Addressing the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Foreign Affairs held in Parliament last week, MP Gevindu Kumaratunga said the ‘Overseas Operations Act’ passed by the British Parliament has exempted British soldiers from war crimes committed abroad five years ago. In this context, it is not justifiable to make allegations of human rights abuses even when the Sri Lankan Army stands up for the security of its homeland, he said.The MP pointed out that the voices must be raised against the use of human rights in opposition to the independence of countries. He also called for action to be taken to reveal to the world the true situation of the Sri Lankan Army which has set an example to the world by launching a humanitarian operation.
Commenting on this, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage stated that the matter is being studied. The Foreign Secretary said that the people of the North and East of the country will be given back their lands and that the international community will be made aware of all these matters.
Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that Sri Lanka had also expressed its views in this regard at the last Human Rights Council in Geneva. He also said that a special Presidential Commission chaired by Supreme Court Judge Nawaz has been appointed to gather evidence in this regard. An interim report of this commission has been submitted to the President and steps have been taken to inform the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, the Minister said.
MP Chandima Weerakkody said that since many countries have labeled Sri Lanka as a “red country” in this Covid situation, separate relations should be maintained with the relevant countries to change this attitude towards Sri Lanka. He also pointed out that the appointment of a Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India has been delayed for two years.
State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya said that a strategic plan has been prepared with the relevant parties for this purpose. Although this is difficult in practice with the situation prevailing in some countries, the state minister explained that all steps are being taken for this. It was also revealed that a High Commissioner to India will assume duties on the 15th of this month.
MP S. Rasamanikkam pointed out that since most of the public issues related to foreign affairs come to the MPs, a coordinating officer should be appointed at the ministerial level. The Foreign Secretary stated that necessary steps will be taken to resolve this issue. MP Rasamanikkam also inquired about the launch of a ferry service between Rameshwaran in Tamil Nadu and Talaimannar. The Foreign Secretary stated that the Indian side has agreed to this and that the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Ports have not reached a final decision in this regard.
MP Dr Suren Raghavan, brought to the notice of the committee that the conduct of Foreign Service examinations has been delayed. The Foreign Secretary said that the conduct of the examination has been delayed due to the prevailing situation and that the Department of Examinations will take immediate action in this regard. It was revealed that this examination was held in 2018 for the last time and currently there are vacancies for officers. Therefore, arrangements have been made by the Department of Examinations to conduct the examination and after that interview will be conducted by the Ministerial level to fill the relevant vacancies, the Foreign Secretary said.
The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Foreign chaired by Foreign Minister Gunawardena was attended by State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, MPs Dilan Perera, S. Rasamanikkam, Gamini Waleboda, Dr. Suren Raghavan, Yadamini Gunawardena and Sudath Manjula, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage. The other officers joined the meeting online.
Meanwhile all steps have been taken to expedite sending Sri Lankans for jobs in South Korea, which have been delayed due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, Foreign Minister Gunawardena said.
The Minister said that the matter had already been discussed at the diplomatic level and that the Korean Ambassador had made a special proposal to provide employment opportunities to Sri Lankans in the agricultural sector there. However, due to the delay caused by the prevailing Covid situation, all relevant steps were already being taken, the Minister said.
The Minister was speaking when Parliamentarian Gamini Waleboda said that there was an opportunity for Sri Lankans to work in Korea.
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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