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Amnesty International to cease work in India, citing government harassment

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NEW DELHI —

Amnesty International said Tuesday (29) that it would halt operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives interrogated by financial authorities, the latest steps in what the human rights group called a two-year campaign of harassment, the Washington Post report posted on Sept 29.

Washington Post report: The announcement reflects the diminishing space for dissent in the world’s largest democracy, where critics of government policies increasingly face probes by authorities or even arrest.

The government is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement. Its goal is to “stoke a climate of fear.”

Amnesty said it would lay off more than 100 staff members and cease its human rights campaigns in India.

 

Its recent work included reports alleging police complicity in deadly interreligious riots in Delhi earlier this year and an investigation into India’s crackdown in the restive Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Tuesday’s announcement puts India in the same category as authoritarian regimes such as Russia, the only other country where Amnesty International previously ceased operations when it shuttered its office in 2016. The director of its Turkey arm was arrested, but its office in the country remains functional. The group does not have a presence in China.

Amnesty said it was in compliance with all Indian laws and had received no formal communication from the authorities regarding the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month. No charges have been filed against the organization, it said. It plans to challenge the freezing of its accounts in court but said it did not expect a ruling soon.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs alleged in a statement that Amnesty India was receiving funds from abroad in contravention of the law, a practice that had invited action from the previous government, as well. “All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power” are a “ploy to divert attention,” it said.

A spokesman for the Enforcement Directorate — an investigative agency that enforces laws regarding money laundering and foreign exchange — did not respond to a request for comment.

Amnesty is not the only international watchdog under pressure from the government. Greenpeace India has been the subject of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate since 2018. The probe forced the group to reduce its staff by a third and scale back its work on climate change.

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COPE meets online for first time in its history

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by Saman Indrajith

The Parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) created a history by meeting online for the first time ever on Thursday.

The COPE had Secretaries of three Ministries joining in with its committee meeting through online (ZOOM) becoming the second parliamentary committee holding an online meeting in the country.

Thursday evening’s COPE meeting chaired by its chairman Prof. Charitha Herath connected online with Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Dr) H. S. Munasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Industries W. A. Chulananda Perera and, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government J. J. Ratnasiri via zoom technology.

The Environmental Audit Report on water pollution of the Kelani River was brought before the committee and the meeting held between the Chairman Prof. Herath, Ministers and Members of Parliament and secretaries and other officials continued without any technical hitches.

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake said that facilities have been provided to hold meetings and discussions using online technology in two committee rooms in Parliament.

He said that Parliamentary officials had been working relentlessly for months to install the requisite technological tools and that the efforts have borne fruit and future Parliamentary meetings could be held online as a result.

The Committee on High Posts under the chairmanship of Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena also held a discussion with the new Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Kenya, who was living in Kampala, using online technology recently.

 

 

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Legatum Prosperity Index highlights SL’s development of education and healthcare sectors

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During the past decade

One of the key highlights of this year’s Legatum Prosperity Index was the improvement in Sri Lanka’s education and healthcare sectors over the past decade. These improvements were key to increase in prosperity within Sri Lanka, it was noted.

The London-based think-tank Legatum Institute launched the 14th Legatum Prosperity Index on November 17 2020.

The event commenced with the welcome address by the Chair of the Legatum Institute, Alan McCormick. 

Addressing the audience, the Chief Executive Officer of the Legatum Institute, The Baroness Stroud said that according to the Legatum Index, the global prosperity was at its highest level ever with 147 countries seeing their prosperity rise over the last decade.

Speaking at the launch, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the UK, Saroja Sirisena said that the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009 and the ensuing peace dividend, led Sri Lanka to achieve steady progress within the last decade.

She highlighted that the universal free education and healthcare policies of the country over seven decades are the pillars on which prosperity is built.

Director of Policy of the Legatum Institute, Dr. Stephen Brien explained to the audience as to how the Legatum Index is used to measure prosperity across the world.

The event was also addressed by the Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in Africa, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Biologist and Writer, Matt Ridley and Ambassador of Georgia in the UK Sophie Katsarava.

Legatum Prosperity Index is a global index that analyses the performance of 167 nations across 65 policy-focused elements, measured by almost 300 country level indicators and it is the only global index that measures national prosperity based on institutional, economic and social wellbeing.

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Quick Snacks and Party Recipes from North India with Sapna Mehra

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The Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC), High Commission of India, Colombo, will be holding an online cookery demonstration on ‘Snack Time: Quick Snacks and Party Recipes from North India’ on December 5 at 11.00 am on its FACEBOOK page https://www.facebook.com/ICCRSriLanka.

This festival season, the Cultural Centre will present a virtual cookery demonstration by Sapna Mehra. Cooking has been a passionate hobby of Sapna since her childhood days. Growing up in a large family of 17 members, she was very keen on bringing variety to the dining table, and that’s when her cooking journey began, preparing simple wraps, and snacks.

She now specializes in cooking dishes from a variety of cuisines. Originally from Bangalore, she has lived in many cities across India and Sri Lanka, and at present resides in Delhi.

She has a Postgraduate degree in Marketing and has over 12 years work experience in the professional field.

All are cordially invited to attend. For more details, contact the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre on telephone No: 2684698 or Email: iccrcolombo2@gmail.com

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