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Douglas Wickramaratne – the warrior who defended SL amidst LTTE threats to his life



by Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

There was a time Douglas Wickramaratne, President of the Sinhala Association in the UK, had to be given protection by Scotland Yard after he came under threat for exposing the blatant falsehoods propagated by the LTTE to win the support of the international community.

Despite the machinations of the powerful pro-LTTE lobby at the time, the warrior that he was, Wickramaratne held his ground and pushed ahead with his concerted campaign to lay bare the atrocities of the terrorists and expose to the world the campaign of brutal terror perpetrated by the Tigers.

Many were the times he traveled to Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions to help safeguard the interests of Sri Lanka in the face of Tamil diaspora inspired allegations leveled against the government.

This time around, Wickramaratne won’t be able to make his annual journey to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva to stand up and fight for the rights of the Sinhalese.

“For 40 years, I stood by my country and fought for what was right. Many people ask why I am silent now. I cannot continue any longer as my health is not too good”, he says.

He said that over the years, he was the only Sinhalese to address the UNHRC Assembly on time allocated to NGOs. On one such visit, a LTTE leader had greeted him and asked ‘Douglas why are you doing this to us?’

“I continue to receive invitations to visit Geneva to address the UNHRC sessions, but I cannot travel now due to my poor health condition”, he explained.

Recalling the time his life was under threat by LTTE supporters in London and Geneva, Wickramaratne said Scotland Yard ensured his security. At one time, Interpol was alerted about threats on his life in Geneva.

Since 1983, after his TV debate with a LTTE supporter on BBC Newsnight, he was invited by almost every British TV channel, and Al Jazeera and Press TV to participate in regular debates and discussions on Sri Lanka. In addition, he also took part in many radio programs.

Traversing down memory lane, the octogenarian recalled the famous Oxford Union Debate in 1984, where he and Bradman Weerakoon faced Prof. A. J. Wilson, S. Sivasithamparam and Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam.

“After that, I was invited to deliver many talks and take part in seminars at Oxford University, Cambridge University, London School of Economics, Bath University among others. In addition, I also participated in debates with LTTE activists in France, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Italy, USA and Canada”, he remarked.

Referring to his 1984 visits to Toronto and the USA at the invitation of Sri Lankans there, Wickramaratne highlighted how the World Federation of Sri Lankan Associations was formed. In 1985, the second convention of the Federation was held at London Hilton attended by delegates from USA, Canada, Australia and France. Among the eminent guest speakers were Minister Lalith Atulathmudali, Anura Bandaranaika and Miss. Betty Boothroyd.

“I was elected President of the Federation and the following year I handed over the presidency to Prof. Christie Weeramantry”, he noted.

Wickramaratne is a product of Ananda College, Colombo, where he led the English debating team. He was a keen cricketer from his childhood days and was instrumental in forming the Dehiwala Sports Club at the age of 10 years, which he captained for 11 years since its inception.

He migrated to the UK in the early 1960s and joined the Savings Bank and later a Clearing Bank. At both institutions, he continued with his addiction to cricket and was elected captain, a rare privilege at the time to head an all white team.

“A Guyanese friend invited me to play for the famous West Indian Wanderers CC. Frank Worrel, Garfield Sobers, Conrad Hunte and many West Indian test cricketers had played for the Wanderers formed by Sir Leary Constantine. I was the only non-West Indian in a team from all Caribbean Islands, and we bonded well together”, he reflected with a smile.

Asked what prompted him to form the Sinhala Association in the UK, he recalled an incident he witnessed during a Sri Lanka versus England cricket match at the Colombo Oval in 1975, where about 50 Tamil youths attacked and injured a small group of cheering Sinhala students.

“On my intervention, police arrested some of the attackers. This episode made me realize the need to form a Sinhala Association. With the help of a group of dedicated patriots, the Association was formed in 1976”, Wickramaratne recalled.

He said the Association organized variety entertainment programs, concerts and meetings to bring people together, and more importantly, to educate the youth of the true situation in Sri Lanka and counter the false claims made by the LTTE.

“We have organized well attended meetings with the participation of Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera, Prof. Nalin de Silva, Dinesh Gunawardena, the late Gen. Lucky Algama and Cyril Mathew and many others”, he noted.

He further said the Association afforded an opportunity to Sri Lankan artistes to perform in the UK and other European countries by organizing concerts.

Among those who performed were Amaradeva, Nanda Malini, Sisira and Indrani, H. R. Jothipala, Latha Walpola, Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe, T. M. Jayaratne, M. S. Fernando, Malini Bulathsinhala, Clarence Wijewardena and Mariazelle, Angeline Gunatilaka, Ivor Dennis, Gypsies, Desmond Silva and musicians like Stanley Peiris, Wijeratna Ranatunga, Rohana Weerasinghe.

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query



SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign



The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.



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