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Focus on growing threat within as Taliban expands its hold

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Lanka’s former Amb. in Teheran discusses Afghan crisis

The latest US State Department announcement, quoted by Washington Examiner indicates that 99 countries, including the US, EU and NATO have worked out a deal with the Taliban, while honouring the 31st August evacuation deadline, to permit all foreign nationals, employees and Afghans who had worked with the foreign forces and missions and Afghans at risk, to leave freely, even after the deadline,in a safe and orderly manner, to any destination providing travel authorisation, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador in Iran M.M. Zuhair, PC told The Island yesterday.

Sri Lanka, though not in the list of 99 countries, and international entities named in the joint agreement with the Taliban, was unlikely to face problems, in view of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s post August 15 initiatives with the Taliban for a working arrangement with Afghanistan pending the formation of a care taker government, the former MP said.

“It is clear that the Taliban is in the process of enhancing its global credentials but dangerously constrained by possible terror attacks from Afghan violent extremist entities, like the Afghan Khorasan (IS-K) and to a lesser extent Ahmed Massoud’s National Resistance Front (NRF), believed to be under British handlers,” he said.

Zuhair said: “Meanwhile agents of the Western arms industry, operating from the US as well as Scandinavian countries, and Singapore, are decrying even a working relationship with the Taliban, raising issues of electoral legitimacy of the Taliban, obviously irrelevant at the moment. They continue to label Taliban as a “terrorist” outfit, ostracizing and alienating the freedom fighter movement’s efforts to regain the transitional administration of the country, ignoring the several positive statements of the new Taliban leadership that have come out of Kabul since August 15.”

“Some among them have gone far in fake fear mongering that dealing with the new Taliban will send wrong signals to the Tamil and Muslim minorities here, looking at all minorities divisively and thereby creating distrust and conflict at the expense of Sri Lanka’s national interest. They have also attempted to link the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks to the ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which terror outfits are widely believed to be linked to Western handlers. For more on this please see my article in The Island/Features of 30 August 2021 titled, AL Qaeda and ISIS will get buried if US and NATO stop invading other nations.

“These prophets of doom and gloom must stop fear-mongering that the Sri Lankan minorities are inimical to Sri Lanka. If this country had taken the advice of these prophets, Sri Lanka would have got isolated as against the 99 countries who have thought it fit to deal with the Taliban, the movement which is exercising power in Afghanistan today.

“However the The Island of 27.08.2021 has stood out with a commendable editorial, “Afghans deserve help” and may I add “not hate”.

Responding to The Island questions Zuhair said:

*Both the US and Sweden, according to Western media reports, had received intelligence of a likely attack at the Kabul airport, prior to the August 26 carnage that killed close upon 200 persons in the airport. Having resumed control of almost all parts of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban on August 15, resumed control of the Afghan capital Kabul, following Afghanistan’s US-backed President Ashraf Ghani abdicating post unannounced and escaping overseas, leaving the country without a government or facilitating a transitory administration. The US contingent expedited their departure from Kabul even faster.

According to the head of the US Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth F McKenzie Jr, the Taliban had thwarted several attacks in Afghanistan since resuming control of the country in mid-August. While the US forces were in full control of the Karzai airport, reports indicate that Taliban had enhanced security checks and posts, outside the airport, possibly aware of likely attacks targeting those flying off from the country.

The Afghan- Khorasans, identified by Western media as ‘IS-K’ and described as a        sworn enemy of the Talibans, with an estimated 2000 fighters said to be operating to the North East of Kabul, had been identified as responsible for the deadly August 26. With the threat of a further attack, targeting the airport, both the US and the Taliban had been seen anxious to complete the exit of primarily foreign forces, before the August 31st deadline expires on Tuesday. Taliban has also announced that others wanting to leave could leave thereafter on commercial flights.

*    The Afghan-Khorsans attack must be condemned. I do not claim any expertise on the dastardly events in Afghanistan but two possibilities must be considered. The Khorsans, much weaker than the Taliban, may want to strengthen their cadre, by showing that the Taliban were betraying the Afghans in allowing the free exit of those who treasonably worked for the country’s “enemies”. The other possibility for launching the attack may be to show the world that the Taliban, though in the seat of power, are not in effective control of the country and possibly will not be allowed to have their own way. With Western powers invariably keeping their options open, the Khorsans may be hoping desperately to gain Western attention to serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.

A good example is the 32-year-old Ahmed Massoud, anti -Taliban leader of the National Resistance Front (NRF) based in the Tajik ethnic stronghold of Panjshir valley, 33 miles to the North of Kabul. Massoud was quoted in the Washington Post this month seeking Western support for him to lead the fight against the Taliban. Ahmed Massoud is the son of the legendary leader of the Panjshir valley Shah Massoud who successfully thwarted the Russians from the valley in the 1980s. He was killed in 2001 and was succeeded by his son; picked up by the British, educated at King’s College, London and trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst!

*   Massoud’s offer for the West to back him against the Taliban may be seen as another attempt to serve as a counterweight to the Taliban. There is no doubt that the 20 year US-NATO rule of Afghanistan has led to widespread corruption in a country doomed for years to come economically. The US pull out will close the insidious pipelines of corruption and Massoud needs to show that his Sandhurst training must be put to good use. Massoud may thereafter either follow the footsteps of run- away President Ashraf Ghani or follow his own father’s footsteps.

*    The Easter Sunday carnage has no comparison to the developments in Afghanistan. Easter Sunday carnage appears to centre around majoritarian discrimination over the minorities, according to the Parliamentary Select Committee report as well as the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. Afghanistani issues centre on unceasing foreign invasions of a country under various unsubstantiated pretexts. The twain will never meet! In the war in Afghanistan the Taliban were left with an economically crashing country while the Western arms industry is the solitary winner. There is nothing in Afghanistan for anyone to admire or be inspired by. These are dangerous fear mongering against the Sri Lanka Muslims, the only community that stood with the majority against LTTE terrorism.

*    One needs to look dispassionately at Norway’s role in Sri Lanka which led to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe signing a peace accord not with the moderate TNA but with the terrorist LTTE and Norway’s likely disappointment with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. We need also to look at the role of Norway and possibly its Oslo University, in brainwashing BBS against the Muslims in 2011/12, which led to the exposure of the Norwegian’s despicable role in pitting the majority community against the country’s demonstrably loyal Muslim minority. Muslims in Sri Lanka today are an utterly disappointed community and that is not good for the economic advancement of the country (SF)



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Sacked PUCSL Chairman fights back, writes to Prez

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Former PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake yesterday showing the media a document at a news conference called by him in Colombo. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake yesterday wrote to President Wickremesinghe denying all allegations levelled against him.

Earlier in the day, Ratnayake received a note informing of his removal from the PUCSL.

“I write in response to your above captioned letter dated 22 March 2023. At the outset I strongly deny all and singular the several allegations contained against me in your letter under reference,” he said.

The PUCSL Chairman said his letter contained a detailed response..

“I was given an extremely short period of one week, despite the serious consequences that could flow from the misconceived allegations made against me,” Ratnayake said.

He said that the PUCSL was not a rubber stamp for proposals put forward by the Electricity Industry including the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

“But the PUCSL should duly exercise its powers and functions as an independent regulator even when the consequent decision reached by it may be one which is not desired by the CEB or the Government,” he said.

Ratnayake said that the PUCSL acting independently has resulted in the Minister of Power and Energy being unable at times to act at his whim and fancy.

“This appears to have irked the Minister of Power and Energy, and also the President. In May 2022, the secretary to the President had phoned my personal assistant instructing her to “ask the Chairman of the Commission to refrain from making any announcement or statement contradicting the speech made by the Prime Minister.”

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Singer Sri Lanka bags top awards

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Singer Sri Lanka PLC clinched the People’s Brand of the Year and Durable Brand of the Year Awards for the 17th consecutive year at the SLIM-KANTAR Awards held at the Monarch Imperial on 27th March, 2023. Singer Sri Lanka PLC Chairman Mohan Pandithage receiving the award from Chief Guest, Sri Lanka Test Cricket Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Guest of Honour, Past President-SLIM Kalana Ratnayake at the glittering ceremony. Singer Sri Lanka PLC CEO Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Shanil Perera, Marketing Manager, Piyum Jayathilaka and other senior officials were present. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

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SJB trade unionist calls for significant fuel price reduction

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Convenor of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) trade union wing, Samagi Joint Trade Union Alliance, Ananda Palitha yesterday (28) said that with the appreciation of rupee against the USD and comparatively lower crude prices in the world market, the government could reduce the price of litre of petrol (92 Octane) and diesel by as much as Rs 100 and petrol (95 Octane) by Rs 125.

The trade unionist said that the price of a litre of kerosene, furnace oil and naphtha, too, could be decreased by Rs 100 each.

Responding to The Island queries, the former Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) employee said that fuel prices should be revised as fast as possible for the benefit of the public.

Lanka IOC should follow the new pricing formula, the former UNP trade union leader said, strongly urging the government to re-examine the petroleum sector. It would be pertinent to mention that petroleum and water sectors, too, should be brought under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in terms of PUC Act No 35 of 2002, Ananda Palitha said.

Former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that he was out of the country.

Therefore, I couldn’t comment without studying the latest developments.

Ananda Palitha found fault with political parties represented in parliament for the inordinate delay in fully implementing the Act that was meant to regulate three vital sectors. The PUC received authority to regulate the electricity industry, in terms of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009, Palitha said. However, respective Acts, pertaining to Petroleum and Water, were yet to be passed by Parliament, the trade union leader said pointing out that the delay on the part of the parliament seemed deliberate.

Asked whether they opposed the further liberalisation of retail market with the entry of more foreign companies, Ananda Palitha said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was exploiting the current political-economic-social crisis to advance the original agenda of Wickremesinghe.

“We are facing a frightening situation,” the SJB activist said, urging political parties represented in parliament to review rapid developments taking place. The entry of four foreign entities should be examined against the backdrop of Lanka IOC further expanding its operations here, Ananda Palitha said.

The outspoken trade unionist warned against moves to gradually weaken Sapugaskanda oil refinery to pave the way for increased import of refined products. “The refinery that launched operations in 1969 during Dudley Senbanayake’s era received the attention of President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. But, since then no President paid attention to the facility,” Ananda Palitha said. Instead of enhancing its capacity, successive governments were working overtime to weaken it for obvious reasons, the trade unionist said.

According to him, all were attacking Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera over the continuing crisis in the petroleum sector. “We should question President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Cabinet-of-Ministers headed by the President and the relevant Sectoral Oversight Committee,” Ananda Palitah said.

Ananda Palitha said that political parties as well as some trade unions should accept responsibility for the pathetic situation in the petroleum sector. For want of a cohesive action plan, politicians and interested parties regardless of on and off setbacks were able to pursue their agendas detrimental to Sri Lanka, he said.

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