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British High Commission hosts panel discussion on role of women in peace building



British High Commission in Colombo (BHC) hosted a panel discussion on the role of women in peace building and announced new global programme of support to women mediators on Oct 23, a press release said.

It said that the BHC had hosted a virtual panel discussion on ‘New Barriers to Women in Peace building: Cyber-Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Gendered Disinformation and Hate Speech’.  Featuring on the panel, hosted by the British High Commissioner Sarah Hulton was: Amibika Satkunanathan (Chairperson, Neelan Tiruchelvan Trust); Dharini Priscilla (Programme manager, The Grasrooted Trust); Sachini Perera (Queer Feminist Researcher), and Shreen Saroor (Women’s Rights Activist).

The panelists, who are leading women’s and human rights activists, have extensively contributed to peace building and social cohesion in Sri Lanka. They drew on their professional and personal experiences in tackling gendered hate speech and cyber-Sexual and Gender Based Violence.  The Panel shared calls to action to work together with civil society and technology companies to tackle abuse; to challenge unequal norms; and to support victims of abuse including building online and offline responses.

British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Sarah Hulton in her opening remarks said: “In Sri Lanka, the British High Commission works to ensure that it delivers for women, girls and sexual and gender minorities. The UK is proud to contribute to demining efforts, where up to 40% of employees are female, and many are female heads of households. We have also worked with the Sri Lanka Police Force to promote gender equality and to respond effectively to Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Wider UK programmes have supported gender-sensitive justice mechanisms and women’s empowerment. Future plans include support to tackle harms faced by women, and vulnerable groups online.”

In a virtual address to the United Nations on Oct 29, UK Middle East Minister James Cleverly announced a new £1m global programme of assistance to women mediators across Commonwealth countries.  The funding will provide women on the frontline of peace talks with training, mentoring and resources for their participation in peace building.  It will also encourage the inclusion of women at all levels of negotiations, including at the UN.  This programme was complemented by new international guidance to protect women peace builders, initiated by the UK.

The event was held in honour of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, the first UN resolution to define the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.  The agenda aims to reduce the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls, as well as to champion the crucial role women can play in humanitarian action, conflict prevention, and resolution. At its 20th anniversary, the WPS agenda remains a vital issue, compounded by new and evolving barriers to peacebuilding, including climate change, COVID-19, and as the panel highlighted cyber-violence.

According to research by UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations, when women meaningfully participate in peace talks, the resulting agreement is 64% less likely to fail and 35% more likely
to last at least 15 years. Yet between 1990 and 2017, women made up only 2% of mediators, 8% of negotiators, and 5% of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes.

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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary



There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran



But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President



The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.



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