(Excerpted from remarks made by the Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice Karu Jayasuriya at a press conference held at the Janaki Hotel, Colombo on April 1)
If there is any harm or humiliation to our country, it is the real Sri Lankans who suffer the most. That is why we feel great pain when we see what is happening in the country today. But unfortunately, as our country is rapidly descending into a precipice today, all those responsible are playing the fiddle as Nero did when Rome was burning to the ground. Therefore, we urge them at this juncture to open their eyes and look at this great tragedy that is befalling us and not sacrifice the people of the country at the altar of greed for power and wealth. We call for the country to be saved from this ongoing catastrophe with the support of all parties. That is the plea we are making here today.
Our difficulties today are not only within the country; we are in serious trouble internationally too. The resolution on Sri Lanka passed recently at the UNHRC in Geneva makes this clear. Various views on this are being expressed by the government today. Veteran diplomats have a different view and they have expressed it publicly. Opposition political groups are also analyzing the situation and presenting their own viewpoint. But have the rulers of this country correctly understood the seriousness of the problem we face today? Have we managed to preserve the image, honor and dignity of our country?
We are not saying all this wearing tinted glasses. We conducted an in-depth investigation into the possible consequences of the Geneva resolution and also sought advice from international relations experts including eminent diplomats who have served our country in the foreign service. When we look at all that in depth and without bias, we can very clearly say that those responsible have completely failed us. This failure has been displayed not only within the country but also internationally as well. If that process continues at UNHRC, our country could face serious difficulties. No matter what anyone says, this is the truth. In the end, its suffering will be on the backs of the people.
Why did we have to face such a fate in Geneva? The reason is very clear. It is due to our losing in recent times many of the friendly states that once stood up for us; not only in Asia but also in every part of the world there were many friendly nations that supported us. In the past all those countries respected Sri Lanka as a country that pursued non-aligned policies. But many of them have voted against us this time or abstained from voting. While this is hurtful, we have to understand what happened. We must understand the reality and act accordingly. In the modern world, no country can stand alone. We must always stand with our traditional allies.
There is also a further point that we reiterate as the National Movement for Social Justice – that is that the 20th Amendment was a major factor in weakening our country both nationally and internationally. Every institution that was required to act responsibly in the people’s interest has become a puppet of the rulers due to the 20th Amendment.
As a result, the respect of these institutions for democratic principles have eroded. That is why politicians in this country today have been able to shut down certain police units and transfer senior police officers at will. There is no point in running a Police Commission in such a background. Can free and fair elections be expected in a country where Commissions such as Elections, Public Service, Police and the Bribery Commission are run through political allies?
Will the public service be people-friendly? Will the police service function fairly? Will corruption and bribery be eradicated in such a country? Will there be an independent judiciary in a country that makes decisions above the courts especially on the basis of reports obtained using notorious individuals? This situation has contributed not only to the massive decay that is taking place in our country today but also to some of the issues that have been raised in Geneva.
Also, according to social surveys conducted, 81% of the people in this country do not approve of the 20th Amendment. The vast majority of religious leaders representing all religions in this country do not accept it and it must therefore be repealed if Sri Lanka is to be re-energized and democratized. We repeat this consistently. I hope that the government will pay attention.
Another unfortunate incident reported this week was the discovery of toxic coconut oil. The people of this country became aware of this thanks to the media. It does not appear that the law is being enforced against those responsible. Re-exporting coconut oil containing this toxin is not the only solution. The law should be enforced against those who exposed the people to this risk and tried to make money out of it. Such national crimes are not possible without the complicity of politicians and officials who call the shots.
There are reports of large scale corruption and fraud, including the sugar scam. COPE, the Finance Committee and the Treasury have acknowledged irregularities in sugar imports. A thorough investigation is essential and this has been suggested to the President on several occasions. In fact, the sugar fraud is bigger than the Central Bank fraud. At least the money in the bank accounts of the accused in the Central Bank fraud has been seized; but what was embezzled in the sugar fraud is already in the pockets of the fraudsters. The country needs only 650,000 tons of sugar annually with about 50,000 tons produced locally. Today the international price of a ton is around $ 465. Accordingly a kilo of sugar should be around Rs. 96. If our requirement is 50,000 tons per month, why did we import hundreds of thousands of tons and waste our foreign exchange during this difficult time? These are matters that need the attention of the Treasury.
One more shameful occurrence must be highlighted. In the 1980s, sugar companies like Hingurana, Kantale, Sevanagala and Pelawatta produced more sugar than they do today. What does that mean? The beautiful country situation painted by politicians today does not exist. High sugar production then was due to the Sugar Importers’ Association, the Sugar Producers’ Association, the Treasury and the Ministry of Trade working in harmony in the national interest. These matters must be brought to the attention of the authorities. It is still not too late to take necessary action.
Today there is a growing interest in environmental destruction in the country. In addition to environmentalists, we see the interest shown by various sections of society as a good omen for the future. Above all, we are happy that school children and young people are enthused on this subject and their commitment is truly fantastic.
But has the government paid proper attention to this subject? Recently, the media quoted the President saying that government officials are responsible for protecting the environment drawing attention to the problem. We must tell the President that there is a powerful political hand behind a lot of environmental degradations. As a result, many government officials, including Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries, are helpless. They have told us about this. If we are to stop this massive destruction, the political pressure exerted on public officials must be stopped. The President can do that.
These are not just our own ideas. We are saying what the majority of the people want. We raise our voices, with no subversive motive, on the basis of confirmed facts adding our own voice to that of the common people. We say this with the utmost sincerity and the responsible authorities must understand that. The country’s future depends on that and we hope that the necessary attention will be paid to these matters.
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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