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Catholic Church reiterates call for PCoI report

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‘There cannot be any justification whatsoever of denying us a copy’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Lord Bishop Winston Fernando, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka yesterday (23) told The Island that the government’s handling of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks was not acceptable to the Catholic Church, under any circumstances.

“We are quite worried and suspicious over the inordinate delay in the government sharing the PCoI report with the Church,” Rev. Fernando said, pointing out that almost a month had lapsed since the government received it.

Responding to another query, the Church leader emphasized the responsibility on the part of the incumbent government to successfully move court against those responsible for the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.

Rev. Fernando roundly dismissed government efforts to justify the appointment of a six-member ministerial committee to examine the PCoI. Challenging the very basis of the formation of the Committee, headed by Chamal Rajapaksa, Rev. Fernando said that the Church fully participated in the P CoI process as the incumbent administration repeatedly assured justice.

Unfortunately, the affected community had been now forced to fight for a copy of the P CoI report that dealt with the country’s worst single intelligence/security failure, Rev. Fernando said. If the government really felt the need for the parliament to examine the P CoI report perhaps all-party group could have been appointed, Rev Fernando said. However, even that could have happened while the Church received an opportunity to examine the report, Rev Fernando said.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the P CoI in the run-up to last presidential poll in Nov 2019. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa retained the same P CoI in consultations with the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka questioned the rationale in naming of a ministerial team to identify measures to be taken by various agencies including Parliament, the judiciary, the Attorney General’s Department, security forces and intelligence services in implementing the P CoI recommendations.

Rev. Fernando said that he was in touch with the Archbishop of Colombo. The Church leader said that they never expected the government to adopt delaying tactics having assured the people that all those responsible would be appropriately dealt with.

He emphasized that the Church wouldn’t give up its campaign to ensure justice. The community couldn’t be deprived of justice for political reasons therefore those in power shouldn’t expect the protests to cease.

Last week, the Catholic Church called for a protest at Katuwapitiya, the scene of the worst attack. Over 100 died therein.

Rev Fernando was of the opinion that powerful interests could be hell-bent on suppressing the truth. The priest noted the US had already moved court against three of those who had been arrested and in Sri Lankan custody in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks. However, Sri Lanka seemed to be reluctant to address what he called an accountability issue.

The government whoever in power couldn’t disown responsibility for such a huge security failure, the senior priest said. By delaying the releasing of the report the government caused itself immense harm, Lord Bishop Fernando pointed out.

The Island sought Rev Fernando’s views in the wake of the President’s Office handing over several copies of the P CoI report to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. The top Church spokesperson said that they had no issue in lawmakers receiving the report but the real issue was why the Church was deprived of one. “Our request is reasonable. There cannot be any justifiable reason to deny us an opportunity to know the truth,” Rev Fernando said.



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Geneva HR vote:

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UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative

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by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award

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Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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