Top UN official in Sudan welcomes endorsement of referendum commission

The head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today welcomed the appointment of an independent body that will oversee preparations for a referendum on whether southern Sudan should secede from the rest of the country.Haile Menkerios, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, congratulated the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission members who were endorsed earlier today by the country’s National Assembly.The referendum, which is scheduled for next January, will be the final phase in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended a two-decade north-south civil war in Sudan. In April, the country held nationwide parliamentary and presidential elections – the first of their kind in 24 years.In today’s statement, Mr. Menkerios urged “the two partners to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] to accelerate the formation of the long overdue Abyei referendum commission.”The Abyei commission will be responsible for organising and running a separate referendum in the Abyei area in central Sudan, home to a large percentage of the country’s oil reserves. At issue is whether the area should retain its special administrative status in the north or be part of Bahr El Ghazal state in the south.The role of UNMIS is to provide the logistical and technical support for the two referenda, if requested.“UNMIS reiterates its commitment to fully support the implementation of the CPA,” Mr. Menkerios said, to ensure that the referenda “are carried out in a credible way and reflect the will of the people.” 29 June 2010The head of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today welcomed the appointment of an independent body that will oversee preparations for a referendum on whether southern Sudan should secede from the rest of the country. read more

Regulations on SMS alerts on military police

“I have been instructed to inform you that any news related to national security, security forces, and the police should get prior approval from the MCNS before dissemination,” Reuters quoted Hulugalle as saying in a letter, dated last Friday. “But we want to know what’s going to be disseminated before it is being disseminated,” he said.The new directive is the latest control imposed on news and information websites. The government is increasingly intolerant of criticism, and Sri Lanka has in recent years headed further down lists measuring international press freedom rankings.“This is the first step in going for wider censorship,” Reuters quoted Sunil Jayasekara, the head of Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement as saying. The MCNS comes under the defense ministry, and handles the public affairs function for the military and police.Contacted by Reuters, Hulugalle denied there were any restrictions on what could be reported. That was the same day local news outlets reported a murder-suicide that left three soldiers dead of gunshot wounds. It also came after reports of a police officer’s arrest for soliciting a large bribe, and a botched abduction attempt blamed on soldiers. The Defense Ministry on Monday ordered news outlets to get prior approval before sending mobile phone alerts about the military or police, a move press freedom groups decried as another step towards greater censorship, the Reuters news agency reported.In a letter hand-delivered to news outlets including Reuters, Media Center for National Security (MCNS) Director-General Lakshman Hulugalle said the new order was effective immediately. read more