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Foreign Minister reminds UN of the importance of its founding principles for international stability

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No state could withstand the varied effects of the COVID-19 pandemic nor find solutions alone, Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena said at a virtual event on Friday to mark the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and 65th Anniversary of the United Nations in Colombo.

Gunawardena said that the United Nations’ reaching its 75th year, demonstrated the durability of not only the organization, but also the concept of multilateralism, based on the core principles of sovereign equality of all States, respect for their territorial integrity and non-interference in their domestic affairs. The partnerships fostered between Member States and the UN continued were at their best when based on those principles, he said.

“As we are celebrating this milestone, the world is faced with the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus transcends national boundaries and no Member State can withstand the varied effects of the pandemic nor find solutions alone. The UN plays an important role in fostering multilateral action and mobilizing global solidarity towards addressing this scourge. Sri Lanka appreciates and supports the contributions by the UN and especially the WHO to the global response to address the multiple challenges of the pandemic,” he said.

The Foreign Minister said that Sri Lanka is pleased to have contributed significantly to the work of the United Nations, from its peacekeeping operations to its specialized agencies.

“Historically, Sri Lanka has been closely associated with many of the important discourses in the UN. Sri Lanka served as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1960 and as the President of the General Assembly in 1976,” Gunawardena said.

The Foreign Minister said that as one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and as a key member of the Group of 77, Sri Lanka had continued to play a significant role in multilateral deliberations at the UN, particularly representing the interests of the global South.

“Some of the landmark contributions by Sri Lanka in the UN system include: leading the negotiations on the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has provided the foundation for a rules-based order for the oceans for over 30 years; initiating the UN General Assembly Resolution which unanimously declared Vesak, the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar, as a United Nations Observance Day and serving the organisation through high-level professionals, such as the Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs the UN and Secretary General of the UNCTAD,” he said.

“Sri Lanka has been contributing to the UN Peacekeeping efforts since the 1960s, serving in the Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, South Sudan, Timor and Western Sahara, demonstrating our commitment to global peace and security. Having acquired multiple skills after ending nearly three decades of separatist terrorism domestically, Sri Lanka’s forces have brought much pride to the country, also being internationally recognized with UN.” He said that even now Sri Lankan peacekeepers were serving in some of the world’s most high intensity conflict regions.

“The theme of this commemoration ‘Shaping our future together’ is future focused and reiterates the importance of collective action for the future that we wish for. Youth has been recognized as the centre of the UN 75 dialogues as the role of youth and the way they perceive the future is pivotal in this context. I recall that in 2014 Sri Lanka took the leadership to declare 15 July as the World Youth Skills day to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people to face the future with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. This date is annually commemorated at the United Nations Headquarters co-hosted by Sri Lanka and Portugal together with UNESCO, ILO and the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy,” he said.

 

 



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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