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Chagie picks holes in controversial US resolution

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Flabbergasted by LTTE being rechristened as ‘independence group’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired infantry Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says the recent US declaration that some sections of traditional Tamil homeland remains so militarized 12 years after the war with ‘up to one soldier for every two civilians in the most war affected regions,’ underscored Sri Lanka’s daunting challenge in countering the high profile propaganda.

The Gajaba veteran insists even during the height of the war there had never been such intense deployment. Over the years, the scale of deployment has been reduced and forces deployed only to meet present-day requirements, he said.

 Having served the Army for over three decades in frontline combat roles, military strategist Gallage retired in late August 2018-two years after Australia declined to issue him a visa over unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

 Referring to a resolution dated May 18, 2021 (H.Res.413) moved in the US House of Representatives, Gen. Gallage said that the LTTE had been recognized as a Tamil independence organization in spite of it still being on a list of organizations proscribed by the US, accepted traditional Tamil homeland claim and also acknowledged a merged northeastern region. Gen. Gallage pointed out that the US showed its bias against Sri Lanka by calling predominantly Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces as ‘historically oppressed northeastern region.’

Obviously, the submission of the House of Representatives resolution that has been subsequently referred to the House Foreign Relations Committee coincided with the 12th anniversary of the end of war was meant to cause further rifts, Gen. Gallage said.

 Asked whether the government was taking steps to set the record straight, Foreign Secretary Admiral (retd) Jayanath Colombage said that the Foreign Ministry was in the process of addressing the issue at hand.

 Gen. Gallage dismissed much repeated public assertion the US policy had been influenced by the Tamil Diaspora. The outspoken retired officer said that the latest US resolution should be carefully examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka-China partnership culminating with the Colombo Port City Economic Commission as well as collapsing of talks on MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) Compact and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) though ACSA (Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement) finalized in Aug 2017 remains intact.

 The combat veteran questioned the rationale in the US grouping the LTTE among what the House of Representatives called ‘various armed Tamil independence organizations.’ An irate much decorated infantry officer emphasized that those terrorist groups formed by India in the 80s had been devilishly called independence groups. The US obviously disregarded the well-known fact that except the LTTE, all other groups gave up arms in terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987 and entered parliament in 1989 during the tenure of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Gen. Gallage said that the LTTE couldn’t be under any circumstances promoted as an organization that fought for Tamil independence.

 When The Island pointed out that the US resolution strongly criticized Sri Lanka for not repealing the longstanding Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) having recently adopted a bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) of 2021 to investigate acts of domestic terrorism, Gen. Gallage said the US acted swiftly after the US Department of Justice underscored the need for domestic anti-terrorism law in the wake of the January 6 Capitol attack. There couldn’t be a better example than that to highlight the absurdity of the US stand on the PTA introduced by President JRJ to fight those who have now been rechristened by the US as Tamil independence groups.

 Gen. Gallage found fault with the US resolution for not making reference to the origins of terrorism in Sri Lanka. He said that the US needlessly faults Sri Lanka for the deployment of the armed forces to control rampaging Covid-19 epidemic. Did they at least bother to check the actual ground situation here? General asked, pointing out that the armed forces rendered a yeoman service in support of the health sector.

 The bottom line is that the civilian establishment and the police couldn’t have coped up with Covid-19 challenge without the combined security forces backing, Gen. Gallage said.

 Responding to another query, Gen. Gallage alleged that the US seemed to have quite conveniently forgotten how its wartime Defence Attache Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith cleared Sri Lanka of bogus war crimes accusations at the first Colombo Defence Seminar held in May-June 2011, two years after the successful conclusion of the war. Gen. Gallage, who had been present on that occasion recalled how an embarrassed US State Department claimed that their man hadn’t been there in an official capacity. Thanks to Lord Naseby’s disclosure in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, now the entire world knows Lt. Col. Smith’s British counterpart, Lt. Col. Anthony Gash, who had been in Colombo during the war, too, denied unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

 Gen. Gallage said that having backed war winning Army Chief the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election, the US now expressed concern over elevation of persons alleged to have implicated in war crimes to senior government positions.

 Appreciating the US backing for eradication of the LTTE, Gen. Gallage said that the Super Power accelerated the demise of their conventional military capacity by providing specific intelligence that led to the sinking of four ships carrying millions of dollars’ worth of armaments in the high seas.

 Gen. Gallage said that the US should take note of the 2011 UN recommendation (Panel of Experts report) that prevented proper investigation for a 20-year period. The undeniable truth was the accusation of 40,000 civilian deaths (Panel of Experts report/paragraph 137) hadn’t been investigated yet, Gen. Gallage said. But that didn’t prevent UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issuing a report in 2015 (the

OISL Report) that outlined the occurrence of war crimes and crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law during the war in Sri Lanka.

Gen. Gallage urged the political leadership to take tangible measures to counter the continuing politically motivated anti-Sri Lanka campaign. The Gen. said that it was the responsibility of the parties represented in parliament to address the latest attack also taking into consideration Canada recognizing the genocide of Tamils and the display of LTTE flag in the UK Parliament Square. The retired soldier pointed out that in spite of the eradication of the LTTE’s conventional military power, the separatist agenda was alive in foreign parliaments as well as our own. Gallage said so referring to a group of lawmakers in current parliament seeking UN intervention to set up an international war crime probe. Those who wrote that letter had ignored the fact that the TNA recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people in 2001. That status remained until the Army shot and killed Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Gen. Gallage said.



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Supreme Court Judge, President of the Appeal Court, Appeal Court Justice took oath before President

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(pic PMD)

Justice K. P. Fernando, President of the Court of Appeal took oath as a Supreme Court Judge before President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (06) at the President’s House in Fort.

Court of Appeal Justice Mr. Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne took oath as the President of the Court of Appeal while High Court Judge M.A.R. Marikkar was also sworn in as a Judge of the Court of Appeal before President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Commanders of the Tri Forces and other officials attended this event.

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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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