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Foreign Secretary sounds ‘consensual resolution’ as pressure mounts in Geneva

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Monday (25) night revealed that the government was having discussions with the UK-led Sri Lanka Core Group in a bid to explore the possibility of reaching a consensus on what he described as a ‘consensual resolution’ ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled for Feb-March this year.

Admiral Colombage acknowledged that an agreement on a consensual resolution was a politically challenging task. FS Colombage said so in conversation with Faraz Shauketaly on ‘News Line’ on TV 1.

Asked whether the government was under pressure to co-sponsor the new resolution or face a vote in case Sri Lanka rejected the UK-led move, the naval veteran said there was dialogue between the two parties in this regard. Talks have to be concluded today (27)

Prof. Colombage ruled out the possibility of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the new resolution. The top Foreign Ministry official also dismissed the interviewer’s assertion the government was under pressure to accept the new resolution.

Admiral Colombage said they were also studying some suggestions made by the Core Group.

Asked whether the government would try to convince the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led political grouping that had demanded an international war crimes investigation in addition to a range of punitive measures to reverse its decision, FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka waged war against an internationally proscribed terrorist group.

The interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s assertion of retired justice C.V. Wigneswaran, MP, who signed Jan. 15 dated petition, in his capacity as the leader of Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kutani (TMTK). Altogether, 13 lawmakers represented the three political parties that called for external intervention.

Declaring that serious war crimes hadn’t been committed during the war, FS Colombage questioned the motives of those continuing to harp on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Referring to the failure on the part of the Northern Provincial Council to spend the funds allocated for the benefit of the public, FS Colombage asked whether an agenda detrimental to post-war national reconciliation was being pursued.

In the wake of Sri Lanka quitting in Feb 2020 Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the previous government against one’s own country in Oct 2015, Geneva has warned Sri Lanka of serious consequences. In addition to freezing assets and travel bans slapped on those who had been ‘credibly accused of human rights violations,’ Geneva recommended the launch of criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court and an international mechanism to gather evidence.

Referring to the US travel ban imposed on Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020, the interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s opinion on the Geneva report. Refuting allegations, Admiral Colombage alleged serious shortcomings, including factual errors.

Asked whether the recent appointment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) chaired by Supreme Court Judge Nawaz to examine previous CoI reports et al wasn’t too late as well as insufficient just ahead of the 46th sessions, Admiral Colombage explained how eruption of first Covid-19 wave that resulted in the postponement of general elections scheduled for April 2020 caused serious setback to government efforts.

Commenting on simmering controversy over the Sri Lanka-India agreement on the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour, Admiral Colombage expressed confidence the issue could be resolved soon. The former Navy Chief categorically denied India’s valuable support to Sri Lanka at Geneva et al would be linked with agreement on ECT.

Responding to criticism directed at India over a spate of issues, including the forced imposition of the 13th Amendment thereby creating the Provincial Council system, Admiral Colombage pointed out the Tamil Nadu factor. Admiral Colombage, having reiterated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s foreign policy statement, assured Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with major powers.

FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations wouldn’t be at the expense of another country.

Admiral Colombage regretted the recent mid-sea collision involving an SLN Fast Attack Craft and an Indian fishing trawler that resulted in the deaths of four fishermen. The FS emphasized that the incident happened well within Sri Lankan waters near Delft Island.

Navy headquarters last week alleged that the Indian vessel collided with FAC while trying to flee a naval cordon.

Admiral Colombage said that the SLN vessel would have suffered serious damage if the Indian trawler happened to be one with a steel hull.

Asked whether US, India, Japan and Australia would take a common stand vis a vis Sri Lanka in respect of accountability issues, Admiral Colombage asserted that wouldn’t be the case. “Sri Lanka is important to them” Admiral Colombage said, while describing them as the four pillars of the Quad-a security alliance.

Commenting on the disclosures made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, Admiral Colombage appreciated the British politician’s efforts to set the record straight as regards war crimes accusations. The Foreign Secretary said that the revelations were made on the basis of genuine and accurate sources.

The British Lord used classified wartime British HC cables (Jan – May 2009) obtained following a legal battle to counter Geneva accusations. Sri Lanka is yet to officially request Geneva to revisit the 2015 resolution on the basis of Lord Naseby’s revelations.



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Lord Naseby asks why Adele not prosecuted in UK for child recruitment

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Lord Naseby President of the UK all party British-Sri Lanka Parliamentary group has questioned the failure on the part of the UK to prosecute senior LTTE leader Adela Balasingham, wife of the outfit’s late theoretician Anton Balasingham. Lord Naseby said that Adele, who had been involved with the LTTE for several decades, was responsible for recruitment and deployment of child soldiers.

The following is the text of the statement issued by Lord Naseby in response to the UK statement at the Human Rights Council by Lord Tariq Ahmad on Feb 25:

“I am astounded how the UK or any other Member of the Core Group can possibly welcome the High Commissioner’s so called ‘detailed and most comprehensive report on Sri Lanka’ when it is riddled with totally unsubstantiated allegations and statements completely ignoring the huge effort to restore infrastructure and rehouse displaced Tamils and Muslims, who lost their homes due to the Tamil Tigers.

“Furthermore, I question how the UK Government knowingly and apparently consciously withheld vital evidence from the despatches of the UK military attaché Col. Gash. Evidence I obtained from a Freedom of Information request, resisted by the Foreign Office at every stage for over 2 years. These dispatches from an experienced and dedicated senior British officer in the field makes it clear that the Sri Lankan armed forces at every level acted and behaved appropriately, trying hard not to harm any Tamil civilians who were held by the Tamil Tigers as hostages in a human shield.

“This conscious decision totally undermines the UK‘s standing as an objective Leader of the Core Group; made even worse by the impunity for not prosecuting the LTTE leader living in the UK, largely responsible for recruiting, training and deploying over 5,000 Child Soldiers – a real War Crime. It is time that the UK Government acknowledges and respects the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which involved several international expert advisers, including from the UK – Sir Desmond de Silva QC, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Rodney Dixon QC and Major General John Holmes. Sri Lanka and the UK should be honouring the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which provides real evidence over all the years of the conflict, rather than just focussing on uncorroborated claims during a few months in 2009, only when the war concluded.

“Furthermore, the criticism of the way Covid has been handled with no burials for anyone based entirely on scientific advice at a time when there was no advice from WHO shows no understanding. Following the scientific advice from WHO and Sri Lanka’s scientists, burials are now permitted. The UN ignores the fact that only about 400 people on a population of 22m have sadly died in Sri Lanka, whereas no less than 120,000+ have died in the UK with a population of 66 million. By any yardstick Sri Lanka has been more successful at saving lives than any member of the Core Group.

“It seems to me that the Core Group needs to have more faith in the reconciliation structures already on the ground such as the Office of Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations. If the UN Core Group really wants to help, then why cannot the UK, Canada and Germany release to Sri Lanka the names of all asylum seekers since the war so that they can be checked against the list of Missing Persons and be removed from the master list?

“During the period of the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government, draft legislation for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission was prepared and the current government should be given the time and space, whilst also handling the pandemic, to introduce its own TRC mechanism. Britain should stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka as a unique TRC is developed and is implemented. Reconciliation cannot be externally forced on to the people of Sri Lanka. It must come from within and I would also urge the diaspora communities living in the Core Group countries to also trust, engage with and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s reconciliation processes.

It is for Sri Lanka to decide how much help they seek from outside but for me I doubt the need or the efficacy of the UNHRC being able to help in an enhanced monitoring role as proposed.”

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SJB finds fault with recommendations of political victimisation PCoI

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday found fault with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that investigated incidents of political victimization for arrogating to itself the powers of the judiciary.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella said: “The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the incidents of political victimisation has usurped the powers of courts.

MP Kiriella said that PCoI or any one including the Executive should not encroach on the powers of the judiciary. The MPs had a right to stand against it. “We have a constitutional right to prevent this. As per the provisions of the Article 4 of the Constitution people have given their sovereign powers of exercising judicial power to Parliament. It is by parliament through the courts or any other tribunal accepted by the law the judicial powers are exercised. A presidential commission of inquiry has not been given powers of courts. The PCoI headed by retired Justice Upali Abeyratne arrogated to itself the powers of courts as per the recommendations the commission made in its report,” Kiriella said.

He said that the PCoI had recommended that cases pending before in the Magistrate and High Courts be stopped. “Victims have been turned into complainants and complainants into offenders. The PCoI has made recommendations to acquit those implicated in numerous offences. The commission has recommended that some of those who violated the laws be acquitted and compensated. A PCoI has no such powers. We have expressed our opposition to this. We actually have submitted a petition to the Chief Justice on Tuesday against the PCoI hijacking the powers of the court.”

The MP said that PCoI’s usurping of court powers was a serious matter that should be rectified immediately. “We have utmost faith in the judiciary of this country. Courts have maintained their independence very bravely in the face of many challenges. You may recall that when there was a constitutional coup in 2018 October, the court did not succumb to political pressure

and declared the ouster of our government unconstitutional. If the PCoIs are allowed to usurp the powers of judiciary then the public would lose their faith in courts.”

SJB MPs J.C. Alawathuwala and Harin Fernando also addressed the press.

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Explosion of credit to private sector this year at low interest to ensure economic recovery – CB

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A record Rs. 850 billion worth of credit would be given to the private sector by the Banks in 2021, CBSL’s Director of Economic Research Dr. Chandranath Amarasekera told the media yesterday.

The increase in the Private sector credit growth would be due to low interest rates, introduction of loan targets for selected segments of the SME sector and the increase in demand for credit as investor confidence booms, Dr. Amarasekera said.

CBSL had already commenced a dialogue with banks to iron out issues that might arise, he said.

Dr. Amarasekera said that the Standing Deposit Facility Rate will remain at 4.5% and the Standing Lending Facility Rate will remain at 5.5%. The Monetary Board decided to keep the policy interest rates unchanged considering the global and local situation, he said.

The Board also decided to keep interest rates low until the economy showed a sustainable recovery, Dr. Amarasekera said.

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