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.
Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries
The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.
The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.
Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.
Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.
Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.
Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.
Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.
The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.
So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.
He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.
“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.
Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.
Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter
The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.
The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.
• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893
• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals
• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252
• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance
• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987
The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.
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