTERS, ONLY IF YOU ARE ABLE TO GET CHANCE TO CST YOUR VOTE, WHICH HAS TO BE SEEN??!!
        The voters in SL, only go by the quality of 1/4 Bottle of Gal, Chicken Biryani parcel for lunch and the SLRs 5000, being a genuine note!!??
        NO OTHER REASON is considered valid!!??

    • 7
      2

      Champa and her Russophilia may be unique to her.
      .
      Anyway, Champa, none of your comments prove to us that you prefer to “eat rice” and not “eat grass”.

      I don’t know about the others, every time Champa catches my eye he says the stupidest things a sick person can say. At this critical time in Sri Lanka, many Sri Lankans may not be paying constant attention to the world’s issues, us as the number one begging users.

    • 4
      3

      “Sri Lanka’s “mushroom protesters” who sold poverty in the community to access foreign funds and NGO funds are nowhere to be seen. “

      Did you check your past colleague, the playboy Minister’s burned out homes’ closet for bones. Malvanai Palace, Peacock swimming pool sand, the stomach of pet sharks? Finish that job quick because anytime soon the Royals would dismiss the Evil and take the power back. It will a high time for you to turn your back the other way sing fame of Royal and claim you said so. (Vasantha Muthali has been removed from the prison in the nights and was told to run in wild jungle. Why do they do it?)

    • 4
      2

      Champa,
      “The other is about Russia’s annexation of four oblasts in Ukraine.”
      Yes, please do go ahead while they are still annexed.

      • 3
        0

        Champa,
        Kazakhstan reports that 200,000 Russians have crossed the border. Isn’t it time “Mr. Putin” annexed Kazakhstan too?

        • 1
          0

          LM, ” I don’t know about others”, why doubt ???
          OC, By the time congratulatory message got completed, the Ukrainians counter attacked Russian defence holding annexed territory, from all directions, (mainly East and South) reclaiming land, forcing them to withdraw and now facing the threat of getting cutoff from supply chain. Russians officially admitted this as major setback , some calling it the turning point, whereas Ukrainians are silent.

          • 4
            0

            Chiv,
            Maybe that’s why Champa’s congratulations are delayed?

            • 3
              0

              Chiv,
              Do you think Champa’s detailed instructions for Putin on how to win the war reached Ukrainian ears? You never know who is reading CT.

              • 1
                0

                OC , I too wonder about it. I am sure Chimpa did advise Rajapaksas winning the Eelam War. Remember Chimpa witnessed Shaffi single handedly performing hundreds of Laparotomy without any electricity or anesthesia Unfortunately courts refused to believe Chimpa and called it FICTION.

                • 3
                  0

                  Chiv,
                  :
                  S/he feels that at least the Rajapaksa’s and Buruwanze have finally received her / his advice.
                  :
                  However on that day Champa or currently mutated Champa does not say a single word about “Vimalavati” today . ?
                  .
                  NUT CASE Champa aside, MBBS holder fake Prof. Jayasumana made public statements that surgical team members usually have time to clamp the fallopian tubes of labor patients. Can you imagine Chiv…. ? Alas, these men are the real qualified one to be executed in public….. that is what I feel… I am sorry.. no pardon to the kind of criminals.

                  These were fairy tales for our Sinhala Buddhist BP sons (hope not our NIC hunter would attack me again to have refered bp here).

                  My English friends that work for BMJ, constantly questioned whether Jayasumana, Athana Methan Natana Ratana and those who promoted the anti-Vaidya Safi saga eat “country grass” as their staple food.

      • 0
        4

        old codger
        Re: Kazakhstan. For your information, Russia’s population is 144.1 million.
        A few weeks ago some countries annouMPnced that they would not issue visas for Russians. Now, they are wholeheartedly welcoming Russians. Someone must be having a hearty laugh.

        • 0
          3

          I took time to write about Russia’s annexation of 4 oblasts in Ukraine because I couldn’t believe my own notes.
          The size of the land acquired by Russia within just 7 months of its special military operation is unbelievable.
          1. & 2. Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic together is called Donbass Region which is Ukraine’s Industrial Heartland
          Area: 26,517 km2 + 26,684 km2 = 53,201 km2
          2. Zaporizhzhya Oblast with Europe’s largest Nuclear Plant
          Area: 27,183 km2
          3. Kherson Oblast with a strategic sea port, a river port, a major shipbuilding industry and North Crimean Canal that provides water to Crimea
          Area: 28,461 km2
          The total area of Russia’s newly annexed oblasts is 108,845 km2!!!!!!
          As far as I know, this was Russia’s military strength at the time of its special military operation.
          140,000 Russian soldiers + 42,000 DPR & LPR soldiers + 10,000 of Kadyrov’s warriors + 15,000 Crimean soldiers. The total is 207,000 soldiers. It took them only 7 months to add 108,845 square kilometres of land to Russia. How did they do it with such a small number of (according to western media) ”untrained” soldiers and some “old tanks”? (200 words-dead).

          • 3
            1

            Champa,
            “The total area of Russia’s newly annexed oblasts is 108,845 km2!!!!!!”
            1. They may have been “annexed”, but even Putin doesn’t claim they are under his control.
            2. It wasn’t done in “seven months “. It has been going on since 2014, more than seven YEARS..
            Can I come over and “annex” your garden?

          • 0
            3

            Mr. Putin has already achieved 2.5 of his major goals in Ukraine in record time.
            1. Liberation of Donbass from Kiev’s oppression and genocide. Since 2008, 500 children have been killed in Donbass.
            2. Uninterrupted flow of water to Crimea (by liberating Kherson where North Crimean Canal is located).
            3. Denazification of Donbass.
            This is what I said about Donbass in March.
            “The Donbass region falling into Russian hands is inevitable. I don’t think President Putin will let history repeat. Since 2014, the Ukrainian Army has killed over 16,000 Russians & Ukrainians in Donbass. A lot of children have also been killed. If necessary, residents will come forward to testify. People say, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who stood by them, not Ukrainian Presidents.
            According to a tripartite agreement, the Ukrainian Army was supposed to protect Donbass. Instead, they bombed cities in Donbass. The last two attacks were on February 18 and March 14, 2022.
            Going by the situation in the Donbass region, if there is a referendum, even Ukrainians will choose Russia.
            French Journalist and Film Director Anne-Laure Bonnel’s documentaries on Donbass. A must-watch.
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CY7rwaQQYxE
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cRd0AGEz4Qw

            • 1
              0

              Champa,
              I don’t expect you have heard about “Mr. Putin’s” very latest and most stupendous victory, where he managed to blow up the Crimean Bridge with an explosive truck, which mysteriously flew past all those air defenses.
              This is even more glorious than his previous victory, getting the flagship of his fleet sunk. How sad!

  • 1
    1

    There is a perceived political hurdle for the Evil Emperor to get along with the IMF that if he goes soft on issues, the EP post preserved and protected by Sinhala Intellectuals to protect the country’s sovereignty will be weakened. So Langkang Modayas will not elect him as the EP in the next election. So no one can blame Evil to pose as the Langkang strongman, though that could hurt the proposed IMF loan. But there is another condition from the IMF, that the dollar rate should be floating for Ceylon’s exports to fetch the more realistic price and exports to improve and imports to get curtailed (thus dollar shortage will improve). But like all other previous crooked central bank governors, Nanthalala also kept the Dollar rate firm at Rs 369.61. Does that mean the IMF loan story is over or is it still open?

  • 4
    0

    Champa
    It’s a good idea for the GoSL to give a school meal as the children will be receptive to learning when the stomach isn’t empty.
    The CURSE of SL is anyone involved in any projects thinks only of making money out it. Even when a NGO or other countries wants to help the GoSL, the Ministers’ wants to get a commission. Such corrupted governments of our Isle had brought us to beggars stage. The sufferings is felt by the POOR and not those who caused it. Sad sad sad

  • 1
    0

    Jehan Perera: What “Amnesty” do you speak of? Please remember the “Protestors” enjoy “IMMUNITY” from all sorts of repression. Please tell your President.

  • 2
    1

    When is this PM going to remove the Army and other unnecessary forces from North and usefully employ them in food production elsewhere? Hasn’t he realize yet Tamils also like to manage their affairs in their provinces like in a federation as in many countries in the world, Doesn’t he think it is the best time to bring a new sensible constitution to the country? Why the North & East represented by fellows with one or two seats; they will support who ever come to power.

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