By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Influential Ontario Legislative Assembly has resolved that Sri Lanka subjected the Tamil community to genocide during the armed conflict. The Legislative Assembly voted in favour of Bill 104 (aka the Tamil Genocide Education Week Act),moved by Sri Lankan asylum seeker-turned Scarborough-Rouge Park member of Parliament Vijay Thanigasalam, at the third reading in the legislature, Canada and the UK-based sources told The Island. The first reading took place on April 30th, 2019, and the second on May 16, 2019.
A key member of the Sri Lanka Core Group, at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, Canada backed the vote on March 23, 2021 against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. Argentina, Armenia, Austria, the Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay voted against Sri Lanka.
The passage of Bill 104 took place on May 6, 2021 in the absence of a cohesive campaign by Sri Lanka to oppose the Canadian move, sources said.
On Twitter, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario MP Vijay Thanigasalam declared the passage of Bill 104 ‘a historic event for Tamil people in Ontario and across the world. The Canadian media quoted Thanigasalam as having said: “Ontario is the first government worldwide to pass such a law.”
Thanigasalam, in addition to being Vice-Chair, Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly is also member, Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs as well as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation.
Sources said that the Canadian move had been made in the wake of the unprecedented rejection of retired Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sumangala Dias as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner therein. Sources said that AM Dias was rejected on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.
Former journalist Sithara Khan functions as the Acting High Commissioner since the SLPP government recalled Sri Lanka Ambassador there Asoka Girihagama, a career diplomat who reached the retirement age during his stint there. Girihagama, however, hasn’t returned to the country yet. Girihagama succeeded another career diplomat Ahmed A Jawad in late 2018.
The government recently made an abortive bid to dispatch outgoing Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, to Canada.
The Bill 104, the Tamil Genocide Education Week Act, establishes seven days each year, May 11 to 18, during which Ontarians “are encouraged to educate themselves about, and to maintain their awareness of, the Tamil genocide and other genocides that have occurred in world history.” The weeklong event coincides with the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s successful war against the LTTE on the morning of May 19, 2009, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, sources said.
Several Sri Lankan organizations strongly opposed the move with some making representations to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills. Among them was Dr. Neville Hewage, research fellow, Public Policy and Governance, International Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Law, Laurentian University, Ontario.
Hewage told The Island that the Ontario Legislative Assembly lacked jurisdiction to pass Bill 104 under any circumstances. Hewage in his comprehensive submission pointed out that the adopted Bill while making reference to a death toll of 40,000 to 75,000 in May 2009, referred to what it called other estimates which placed the number of deaths in 2009 (January 1 to May 18, 2009) at 146,679.
Canada based sources said that Vijay Thanigasalam openly identified himself with the LTTE even after the end of war. On Nov 26, 2011, Vijay Thanigasalam in a Facebook post stated: “Happy 57th birthday to our national Leader V. Prabhakaran.” However, Vijay Thanigasalam apologized for sharing LTTE material. The politician stated: “In the past I shared material related to the Tamil Tigers. I apologize and I no longer hold those views.”:
Self-Employed Traders petition SC over govt. favouring liquor dealers
By A.J.A Abeynayake
The Supreme Court has decided take up, on 04 Oct. for hearing a petition filed by the Association of Self-Employed Traders against the opening of liquor stores during the current lockdown.
The traders have requested the apex court to order the government to allow members of their union to engage in business activities since the liquor stores had been allowed to reopen during the lockdown.
The petition was taken up before a three-judge bench comprising justices L. T. B. Dehideniya, Shiran Gooneratne and Janak de Silva, yesterday.
The State Counsel appearing for the respondents said he had received the relevant documents pertaining to the case only last Friday evening. Therefore, the State Counsel requested the court to give him time to seek advice from the respondents who were many.
Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva, appearing for the petitioner at the time, said about 7,000 members of his client union had lost their livelihoods due to the decision by the respondents.
Therefore, Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva requested the court to give an early date for considering the petition.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided to take up the petition for consideration on 04 Oct and directed the lawyers of the petitioners to take steps to send notice to the respondents before that date.
The petition was filed by the President of the United National Self-Employed Trade Association G.I. Charles, its Vice President P.G.B. Nissanka, and Secretary Krishan Marambage.
The petition names 47 respondents, including the Director General of Health Services, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of Excise.
The petitioners allege that under the quarantine law, the Director General of Health Services, who is the competent authority, issued a notice on Aug 20 prohibiting the opening of liquor stores.
The petitioners point out that steps were taken to open liquor stores countrywide contrary to the regulations of the Health Authority.
The Director General of Health Services, the Commissioner General of Excise and the Inspector General of Police have stated that they have not allowed the reopening of liquor stores.
The petitioners have also requested the Supreme Court to issue an order to the respondents to allow the members of their association to engage in business activities as the liquor stores are allowed to remain open.
Lankan born newly elected Norwegian MP Gunaratnam calls for investments here
Newly elected Norwegian Labour Party MP, Lankan born Kamzy Gunaratnam says she will ask the new Norwegian government to continue engagement with the country of her birth.
Speaking at a virtual media conference on Sunday night, Gunaratnam said that she does not believe that boycotting Sri Lanka is the way forward.
“I don’t believe in boycott. There needs to be investments. Only that will ensure employment,” she said.
Gunaratnam said that she is also prepared to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if invited, for talks.
She said that Norway must continue to assist Sri Lanka through trade, education and in other ways.
Gunaratnam said that she will also discuss with her party and the new Norwegian Foreign Minister, as well as the Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka and see how best Norway can assist the country.
Gunaratnam said that Sri Lankans must also decide the best solution for Sri Lanka and not any foreign country. She said that Sri Lanka must not wait for foreign pressure to work on a solution.
The newly elected Norwegian MP also said that minority rights in Sri Lanka must be protected.
As a Norwegian MP she said that her main focus in the Norwegian Parliament will be to push for equality in Norway.
Going to IMF best solution, says Ranil
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe insists that a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is necessary to mitigate impact of the growing debt repayment crisis; homegrown solutions are not effective.
“Unlike in the past, Sri Lanka’s debt problem has increased at a time when there is a global debt problem. This makes the situation more challenging and complex. Sri Lanka is a highly import-dependent economy,” Wickremesinghe said during a panel discussion, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The UNP leader said that the government shouldn’t sell state assets to ease off the shortage of foreign exchange to have breakfast but reinvest those proceeds back in the economy. “Going to the IMF is the best solution,” Wickremesinghe said.
With reference to homegrown solutions, he referred to the mess caused by the government in promoting Dhammika peniya as one of the failed measures earlier on to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka should use the current situation to forge ahead with structural and public sector reforms which were postponed due to political considerations in the past.
The former PM suggested that the re-opening of the country be delayed till mid-October.
In responding to the issue of debt management in Sri Lanka, the UNP leader said that the most pressing concern is addressing the dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the country.
He explained that the regional foreign exchange reserves were projected to increase over the course of the year, however, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves were on a downward trend.
He also said that economic recovery based on a resurgence of the tourism industry would be uncertain, and until airline ticket prices were reduced it was unlikely that tourist arrivals would increase significantly.
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