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Diplomatic postings: New station for Air Marshal Dias after Canada rejection

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Amza for Saudi Arabia following controversy…

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Due to Canada and Saudi Arabia refusing to accept retired Air Marshal Sumangala Dias and Ahmed A. Jawad, respectively, as heads of Sri Lankan missions, the government has been forced to change plans.

Sri Lanka has named Dias as the new Ambassador to Italy after Canada tuned down Sri Lanka’s move on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

Having served the country since 1984, Air Marshal Dias retired on Nov 02, 2020 as the SLAF’s 17th Commander.

The Canadian High Commission yesterday (27) told The Island declined to comment on the matter. Asked for clarification regarding Sri Lanka’s request and Canadian denial, the HC said that ‘as it is subject to state-to-state confidentiality, we do not comment on the process.” The Communications Department of the Parliament on April 23 quoted Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake as having said that the Parliamentary High Posts Committee chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena approved Air Marshal Dias and P.M. Amza as Sri Lanka’s envoys in Canada and Saudi Arabia, respectively. The Secretary General made no reference to those countries declining to accept previous nominations. Amza holds the rank of Acting Additional Secretary, Foreign Ministry.

The Island sought Canadian HC’s response in the wake of the statement issued by the parliament.

Sources said that Canada being a member of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) wasn’t likely to accept ex-Sri Lankan military officers on the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission there. Canada campaigned for the resolution adopted on March 23 at the UNHRC with 22 countries voting for, 11 against and 14 abstentions.

Authoritative sources said that there hadn’t been a single specific accusation against Dias.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had been present at the High Post Committee meeting along with several other lawmakers, including war winning Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

 The government announced the appointment of Air Marshal Dias as well as Ahmed A. Jawad in late Oct last year. The Parliamentary High Posts Committee approved their appointments in the following month. Sources said that Saudi Arabia has rejected Jawad’s appointment as he served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Riyadh at the time teenage Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek was beheaded in early January 2013. The then Rajapaksa administration protested the Saudi execution by recalling Ahmed. Saudi Arabia, too, recalled its envoy.

Although a new envoy had been named for Saudi Arabia, the vacancy in Canada was yet to be discussed at the all-party parliamentary committee.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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