South Asia

Published: Monday 31 October 2005

Averse to law: The Afghanistan government, along with the UN, has rejected a call of experts to legalise cultivation of opium crops in the country. Eighty seven per cent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan and illegal heroin trade is rampant.

Senlis Council, a France-based group of experts, had recently suggested urgent legalisation of the country's opium industry. The idea was to enable the poor countries to reap the benefits of supplying opium legally for use in manufacture of pain relief products. In a report, the Council cited examples of countries like Australia, which licence opium production for use in making drugs such as codeine and morphine, that are in short supply around the world. But Afghanistan government rejected the idea on the ground that even if opium cultivation is legalised, illegal trade for the heroin market would continue due to the country's poor security situation.

Tsunami misappropriation: Sri Lanka's Supreme Court ordered an ongoing inquiry by the Criminal Investigations Department (cid) -- into allegations lodged by opposition United National Party minister, Kabeer Hashim, against prime minister Mahinda Rajapakse's misuse of tsunami funds --- to be suspended. This interim relief was granted by the courts when they took up a Fundamental Rights petition filed by the prime minister, who is also the presidential candidate of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), saying that the PM's fundamental rights would be violated if the investigations were carried out, as the elections were pending. This suspension will be valid until the hearing of the Fundamental Rights petition on January 17, 2006. Main allegations being investigated include how money donated by organisations, companies and individuals to a fund known as Helping Hambantota, to build houses for tsunami victims, had been deposited in private accounts held by Rajapakse and his family members. Rajapakse in his petition said that the allegations of committing criminal breach of trust or misappropriation were totally false and malicious and based on a news paper report.

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