The Impact of Soviet Labour Camps on Society: The Legacy of the Gulag

The Gulag played an important role throughout Soviet Russia and is a major point that is brought up when discussing the history of Russia from 1919 to 1960. To this date when one talks about Russia or its most infamous Soviet era leader Joseph Stalin, one recalls the Gulag even if one has only the basic knowledge about it. The system is renowned because through it, various individuals inflicted harm on millions of people. The Gulag was a part of the Soviet Russian System of governance and touched every person who lived in that era. Even today, in modern day Russia people recall the Gulag and its perpetrators with dread and horror. The Nazi concentration camp system and various other concentration camps that were similar mainly existed to exterminate their prisoners and had a brief lifespan. The Gulag however, lasted over decades and played a huge role in the industrialisation brought in by Stalin. It was a system that embedded itself in the penal system and the culture and society of the people in Russia and its effects can be seen to this day. 

It is a vital exponent of Russian history that cannot be ignored if one wants to understand the culture, society and politics of that nation. GULAG is the Russian acronym for The Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies of the Soviet Secret Police and has come to signify and represent the soviet slave labour in all forms and varieties as well as the repressive system and tyranny of the Stalin Era. The system was first established under Vladimir Lenin as an alternative to prison during the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution. Although it functioned from 1919 to 1960, the Gulag generally denoted the entire penal labour system in the USSR. It served as the Soviet Union’s main penal system for robbers, rapists, murderers, and thieves. Vast numbers of camps of all forms and varieties (labour camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women’s camps, children’s camps, transit camps) were located mainly in the remote regions of Siberia and the Far North. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Discussion, Genocide, Human Rights, Russia, Women

Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Term Limit

The Nineteenth Amendment has once again become the subject of controversy, and its current focus concerns the provision in the Nineteenth Amendment that disqualifies the same person from being elected as President for more than two terms. The two-term limit is not an innovation of the Nineteenth Amendment. A provision imposing a term limit was in the Constitution as it was originally enacted in 1978 but it was repealed by the Eighteenth Amendment enacted during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as President. It was re-introduced by section 3 of the Nineteenth Amendment which inserted the following new paragraph as Article 31(2) of the Constitution: “No person who has been twice elected to the office of President by the People, shall be qualified thereafter to be elected to such office by the People.” (emphasis added). This prohibition was reinforced by section 21 of the Nineteenth Amendment which added Article 92(c) of the Constitution which disqualified a person who “has been twice elected to the office of President by the People” from being elected to the office of President thereafter.  This is identical to the paragraph that existed as Article 92 (c) of the 1978 Constitution before it was repealed by the Eighteenth Amendment. 

It has been argued, nevertheless, by some, including Professor G.L. Peiris and ex-Chief Justice Sarath Silva, that these provisions do not disqualify Mahinda Rajapaksa from seeking a third term. Mahinda Rajapaksa has already served two terms as President but if this argument holds, then he would be eligible not only to run for a third term but also a fourth. It has been contended that according to the Constitution as amended by the Eighteenth Amendment there was no provision imposing a term limit, and as the Nineteenth Amendment does not expressly state that Article 31(2) is to apply retrospectively, it should not apply to Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, in ex CJ Sarath Silva’s rather infelicitous oxymoronic phrase, is ‘a previously elected incumbent in office’.  (Sunday Observer 19 August 2018, Mahinda ineligible to contest 2019 prez poll – Jayampathy). Mahinda Rajapaksa is not currently holding office to be called an incumbent. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Sri Lanka

Bakhtawar Atta: Structural Adjustment Programmes: A Blessing or a Curse?

“Pakistan is still in the clutches of World Bank, IMF”: a claim recently made by a prominent politician and member of the National Assembly, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, urges us to reflect on the ties between powerful financial institutions and unstable countries such as Pakistan. The word ‘clutches’ forces us to dramatically picture such ties as shackles of oppression from which underdeveloped countries have been attempting to break free. Since the formation of IMF and World Bank in 1944, their involvement has been heavily present in the Third World. On paper, their participation seems like a glorious blessing paving way for efficient global progress. However, after inspecting further we can view the birth of such institutions as a strategic move by former colonial powers to maintain their hegemony. Such strategies are a disguise by various measures, one of them being the use of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). SAPs have long prevailed as a rescuing mechanism by international financial institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank, posing as caped heroes who implement specific economic policies in return for providing aid to developing countries. 

However, their continuous attempts to save the financial problems can be inspected with a critical eye. SAPs have expanded to several developing and underdeveloped areas such as Latin America, Africa and South Asia. Restructuring the economic framework is vital for the successful progress of any country but problems arise when such restructuring gives precedence to benefitting the West over the main victims in need for development. An initiative taken by the Bretton Woods institutions, namely, the IMF and World Bank, SAPs were developed in the 1980s as conditions and loans for developing countries. To tackle the influx of debt in 1970s due to boycotts and decreased consumptions from the West by the Third World unison, a restructuring of development and governance evolved after the IMF and World Bank inspections. Continue reading

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Filed under Debt, Discussion, Economy, IMF, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, World Bank

Converting CPEC into Pakistan-Central Asia Economic Corridor

We have to give up our India-centric policies and our slave mentality.

Pakistan is on a knife-edge with the upcoming general election on 25 July 2018. With Nawaz Sharif firmly behind bars, civil society organisations are predicting rigging in the election by the armed forces and there is a consensus in the country that the army is mass manipulating electoral politics in favour of its cronies. The economic problem arising out of the present political situation is that Pakistan is seriously in the doldrums owing to its debt to its international creditors. The country is facing a sovereign debt crisis and reliance on Chinese money is very high indeed. As reported recently in the Financial Times, Islamabad is headed for a foreign currency crisis but is keen to avoid yet another IMF bailout. So it is appealing to Beijing for more lending. In the year ending June 2018 Pakistan borrowed $4 billion from China and is facing problems with the devaluation of the rupee, the strategy used by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to keep the economy afloat. At the start of June 2018, the SBP only had $10 billion in foreign currency reserves in comparison to $16.1 billion just a year earlier.

The problem does not stop there because $12.7 billion in external payments are due in comparison to £7.7 billion last year. The country will need to raise $28 billion this financial year to repay its debt obligations. Therefore, in such an environment, it is hardly surprising that Kaiser Bengali thinks that “we have to play our cards right in case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The opening up of China has enhanced travel but not trade.” He recently made these remarks while addressing members of the prestigious Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media. Speaking on the subject, ‘Changing geo-politics and challenges for Pakistan’, he said: “My fear is that we will not be playing our cards right because of the slave mentality that our bureaucrats and planners have.” Elucidating further he said: “We are always looking to a bigger power to protect us against military adventurism.” In this context, he recalled that back in the 1950, we joined the US-sponsored defence pacts, the Cento and Seato, as a guarantee to be protected during times of aggression. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Balochistan, China, Corruption, CPEC, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Trade, United States

The Impact of the Singapore Summit on World Politics: A Talk by Javed Jabbar

‘Trump-Kim summit unlikely to have great impact on world’

Donald Trump is a huge showman and his despotic tendencies became all the more apparent when he extended his hand in friendship to Kim Jong-un, the autocratic and reclusive leader of North Korea. Trump had mocked Kim as “little rocket man”. In return, the US president was given the moniker “deranged dotard”. Yet despite such insults from Pyongyang, Trump still went out of his way to please Kim and both the ego-manics got on like a house on fire. The Singapore Summit on 13 June 2018 was little more than an exercise in gimmickry and it has achieved nothing in concrete terms. If anything, it has strengthened Kim’s hand and he is more powerful than ever at home and abroad. China has played a vital role in these developments. Military exercises between the US and South Korea have been suspended to please the petty dictator and of course the summit is already a forgotten affair because of huge immigration problems for Trump at home in America. Now Trump is on an offensive with his own allies and he even resorted to calling Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest”.

He has also imposed tariffs on his country’s European allies who have countered his move in a tit-for-tat offensive. Despite all the brinkmanship, lies and false promises, it is clear that the world is a much more dangerous place that it used to be prior to Trump beginning his presidency. Trump, a racist and sexist American loudmouth, is simply incapable of performing anything positive for world peace and this is especially clear from his retrogressive policies on Palestine and human rights. Pyongyang’s war of words with Washington may have ended but Kim is still purging his opponents with extreme ruthlessness. The caging of children taken away from their parents for illegally crossing the US-Mexican border caused such outrage that even the first lady Melania Trump decided to oppose her own husband. Of course, as a past illegal immigrant herself, Melania probably thought of how horrible it would be if she were separated from her son Barron Trump? Continue reading

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Filed under China, Corruption, Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Immigration, North Korea, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Singapore Summit, Trump

The President is Powerless to Remove the Prime Minister in Sri Lanka

Our comrade Dr Reeza Hameed explains that ‘The changes brought about by the Nineteenth Amendment are designed to free Parliament and the Prime Minister from subservience to the President. The President no longer has the power to remove the Prime Minister.’

Some commentators have persistently advanced the proposition that, notwithstanding the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the President’s power to remove the Prime Minister is intact. It is a view that relies on a literal reading of the Sinhala text of Article 48(1) in which the phrase “removal from office” appears. I have, in my previous intervention on this subject, analysed the provisions of the Constitution as amended by the Nineteenth Amendment and expressed the view that the President no longer has this power. That interpretation has been questioned on the basis that the words “removal from office” appear in the Sinhala text of Article 48(1); and because the Sinhala text should prevail in the event of an inconsistency, it must follow that the President may remove the Prime Minister. I disagree with this conclusion for the reasons I have given below. The tenure of Prime Minister’s office pre-Nineteenth Amendment is as follows.

The Constitution as enacted in 1978, (which I shall hereafter refer to as ‘the Principal Enactment’), in Article 47, provided for the tenure of the office of the Prime Minister. It stated that he “shall continue to hold office throughout the period during which the Cabinet of Minister continues to function under the provisions of the Constitution unless he (1) is removed by the President, (2) resigns his office, or (3) ceases to be a Member of Parliament.” The Prime Minister shall continue to remain in his office unless and until any one of the three events mentioned above occured, whereupon he would cease to hold office. This provision was repealed by the Nineteenth Amendment which was enacted in May 2015. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Legislation, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Sri Lanka

‘The Arab World in Turmoil’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

We have no problem with Iran. Besides, we share a long border and are culturally more akin to Iran than to Saudi Arabia.

The standoff in Yemen between the Saudis and Iranians shows that a high death toll and human suffering alone will stop neither side from trying to build up its influence in the region. In Syria, after a relentless war which has left countless innocent people dead, Iran’s influence is in the ascendency along with its old ally Russia. The fall of Ghouta confirms this point. It demonstrates the impotence of the West as a player in the Middle East. After Saddam’s fall in 2003, Iran quickly developed its importance in Iraq. Iran was also quick to protect its neighbour when ISIS took over large parts of Iraq in 2014. Interestingly, John Bolton, who has been made Trump’s national security advisor after general McMaster was cashiered, wants to destroy the Iranian regime and advocates its replacement by Maryam Rajavi’s Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation, whose members had been proscribed as terrorists in many western countries. Mohammed bin Salman, who has recently been on a charm offensive and has been rubbing shoulders with Theresa May and schmoozing with president Trump making billion dollar deals, is now on a mission to win over support in Iraq.

The Saudi crown prince, who is on a quest to remake the Middle East, also says that Riyadh also has strategic interests with Tel Aviv despite the ongoing slaughter of the Palestinians by the Israeli military machine. Anyhow, the Wahabi Saudi regime is extending a hand of friendship to disillusioned Shias in Iraq who do not wish to align their interests with Tehran. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr, the stern leader of the Saraya al-Salam met Mohammed bin Salman in Najaf last year. Najaf is a natural place for the Saudi-Iranian rivalry to pan out further, of course Tehran has much more experience than Riyadh on the ground in Najaf and Southern Iraq. In these interesting times Pakistan’s former ambassador Karamatullah Ghori delivered lecture on The Arab World on Turmoil on 31 March, 2018 at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, Trump, United States