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GL: Other nations must keep out of SL’s internal affairs as it does not meddle with theirs

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By Saman Indrajith

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris says Sri Lanka has gone out of its way to refrain from interfering in the domestic affairs of other nations and expect non-interference by other nations in the country’s internal affairs.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2021, the minister said on Wednesday (25) that Sri Lanka entertained expectations that other nations would respect without question the right of Parliament and the people of Sri Lanka to determine the country’s own destiny.

Prof Peiris said: “As we debate the foreign policy in this august assembly, circumstances in the world at large are certainly not propitious. COVID-19 has proven to be a calamity. There are many lessons to be learnt from this situation. One of the most important lessons is that no nation, no single country, no culture has a monopoly on wisdom. Nobody can claim to know all the right answers. The contemporary experience of the world demonstrates convincingly that there is no room whatsoever for arrogance, bigotry and self-righteousness. Today, more than at any other time in our history if we survive this crisis at all it can only happen on the basis of humility with spontaneous sharing of experiences and readiness to work hand in hand in a spirit of comradeship and solidarity.

“The cornerstones of the foreign policy of our country are crystal clear. They were set out with the exemplary clarity by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at his inauguration in the hallowed precincts of the Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura. We seek friendship with all nations. We go out of our way to refrain from interfering in the domestic affairs of other nations. At the same time reciprocally we entertain expectations that others will respect without question the right of Parliament and the people of Sri Lanka to determine our own destiny. This is the rationale underpinning the statement made by Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the Human Rights Council in Geneva barely three months after the assumption of office by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.  The government Minister Gunawardena unequivocally rejected the resolutions of the Human Rights Council 30/1, 34/1, and 40/1 respectively of 2015, 2017 and 2019. These resolutions were not only supported but also co-sponsored by the Yahapalana government of that time. This is scarcely believable when one considers the content and the impact of these resolutions. Undisputedly those resolutions dealt with matters which were within the purview of national institutions in Sri Lanka. They required the re-arrangement of Sri Lanka’s constitutional provisions, the restructuring of our armed forces and police, the repeal of major legislations such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act. These resolutions also empowered foreign and commonwealth judges to adjudicate on grave allegations relating to war crimes which were leveled against the armed forces of Sri Lanka. That is the effect of the operative paragraph six of the resolution of 2015. This was in blatant violation of the supreme law of this country – the constitution. This abdication of self-respect was further compounded by the acceptance by that government of the obligation to report from time to time to the human rights council and to abide by the judgment of that council in respect of the adequacy of the progress that had been made in respect of the implementation of these resolutions.

“The entire edifice of the UN system is based upon one sacred principle. That is the principle relating to sovereign equality of nations. That principle is illustrated amply by the seminal instruments of the UN system such as its Charter, the Declaration of Human Rights and jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice and its predecessor the permanent Court of International Justice. All countries that are members of the international community be they large or small, affluent or not so affluent, are equal in the eyes of the United Nations system – equal in intrinsic worth and equal in inherent value. There can be no discrimination whatsoever. This is why there can be no scope whatsoever for talking down or hectoring and for patronizing attitudes. This is not to be misunderstood. Counsel from friends and sharing of experiences, traditions that are made in a spirit of goodwill and friendship are always welcome. They are healthy. But what absolutely ruled out are judgmental postures in respect of the internal decision making processes of countries dealing with matters which are within their purview.  The concept of equality is basic to the entire UN system.

“There is another principle that is equally important. That is the principle of fairness. This is an instinct that is embedded in human nature and it represents a component of all systems of law and justice and indeed of all civilizations since time immemorial.  One must look at both sides of an issue. Evidence has to be weighed in the balance and conclusions must be arrived at objectively without bias or prejudgment. From that standpoint very sadly the people of Sri Lanka have good reasons to entertain grave misgivings. Evidence of the highest value has been deliberately disregarded if that evidence is favourable to the armed forces of Sri Lanka. A clear example of that consists of military dispatches by trusted members of foreign countries reporting confidentially to their own capitals. These have been totally ignored. These dispatches have been ferreted out with great difficulty. As pointed out by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena the persons of eminence such as Lord Michael Naseby both within the House of Lords and outside. There were also very critical findings by Queen’s Counsel of the eminence, Sri Desmond Silva, Sir Geoffrey Nice, Rodney Dickson. These findings completely exonerated the armed forces of Sri Lanka from any form of culpability of guilt with regard to war crimes under principles of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. This body of evidence was there and it was never taken into account. It was deliberately ignored. This was done in the lofty name of human rights. But it constituted a cynical violation of natural justice and the rules of fairness both in its substantive and its procedural dimensions.

“Sri Lanka is a country with proud history and a cherished heritage. Reconciliation, ethnic harmony, and transitional justice are not concepts by any means alien to us. We have been nurtured throughout the ages by a rich and vibrant cultural tradition by each of these areas. I want to stress that the mechanisms we have to evolve, if we aspire to any measure of success, must necessarily derive from the aspirations of our people. This is because of the importance of context with regard to these matters. The government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, fortified by an unrivalled mandate obtained from the people of this country at both the presidential and parliamentary elections, has an unflinching resolve to address these issues at earliest. The government has both the moral and legal right and the space to do so. We ask for empathy and understanding as we move forward in partnership with international forces to assure our people a stable and a prosperous future.” 



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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up

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State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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Court moved against construction of highway across wetland

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By Ifham Nizam

A case had been filed against the construction of the 3.15 km Orugudawatta-Athurugiriya highway, running through the Thalangama-Avarihena wetland, the Centre for Environmental Justice legal team said.

The construction of roads through a wetland was to be carried out under the National Environment Act 1487/10 Gazette. However, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report has not been submitted for the project’s second phase. This is an unauthorised practice as per Schedule II of the Gazette.

The suit was filed on 11.02.2021 by two petitioners, including the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), under the powers conferred by Sections 24 C and 24D of the Environment Act No. 47 of1980.The proposed highway is to run through the Talangama/Avarihena wetland, which was declared by Gazette No. 1487/10 dated March 2007 as an Environmental Protection area.

The petitioners have requested the Court to issue a writ of prohibition against the respondents for allowing the construction to pass through the Talangama Wetland.However, the respondents have argued that Gazette No. 1487/10 has been amended by Gazette No.2237/7 issued by the Minister, and since the case has been filed based on Gazette No.1487/10 there is no need to maintain this case further.

After considering the facts, the Court of Appeal ordered, on January 19, 2022, that according the Third Schedule (n) of Gazette No. 2237/7, the construction of the expressway in question should not harm the ecologically protected area.

Since the petitioners have been able to prove their case prima facie that the minister changed the original order to the environmental protection zone, the court allowed the petitioner to continue the petition. This was followed by a petition filed by the Road Development Authority and its Chairman on 25 February 2022.

A petition was filed on December 23, 2020, by the Centre for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor/Director, Hemantha Withanage regarding the illegal activities around the Muthurajawela Sanctuary. The Muthurajawela North Swamp area has been declared as a wetland sanctuary as per the Special Gazette No. 947/13 and its induction zone has also been declared an “Environment Protection Zone’ in 2004 under Sections 24C and 24D of the National Environment Act Gazette No. 1466/26 dated 13 Oct 2006.The petitioners request an interim restraining order to stop activities in the vicinity of the

Muthurajawela Sanctuary violating the Agricultural Development Act No. 46 of 2000, for carrying out activities related to the Extraordinary Gazette No. 772/22 dated 24.06.1993 without an environmental assessment report, carrying out activities that are prohibited in a sanctuary under Section 7 of the Wildlife and Flora Protection Ordinance. They also request to mark the physical boundaries of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and to issue a writ of mandamus to implement the National Policy on Wetlands.

In the petition, the petitioners sought a writ of mandamus to act in terms of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in relation to the damage caused. Giving the order dated 04 April 2022, the Court of Appeal directs the Director General of the Survey Department and the Inspector General of Police to mark the physical boundaries of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and the Environmental Protection Zone. Also, the Central Environment Authority and the Department of Wildlife Conservation have been ordered to install notice boards in those zones and the Police Commissioner has been ordered to take steps to protect the relevant boundaries and boards and to take steps to prevent illegal activities from taking place in the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and the Environmental Protection Zone.

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