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.”
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam
The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.
Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.
A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.
The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.
According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.
The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.
DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.
PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners
By Norman Palihawadane
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.
Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.
The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”
Thilo Hoffman remembered
A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.
Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.
The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.
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