Connect with us

News

GL at KDU confab:

Published

on

Prof. Peiris addressing KDU conference recently (pic courtesy Education Ministry

 

Reconciliation cannot be achieved at the expense of the majority community

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris recently said that reconciliation could never be achieved without accommodating the interests of the majority community.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said that the previous government’s (2015-2019) reconciliation efforts failed primarily because the sentiments of the majority community were conveniently ignored. The SLPP Chairman said so addressing the 13th International Research Conference, KDU.

Commenting on what he called the concept of reconciliation, which became very important after the end of the war in 2009, Prof. Peiris said: “There was then, naturally, the feeling that we have to leave the pain and anguish of the war behind us. We have to emphasize unity and solidarity and bring together all the people of our cherished land, irrespective of caste, creed, ethnic or religious identity, to emphasize the oneness of this nation. That is the pith and substance of the concept of reconciliation.

“But it all went wrong during the yahapalana administration of 2015 to 2019. It is worth examining in an objective spirit the reasons why that endeavour failed so miserably.”

Alleging that the authorities at that time, forgot the sentiments, and aspirations of the majority community, Prof. Peiris said: ” Reconciliation, of course, places emphasis on minority aspirations, to make them comfortable, to convey to them in definite terms, the conviction, that they are very much a part of the country, they belong. That confidence has to be imparted to the minorities and at the same time, it is absolutely necessary to carry the majority community with you. If you leave them behind, if you engender in the minds of the majority community that they are not important, they can be side lined and forgotten about, they do not matter, such an exercise in reconciliation, is doomed to failure, as the empirical experience of those four years convincingly demonstrated.”

Excepts of the minister’s speech: “There is an intimate connection between national growth and security. It is fanciful to talk of any kind of national growth without the assurance of security. Security is the necessary and indispensable foundation. Without security, it is impossible to achieve growth in any sector of the country. The celebrated political scientist, the late Professor Harold Laski, of the London School of Economics said that the basic duty of a State is to provide security for its people. That is the ultimate reason for the existence of the Nation State.

We have seen empirical evidence of this in the recent past of our country. Through the 30-year conflict with the LTTE, it was impossible to attract substantial investment into this country. Every facet of Sri Lanka’s economy suffered grievously during that period. How can you attract investors into a country, which is being torn asunder by a ferocious war? Investment, international trade, all this was affected by the ongoing conflict.

“What happened during that period? I think the most alarming spectacle that we are seeing in this country today is the evidence that is transpiring on a daily basis before the Presidential Commission that is going into the catastrophic phenomenon of the Easter Sunday carnage. The evidence before the P CoI emphasizes the total breakdown of the security apparatus in the country at the time. It was not mere debilitation or weakening of the security apparatus, it was a total collapse of it.

 “When the incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, there was very close collaboration between the intelligence arm and immigration authorities. Whenever an application was made by a foreign preacher, somebody who wanted to come and teach in this country, when a visa was requested, a very thorough background check was done. And if there was something unsavory in the past of that person, if he had been involved in any activity which led to disharmony among communities, then the immigration authorities in close consultation with the intelligence arm, would turn down such a request for a visa to enter this country. That whole apparatus was consciously and deliberately dismantled. It did not happen unwittingly or inadvertently, it was the deliberate policy of the then government. The intelligence personnel were made to feel that they were an embarrassment. Surely, if you are talking of national growth and security, the first thing to ensure, is that funds coming from abroad, are brought in through proper channels. We have in this country such an established conduit. The conduit is the External Resources Department of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Of course, these resources are welcome. But they must come through the External Resources Department. The Central Bank must know the source, the origin of these funds. Where are these funds coming from? We must know the purpose for which these resources are going to be applied. Who is going to manage these resources? There must be audited accounts. All of this was dismantled. You then have a situation where, a university or what purports to be a university comes up in Batticaloa. The buildings that are constructed are better than the buildings that you have here at the Kotelawala Defence University. They are superior to the quality of the infrastructure in the Universities of Colombo and Peradeniya. If you go to Kattankudy blind folded and when the blind fold is taken off if you get there you will feel that you are in The Middle East. The date palms, the architecture, and the overall environment. The sums of money involved are colossal. But all of these was shrouded in secrecy. There is no exposure, visibility or accountability. It is that, that brought about a situation that culminated in the total collapse of the security establishment.

“Madrasas came up all over the country. They are not Sunday schools; many of them are providing instruction on a daily basis. Nobody examined the curriculum. There is no regulatory mechanism at all. So the seeds of racial hatred are sown in those institutions.

“This was true not only within the country, but in the conduct of our foreign relations. What happened there? Sri Lanka is unique among the nations of this world in committing to a Resolution in 2015 at the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka became co-sponsor of a Resolution condemning its own armed forces, accusing them of grievous crimes under international law and under international humanitarian law. The preamble to Resolution 30/1 of the 1st of September 2015 acknowledged with appreciation the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, The High Commissioner’s Report made the most damaging allegations, against the armed forces of this country. And the government of Sri Lanka endorsed all of that, and called for a thorough investigation at the international level. The Resolution gave responsibility to The Human Right Council and to the Commissioner for Human Rights, to keep Sri Lanka under constant review.

“So here was a government, which deliberately submitted the country to adjudication and assessment in respect of its armed forces to international tribunals.

“Just consider the enormity of what happened. There were pledges given in Resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, which are clearly contrary to the highest law of this country, the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Operative para six, of the first resolution 30/1 recommended that, Commonwealth and other foreign judges, should be entrusted with the task of judging our armed forces This is not possible under Sri Lanka’s Constitution, because foreigners cannot exercise judicial power in respect of our citizens. The then High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Hussein, publicly conceded that in respect of no other country has the Human Rights Council based in Geneva adopted so intrusive an approach, interfering directly with domestic policy in that country. The Resolutions involved matters, which are clearly within the domain of the Sri Lankan Parliament, not the business of foreigners. It calls for constitutional reforms. It calls for the devolution of greater powers to Provincial Councils. It calls for a thorough overhaul of Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces and the Police.

“The previous government’s attitude, which destroyed the very foundations of our national security, manifested itself both in respect of domestic policy and the conduct of the country’s foreign relations during the period 2015 to 2019. In such a situation you cannot possibly have national growth, you cannot have economic advancement, because security has broken down entirely.

“Just one other point that I would like to make before I conclude, That is the reference to militarization in the current political discourse. Non-governmental organizations and elements of the Opposition, as well as some prejudiced and biased foreign commentators, are finding fault with the role of the military in the conduct of national affairs in Sri Lanka at this time. They purport to sound a note of caution against an increasing role for the military in the conduct of Sri Lanka’s affairs. But no objective observer of the Sri Lankan scene can doubt the fact that when it came to the control of COVID-19, this country could not possibly have achieved what it did without the vigorous involvement and cooperation of the armed forces, particularly the intelligence arm. We were able to control the pandemic, because the armed forces were able to identify those who had been infected. First the immediate circle and next the outer periphery, that is still being done. The role of the armed forces is indispensable.”



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Wide ranging rackets benefiting CEB engineers

Published

on

By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board implements most of its power transmission and distribution infrastructure development projects like the construction of new transmission lines, transmission and distribution substations, etc., using loan funds obtained from international lending agencies such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

These “concessionary” loans are guaranteed by the government, and projects funded by those loan packages are implemented through specially set up project management units (PMUs).

Engineers attached to PMUs are given special facilities and monetary incentives on the understanding that they will work outside normal working hours and weekends to complete their projects on time and within the allocated budget.CEB often justifies these projects for priority financing citing “great national importance” and the critical needs to improve the power transmission and distribution infrastructure of the country.

Almost all of these project titles carry the words like “green energy”, “clean energy”, “green power”, etc., signifying these investments are primarily aimed at using renewable energy.

However, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Power & Energy, these projects are seldom completed within the given time period or budget. Because of this reason not only the expected benefits of these investments are often lost to the country, but the government incurs heavy losses by way of commitment fees paid to lending agencies.

Once project funds are committed through a loan agreement, the government has to pay this fee to the lending agency, generally computed as a percentage of the loan amount or the “commitment amount”. It is a significant burden to the government, especially in a situation where there is a severe shortage of foreign currency.

If the loan funds are disbursed within the original term of the loan, this “front end fee” is charged at a lower percentage. Hence, when CEB does not complete projects in time, the government ends up paying a higher commitment fee, and is also forced to seek an extension to the original loan disbursement period, thus incurring further costs.

Even more disturbing than long delays in project completion is that some completed projects have turned out to be wasteful investments of foreign funds given to the country.It is understood that the former CEB Chairman M. M. C. Ferdinando had questioned why the new 132kV transmission line between Ambalangoda and Galle, which was completed in 2017 at a cost of Rs. 1,500 million, remained unserviceable to date.

The Sunday Island understands that CEB’s System Control Center is able to switch on this transmission line only when the Samanalawewa Hydropower Plant is running at full capacity.This project had been billed by CEB’s transmission planners as a high-priority investment and solution for the serious transmission bottlenecks in the southern network of the country. Southern areas had been experiencing serious transmission capacity restrictions for decades.It is understood that the CEB General Manager has responded to the Chairman’s inquiry by stating that the commissioning of several new transmission lines that are presently under construction would make the Ambalangoda-Galle transmission line operational.

The 220kV transmission line from Pannipitiya to Polpitiya via Padukka is another example of a costly planning blunder by the CEB. Construction of this long transmission line commenced in 2015 but was delayed owing to many problems, including public protests and court cases filed by some landowners.However, when this ADB-funded project was eventually completed in late 2021 (after a delay of over five years), it has been discovered the power flows in the wrong direction when the line is switched on, causing overloading of the Pannipitiya substation.Hence, this transmission line also remains idle presently. It is understood that CEB planners have explained that power would flow in the right direction once several other transmission lines (being constructed under different loan packages, and already delayed by many years) are completed.

The then CEB General Manager taking part in a national television discussion following the countrywide power outage on August 17, 2020, explained that the unavailability of this critical transmission line was a major contributing factor to CEB’s inability to restore supply for many hours.Another example of colossal waste of funds is the transmission substation at Kappalthurai in the eastern province that has cost the country over Rs. 2,500 million of ADB loan funds. Since there is no high demand for electricity or no future growth in demand in the area, this installation will be idle for the foreseeable future.

According to CEB employees, the existing Trincomalee substation, which is situated about 11 km from this new substation, has ample capacity to serve the electricity demand in the area for many years to come. In the meantime, CEB has made a large investment in increasing the capacity of the Trincomalee substation as well.It is also understood that CEB’s Projects Division has been maintaining several non-functional PMUs for years, spending large sums of money on rented project offices and large project staff, even when no funding has been secured for relevant projects.

CEB employees complain that project directors and their engineers attached to these “white elephants” are allowed to enjoy all benefits, including project allowance (an additional amount equal to one-third of monthly salary) and luxury SUVs because most of them hold important positions in the powerful CEB engineers’ union.They claim that the CEB management never holds to account any project manager responsible for long delays, but they are allowed to continue to enjoy all the perks. According to a senior engineer who works as a consultant on project-related work, this guarantee of “job security” acts as a strong incentive for the project engineers to prolong their projects.CEB employees believe another reason for this lackadaisical attitude of CEB top management is that foreign-funded projects have long been a steady source of luxury vehicles for CEB engineers.

Most vehicles used by top CEB engineers including the General Manager have been provided under different foreign-funded projects, as the existing government guidelines will not allow the purchase of such high-end SUVs having large engine capacity including premium European makes like Audi and Mercedes Benz for government officials.CEB employees complain that the Ministry of Power & Energy generally turns a blind eye to these irregularities mainly because the majority of project managers and their project engineers are top officials of the powerful engineers’ union.

They allege that even the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL,) which has the legal obligation to ensure CEB will not make unnecessary or wasteful investments in its transmission infrastructure, has never questioned CEB regarding assets that are idling for many years after spending billions of rupees of public money.

Continue Reading

News

Gota leaves Singapore after fleeing protesters at home

Published

on

(AFP) Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday left Singapore where he had taken refuge following his escape from protesters at home, after he was given a visa only for about a month in the city-state.Rajapaksa flew into Singapore from the Maldives on July 14 after fleeing a deepening economic crisis and widespread protests in Sri Lanka. He tendered his resignation shortly after his arrival.Sri Lankans arriving in Singapore normally receive a 30-day visa, but authorities said they had initially given Rajapaksa only two weeks and later extended the visa by another two weeks.

“The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) confirms that Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa left Singapore on 11 August,” Singapore’s immigration office said in reply to an AFP query.

It did not say where the former leader was headed but the Thai foreign ministry, as well as a source in Colombo, said Wednesday he was seeking a new safe haven in Thailand.Rajapaksa fled his nation after tens of thousands of protesters overran his official residence last month angry about acute shortages of food, fuel and medicine endured by Sri Lanka’s 22 million people since late last year.An international human rights group last month formally asked Singapore to indict Rajapaksa for crimes against humanity during his country’s decades-long civil war that ended in 2009.

The South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project said it had urged Singapore to exercise universal jurisdiction to arrest the former president for grave breaches of international humanitarian law.Rajapaksa helmed Sri Lanka’s defence ministry while his brother Mahinda was president when the country’s brutal Tamil separatist conflict came to a bloody end.Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers confirmed it had received a complaint from the rights group without giving details.

“His Singapore visa runs out on Thursday,” a close associate of Rajapaksa told AFP in Colombo on Wednesday.

“He had applied for an extension, but it had not come through as of Wednesday morning.”

The source said Rajapaksa now planned to go to Thailand for a short stay but return to Singapore.The Thai foreign ministry confirmed it had received a request from Colombo for the 73-year-old deposed leader to visit and an assurance that he would not seek political asylum.

“The Thai side received a request for the former president to enter Thailand from the current government of Sri Lanka,” ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said in a statement.

“The stay is temporary in nature with the aim of onward travel. No political asylum has been sought.”

The Rajapaksa confidant told AFP that the former leader was keen to return home as protests against his administration had fizzled out, but his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe had advised him against an early return.Singapore officials had said he was on a private visit to the city-state and the foreign minister stressed that he was not given any special privileges.

“In general, the Singapore government does not accord privileges, immunity and hospitality to former heads of state or heads of government,” Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a written reply to a question in parliament last week.

“Consequently, former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not accorded any privileges, immunity or hospitality.”

Continue Reading

News

Harsha won’t join cabinet, but urges All Party Govt. to implement his economic recovery plan

Published

on

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Dr. Harsha de Silva Friday (12) requested for the support of all political parties represented in Parliament for what he called a short-term programme meant to revive the national economy.The MP said so after submitting his set of proposals to the Parliament. The former non-cabinet ranker who served the previous UNP government said that he prepared the proposals in consultations with academics, specialists, professionals, politicians and ordinary people.

Declaring that he wouldn’t join the government under any circumstances, the economist assured his support to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government through Parliament.Expressing confidence his proposals could secure the backing of external powers, the Colombo District lawmaker said that he received the blessings of Opposition political parties in this regard.

Lawmaker de Silva said that once the government took measures required to remedy the national economy the country could go for general election.The top SJB spokesperson said that Wickremesinghe’s all-party-government could adopt his proposals. Urging leaders of all political parties to support his initiative, the former UNPer said that depending on their support the administration could with the support of the public here and foreign governments overcome the daunting economic challenges. MP de Silva said that there was no point in his accepting a cabinet portfolio. The current crisis couldn’t be addressed by dispensing ministerial portfolios (SF)

Continue Reading

Trending