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Dinesh confident of SL winning support of more countries at UNHRC sessions

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‘The tide is turning in our favour’

By Saman Indrajith

Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena expressed confidence that Sri Lanka will be able to win the support of many more countries at the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions as the “tide is turning in our favour”.

More and more countries are now supportive of Sri Lanka, he asserted, while adding that “we are not alone because many nations have realized the truth behind the allegations leveled against us”.

“As a nation, we have nothing to hide,” the Minister said in an interview with The Sunday Island.

He said that 21 countries have so far spoken on behalf of Sri Lanka at the sessions. There are 193 independent member countries in the UN and of them, 47 member states are in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“A considerable number of countries have read the country specific resolution and understood its veracity and expressed their solidarity with us because they know that today it is against Sri Lanka but in the future, any of them could also become victims of the same process” Gunawardena pointed out.

“There are rich and powerful nations, but their power or wealth does not permit them to dictate terms to other sovereign nations”, he stressed.

“Even some countries which have critical views against Sri Lanka have stated that some recommendations of the in the UNHRC report are not just and reasonable. They have suggested supporting an alternative investigation into allegations that we proposed to conduct locally. There are several more days to go but we are sure that we are not alone as many more countries are now speaking in favour of Sri Lanka”, the Minister noted.

Quoting an example, he said one of the charges against Sri Lanka is the failure to conduct the provincial council elections. The delay in calling for the election was because the former government, with the support of the TNA and the JVP, secured 152 votes in parliament to postpone the polls.

“They are pointing the finger at us. The elections could have been held by now if the then government had not scuttled the processes in parliament”, Minister Gunawardena explained.

He said that many countries that receive true accounts sent to them by their defence attaches and other diplomats posted here, know that most of the charges against Sri Lanka are fabricated. There’s no credible evidence. Some of the allegations have been shot down in the House of Lords by Lord Naseby.

“Another question being raised is our withdrawal from Resolution 30/1 cosponsored by the former government. The then government did not have a mandate to cosponsor a resolution against the country. A move on these lines causes enormous damage and is detrimental to the sovereignty of any country”, he noted.

“At the presidential election, we assured the people that we would withdraw from the resolution and we received a mandate to do so. Accordingly, I told the Human Rights Commission in February 2020 that we would withdraw from the resolution and appoint a commission headed by a Supreme Court judge to investigate the so-called allegations”, the Minister recalled.

He said that Sri Lanka continues to work with the UN and its other agencies without any change. The government is fully committed to achieve the sustainable development goals of the UN, which not only focus on poverty eradication, improving health and education, protecting the environment but also gives weight to democratic governance.

In addition, there are issues pertaining to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a piece of legislation that had existed for a long time, Gunawardena continued. “We have reviewed some of provisions of the PTA and taken initiatives through the new parliament to amend laws that may be in contradiction with the rights of the people”.

“We have begun the process as it is our top priority to protect the sovereign right of our people. Foreign countries could point their finger at us on various charges but whatever accusations should be based on justifiable issues. We cannot join them to condemn our own country because we have been given a mandate to do the opposite”, the Minister further said.

There are many areas in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, which Sri Lanka would not agree with. This has been conveyed to the UNHRC. There were many similar reports previously where there was not a single word about the human rights violations committed by the LTTE, he said.

“Now, they have to admit that there were such (LTTE) violations, thanks to our continuous raising of the issues. Last year, after I announced that we were withdrawing from the co-sponsorship of the resolution against us, I had a meeting with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She asked us to proceed with the work proposed as alternatives, and said that they like to see the progress we would make on the commitments”, Minister Gunawardena recounted.

The new report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has included many more issues – the victory of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and appointment of the new government, the 20th amendment to the constitution and new laws that have been introduced. Such issues are internal matters of a country. Many countries have already stated it is not just and reasonable for UNHRC to intervene in internal affairs of countries, he said.

Continuing further, the Minister said: “It is unfair for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to find fault with appointments made to various posts in Sri Lanka by the government. These are internal affairs. The UK makes various statements and takes different standpoints but it should keep in mind the judicial and parliamentary system we have here is what we inherited from them. In most instances, it is their criminal and civil laws that are still being practiced in the country.

“We have received a mandate to implement various tasks. One of them is to bring justice to the victims of the Easter Sunday carnage. Many people perished and there are a large number of people who survived with physical disabilities. The attacks happened during the former government. Today, those who were in that government are leveling various allegations against us.

“We have presented to parliament reports of several commissions including those appointed by the former government, which could not deal with them because of the power struggles within their own ranks. The then government could not even sack the IGP because there were no proper laws. As a result, there was chaos and the people voted for us to rectify the shortcomings.

“I feel sorry about the Opposition when they refuse to accept a presidential commission of inquiry headed by a judge of the Supreme Court. Only the Supreme Court has powers to interpret the constitution. People of this country have the right to come forward and move the Supreme Court against any violation of their rights.

“We have informed the UNHRC that the presidential commissions of inquiry have powers to investigate allegations of human rights violations. The work is in progress. In such a context, it is unfair for some members of the international community to continue to harass our country. They seem to be driven by political motives and their dislike of the resounding electoral victories of the President and our government.

“How could they allege that we are not committed because the local processes towards reconciliation including the work of the Office on Missing Persons tasked with bringing closure to suffering victims and their relatives by determining the status of all missing persons are in progress? Anyone who travels from the Dondra Head to Point Pedro can see for themselves that the government is working towards improving the livelihoods betterment of the people.

“As I said, we have the British legal system, and we have acted according to the laws that have been passed by parliament. It is not acceptable when outsiders dictate terms to us on how we should manage our internal affairs. The UNHRC is not there to bring about country specific resolutions to harass selected countries. This has been pointed out by many countries including Sri Lanka”.

 

 



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Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises becomes a net zero carbon emission zone

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans to implement a program aimed at transforming Anuradhapura, once a major trade and economic center, into a globally renowned city. He emphasized the need to highlight Anuradhapura’s cultural, educational, commercial, and economic values and to initiate archaeological research to bring its significance to the world stage. While cities like Tanjore, Madras, and Sanchipuram receive global attention, Anuradhapura has yet to be developed to the same extent.

The President mentioned that he would discuss these plans with the Director General of UNESCO, who is visiting Sri Lanka this week. Several universities worldwide have already expressed interest in supporting these initiatives.

President Wickremesinghe made these remarks during the ceremony to commission the 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13) morning . He also stated that the government would support powering the Atamasthana and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi premises.

During his visit to the Anuradhapura shrine, the President met with the Chief Incumbent of the Atamasthana in Anuradhapura and Chief Sanghanayake Thera of Nuwara Kalaviya Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Hemarathana Nayake Thera and engaged in a brief discussion. After paying obeisance to the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and receiving blessings, he participated in the commissioning of the  solar power system.

Additionally, President Wickremesinghe interacted with the public gathered at the Anuradhapura sacred grounds, engaging in friendly conversations and gathering their input.

In a significant move towards the government’s national policy of reducing carbon emissions and achieving a zero-emission target, LTL Holdings has dedicated a 150-kilowatt solar power system to Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This marks the first phase of its net zero carbon emission plan.

This solar power system meets the entire power requirement of the Sri Maha Bodhiya precinct, making the premises of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a net zero carbon emission zone for the first time in history.

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Dispute over cobalt-rich seabed: FSP alleges India exploiting hapless Lanka

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Pubudu Jagoda

… Indian HC denies dispute

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top spokesperson for Jana Aragala Sandhanaya, Pubudu Jagoda, yesterday (12) said that India was brazenly exploiting the continuing political and economic crisis here to secure rights to explore a cobalt-rich underwater mountain in the Indian Ocean, situated in an area staked by Sri Lanka in terms of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Jagoda, who also represents the Peratugaami Pakshaya (Frontline Socialist Party), a breakaway faction of the JVP, said so when The Island sought further clarification after he discussed the developing situation with India, in an interview with Asoka Dias on Sirasa ‘Pathikada.’ telecast earlier in the day.

Jagoda told The Island that the unprecedented Indian move on Afanasy Nikitin seamount that lies entirely within an area, also claimed by Sri Lanka way back in 2009 as being within the boundaries of its continental shelf, should be a warning to both the government and the Opposition.

The former JVPer declared that Jana Aragala Sandhanaya would take up this issue vigorously in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. Jagoda emphasized that India took advantage of hapless Sri Lanka while frequently uttering like a mantra its self-proclaimed Neighbourhood First Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). The Peratagaamis-led grouping recently pledged to contest both the Presidential and Parliamentary polls.

While asserting that political parties represented in Parliament, along with the government, lacked the courage to take up this issue with India, Jagoda therefore urged the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to deal with it diplomatically at the highest level.

The Indian High Commission spokesperson said there was no dispute and asked The Island to refer to a statement dated July 08, 2024 issued by Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Appearing on ‘Pathikada’, Jagoda questioned the failure on the part of the government to respond to the Indian move much earlier.

Pointing out that India sought the intervention of Kingston Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) to secure approval for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts located at the Afanasy Nikitin seamount thereby undermined Sri Lanka’s efforts to win recognition of the outer limits of its continental shelf, Jagoda said that India seemed to be resorting once again to bullying tactics.

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who always jealously guarded the country’s interests, made Sri Lanka’s claim on May 08, 2009, as ground forces were engaged in the last phase of operations on the Vanni east front. The war was brought to a successful conclusion 10 days later.

Jagoda explained how India unfairly pressured Sri Lanka over Chinese research ship visits, finally leading to the government to declare a ban on such stays during whole of this year. The FSP spokesman also expressed concerns over the Katchatheevu issue, massive Indian poaching and the recent death of a Special Boat Squadron (SBS) member as a result of aggressive maneuvers resorted to by an intercepted trawler off Kankesanthurai.

Jagoda alleged that poaching on such a scale couldn’t take place without India’s tacit approval. “They have a much bigger Navy and significant Coast Guard assets therefore there cannot be any excuse for not being able to effectively hinder crossing of the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary at will by their poachers,” Jagoda said. Declaring that destructive bottom trawling had been banned in Indian waters though the invading Indian fishing fleet freely adopted the highly harmful method in our waters, Jagoda alleged that New Delhi conveniently turned a blind eye to what was going on in the neighbour’s waters.

Referring to the dispute over the Indian claim contrary to that of Sri Lanka, the FSPer said the Indian media coverage of the issue indicated that they intended to go ahead with the exploration of the cobalt rich region. Reference was made to India reaching agreement with Taiwan to undertake the exploration amidst rising tensions between China and India.

Acknowledging that the two issues – Sri Lanka’s submission made in terms of UNCLOS in 2009 and India’s appeal to ISA this year – were before the UN as declared by Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, Jagoda said that the government should discuss the contentious matters with India without further delay.

Jagoda said that no political party represented in Parliament so far commented on the developing situation.

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Another FR petition to stay Presidential Poll at 11th hour

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Another fundamental rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday (12), requesting the court to prevent the Election Commission from declaring the next presidential election.The petitioner, a lawyer by profession, has argued that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the President’s tenure to five years from six, was not passed properly.

He has argued that the 19A must be approved by the people at a referendum and holding a presidential election, as per the aforementioned amendment, is a violation of the Constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of the Parliament and the AG were named as respondents.

The petition says that the 19th Amendment strips the President of the power to dissolve Parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision had to be approved by the people at a referendum for it to become law. A referendum was never held, and therefore 19A could not be considered law.

The petitioner has said the Elections Commission is planning to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it is unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to declare the holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the President, unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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