by PROF.TISSA VITARANA
I visited the Northern Province from Feb. 25-28 starting at Pudukudiruppu in Mullaitivu, where the final stages of the battle against the LTTE was fought. About 50 people, both men and women were present for nearly two hours and their representative in the Pradeshiya Sabha, Johnson, and I made the initial speeches, lasting over one hour, followed by an interesting discussion.
The poverty and hardship of the people was heartrending. I doubt whether they had a proper daily meal. But Covid-19 was not a problem. The main health problem was hunger and starvation. Comrade Johnson had used his small grant from the Pradeshiya Sabha to provide them with some basic needs, like food and medicines. The men and women were thin and underfed.
This contrasted sharply with Jaffna that I went to soon after the meeting. It was another world, like Colombo. The people were well nourished, well dressed and there were plenty of vehicles on the road. However like Johnson our party organizer for the Jaffna District, Comrade Morgan, who was well fed but simply dressed, had a common complaint.
This was the attitude of the majority of public servants. Rather than servicing the public their focus was personal advancement of themselves and their kith and kin. The people in Jaffna made up for the resultant poverty through the financial contribution sent to them by their relatives abroad, the diaspora.
Unfortunately the poor people of Pudukudirippu had no diaspora to support them. They were at the mercy of the bureaucrats, specially in Pudukudiruppu, who also seem to have no heart. The latter situation appears to be widespread in the Northern Province, from the information that I received.
Like in the South the high cost of living is affecting the whole North and the problem of poverty, hunger and malnutrition is widespread. Unfortunately the neoliberal mind set (each for himself even at the expense of all others) is also entrenched. The need for collective action and cooperation to help each other, as much as in the South, needs to be revived in the North as well.
The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) has to fight for this revival in the North as well as in the South. It is also unfortunate that there is a tendency among some sections in the North to blame the Government for their plight, and some politicians utilize this to their advantage, giving it a communal twist. I appeal to the Government to admit the extent of the economic crisis in the country and win the confidence of the people by having a clear cut plan of action to emerge from the crisis.
This is nothing to be ashamed of as it is a part of a global economic crisis that affects small economies like Sri Lanka, worse than better-off countries. This is what Dr.N.M. Perera did as Finance Minister during the more severe economic crisis that occurred in 1972. He won the confidence of the people by outlining a plan of action, including belt tightening, restriction of imports and dire punishment for corruption etc.
I am afraid this is lacking today. People are confused as they see that the Government is carrying on as if everything is normal and that there is no need for a period of austerity. If this continues without a clear plan for the revival of the economy and no action is taken to bring down the cost of living, an explosive situation might take place at any moment both in the South and the North and this may once again take on a racial character.
During my discussion with our party supporters and intellectuals including members of the other political parties that attended the successful final meeting at Veerasingham Hall in Jaffna, they expressed their biggest fear as being the removal of the 13th Amendment of the present Constitution, when forming the new Constitution promised by the President. In short the people in the North valued the devolution of power that resulted from the 13th Amendment and felt that both neglect of duty and the abuse of bureaucratic power could be ended only by the proper devolution of power.
The members of the head table at the final meeting at the Veerasingham Hall (eminent Prof. Balasundaram Pillai, a respected retired judge and an eminent lawyer) in their speeches emphasizing the importance of proper devolution of power. In fact they made reference to the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) Report, which I happened to chair, as a suitable solution to the ethnic problem that should be an integral part of the forthcoming Constitution.
The learned retired judge said that he himself preferred to go further and have a federal state for the North and East. But he was prepared to see how the APRC proposals would work out before taking such a decision. It was evident to me after all the discussions I had that any move to remove the 13th Amendment would be a trigger for the rebirth of the LTTE and even a resumption of war. India is totally committed to the implementation of proper devolution and they too are bound to intervene if there are any such moves.
The other major issue affecting the ordinary people is the problem of debt. It too is widespread and because of the problem of single parent families, where the father has been killed, the women have been forced to have an added source of income, even if they have a plot of land. They have obtained loans from private micro credit sources to buy sewing machine etc. But with their low income and the high interest rates they are caught in a debt trap and are at the mercy of the creditor. It was sad to hear how many women are being forced to submit to granting sexual favors when they failed to make the payment on time.
There are some others who have started to build their own houses with the initial Rs.250,000/- from the total loan of Rs.500,000/- promised to them. But the balance Rs.250,000/- has not been given since the present Government came into office. They contrive to live in the half constructed houses get in wet in the rain and scorched by the sun. I appeal to the Government on behalf of the LSSP to ensure that all of them get the balance Rs.250,000/-, putting an end to their suffering. I was told that over 65,000 families are placed in this unfortunate situation. It was welcome news to learn that the Government has developed several tanks to supply water for agriculture. I was also informed that among the settlers the Tamil people of the area are not being given a fair share of the land.
The other problem that has become a menace is that of the large number of unemployed youth. Many of them have even lost any prospect of getting a job. They have fallen into the clutches of members of the underworld and have become drug addicts, drug traffickers and even turned to organized crime. There are reports of ladies who have lost their gold chains when they go to the markets.
Among the other issues that were raised was the fact that there were many vacancies in the Public Service which could be filled by competent Tamil officers. But they were been overlooked and non-Tamil officers were being appointed, even when they had lesser qualifications. There was also allegations of sections of the police who were not maintaining law and order as they should, basically expecting bribes.
There was also much dissatisfaction with the Government over the fact that earlier Government institutions like the Cement Corporation and many Salterns were lying idle. If they were revived they would reduce the level of unemployment.
Finally I must mention the strong opposition to the poaching of fish, specially bottom trawling, that is being practiced by Indian fishermen. They urged me to take this matter up with the Minister concerned and to get the Sri Lankan Government to take strong deterrent action against this practice.
HRCSL: No prisoners were used in 09 May attacks on protesters
AG, CJ asked to take action against lawyer for triggering violence
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has declared that a false allegation by President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera that some prisoners were used to attack anti-government protesters outside Temple Trees and at Galle Face on 09 May triggered violence in many parts of the country.
The HRCSL also faulted Sudesh Nadimal Silva also of the same organisation for propagating unsubstantiated allegations.
Justice (ret.) Rohini Marasinghe, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the HRCSL, said that both Senaka Perera and Sudesh Nandimal had failed to substantiate their allegations made at the Galle Face protest site on 10 May.
The HRCSL, in a statement issued yesterday (29) quoted Justice Marasinghe as having said: “False propaganda as well as misinformation of the alleged use of Prisoners to have attacked the innocent protesters is both a diabolical lie and a deceitful action.”
The HRCSL has recommended that Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam conduct a further investigations into allegations made by Senaka Perera and take necessary action
The HRCSL has requested Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, to take note of the detrimental statements made by Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera and take due action.
The HRCSL consists of Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.
The HRCSL dealt with the issue in a statement titled ‘The HRCSL condemns the false media broadcast made by the President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners’.
The HRCSL issued the statement after the conclusion of a special investigation by an appointed committee of investigators (Col).
CoI consisted of Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, Attorney -at- Law, Miss. lmasha Senadeera, Attorney-at-Law and Dr. Dilshani Bogollagama.
Referring to allegation that prisoners had been used to attack protesters at protest sites at Galle Face and Temple Trees, the HRCSL said that the CoI determined that no prisoners had been used in perpetrating any attack on the peaceful protesters.
The HRCSL asserted that the unsubstantiated allegations caused an irreversible damage to the country.
The HRCSL said that a group of prisoners had been seriously assaulted and subjected to mental and physical torture by an unidentified group on 09 May.
The HRCSL stated: “The unprecedented ruthless nature of the attack on prisoners and officials resulted in injuries and hospitalization of many inmates.” Since the incidents, eight prisoners hadn’t been accounted for so far, it has said.
The prisoners had been made available to the private sector enterprises in terms of an agreement endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers in Oct 2021. On the day of the incidents, a group of prisoners had been taken to a designated work place and were on their way back when gangs intercepted them.
“Attorney at Law Mr. Senaka Perera, the convener of the conference identified himself as a Human Rights Activist. The COI provided the CPRP president Mr. Senaka Perera with the opportunity to justify his statements that caused an outrage in both Sri Lanka and the World at large. For the purpose of submission of any evidence, in either oral statements or picture documentation in support of his statements, Mr. Perera was extended a justifiable time period. However, he expressly affirmed before the Committee that at the time of the statement or even thereafter he did not have any tangible evidence in favor of his expressed views in regard to the alleged incident. Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva was also summoned to give evidence before the COl. The Committee explaining the paramount importance of the maintenance of professional ethics provided Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva with the opportunity to provide a justifiable explanation for his expressed allegations. However, he was unable to provide any acceptable evidence in support of his statements.
The COI observed that the press conference which was chaired by M. Senaka Perera had dispensed totally false statements without any sustantive evidence.
“Following the above-mentioned facts, the COI has identified the grave consequences of the negligent attitude of making unfounded statements. Inciting agitation in the general public against state departments and personnel has inadvertently led to disruptions to the law and order of the Country.
“The COI further observed that these inaccurate declarations conveyed by the above speakers directly contributed to the series of violent activities and right violations, reported island wide. The combined result of the atrocities that occurred within a mere 48 hours resulted in the loss of 12 human lives with several hundred injured casualties. In addition, intentional damage and arson to both public and private properties surmount to the loss of billions of rupees.
“After a thorough and diligent inquiry, the COI has arrived at the following conclusions. The highly irresponsible misconduct by the Attorney-of-Law Senaka Perera, with his speculative allegations with no substantiated evidence, resulted in disastrous consequences.
“Hence, it is of paramount importance that members of professional bodies need to be guided by the code of conduct or the professional ethics as set out by the respective professional bodies for the due conduct of the members. These conditions of misconduct from individuals of representation and influence should be held accountable by the respective professional bodies.
It is the view of the COI that national media institutions must consciously adhere to responsible reporting and promote journalism with integrity, especially during this volatile period of both political and economic instability. This tantamount to avoidance of direct reporting of incidence without due assessment of this veracity and credibility. The Committee further advocates promotion of investigative journalist practices with the objective of strengthening the democratic fabric of the Country.”
IMF end-of-mission report highlights ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka
By Sanath Nanayakkare
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) personnel that remained in Sri Lanka for ten days from 20-30 June to study the exact reasons for the current economic crisis in the country and design a comprehensive economic programme have stressed the need to reduce ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka.
The need for tackling corruption has been listed right below the IMF’s concerns about containing rising levels of inflation and addressing severe balance of payments (BOP) pressures of the country.
Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, Deputy Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, participated in policy discussions. At the end of the mission, Messrs. Breuer and Nozaki issued the following statement:
“Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis.
The economy is expected to contract significantly in 2022, while inflation is high and rising. The critically low-level of foreign reserves has hampered the import of essential goods. During the in-person visit, the team witnessed some of the hardships currently faced by the Sri Lankan people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are affected disproportionately by the crisis. We reaffirm our commitment to support Sri Lanka at this difficult time in line with the IMF’s policies.
“The authorities’ monetary, fiscal policy and other actions since early April were important first steps to address the crisis. The team had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic policies and reforms to be supported by an IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package. The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term. Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, Executive Board approval would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored.
“The authorities have made considerable progress in formulating their economic reform programme and we are looking forward to continuing the dialogue with them.”
The IMF team held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials. It also met with MPs, representatives from the private sector, civil society organisations and development partners.
JVP Leader talks of final solution with people drawn to the streets
By Saman Indrajith
JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has accomplished the mission of saving the Rajapaksas.
Speaking at a JVP rally in Matara on Wednesday, Dissanayake said people had thought Wickremesinghe was a man accepted by the international community and he could resolve the crisis in next to no time.
“Nothing of the sort has happened. The crisis has worsened. In the meantime, the Rajapaksas have been enabled to come out from their hiding places. Wickremesinghe brought Mahinda Rajapaksa from Trincomalee to Colombo and then to Parliament. Wickremesinghe saved Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was contemplating his resignation. Namal Rajapaksa was not to be seen at all. There were public protests demanding the confiscation of property belonging to Namal Rajapaksa, but Wickremesinghe after becoming the Prime Minister enabled Namal to come out of hiding and go to parliament. Today, Namal is seen with the Energy Minister at meetings to discuss solutions for the oil shortage. When the crisis was brewing Yoshitha Rajapaksa left the country for Australia. Lankans in Australia started searching for him in hotels there. After Wickremesinghe became the prime minister, Yoshitha came back. Basil Rajapaksa, whose name is now mentioned in a case report as Mr Ten Percent, too, is still active in politics. Wickremesinghe has achieved his mission of saving the Rajapaksas. Did he do anything to save the people from the crisis? No, he only served as the spokesman of the crisis,” Dissanayake said.
People were dying in queues and they suffered that plight without any of their party affiliations, Dissanayake. “Today, all are in queues. There are UNP, SLFP, JVP and Communist Party members in the queues and languish together. It shows that we all have to come out together against the rulers responsible for our plight. We must sink our political differences and come together to get rid of the corrupt rulers. We must take to the streets, but before that we must have a clear understanding of how we are going to take back the stolen wealth of the people. Simple change of power would not ensure their recovery. We must fight with a clear vision. We soon will announce a day and call upon people to suspend whatever they are doing and come to the street to join the final push to send them home,” the JVP leader said.
NPP Matara District Ex Co Member Saroja Savithri Paulraj and former Kalutara District JVP MP Dr Nalinda Jayatissa also addressed the meeting which was the third in a series of the party’s countrywide rallies started from Anuradhapura last Sunday.
HRCSL: No prisoners were used in 09 May attacks on protesters
IMF end-of-mission report highlights ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka
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