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Genocide Bill against Sri Lanka passed in Canada

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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.”:



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MONLAR: Govt. has fallen for millers’ ruse

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Farmers would be harvesting their paddy by the time the government imports 100,000 tonnes of rice and it would lead to a decrease in prices they received from millers, Chinthaka Rajapakshe, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) warned yesterday.

Addressing a post-Cabinet Press Conference on Monday, co-Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced that the Cabinet had approved the import of 100,000 tonnes of rice to increase competition in the market.

Rajapakshe commented that successive governments had been importing large quantities of rice close to the harvesting period.

“Several large mill owners create an artificial shortage of rice when the harvesting season nears. The government responds by importing large quantities of rice, often of dubious quality.  The paddy prices collapse, allowing mill owners to buy paddy from farmers at dirt cheap prices and then the mill owners release some of the stocks they have to the market. Given that Sri Lankans prefer to eat Sri Lankan varieties and that the imported rice is of poor quality; no one buys the imported rice,” Rajapakshe said.

 The MONLAR moderator said that there was an assumption that the Yala harvest would be low because of the impact of fertiliser shortages on rice production. There had been reports that rice plants were yellowing and their growth was retarded due to a shortage of nitrogen.

 Commenting on the allegations that there was a shortage of fertiliser, Minister of Plantation, Ramesh Pathirana told The Island that by the next paddy season the government would be able to provide adequate amounts of compost fertiliser. “There will be some difficulties in the next few months. We must work together to face them. Everyone agrees that organic agriculture is good, but some think the government’s decision was too hasty. However, by the time the Maha season starts we will have enough fertiliser stocks. We are also ready to compensate farmers if there are issues in the current season.”

In response,  Rajapakshe said that it was not too late to address the issues that had arisen from nitrogen shortages and questioned how the government had decided that it needed to import 100,000 tonnes of rice, given that it had not studied the impact of fertiliser shortage on the paddy harvest.

“How on earth did they come up with this number? Obviously, this is a scheme to enrich a few businessmen, politicians and some officials. The government should empower farmers’ associations, cooperatives and small mill owners if it wants to find a permanent solution to annual rice shortages experienced by the people,” he said.

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Wijeyadasa no longer considers himself govt. member

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, says he no longer considers himself as a member of the ruling party.

Asked to comment on his present status, the Justice Minister, in the previous UNP regime, said that he had stopped participating in SLPP group meetings since the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct last year.

Dr. Rajapakse, who entered Parliament from the Colombo District on the SLPP ticket at the August 2020 general election, voted for 20th Amendment despite his criticism of it. In the previous Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse represented the UNP.

Responding to another query, Rajapakse said that the SLPP had refrained from appointing him to any committee though he had in the past served and in some instances headed important outfits, such as the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).

 The former minister alleged that the SLPP had caused so much turmoil that the country was now in a bind. Instead of taking the people into confidence the incumbent administration adopted strategies meant to suppress dissent.

 Commenting on what he called a severe economic crisis against the backdrop of the worsening Covid-19 epidemic, Dr. Rajapakse alleged that those at the helm lacked basic understanding to rationally address issues.

The former minister said that the government appeared to have ignored the growing threat of the EU going the whole hog in the wake of its parliament adopting a resolution against Sri Lanka.

The resolution expressed the concern of the European Parliament regarding the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and related human rights issues in Sri Lanka. It highlighted that the GSP+ status is linked to the implementation of 27 international conventions by Sri Lanka. The GSP+ monitoring process is conducted on a regular basis by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the EU mission in Colombo told The Island.

The following is the relevant section from the EU resolution: “…Underlines that the GSP+ scheme offered to Sri Lanka has made a significant contribution to the country’s economy, from which exports to the EU have increased to EUR 2.3 billion, making the EU Sri Lanka’s second-largest export market; highlights the ongoing monitoring of Sri Lanka’s eligibility for GSP+ status and stresses that the continuance of GSP+ trade preferences is not automatic; calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to take into due account current events when assessing Sri Lanka’s eligibility for GSP+ status; further calls on the Commission and the EEAS to use the GSP+ as a leverage to push for advancement on Sri Lanka’s human rights obligations and demand the repeal or replacement of the PTA, to carefully assess whether there is sufficient reason, as a last resort, to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to Parliament on this matter as soon as possible.”

For want of a cohesive strategy, the SLPP hadn’t been able at least to rationally assess external and internal threats and take remedial measures, the MP said.

Referring to the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, MP Rajapakse alleged that the government was on an extremely dangerous path. The EU resolution reflected the Western thinking and the current leadership acted as if China was our main buyers. How could they ignore the fact that the US and EU countries remain major contributors to the Sri Lanka economy though our decision-making process was aimed at satisfying China.

 

 

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Geneva concerned about deaths in police custody, Shani’s safety

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The Sri Lanka Core Group has joined the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in calling for what it calls independent and impartial investigations into deaths in police custody. The six-member grouping led by the UK has also stressed the need to ensure security of former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera, who recently received bail.

Abeysekera had been interdicted. The ex-CID Director has also figured in taped conversations with former MP Ranjan Ramanayake now serving a jail sentence for contempt of the Supreme Court, discussing how to fix certain court cases then being heard, especially against political opponents.

The following is the text of statement issued by Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi,

Montenegro and the UK at the 47th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): “Council resolution 46/1 called upon the Sri Lankan Government to address the harmful legacies of war and to protect human rights, including for those from religious minorities. We regret the lack of progress on these issues, with a number of further concerning developments.

The Sri Lankan Government has attempted to dismiss a number of emblematic cases and to initiate criminal proceedings against individuals pursuing some of these cases. This counters the Council’s call for prompt, thorough and impartial investigations. We call for former CID director Shani Abeysekera’s safety to be ensured.

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the recent intention to introduce a rehabilitation process lacking adequate judicial oversight. Human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, and poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem, remain detained without trial and further arrests under this Act have continued, including among minority communities and the political opposition.

We remain concerned about the restrictions on memorialization . We join the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in requesting independent and impartial investigations into recent deaths in police custody

We are concerned over appointments to the Office on Missing Persons and reiterate the importance of ensuring independent and credible institutions to achieve justice.

We encourage Sri Lanka to cooperate with the Council and OHCHR in relation to resolution 46/1 and stand ready to support this.”

 

 

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