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FM: UNHRC on political campaign against SL

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… points out duplicity of some members

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday (23) said double standards adopted by some countries would undermine the global fight against terrorism. Minister Gunawardena said so delivering the country statement at the 46th session of the Geneva based UNHRC. He spoke using video technology.

Minister Gunawardena said there was an unprecedented propaganda campaign against Sri Lanka on the basis of the report of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Minister said that he would leave it to the members and observers of this Council to make their own judgment on whether Sri Lanka represented a situation that warranted the urgent attention of this Council, or if this campaign was essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this Council has been established. Particularly at a time when legislation is enacted by some countries to protect their soldiers from prosecution in military operations carried out overseas, only points to duplicity and the hypocritical nature of their motives. This cannot but result in a significant loss of morale among countries engaged in the struggle against terrorism.

The following is the full text of the statement: “Sri Lankan heroic armed forces militarily neutralized the LTTE in 2009 after three-decades of conflict. The Sri Lanka Government acted in self-defense to safeguard the unitary state, sovereignty and territorial integrity from the world’s most ruthless separatist terrorist organization.

The LTTE is the only terrorist organization in the world which has killed two world leaders: a serving President of Sri Lanka and a former Prime Minister of India extending its terror beyond the borders of Sri Lanka.

End of terrorism guaranteed the most cherished of all human rights – right to life of all Sri Lankans – Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslims.

Nonetheless hegemonic forces colluded against Sri Lanka in bringing an unsubstantiated resolution against Sri Lanka which was defeated by the support of friendly nations who remain by Sri Lanka’s side even today. Further resolutions were presented to this Council on purely political motives. In each instance Sri Lanka presented the procedural improprieties, and how such processes could set a dangerous precedent affecting all member states of the United Nations.

The Government which assumed office in Sri Lanka in 2015, in a manner unprecedented in human rights fora, joined as co-sponsors of Resolution 30/1 which was against our own country. It carried a host of commitments that were not deliverable and were not in conformity with the Constitution of Sri Lanka. This led to the compromising of national security to a point of reviving terrorist acts on Easter Sunday 2019 causing the deaths of hundreds. The rejection of this resolution by the peoples of Sri Lanka was clearly manifested in the mandate received by His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019. Based on this mandate I announced at the 43rd session of this Council that Sri Lanka would withdraw from co-sponsorship of the resolution. I also stated that Sri Lanka would remain engaged with the UN system including this Council.

We have provided detailed updates to the OHCHR in December 2020 as well as in January 2021 on the progress of implementation of commitments that Sri Lanka had undertaken such as continuity of the existing mechanisms, appointment of a special commission of inquiry headed by a Supreme Court Judge, achieving the SDGs, progress made in returning lands, demining and creating new avenues of livelihoods.

These steps have been taken even as Sri Lanka was battling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past one year. In spite of these challenges we held a free and fair general election in August 2020 and elected a new Government with a two-thirds majority in one of Asia’s oldest Parliamentary democracies.

It is regrettable that despite the spirit of cooperation with the HRC and its mechanisms, elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution based on this OHCHR Report. This rejected report by Sri Lanka has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic in any self-respecting, sovereign country.

I leave it to the members and observers of this Council to make their own judgment on whether Sri Lanka represents a situation that warrants the urgent attention of this Council, or if this campaign is essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this Council has been established. Particularly at a time when legislation is enacted by some countries to protect their soldiers from prosecution in military operations carried out overseas, only points to duplicity and the hypocritical nature of their motives. This cannot but result in a significant loss of morale among countries engaged in the struggle against terrorism.

The Council must hold the scales even. Not going by hearsay, unilateral action or one angled doubtful sources but adhere to its guiding principles. Insistence on such ever-expanding externally driven prescriptions notwithstanding our continuous cooperation and engagement with this Council can pose numerous challenges.

As the Council is aware this is a critical time to the entire world in the last hundred years where we need to be united in our efforts to overcome the Covid19 pandemic and to revive battered economies. I appeal to the members of this Council to take note of our continued engagement and cooperation on its merit and support us by rejecting any resolution against Sri Lanka. We believe that the extent to which the resources and time of this Council has been utilized on Sri Lanka is unwarranted, and carries a discouraging message to the sovereign states of the global South.

The need of the hour, in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, is solidarity rather than rancor and acrimony arising from divisions within this council. In view of the circumstances set out above, we urge that this resolution be rejected by the Council and be brought to closure.”



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Sabry denies China caused SL debt crisis

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Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, has dismissed assertions that China caused the current economic crisis here.The Minister made Sri Lanka’s position clear in an interview with WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal. Asked whether Minister Sabry believed that the current economic crisis is due to China, its policy of debt crisis, the Minister has said: No, I don’t agree with that, which is a western phrase. We don’t agree with that. The Chinese never came and forced us to take money. Actually, we have gone and sought funds and they have respected that and invested in our country. They are the biggest investor in our country, we don’t agree with that phrase. Having taken the money we have put them into proper use or who so ever we can get in return is the issue for Sri Lankans, therefore we don’t associate with that kind of phrase, actually Chinese have been good friends for us and they have been the biggest investor in the country post conflict.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s ties with China, WION quoted Sabry as having said: “Our relationship with Beijing is very strong for a long period of time, they have been our close friend. This year we have celebrated 70 years of economic ties with them, beginning with the Rubber Rice pact, we exported rubber to them and imported rice. So ours is a strong relationship and basically it has been a commercial relationship, economic relationship where they have come and invested heavily in Sri Lanka during a difficult period of time for us and during the 26 years of the conflict, during the last few years, Chinese supported us with supply of arms to get rid of the threat from one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations, the LTTE and in order to bring back peace to our country. In that context we have had a very good relationship with them. Sri Lanka always follows the dynamic, neutral foreign policy where we would want everyone to be a friend of Sri Lanka and enemy to none. That is our foreign policy, that is our relationship, so given this dynamic, we would continue the same thing but taking India’s sensitivities and security concerns to heart because that is very important for us.”

WION: How has the talks been with the IMF and has India played a role in facilitating the talks? I believe this is the 17th bailout you are trying to secure.

Ali Sabry: I started the negotiations with them, and they have studied, and staff-level agreement has been reached, prior action before the EFF, extended fund facility, we have agreed on. We have agreed and implemented some of those things. The EEF facility is for 2.9 billion, and the moment the IMF gets involved, it infuses confidence in the system, ADB, World Bank all come on the table, and we probably will be able to return to the money market, so that is why it is so important. India, had actually provided us with a lifeline during the most crucial time of our history, in terms of economy and those credit lines kept us going for a long period of time. I remember, when I was in Washington, your Finance Minister Sitharaman led your group and supported us in our discussion with the IMF and they have continued to do so. So it is important and Indian support is very critical to us. India has played a great role in supporting the neighbour in the most difficult time of its history.

WION: Why didn’t China offer financial assistance, as India did, during the recent crisis?

Ali Sabry: The Chinese also supported us just before the particular period of time, they also provided us with some financial facilities and credit line, also they did provide us some soft arrangement to bolster our reserves at the central bank, apart from that some humanitarian assistance also. We hope China will step up in providing us with debt restructuring assurances, along with India so that we can go to the IMF and resolve the matter once and for all and get back to the recovery path. So, it’s important for all creditors and all investors that Sri Lanka recovers and recovers fast. The longer the debt gets suspended, the longer it takes to recover. It is bad for all the creditors and investors; everybody understands that, including China.

WION: Has China offered to restructure…

Ali Sabry: We are still in discussions for that, they have been cooperative and part of the common platform where we share information, recently in Washington. They also took part on the virtual platform. So China, India, Paris club, and Japan are all cooperating with us, so we are in the final stage of trying to get the debt restructuring and assurances. We are hopeful all countries and all our friends will not let us down.

WION: Have you asked for more Indian support.

Ali Sabry:Not really, right now our economy has stabilized to some extent and we should be able to manage ourselves. Right now, we have reached out to India and the rest of the world, it’s not for aid or any more loans but basically investments. We are working with Indians and Indian companies and the government to work together in various areas for mutual interests, so that investment comes into the country and it will be beneficial for both Indians and Sri Lankans.

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Electricity users threaten legal action if power tariffs hiked again unilaterally by Minister

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CEB records Rs 6 billion profit in October

By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) recorded a profit of six billion rupees in October, Electricity Users Association (EUA) Secretary Sanjeewa Dhammika told the media yesterday.Dhammika said that if the CEB increased the price of electricity again, the EUA would take legal action.

“There are 6.5 million users of electricity and I urge the Minister of Power and Energy not to take them for granted. Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, on Thursday, told Parliament that they will increase the electricity tariff again,” he said.

The CEB made a profit of six billion rupees in October. Electricity was produced using water, coal, and renewable sources, he said.

“The average cost of electricity production was around five rupees. A unit of electricity was sold at around 32

rupees. The Minister says they are still making a loss. The Minister has no power to increase tariffs. The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) can only increase the tariff. The current Minister has said there is no need for a PUCSL. He wants to increase tariffs the way he wants, without oversight. We won’t allow that to happen. Apparently, he has asked the Cabinet to review tariffs, once in six months,” he said.

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Baglay reiterates India’s commitment in line with ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’

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Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay on Thursday (24) reiterated their commitment to Sri Lanka’s capacity building endeavours in line with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.

Baglay emphasized that training engagements between the Armed Forces have instilled a spirit of brotherhood and interoperability amongst the services and form the foundation of their abiding bonds. A large number of NDC India alumni in Sri Lanka have risen to the highest echelons of defence leadership, which testifies to the importance of nurturing these strong relations, according to a statement issued by the Indian High Commission here.

Baglay said so at an event to mark 50 years of association between National Defence College (NDC), India and Sri Lankan Armed Forces in Colombo. The special event celebrated the enduring bonds of cooperation, camaraderie and friendship between the militaries of India and Sri Lanka. Secretary of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Commanders of Sri Lanka Navy and Air Force along with other alumni and dignitaries from the Ministry of Defence and Sri Lanka Armed Forces graced the occasion.

Secretary of Defence, Gen (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne and High Commissioner Gopal Baglay jointly launched the webpage of the Alumni Association of NDC India in Sri Lanka at the event to facilitate closer and continued engagements between the two countries and the premier Indian defence institute. The webpage would be hosted on the website of High Commission of India (www.hcicolombo.gov.in/ndca) and act as a medium for the alumni to stay connected with their alma mater and keep abreast with the latest on defence cooperation between the two maritime neighbours.

As part of India’s unwavering commitment to capacity building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces and focus on regional cooperation, NDC India has made valuable contributions towards enhancing regional peace, security and stability and such forums effectively enable fostering of cordial and warm relationships between the two countries.

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