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GL at KDU confab:

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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.”



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Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Investment Promotion, Dhammika Perera, yesterday told the media, in Colombo, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to resign from his post as Finance Minister.

Minister Perera said that the Prime Minister was blocking all dollar earnings, borrowings, bridging finance, available essential food credit lines and other credit lines.

“I am joining the Aragalaya from today. I have been in the government for seven days. I have seen what happens. The Prime Minister must stop his political game as the Minister of Finance,” he said.

Perera added that Wickremesinghe had no plan to boost the cash flow, about feeding people, or bringing in dollars.

The Minister of Investment Promotion said that instead of describing the people’s economic woes, the Finance Ministry had to find solutions.

“For example, the proposal to give investors 10-year multiple visas was finalised some time ago. One month has since elapsed, but the Treasury is sitting on it. This is because Ranil is in the habit of stopping projects if they bring in dollars. More than 50 people have come to get the visa by paying 100,000 USD.

About 300 more are on the list. We can bring in 30 million dollars to Sri Lanka, this month, with the help of this visa scheme. Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister is inviting disaster,” Minister Perera said.

Perera added that while Wickremesinghe could continue as the Prime Minister, but as the Finance Minister, the latter had no desire to resolve the foreign currency crisis. All of Sri Lanka’s economic woes are linked to the dollar shortage, he said.

“I challenge Ranil and his economic experts to an open media debate. Maybe he can answer my questions. I challenged him to a debate in 2019, and he ran away. I am challenging him again,” Minister Perera said.

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JVP Leader accuses govt. of hatching plot against his party

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said that the government was planning to suppress his party by levelling false allegations against the latter.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the plot hatched by the government could lead to bloodshed.

“A video has been released, on social media, instructing how to make Molotov Cocktails. The voice, in the footage, instructs the viewer to make bombs in a similar manner, and tie them to their bodies and explode themselves at the President’s House. The video says that after the explosion I would be appointed the President. Anyone would know that the JVP would not do anything stupid like that. This video is another attempt by the government to justify the use of violence against its critics. There have been similar instances in the past and this country has suffered heavily as a result,” Dissanayake said.

He said that his party lawyers would submit the video to the CID and demand an investigation from the police on who had created and uploaded it to social media. “There is a massive protest to be held in Colombo centering the Galle Face Aragalaya.

“We, too, will participate in it. The government’s response to the protests is to use the police and the army. In addition there are several other developments, including the creation of a para-military force against us. Each SLPP MP is given a chance to recruit five persons, loyal to him or her, as home guards to provide security to the MP. There was a letter from the IGP to Defence Secretary warning of possible bomb attacks. Our party’s name is there in that warning. I have queried this letter in Parliament, too, yet there is no explanation yet. It is in the same context some MPs have requested for personal firearms from the Defence Ministry. Taken together, these developments could indicate the plans of government suppression and what is there in store for us. We do not think that they could fool the people with these tricks. The CID is capable of investigating and finding the sources of any video against the President, in social media, within 24 hours. So we expect the same expedient action would be taken with regard to our complaint, too,” Dissanayake said.

He said that the JVP was prepared to stabilize the country and help bring it out of the current crisis in a short period of time.

Dissanayake said the JVP does not intend to do it alone and was confident that the citizens of the country, and Lankans overseas, would extend their support to the party for this purpose.

“This crisis cannot be resolved by changing posts or individuals, and especially not through a government that has lost the trust of the people,” he added.

When inquired about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on his willingness to step down to allow Dissanayake to implement his economic plans, the MP said he was prepared to take up the task.

He said, however, that the President and Prime Minister must resign if he were to take up the challenge and implement JVP’s programme to save the country from the crisis.

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Move to set-up smoke-free zones: PHI union says member engaged in project harassed; Ministry says action in line with establishment code

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by Ifham Nizam

Public Health Inspectors’ Union has accused a section of the Health Ministry officials of working against a project to establish smoke-free zones in Sri Lanka.

The union alleged that a PHI who served the anti-tobacco campaign and went to the extent of sacrificing his personal leave for the same had been denied annual increments.

It said that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) organised a project, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to set up at least one smoke-free zone in each Medical Officer of Health Division countrywide. The union said that it played a significant role in the project.

The union alleged that PHI T. G. S. L. Prakash, of the Principal Public Health Inspectors’ Unit of the Ministry of Health, had been invited as a resource person as he innovated a 10-step process for establishing smoke-free zones for combatting second hand smoke.

However, the Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) of the Ministry of Health Dr. S. M. Arnold had obstructed the project by blocking Prakash’s participation, the union alleged.

Responding to The Island queries, Dr. S. M. Arnold said that he acted in terms of the Establishment Code and recommendations made by the relevant committee. Dr. Arnold said that the PHI concerned applied for leave for his PhD on Elephant Ecology study overseas, and work-related to NATA did not come under their purview. Dr. Arnold pointed out that the PHI Union President was also working for NATA.

Public Health Inspectors’ Union, President. Upul Rohana has previously asked the Health Secretary to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Dr. S. M. Arnold. According to the union for more than five years, PHI Prakash has conducted various research on the establishment of smoke-free zones in collaboration with NATA and the WHO and published and presented the research results at local and international fora.

The union said that the Chairman of NATA had requested that PHI Prakash to participate in the project as the outfit could benefit from his experience and expertise he had gained overseas in tobacco prevention.

The union claimed that the PHI concerned had participated in the project utilising his personal leave. The union alleged that Dr. Arnold had said that he wouldn’t recommend the annual salary increment for the particular PHI Prakash as his attendance was unsatisfactory.

PHI Chief Rohana emphasised that the concerned Deputy Director General continued to harass the officers who volunteered for their duties, abusing the power of his positio. He said although the union had complained to the health authorities, no action has been taken in that regard so far and their union would not hesitate to resort to trade union action seeking justice.

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