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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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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops

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Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Concerns over the human rights record in Sri Lanka has led to the halt of the police training contract between the Sri Lanka and Scottish Police, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the Scotland Police confirmed.

He said they have written to the British High Commission in Colombo to inform the Sri Lanka government that they are no longer planning to renew the training contract with Sri Lanka’s police force due to end in March next year.

The British Foreign Office reported last week that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated during the first half of 2021.

The report said: “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

News of Scotland’s Police not renewing the contract was welcomed by critics of Sri Lanka including Mercedes Villalba who is a Scottish Labour politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland since May 2021.

British MPs and MSPs jointly sent a letter to the Scotland Police and the British High Commission in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago requesting them to stop the training programme.

Villalba was one of the signatories and after this announcement, she said “I have been pleased to support the campaigners and thank them for their tireless efforts in securing the commitment from the chief constable. I also want to thank Police Scotland for being responsive to the real concerns which were expressed about Sri Lanka’s record of human rights violations.”

Talking about the decision to stop training, Chief Constable Livingstone said that a review must be done to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since the initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

“We remain of course committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world so that we can enhance and enable human rights and we can underline the values that we hold dear in Police Scotland of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”, he added.

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Interfaith Week celebrated in London

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Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

A Pooja to celebrate Interfaith Week was organized here last week with the advice and guidance of Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thera, head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain.

This annual event begins on Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of the World War I to remember armed forces personnel who died in the line of duty. This tradition was inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

Adhering to the country’s Covid guidelines, this year’s celebration was held using Zoom technology on the theme “Altruism in each religion”.

Ven. Seelawimala welcomed everyone who joined the session. Notable participants of the event were Ven. Thawalama Bandula Thera, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thera from London Buddhist Vihara, Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of Interfaith Network, UK, Ranjish Kashyap, General Secretary/Director Hindu Council,UK, Dr. Pujya Samaniji Pratibha Pragya, who is a Jain nun from Harrow, Rev Gyoro Nagase, Japanese monk, London Peace Pagoda, Battersea, Dr Desmond Bidulph – Chairman of Buddhist Society and Charanjith and Ajith Singh MBE, Hounslow Friends of Faith, who represented the Sikhs.

All present chanted prayers according to their own faiths to eradicate human suffering, to have peace and especially to see an end to the pandemic situation in the world.

A pre-recorded video of Devotional Songs by London Buddhist Vihara Dhamma School Children was played at the event.

Interfaith Network – UK was founded in 1987 with representatives from the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Islam, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities,

National and local interfaith bodies, academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter-religious issues are affiliated to the organization. Then head of the London Buddhist Vihara late, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was actively involved in forming the Network and was a founding member.

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Frankfurt Consulate massive white elephant, alleges Lankan living there

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Foreign office looking at closing some overseas mission due to financial constraints

by Harischandra Gunaratna

Sri Lanka’s Consulate in Frankfurt has turned out to be a white elephant although the Sri Lankan government spends a whopping Rs. 200 million per year for its operations, Azad Shaukatally, a businessman and a Sri Lankan expatriate in Frankfurt told the Sunday Island.

“Over the years, this consulate has not contributed anything tangible to the country. All that has happened is successive governments appointing political loyalists to head the Mission. None of them have done anything concrete to promote business between the two countries,” he said.

According to him, the Mission could have contributed a great deal by promoting Sri Lankan exports and tourism as Frankfurt is the business hub of Germany.

“What actually happens is, the Consulate in Frankfurt simply replicates several tasks performed by the Embassy in Berlin and that’s it. But it cost the country exorbitantly without the knowledge of the authorities. This is sheer waste of national resources and it needs to be brought to an end,” Shaukatally said.

When the Sunday Island contacted the Foreign Ministry on the matter, its Acting Director General Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said: “The Foreign Ministry regularly evaluates individual performance of each Sri Lankan mission abroad, and constructively engages with them from time to time on specific issues or matters which are mutually beneficial in promotion of Sri Lanka’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the host country and various international organizations while ensuring best interests of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan citizens living abroad.”

He said that any decisions related to opening of new missions or closure of particular Missions/Posts abroad including the Consulate General in Frankfurt would be taken after wider consultation with relevant stakeholders based on the relevance of each Mission/Post in promotion of Sri Lanka’s relations abroad.

“Under the current financial constraints, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of closing down some of the Sri Lankan Missions/Posts abroad after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, no final decision, has so far, been taken with regard to the Missions/Posts which would be closed down in the near future,” Gunaratna said.

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