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Acting Canadian HC summoned over sanctions on ex-Presidents, others

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Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, briefing the Colombo-based diplomatic community in the wake of Canadian sanctions against former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations (Pic courtesy Foreign Ministry)

Major move after acceptance of genocide charge

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, yesterday (11) summoned Acting Canadian High Commissioner Daniel Bood over the imposition of sanctions on two former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayaka, and Lt. Commander P. Hettiarachchi over what Ottawa called ‘gross and systematic violations of human rights’ during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009 during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s first term (2005-2010).

Canada announced sanctions on Tuesday (10), just weeks ahead of the next Geneva sessions.

Canadian High Commission spokesperson confirmed the development. The official said that Charge d’affaires Bood would continue as the Acting HC until the new HC presents his credentials. High Commissioner designate Eric Walsh is here. Walsh succeeds David McKinnon, who completed his term late last year.

Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador in Iran, M.M. Zuhair, PC, who had served one term as the People’s Alliance National List MP, told The Island that the latest Canadian declaration should be examined against the backdrop of recognition of May 18 as Tamil Genocide Day by the Canadian Parliament, in May last year. The one-time senior State Counsel asserted that for want of a cohesive strategy to address accountability issues the situation has deteriorated. Declaration of sanctions against two former Presidents reflected, what the President’s Counsel called, the overall mood of the Western powers.

“The Special Economic Measures (Sri Lanka) Regulations impose on listed persons a prohibition on any transaction (effectively, an asset freeze) by prohibiting persons in Canada and Canadians outside Canada from engaging in any activity related to any property of these listed persons or providing financial or related services to them,” the Canadian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The individuals listed in the Schedule to the Regulations are also rendered inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” the statement added.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Canada, Harsha Kumara Navaratne, on Tuesday, told The Island that his mission was in the process of addressing the issue at hand.

The Canadian action was the first since the US issued travel ban on General Shavendra Silva, the then Commander of the Army, and his immediate family, in February, 2020.

During a recent informal meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces, as well as the Defence Minister, The Island raised the possibility of seeking an end to the continuing measures against the war-winning military, in return for amnesty for ex-LTTE cadres and the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). President Wickremesinghe pointed out that such measures were meant to address concerns of the Tamil Diaspora. Therefore, the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) couldn’t be expected to respond to amnesty to ex-LTTE cadres or abolition of the PTA, the President said.

The Canadian declaration came ahead of FM Sabry’s first briefing of the Colomb-based diplomatic community, yesterday (11), for 2023. The Foreign Ministry statement, that dealt with the briefing, didn’t refer to the Canadian declaration.

Minister Sabry has provided an update regarding the key measures undertaken by the Government in the recent months, including the All-Party Conference (APC), convened by President Wickremesinghe, in December, 2022, with the participation of all political parties, setting up of Cabinet Sub-Committee on reconciliation and the establishment of a Special Unit on solving issues of people in the Northern Province, under the Presidential Secretariat. The statement also quoted Minister Sabry as having said that the Government has made serious efforts towards setting up a Truth and Reconciliation mechanism and the operationalization of the Office of Overseas Sri Lankan Affairs.

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, has explained the progress in drafting a comprehensive legislation on counter terrorism to replace the PTA, update on anti-corruption law, progress on matters related to reconciliation processes coming under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, including the progress made by the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), Office for Reparations (OR) and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR).



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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