Rev. Charles Jansz, a Minister and a former Head of Sri Lanka’s oldest Protestant Church goes down memory lane and reflects
by Prabhath de Silva
Rev. Jansz with Pope John Paul II (Now Saint.)
Rev. Jansz married Maxine Herft in 1977. He has held key positions in Christian organizations in Sri Lanka and abroad. These include, Chairperson of National Christian Council, Chairperson of Christian Evangelical Alliance, Chairperson of Religious Work Committee Colombo YMCA, Acting pastor in Christian Reform Church Ontario, Canada, Vice-President/Hon. Life Governor of Ceylon Bible Society, Member of Executive Committee of World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Chairperson of Asia Pacific Regional Board of United Bible Societies and Editor of “The Herald” – the official organ of the Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka.
On the eve of the Golden Jubilee of his ministry, I interviewed Rev. Jansz. These are the excerpts of the interview:
1. What are your childhood memories of Dehiwela and its surroundings in the 1950’s and 1960’s?
I grew up in Sri Wanaratana Road, off Quarry Rd in Dehiwela. This area was called “Pattiyamulla” and as far as I remember, that changed to “Galwala” and “Udyana”. These were the days when houses had large gardens, almost all homes were single storey and we children, irrespective or race,, religion or class, had great times, playing, visiting each other’s homes, enjoying meals, climbing trees and walking on the wall surrounding the Zoological Gardens! The memories include going to the Presbyterian Girls’ School with a carer, walking yards ahead of her, while she trudged behind carrying the school bag. Then there was attending Sunday School at the D/CRC Dehiwela almost every Sunday, followed by moving to Arethusa College where I completed my schooling.
It was a time when I was given 25 cents, which covered my bus fare, had 12 cents for a quarter loaf of bread and a ‘vadai’ from the School Canteen (Tuck Shop) and had a few cents left over! It was also a time when the area had loads of Burgher families…Nugara, Ludowyke, Neydorff, Woutersz, Kellart, Harris, De Kretser, Schokman, Van Ryke, Barrow, De Zilwa, Melder, Ferdinands, Heyn, Drieberg, Werksmister, Collom, Young, Van Rooyen, Van Sanden, Van Velzon, were all there and many of us met every spare moment for cricket, a little bit of rugby – with Cowboys and Crooks as a diversion. One other diversion was also catching “guppies” in the canal. Apart from Church, School and Cricket, from my childhood days I was passionate about politics…with a particular party bias. Was at almost every political meeting, was part of the processions, shouting the slogans mouthed by the adults, and even had “mock” elections together with the rest of my friends paying a 25 cent deposit! I vividly recall, on more than one occasion, my friends making a make-shift stage of Sunlight soap boxes and putting me on them, with what was supposed to be a mike and garlands as well, getting me to make political speeches – and in fluent Sinhala! (all of it picked up after listening to speakers at political meetings!).
There is much more of course…Dehiwela where I grew up was unspoiled to a great extent…there was a caring and sharing, much respect and understanding for one another, your ethnicity, religion and status did not matter…we lived in community… clean air and a pristine environment to a great extent….and if there was some discordance, it was someone shouting under the influence of some local brew.
What are the changes and strides that you have witnessed in the social, political and religious mileu in Sri Lanka and in the DRC and in the non Catholic Christendom in Sri Lanka and in the world at large?
Changes and strides have been many, some certainly for the better, some for the worse. Talking about the religious mileu, one can single out that inter-faith and intra-faith have made comparatively good strides during the last number of years…there has also been a definite attempt to be “church” outside of the confines of a building reaching out to the Community and certainly a concentrated effort to create and sustain spirituality beginning with the home. A greater emphasis on environmental stewardship has also been a pronounced plus. There has been also good attempts to address the needs with the “wholeness” of the Gospel message, and to be faithful to the primary vision, not forgetting the strides made towards worship that is creative and meaningful with more participation. In the social and political sphere changes have not all been for the better. We have witnessed the resurgence and growth of bigotry, racism, fundamentalism, terrorism, violence, division, nepotism, political victimization, intolerance, corruption, lack of law and order, drug abuse, child abuse, destruction of the environment and a receding of the good family values….and certainly some, if not all of this would also be part and parcel of the International milieu as well.
What motivated you to choose a pastoral ministry as your vocation in life?
The Church was very much part of my DNA…my family saw to it and encouraged me from my earliest of days to be part of it, beginning with the Sunday School; so much so that for many years running I carried away the attendance prize for attending every single Sunday of the Year. In addition, those who were part of my life in my childhood and teen years, were also very church oriented. Youth Conferences, Youth programmes were all part of my life – in short anything that happened in Church. It was also a time when the Pastors at that time – especially the foreign “Missionaries” spent much time challenging us to consider full time ministry. There were specific seminars for this purpose. It was one such seminar that made a deep impression on me…and even though I worked for a while (as a typist clerk) in the corporate world, I became restless enough to move out and make application for the Pastoral Ministry. At that time, if one joined the Ministry – it was primarily Pastoral. Today Christian Ministry is very much more diversified when it comes to full time service. Also, I think my gifts of public speaking and being a people person, added to the motivation to heed God’s call in this very specific way.
He percentage of Christians in Sri Lanka at the time of independence in 1948 was 9.1% but now it has decreased to 7.1%, and Hindus constituted 19% and now there are 11% Hindus
. What do you think are the factors that contributed to this decline? Only two religious communities namely Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims have increased since Independence, Buddhists from 60.6 to 70 percent and Muslims from 5% to 9.1% percent.
I must say that I was taken aback when you mentioned the statistic re: the decrease and more when you did mention the percentages of the increase. Talking about the decline – specifically thinking about the Christian Reformed Church since Independence, one major factor was emigration. Being at that time and for some years after, as primarily a “Burgher Community” Church, we did lose a large number of adherents through emigration. (Thankfully, the Church did have and does have the vision to reach out to all communities and we have seen much growth in terms of numbers and congregations) Of course “emigration” also has affected the wider Christian community and the country as well. The other main reason for a decline, if not non-growth, is the absence of a sustained missionary efforts, not so much in terms of “preaching” but more in term of “incarnational living” and an absence of addressing “felt needs” would also have perhaps made the Church irrelevant to many. So, if there is not to be further decline, I think we must ask the question – “Will we be genuinely missed in the Community if our Church were to close”?
You have completed 50 years in ministry. Looking back what do you think are the things or achievements that make you happy as a Clergyman
As I look back there are number of things that can make me glad…for one thing and this is primary, that the Lord who called me and kept me and sustained me through these many years…empowering me to avoid the many pitfalls that could be part of a ministry and blessing me with a great measure of good health. Then there is the joy of seeing people walking in faith and obedience…lives changed…becoming spiritually mature and having a place for God in their lives and especially in their families and children. I have always said that if people, respond and live by the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is very much part of the Reformed Confessions (What is your only comfort in life and death? – And “That I with body and soul both in life and death belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ”) … that would always be my greatest satisfaction. Of course, in a lesser way, I am also glad that I stayed with the Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka, when many were led especially to emigrate, so that in some measure I was able to put it further on the map both nationally and internationally and give back in some way what the CRC has given me – even to the extent of financially sustaining me and my family when I was growing up.
2. You have served in many positions in the ecumenical bodies here and abroad. You studied at Calvin Seminary in the US, one of the prestigious Protestant theological schools. What do you think are the changes that have taken place in Christendom in the Eastern world and in the western world since the 1960’s.
I must say at the outset that it was a great privilege for me to serve in these Ecumenical bodies and study at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is known as the “Jerusalem” of the Reformed World and it added to my prestige by being there Most of the changes in Christendom in the East and West, I think, have been fairly common…Theologically, it would involve the principles of the Interpretation of the Scriptures, the Ordination of Women to Ecclesiastical Office, the changed stance re issues of homosexuality, gay rights and same sex marriages….more inter-faith and intra-faith action, dialogue and involvement, greater emphasis on caring for the environment and social and ethical issues …more pronounced division between Conservatives and Liberals, and the Church striving to be a truly prophetic voice, for transformation, in spite of pronounced oppression.
There is a decline of Christianity in the west since the 1960’s and this has affected the Christian family values. How do you explain this with your international exposure for 50 years since 1960?
It is certainly sad to see the decline you mention – especially in Europe where Churches and Cathedrals have become more or less museum pieces and sometimes converted to restaurants and entertainment centers. I have heard it often said, whilst at one time the West sent missionaries to us, now it is time to send Missionaries to them! I have heard that in many countries in the West, the Church is no longer relevant to people. So children are not baptized. And there are no weddings or funerals in which the Church is involved. Religion and faith are not part of life anymore and it is only the elderly, if at all, who make up a congregation. I believe that the overall reason has to do with a materialistic and very secularistic life style and culture that has become part of the DNA of many. They are, to use a Bible phrase, more interested in building treasures on earth than in Heaven. On the other hand, I must quickly add that the Church must also strive to be relevant to the people of today. We must be, to use the motto of “Youth for Christ.” – “geared to the times and anchored to the Rock” If the Church does not meet the felt needs of people, and be relevant, the Church and Christianity per se will become irrelevant to people. And that would not be only in the West.
There is a discussion on “born again” phenomenon in the social media these days particularly after
one particular Pentecostal church published a video on the miraculous healing of a veteran musician. Can you explain the history and origins of “born again” phenomenon in the Western world and in Sri Lanka? Many people in SL think that it is a new cult or a sect.
May I say that the “Born again” phenomenon, as you call it, is as old as the St. John Chapter 3. If people in Sri Lanka think that it is another cult or a sect, I think it is because of the way this wonderful Biblical concept has been marketed by certain people in keeping with their own ecclesiastical agendas in addition to the poor understanding of what it biblically entails by the laity. I remember someone asking me a few years ago, whether the Christian Reformed Church at Dehiwela is a “Born Again” Church. I had to make it clear that the Bible emphasizes the truth that all Christians must be “born again” (“born from above”) in the sense that we must be “regenerated” by God’s Spirit and blessed with this “new birth and new life,” if we are to be saved from our sins and live Christianly. In fact the term “regenerated” comes from two Greek words, that can literally translated as “born again.” But not too many people think of regeneration, when they hear the term “born again”. That is made possible, when we are led to make a faith commitment and believe in Jesus as our Saviour. It is very clear that our “old nature” will not pursue the things of God, only our “new nature” would make that possible and that becomes a reality when we are “born again”. It is primarily a reference to our spiritual birth. That is the starting line of the Christian life. If we have not stood at the starting line, running the race, to use another Biblical metaphor, would not be possible.
The Peace, tranquility and tolerance in the Sri Lankan society have been disturbed by religious and racist extremism of some groups in recent times. Can you comment?
I would agree with you that until recently there was a great degree of tolerance, but that has changed as you mentioned. Of course, this is not a phenomenon only involving particular religion or race. Society generally has become intolerant and this is not only in terms of other faiths, but also In many other or all areas of life. Take a journey on our roads – you will definitely be met by intolerance at its best!! The growth of bigotry and fundamentalism, a false sense of nationalism and patriotism, selfishness, egotism etc, some of it fanned by political and even religious leadership in different ways, to fulfill their own pursuits, would be a primary cause. Whilst not living out the principles of the respective religions would be another. On the other hand, talking of the Church, we must be careful that our actions and strategies do not give room to further intolerance. And we must strive not to give offence.
How do you see the future of Christians in Sri Lanka? And what do you think are most important and urgent reforms that are necessary in churches and in society.
Certainly, from a human point of view and from the present context there would be many challenges ahead as far as Christians are concerned. And the call would always be to be creatively faithful to our mission, claiming again the Lord’s good promise that “even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.” In terms of reforms involving the church, we must move away from worship that is merely a spectacle and a gospel that is being distorted. We have more Pastors who follow the Master! As far as society goes, religious belief must play a more significant role in daily life. In all areas of life we do not need more preachers, but we do urgently need more of those who practice. I must quickly add that in terms of urgent reforms in society there must be some good and meaningful work to reform some of our existing laws to deal more relevantly and specifically with issues that are part and parcel of life today, that it turns would make justice what it really should be. Two areas that come to mind which are being debated more recently are the Election laws and the Law involving contempt of court….not forgetting Constitutional reforms in general, Institutional reforms for the protection of fundamental rights and economic reforms which would result, as someone said, with an economy with a “human face”.
Do you have any message to the Christians in Sri Lanka and to the wider society?
Basically to the Christians it would be a message to sincerely live out their Christian faith. As someone said, “Name Christian live Christian,” or as the Bible says, to live as the “salt, light and leaven”. To the wider society it would be a message to live out the precepts of their respective religious faiths that call for love, acceptance, compassion, justice and peace, striving for a greater measure of ethnic and religious harmony. Right living divinely empowered can make it happen for ultimately, as the Bible says, “Righteousness (and only Righteousness) will exalt a nation.”
Twenty-five years of private sector-led renewable energy development
by Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya
A policy change in 1995 to allow private investments in electricity generation into the grid, a standard agreement and a standard price for electricity produced, enabled such investments to pick-up faster than in other countries. The first mini-hydro power project with entirely private sector funding and private ownership commenced operations in May 1996.
The agreement and the price
Dubbed the “most investor friendly agreement in the world”, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy developers were offered, since 1996, a non-negotiable 15-year agreement (20-years for projects signed after 2008). The agreement says, literally, “I will buy all your electricity produced for the next 15 years, any day any time; I will not penalize you for delays in your project or for not producing electricity at all or producing less electricity than you promised; I will not ask you to start or stop your power plant”. There is no other agreement in the business world 25 years ago or now, where such agreements are offered to a seller.
Then the price. The agreement carries a price, which too is not negotiable. It says: “I will pay you a price that reflects the fuel saved in major power plants; in case fuel prices go down, I will not drop the price below 90% of the price when you signed; if the fuel prices go up, I will keep on increasing the prices without any limit”.
I shall buy all your all your product at the following price for 20 years. If you do not produce too, even when I need it badly, I will only greet you with a smile !
Government procurements have to be on competitive basis. This policy of competition was further reinforced by the Electricity Act 2009, required to be implemented by the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL). The legal validity of such renewable energy agreements and price offers, that make a mockery of rules of “competition”, has been debated in many quarters over the past 25 years.
Has it been good ?
Well, yes and no, depending on whom you speak to and your convictions. To the credit of the program, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy development accelerated after 1996. These are smaller power plants using hydropower, wind, wood and more recently, waste. If the government attempted to develop them through a state entity, excessive overheads and inefficiency would most likely creep-in. There would have been a politically appointed Chairman and a fleet of vehicles going up and down, to run a tiny minihydro.
On the other hand, had the state rigidly controlled what is developed and where, renewable energy projects developed would have been more efficient, well-engineered and certainly more environment friendly. Stories are many, where a private mini-hydro project agreed with the Central Environmental Authority to release water for downstream users, but later blocked it 100%. As the saying goes, “Sri Lanka’s streams and rivers are now flowing in tubes”, but we are proud about a vibrant renewable energy industry !
Renewable energy from such smaller private investments reached 1% of total in year 2000 and 4% by 2006. Buoyed by another policy change in 2007 that offered a contract for 20 years and an even more attractive prices, renewable energy from small power plants raced toward a 10% policy target for 2015. It reached the target indeed, with 11% of electricity produced in 2015 from the combined production in 147 minihydros, 15 wind and 3 each of grown biomass, wood waste and solar parks. Unlike many countries who make headlines by stating their renewable energy contribution in megawatt, Sri Lanka’s targets and achievement are stated in kilowatthour, honestly reflecting the true benefits to save fuel and to reduce emissions.
Continuing its race for development, by 2020 (provisional figures) electricity produced from smaller private renewable energy power plants reached 12%. Adding major hydros, the energy share from all renewable energy was 37% by 2020, a share unmatched by all countries and expatriate Sri Lankans that preach Sri Lanka on how to develop renewable energy.
Has the price been good to the investor?
The policy of paying renewable energy projects signed over 1996-2016 was to pay the value of fuel saved in the grid, calculated and published in advance every year. Agreements signed after 2007 enjoy an even more attractive pricing formula: a technology-specific, cost-reflective price. That means minihydros are paid a price to make that a profitable investment; wind power is paid to make that technology, a profitable investment.
Once signed, price paid does not change. If costs go up or down after signing, or bank interest rates go up or down, the price remains the same. Fortunately for all who signed in 2008-2009 or later, equipment costs and bank interest rates both have been on a downward trend. Projects that borrowed at 18% in 2018 possibly borrowed at 8% this year, but still enjoy the price paid calculated at 18% interest. By way of equipment costs, solar power has seen the deepest reduction in costs. More on that later.
What was the benefit to the public?
Why did the government offer such attractive rates and terms to private investors? Sri Lanka did not throw Rs 10 at renewable energy investors and say “do it if you can”. The key principle in the pricing policy was: price paid makes investments profitable (not just profitable but excessively profitable). The agreement still remains the “most investor friendly agreement” in the world.
In other words, the public of this country, through their electricity bills and through taxes, have paid for the investments, bank interest, and profits (above market rates), to make privately-owned renewable energy an excessively profitable venture. Other benefits of renewable energy need not be repeated here; they are all well known. So what is the benefit to the public who fully paid (and continue to pay) for these investments, of which the ownership is private?
It should be the longer-term benefit of cheaper renewable energy. That’s why the 2008 announcement on the revised policy said as follows: “Renewable energy, which is a natural resource, belongs to the State. Developers are provided with a high tariff to cover their expenses and to earn reasonable profits for an adequately long period (in this case the first fifteen years). Thereafter, the benefit of the resource should flow to the electricity customers, while continuing to provide an operating fee to the small power producers and full recovery of maintenance costs”.
The closest example is the CEB-owned fleet of hydropower plants, which are bigger. The familiar ones are Laxapana, Kotmale and Victoria, among a total of 15 power plants. The public of the country paid for those too, starting from 1950. How? Through electricity bills (because loans and government investments were apportioned between CEB and Mahaweli Authority), taxes and benefits foregone. The major hydros today produce at a cost of Rs 3.35 per unit of electricity. True, that except for Upper Kotmale, all are 20 years or more of age. The fleet of minihydros, too, as they mature into their contracts, after 15 years of good profits to investors, should deliver benefits to electricity customers. That’s why the 2008 announcement said: Therefore, once the developers’ costs and profits are paid, it is inevitable that in the long-term, renewable energy should flow into the national grid at prices significantly lower than the cost of thermal energy.
However, information published indicates that the principles on which small power producers were enabled in 1996 and then enhanced in 2008, are indeed being followed. CEB produces electricity from mature hydros at Rs 3.35 per unit (PUCSL assessment 2019). The price for mature hydropower in the private sector was Rs 5.38 per unit (CEB publication 2019), precisely following the principle of fairness: good profits to investor for 15 years, benefits to electricity customer in the longer term.
As more and more minihydros mature, later wind, biomass and solar projects mature, we should be seeing finally, that ALL renewables produce electricity at prices very significantly lower than all the alternatives. Renewables replace thermal power and we should be paid the same price, will not be an argument, now or then, or in the future. “My power plant is not so good, it does not have water, is not an argument”, because no one defined where to build the minihydro; the investor selected it.
The argument that private renewables can produce below the price of oil, gas or coal does not hold, then, now or in the future. Renewables were allowed because fossil fuels were expensive and bad. The price of fossil fuels comprise royalties, production and delivery costs. If one needs a comparison, royalties for renewables have to be paid to the “republic” (the treasury) and production costs paid by electricity customers. Since royalties are not charged for renewables, both CEB and private, then renewable energy prices should be compared only with production costs. The investment has already been fully paid by the republic.
I conclude with a quotation from the 2008 announcement: “Small power producers opting not to migrate to the new agreement by 30th April 2008, will be offered the tier 3 tariff announced for the relevant technology in the year in which the existing agreement expires, after its full tenure of 15 years is completed”. That means, retiring minihydros should be offered prices in the range of Rs 6 per unit.
It is yet to be seen whether the PUCSL and consumer rights groups are willing to fully and comprehensively understand the issue, step-in, and ensure that “renewable energy belongs to the republic”, as stated in the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act 2007.
The country’s streams are now flowing in tubes, but do benefits flow to the public who have fully paid the investors with profits?
Danger of disregarding Geopolitical Realities
Negotiating Agreements for Foreign Investments:
By Dr. S.W. Premaratne
Foreign Policy decision-maker, of a state, have to take into consideration the prevailing geopolitical environment of the international system, and of the region concerned, at a given time, when there is a foreign policy aspect involved in the decision that has to be taken regarding any issue Omission, or failure to give consideration to this aspect of the issue, can lead to disastrous consequences. Several examples from the recent political history of Sri Lanka can be given to illustrate this point.
Sri Lanka’s conduct of foreign policy, in the 1980s, is a clear example of the serious consequences of ignoring India’s concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s pro-West tilt in its foreign policy. Sri Lanka’s declared policy was non-alignment in maintaining relations with other states, specially the Big Powers in the West and the East. However, the J.R. Jayewardene government, that came to power, in 1977, sought to develop a closer relationship with the Western countries, led by the USA. The nature of the interactions between the diplomats of the USA and Sri Lanka, at the time, had given the impression to India that Sri Lanka was seeking the assistance of the USA for suppressing the Tamil militant movement in Sri Lank, fighting for the rights of the Tamil community. There were also reasons for India to suspect that there was an understanding between the Sri Lankan Government and the USA to allow the Trincomalee harbour to be used by the USA. It was this perception of India that Sri Lanka was following an anti-India foreign policy, endangering the security of India that motivated India to intervene militarily in the year 1987 to thwart the progress of the Vadamarachchi operation, aimed at militarily defeating the Tamil militant movement.
After aborting the progress of the Vadamarachchi operatio, the Indian government proceeded to compel the Sri Lankan Government to sign an Agreement – the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987 – to ensure that Sri Lanka respected India’s security concerns and other interests when seeking assistance from outside Powers for Sri Lanka’s economic development or national security.
India’s concerns regarding China’s excessive involvement in Sri Lanka’s development projects
Sri Lanka’s political leaders and diplomats, whenever they get an opportunity, express their affection for their Big Brother, India, and express the need for further strengthening the friendship for the mutual benefit of both countries. India’s perception, however, is that, especially after the change of government in 2005, there is an evolving special relationship between Sri Lanka and China posing a serious threat to the national security of India.
Sri Lanka felt intensely isolated from the international community after adopting the Resolution A/HRC/46/L. Rev. 1 against Sri Lanka, at the UNHRC, in Geneva, in March, 2021, especially because India also decided to support the core-group indirectly by abstaining from voting.
The only consolation for Sri Lanka now is China’s expression of willingness to further strengthen its strategic relationship with Sri Lanka by extending further development assistance to Sri Lanka, within the framework of the Belt end Road Initiative. Subsequent to a telephone conversation between the two leaders, the President of China and the President of Sri Lanka, in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, on March 30, 2021, it was stated that “China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral ties and stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to determine the strategic direction and achieve steady growth of the relationship. China stands ready to steadily push forward major projects, like the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, and promote high quality Belt and Road Co-operation, providing robust impetus for Sri Lanka’s post pandemic economic recovery and sustainable development”. China projecting Sri Lanka as an intimate partner of the Belt and Road strategy indicates that Sri Lanka is distancing itself from the path of non-alignment and adopting an anti-Western and anti-India approach.
In the matter of obtaining foreign investments for development projects, Sri Lanka has failed to foresee the foreign policy implications of overreliance on China. The two massive development projects, initiated during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, which came to power in 2005, were the Hambantota sea port and the Port City Project in Colombo. The amount of money invested for these two projects, by China, was so massive that Sri Lanka happened to sign an agreement for permitting the management and control of the Hambantota Port by the state-controlled company of China, under a 99-year lease agreement. The Management and control of the Colombo Port City area also has been granted to the Chinese construction company, under a 99-year lease agreement. Not only India, but also the USA and other Western countries have expressed serious concern regarding the involvement of China in strategically significant massive development projects in Sri Lanka. India’s perception now is that Sri Lanka is an aircraft carrier of China, stationed in the Indian Ocean, close to India. Hambantota Port is viewed as another pearl in the string of pearls maintained for containing India by China.
India is also concerned over the lack of interest on the part of the Sri Lankan Government to go ahead with the development projects regarding which agreement had been reached with India, during the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe coalition government. In May, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Japan and India proposing the development of the East Container Terminal jointly, Sri Lanka and Ports Authority retaining 51 percent shares. However, the present Government deviated from that understanding and decided to nominate one Indian investor, Adani Group, disregarding Japan. But, the attempt of the Sri Lankan Government to involve the Indian Company in this project by offering 49 percent of the shares of the ECT was thwarted by the trade union action of the port workers, supported by an influential section of the Buddhist priests and also a section of the ruling alliance. The Sri Lankan government had no alternative but to respond to the demand of the trade unions by getting the Cabinet approval for developing the ECT only by the Colombo Port Authority, without involving India or Japan.
India has also expressed concern over the attitude of the Sri Lankan Government concerning the development and management of the Trincomalee oil tank farm. The lower farm has been managed jointly by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) via Lanka IOC Private Limited. The 2003 tripartite agreement signed by the Sri Lankan Government, LIOC and the CPC covers the entire tank farm. India is now concerned about the excessive delay in granting the Sri Lankan Government’s approval for commencing the development of the Upper Tank Farm, comprising 84 tanks.
Another joint venture, regarding which Sri Lanka sought the involvement of India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. Company, and also a Japanese investor, was the proposed liquefied natural gas LNG terminal that was to be set up near Colombo. Although Indian and Japanese Investors had indicated their willingness to join this project, as partners, the Sri Lankan Government has not yet given its final approval for commencing the construction work.
India is also very much concerned over the lack of progress in the reconciliation process initiated after the end of the war. India’s concern in this regard was expressed very effectively and in very clear language in a statement made by the Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar in the course of a media conference during his two-day visit to Sri Lanka in January, this year. In his statement the Indian Foreign Minister said: “As we promote peace and wellbeing in the region, India has been strongly committed to the unity stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Our support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is long standing as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony. It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity, within a united Sri Lanka, are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution”.
Sri Lanka should not consider that India’s interest and involvement in the post-war reconciliation process as a case of a foreign country intervening in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka illegally. India is guided by a mindset that there is a moral responsibility on her part to intervene and bring about a final settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Colombo Port City Economic Commission
Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill which was challenged in the Supreme Court, purported to establish an Economic Commission for the administration of the Port City, built by a construction company of the Chinese Government, adjacent to the Colombo Port. This Bill seeks to grant extensive powers to an institution called the Colombo Port Economic Commission, whose members will be appointed by the President of Sri Lanka. According to the provisions in the Bill, the supervisory power of the Parliament of Sri Lanka has been excluded, both regarding the manner of exercising the powers granted by the proposed legislation to the Commission, and also regarding the selection of persons to be appointed as members of the Commission.
Moreover, regarding the activities that take place within the Colombo Port City area, some institutions of the Government of Sri Lanka are excluded from exercising their authority. Dr. Wijedasa Rajapaksa, in his written submissions submitted to the Supreme Court, in connection with the petition filed challenging the Bill, makes specific reference to the Customs Ordinance. He gives the warning that there may be importation of prohibited substances such as drugs, weapons, etc. He points out that in the event of any violation of International Treaties and Conventions, within the Port City area, it is not the Commission but the Sri Lankan Government that is responsible.
In view of the intense power struggle between China on the one hand and India and other partners of the Quad, led by the USA on the other hand, for dominance in the Indian Ocean area, the Parliament of Sri Lanka passing legislation for permitting such a high degree of autonomy to an administrative authority that can be controlled by the Chinese government will be considered by India as a serious threat to its security. This pro-China foreign policy orientation will also be an obstacle for Sri Lanka to promote friendly relations with democratic countries in the West determined to thwart Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean region.
The Philippines and SL combine
Singer Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), who was a big hit in this part of the world, singing with the group Friends, continues to make her presence felt on TNGlive – the platform, on social media, that promotes talent from all corners of the globe.
She made her third appearance, last Saturday, May 1st, but this time she had for company Sean, from the Philippines, who, incidentally, was in the finals of The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
Their repertoire, for TNGlive, on the evening of May 1st, including hit songs, like ‘Something Stupid,’ ‘Let Your Love Flow,’ (Sean), ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love,’ ‘Your Man,’ (Sean), ‘Crazy,’ ‘Great Pretender,’ (Sean), ‘Amazing,’ and ‘Stand By Me.’
It was a very entertaining programme, and Sean certainly did prove why he needed to be a finalist at the prestigious The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
You can take in the TNGlive scene, on a regular basis, by joining the Public Group TNGlive, on social media (Facebook).
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