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‘Are we being compelled to fully implement 13A, in return for Covid-19 vaccine?’

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Sri Lankan envoy in Myanmar questions Indian strategy:

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar Prof. Nalin de Silva has flayed India for its interference in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs.

In an open letter in Sinhala, also sent to The Island, Prof. de Silva questioned what he called Indian interference with post-war Sri Lanka and a bid to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ambassador de Silva asked whether India offered Sri Lanka Covid-19 vaccine in return for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in the late 80s at the behest of India though that piece of legislation was irrelevant today.

Referring to Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar’s recent visit to Colombo where he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, TNA delegation and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ambassador de Silva questioned the Indian strategy.  At the conclusion of meetings, Dr. Jaishankar declared: “It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.”

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s efforts to procure Covid-19 vaccine, Jaishankar said, “We are now looking at post-Covid cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India and I shared with the Foreign Minister, as Prime Minister Modi has said, India sees international cooperation in this area as its duty.”

Expressing serious concern over strong Indian presence in Colombo, Ambassador de Silva queried whether the Indian External Affairs Ministry is situated in Colombo.

The non-career diplomat also compared the effectiveness of the vaccine that could be obtained from India and serum available for those countries having the wherewithal to secure, store and implement large scale vaccination campaign.

India recently approved two coronavirus vaccines, one made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and the other developed in India, for emergency use.

Ambassador de Silva, a vociferous supporter of ongoing local efforts to develop Sri Lankan remedy for Covid-19 epidemic, pointed out the failure on the part of the country as a whole to support domestic bids. Prominent civil society activist pointed out how those opposed and ridiculed local remedies challenged recipients of local syrup to live among Covod-19 affected for two weeks.

Ambassador de Silva asked whether Dr. Jaishankar visited Colombo to inform the government of its readiness to provide vaccines and give priority to Sri Lanka. Pointing out that Sri Lanka would get some vaccines, though it lacked understanding of India’s requirement as it struggled to overcome Covid-19, Ambassador de Silva said that Sri Lanka should have sought an explanation from Dr. Jaishankar whether India didn’t have a local remedy.

Sri Lanka’s envoy in Myanmar asked whether India would send Sri Lanka some of its local remedies.

Ambassador de Silva launched a scathing attack over India’s call to further strengthen the Provincial Council system. The senior academic said: “Indian External Affairs Minister wants Sri Lanka to strengthen the Provincial Council system further. Why should we do that? The so-called Tamil problem had been solved. Even if the issue hadn’t been resolved, what right India had to intervene in domestic issues? We have no issue in TNA leader R. Sambanthan, MP, and lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran taking up residence at India House, situated opposite the University of Colombo. India cannot be allowed to meddle here to appease the likes of Sampanthan and Sumanthiran.”

Reiterating the irrelevance of the so-called Tamil problem in the wake of the eradication of the LTTE military capability in May 2009 on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Ambassador de Silva said that the terrorist challenge could have been neutralized through only military means. In spite of those who had spearheaded the Jathika Hela Urumnaya at its inception campaigning against the war effort, the military succeeded in eradicating the enemy’s conventional military capability for once and for all, the nationalist said.

Pointing out how Canada and the UK still facilitated those bent on dividing the country on ethnic lines by propagating a fictitious genocide that never happened; Ambassador de Silva alleged that the government hadn’t taken tangible measures to counter the enemy strategy.

Dr de Silva questioned how India expected Sri Lanka to fulfill what the then President JR Jayewardene promised against the backdrop of New Delhi’s failure to disarm the LTTE in terms of the Indo-Lanka accord. Sri Lanka shouldn’t under any circumstances give into Indian demands as regards the 13th Amendment in return for stock of Covid-19 vaccines, Ambassador de Silva said.

The former Mathematics Don also discussed the continuing controversy over the alleged Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) among Sri Lanka, India and Japan in respect of the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour entered into by the yahapalana regime . The Sri Lanka envoy in Myanmar urged the government to take the parliament and the public into confidence if it intended to finalize agreement on ECT.

Several weeks ago, Ambassador de Silva called for the abolition of the Provincial Councils. The declaration was made in the wake of some interested parties, including a section of the government pushing for PC polls.

 

 

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Foreign Secretary sounds ‘consensual resolution’ as pressure mounts in Geneva

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Monday (25) night revealed that the government was having discussions with the UK-led Sri Lanka Core Group in a bid to explore the possibility of reaching a consensus on what he described as a ‘consensual resolution’ ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled for Feb-March this year.

Admiral Colombage acknowledged that an agreement on a consensual resolution was a politically challenging task. FS Colombage said so in conversation with Faraz Shauketaly on ‘News Line’ on TV 1.

Asked whether the government was under pressure to co-sponsor the new resolution or face a vote in case Sri Lanka rejected the UK-led move, the naval veteran said there was dialogue between the two parties in this regard. Talks have to be concluded today (27)

Prof. Colombage ruled out the possibility of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the new resolution. The top Foreign Ministry official also dismissed the interviewer’s assertion the government was under pressure to accept the new resolution.

Admiral Colombage said they were also studying some suggestions made by the Core Group.

Asked whether the government would try to convince the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led political grouping that had demanded an international war crimes investigation in addition to a range of punitive measures to reverse its decision, FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka waged war against an internationally proscribed terrorist group.

The interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s assertion of retired justice C.V. Wigneswaran, MP, who signed Jan. 15 dated petition, in his capacity as the leader of Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kutani (TMTK). Altogether, 13 lawmakers represented the three political parties that called for external intervention.

Declaring that serious war crimes hadn’t been committed during the war, FS Colombage questioned the motives of those continuing to harp on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Referring to the failure on the part of the Northern Provincial Council to spend the funds allocated for the benefit of the public, FS Colombage asked whether an agenda detrimental to post-war national reconciliation was being pursued.

In the wake of Sri Lanka quitting in Feb 2020 Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the previous government against one’s own country in Oct 2015, Geneva has warned Sri Lanka of serious consequences. In addition to freezing assets and travel bans slapped on those who had been ‘credibly accused of human rights violations,’ Geneva recommended the launch of criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court and an international mechanism to gather evidence.

Referring to the US travel ban imposed on Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020, the interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s opinion on the Geneva report. Refuting allegations, Admiral Colombage alleged serious shortcomings, including factual errors.

Asked whether the recent appointment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) chaired by Supreme Court Judge Nawaz to examine previous CoI reports et al wasn’t too late as well as insufficient just ahead of the 46th sessions, Admiral Colombage explained how eruption of first Covid-19 wave that resulted in the postponement of general elections scheduled for April 2020 caused serious setback to government efforts.

Commenting on simmering controversy over the Sri Lanka-India agreement on the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour, Admiral Colombage expressed confidence the issue could be resolved soon. The former Navy Chief categorically denied India’s valuable support to Sri Lanka at Geneva et al would be linked with agreement on ECT.

Responding to criticism directed at India over a spate of issues, including the forced imposition of the 13th Amendment thereby creating the Provincial Council system, Admiral Colombage pointed out the Tamil Nadu factor. Admiral Colombage, having reiterated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s foreign policy statement, assured Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with major powers.

FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations wouldn’t be at the expense of another country.

Admiral Colombage regretted the recent mid-sea collision involving an SLN Fast Attack Craft and an Indian fishing trawler that resulted in the deaths of four fishermen. The FS emphasized that the incident happened well within Sri Lankan waters near Delft Island.

Navy headquarters last week alleged that the Indian vessel collided with FAC while trying to flee a naval cordon.

Admiral Colombage said that the SLN vessel would have suffered serious damage if the Indian trawler happened to be one with a steel hull.

Asked whether US, India, Japan and Australia would take a common stand vis a vis Sri Lanka in respect of accountability issues, Admiral Colombage asserted that wouldn’t be the case. “Sri Lanka is important to them” Admiral Colombage said, while describing them as the four pillars of the Quad-a security alliance.

Commenting on the disclosures made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, Admiral Colombage appreciated the British politician’s efforts to set the record straight as regards war crimes accusations. The Foreign Secretary said that the revelations were made on the basis of genuine and accurate sources.

The British Lord used classified wartime British HC cables (Jan – May 2009) obtained following a legal battle to counter Geneva accusations. Sri Lanka is yet to officially request Geneva to revisit the 2015 resolution on the basis of Lord Naseby’s revelations.

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UK takes up forced cremation of Covid-19 victims

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The UK has raised human rights concerns with Sri Lanka including forced cremation of COVID-19 victims.

High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton OBE said in Tweeter message that the UN report in this regard is to be published next week and she would inform the approach to UN Human Rights Council.

“UK raising human rights concerns with Sri Lanka, including forced cremation of COVID19 victims. UN report to be published next week, will inform the approach to @UN_HRC,” she tweeted.

 

 

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Electors unaware of electoral register revision process – CMEV

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Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA 

National Coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Manjula Gajanayaka, who visited the polling districts of Puttlam and Vanni, last week, to look into allegation that more than 7,000 voters in the  polling division of Mannar were to be struck off the electoral register, said that electors were unaware of the electoral register revision process. He called upon the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to educate the public on what actually is taking place; he urged the political parties not to capitalise on the situation. 

 Additional Commissioner of Elections Rasika Pieris said that electoral registers had been revised annually in accordance with the Registration of Electors Act 44 of 1980 to make voting more convenient to the electors by assigning them to the polling stations closest to residences.

 Pieris added that in addition to convenience there were many more advantages to be registered as an elector in the district one resides in.

 Retired Irrigation Engineer A. L. Burhanudhdheen is a chief occupant that has received the Revision of Electoral Register Notice sent by the Assistant Election Commissioner, Mannar. 

Burhanudhdeen had been a resident of Akaththimurippu, Mannar until being driven out by the LTTE in 1990. After being displaced he took refuge in Puttalam and at present lives in a modest house at Nagavillu, Puttlam.

 Burhanudhdeen said that he visited his property in Mannar whenever it was possible, but was unable to construct a new house there due to financial constraints. He also said that whenever possible he and his family had exercised their right to vote in the polling district of Mannar up to the 2020 Parliamentary election. At the last presidential election they had been provided with transport while the Election Commission arranged for a cluster voting facility in Puttlam for the last Parliamentary election, he said.

 Voicing his fears Burhanudhdeen said that he and his family might be struck off the electoral register in Mannar if their appeal was not accepted and added that they had not registered as voters of the Electoral District of Puttalam even though they were resident there.

Assistant Commissioner of Elections Mannar J. Jeniton said that taking action based on reports submitted by Grama Seva Niladharis nearly 10,000 revisions of election register notices had been sent by registered post to electors in the Mannar polling division. 

Jeniton said that the majority of them were known to be persons who were forced to flee from their homes in 1990 due to the conflict. It had been found that they were not resident in that area, he added.

 Jeniton said that about 700 persons had been requested to attend the inquiries and bring with them documents to prove their residence, but only 15 persons had been present.

 Chairman of the Musalee Pradeshiya Sabha A.G.H. Subeeham said that 3,542 constituents in Musalee had been served with Revision of Electoral Register notices requesting them to explain why their names should not be struck off the electoral register. Subeeham said that he did not understand the basis on which the list had been compiled as even persons who had been resident in Musalee for the past 10 years had received such notices. He appealed to the authorities to give the IDPs a grace period of two years to resettle.

The polling districts of Mannar, Mulaitivu and Vavuniya make up the Vanni Electoral District and six Members of Parliament represent the District.

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