BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, October 23:
China will figure prominently in the confabulations United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will have with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during his brief visit to Colombo next week.
This was indicated by senior US Administration officials during a teleconference on Friday.
Pompeo arrives in Colombo from New Delhi on Wednesday. He will meet with President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. He will “emphasize the US commitment to a strong, independent, and democratic Sri Lanka. We want to partner with Sri Lanka on our shared goals of sustainable economic development and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the officials said.
“In the interest of strengthening our longstanding partnership with Sri Lanka and reinforcing our long-term commitment to the region, we encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices,” they added.
The officials further said: “We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity, and we stand ready to partner with Sri Lanka for its economic development and growth.
“The Secretary will also emphasize the ties between our people, our shared commitment to democracy, and the importance of our ongoing regional maritime security cooperation. We’ll continue to urge Sri Lanka to advance democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, religious freedom, and justice, which promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity and ensure the dignity and equality of all Sri Lanka’s diverse communities.”
Question: The Sri Lankan Parliament gave new powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There’s been some criticism in Parliament that this marks an authoritarian turn. To what extent are you concerned about the trajectory of human rights and democracy in Sri Lanka?
Answer: Obviously, we watch closely developments in Sri Lanka on these fronts, and the Secretary will, of course, be raising issues related to human rights, reconciliation, and our common commitment to democracy. Our partnership with Sri Lanka goes back a long way, through a lot of different eras, and right now, we think they’re at a point to make some choices about where they head.
Question: To what extent do you think the Rajapaksas’ relationship with China might abet this trajectory? To what extent do you think the warm relationship that the Rajapaksas have with China might allow them to take less democratic moves?
Answer: I think we’re looking to frame a discussion with them about a more positive trajectory. So, definitely we’ll be discussing where they’re headed and looking for ways to strengthen their commitment to human rights, rule of law, and democracy.
Pompeo will arrive in Colombo on Wednesday from New Delhi after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He and US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper arrive here on Monday for the third round of 2+2 talks with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
From Colombo, Pompeo and his team will travel to Male in Maldives. The officials said the US has enjoyed an increasingly close relationship with Maldives since establishing diplomatic ties over 50 years ago. Pompeo will meet with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, “who’ve been instrumental to Maldives’ strengthened democratic institutions and civil society.”
The officials said: “We’re proud to have supported these efforts over many years. We’re also proud of our partnership with Maldives on regional security issues and to combat terrorism. We look forward to additional opportunities to advance our relationship, including a significant milestone in the US-Maldives relationship that Secretary Pompeo will announce during his trip.”
Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Minister of Investment Promotion, Dhammika Perera, yesterday told the media, in Colombo, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to resign from his post as Finance Minister.
Minister Perera said that the Prime Minister was blocking all dollar earnings, borrowings, bridging finance, available essential food credit lines and other credit lines.
“I am joining the Aragalaya from today. I have been in the government for seven days. I have seen what happens. The Prime Minister must stop his political game as the Minister of Finance,” he said.
Perera added that Wickremesinghe had no plan to boost the cash flow, about feeding people, or bringing in dollars.
The Minister of Investment Promotion said that instead of describing the people’s economic woes, the Finance Ministry had to find solutions.
“For example, the proposal to give investors 10-year multiple visas was finalised some time ago. One month has since elapsed, but the Treasury is sitting on it. This is because Ranil is in the habit of stopping projects if they bring in dollars. More than 50 people have come to get the visa by paying 100,000 USD.
About 300 more are on the list. We can bring in 30 million dollars to Sri Lanka, this month, with the help of this visa scheme. Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister is inviting disaster,” Minister Perera said.
Perera added that while Wickremesinghe could continue as the Prime Minister, but as the Finance Minister, the latter had no desire to resolve the foreign currency crisis. All of Sri Lanka’s economic woes are linked to the dollar shortage, he said.
“I challenge Ranil and his economic experts to an open media debate. Maybe he can answer my questions. I challenged him to a debate in 2019, and he ran away. I am challenging him again,” Minister Perera said.
JVP Leader accuses govt. of hatching plot against his party
By Saman Indrajith
JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said that the government was planning to suppress his party by levelling false allegations against the latter.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the plot hatched by the government could lead to bloodshed.
“A video has been released, on social media, instructing how to make Molotov Cocktails. The voice, in the footage, instructs the viewer to make bombs in a similar manner, and tie them to their bodies and explode themselves at the President’s House. The video says that after the explosion I would be appointed the President. Anyone would know that the JVP would not do anything stupid like that. This video is another attempt by the government to justify the use of violence against its critics. There have been similar instances in the past and this country has suffered heavily as a result,” Dissanayake said.
He said that his party lawyers would submit the video to the CID and demand an investigation from the police on who had created and uploaded it to social media. “There is a massive protest to be held in Colombo centering the Galle Face Aragalaya.
“We, too, will participate in it. The government’s response to the protests is to use the police and the army. In addition there are several other developments, including the creation of a para-military force against us. Each SLPP MP is given a chance to recruit five persons, loyal to him or her, as home guards to provide security to the MP. There was a letter from the IGP to Defence Secretary warning of possible bomb attacks. Our party’s name is there in that warning. I have queried this letter in Parliament, too, yet there is no explanation yet. It is in the same context some MPs have requested for personal firearms from the Defence Ministry. Taken together, these developments could indicate the plans of government suppression and what is there in store for us. We do not think that they could fool the people with these tricks. The CID is capable of investigating and finding the sources of any video against the President, in social media, within 24 hours. So we expect the same expedient action would be taken with regard to our complaint, too,” Dissanayake said.
He said that the JVP was prepared to stabilize the country and help bring it out of the current crisis in a short period of time.
Dissanayake said the JVP does not intend to do it alone and was confident that the citizens of the country, and Lankans overseas, would extend their support to the party for this purpose.
“This crisis cannot be resolved by changing posts or individuals, and especially not through a government that has lost the trust of the people,” he added.
When inquired about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on his willingness to step down to allow Dissanayake to implement his economic plans, the MP said he was prepared to take up the task.
He said, however, that the President and Prime Minister must resign if he were to take up the challenge and implement JVP’s programme to save the country from the crisis.
Move to set-up smoke-free zones: PHI union says member engaged in project harassed; Ministry says action in line with establishment code
by Ifham Nizam
Public Health Inspectors’ Union has accused a section of the Health Ministry officials of working against a project to establish smoke-free zones in Sri Lanka.
The union alleged that a PHI who served the anti-tobacco campaign and went to the extent of sacrificing his personal leave for the same had been denied annual increments.
It said that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) organised a project, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to set up at least one smoke-free zone in each Medical Officer of Health Division countrywide. The union said that it played a significant role in the project.
The union alleged that PHI T. G. S. L. Prakash, of the Principal Public Health Inspectors’ Unit of the Ministry of Health, had been invited as a resource person as he innovated a 10-step process for establishing smoke-free zones for combatting second hand smoke.
However, the Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) of the Ministry of Health Dr. S. M. Arnold had obstructed the project by blocking Prakash’s participation, the union alleged.
Responding to The Island queries, Dr. S. M. Arnold said that he acted in terms of the Establishment Code and recommendations made by the relevant committee. Dr. Arnold said that the PHI concerned applied for leave for his PhD on Elephant Ecology study overseas, and work-related to NATA did not come under their purview. Dr. Arnold pointed out that the PHI Union President was also working for NATA.
Public Health Inspectors’ Union, President. Upul Rohana has previously asked the Health Secretary to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Dr. S. M. Arnold. According to the union for more than five years, PHI Prakash has conducted various research on the establishment of smoke-free zones in collaboration with NATA and the WHO and published and presented the research results at local and international fora.
The union said that the Chairman of NATA had requested that PHI Prakash to participate in the project as the outfit could benefit from his experience and expertise he had gained overseas in tobacco prevention.
The union claimed that the PHI concerned had participated in the project utilising his personal leave. The union alleged that Dr. Arnold had said that he wouldn’t recommend the annual salary increment for the particular PHI Prakash as his attendance was unsatisfactory.
PHI Chief Rohana emphasised that the concerned Deputy Director General continued to harass the officers who volunteered for their duties, abusing the power of his positio. He said although the union had complained to the health authorities, no action has been taken in that regard so far and their union would not hesitate to resort to trade union action seeking justice.
Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM
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