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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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LIOC seeks to expand operations

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by Ifham Nizam

Power and Energey Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday revealed that Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) had asked for permission to set up 50 new filling stations in the country and take over a certain number of petrol sheds currenlty under the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The government had asked the LIOC to increases the supply of fuel, in case Sri Lanka agreed to the Indian proposal,Wijesekera added.

Sri Lanka was facing daunting challenges as regards fuel distribution and it might not be able to get rid of fuel queues anytime soon, Minister Wijesekera said.Speaking to journalists yesterday, in Colombo, Wijesekera said that plans were underway to introduce a token system for fuel dispensation.He said the new scheme could come into effect from today (27) and the Police, and the armed forces will help implement it.

He also said that four separate groups from the Ministry were working on petrol, diesel, crude / furnace oil, and jet fuel imports. “We asked Lanka IOC to increase fuel supply and CEYPETCO to purchase diesel from them. But they asked for a price revision before that according to the pricing formula. That’s why we revised the price in a situation where there was no fuel in the country.”

The moves came as the government increased fuel prices with effect from the wee hours of Sunday wee hours. Petrol (Octane 92) now sells at Rs 470 per litre and Octane 95 at Rs. 550 per litre. Auto Diesel sells at Rs 460 per litre and Super Diesel at Rs 520 per litre.The Minister said they were working on 130-plus proposals for fuel delivery to Sri Lanka.

“USD 500 million is something that Sri Lanka cannot afford at this juncture. Therefore, consumption will have to be slashed, and fuel for public transport prioritized. Two ministers will fly to Russia today for discussions on fuel and related matters,” he said.The Minister said that bunker suppliers had been granted permission to deliver fuel for industries that deal in US currency.

He also said that overseas fuel companies based in countries that produce fuel, would be invited to set up business in Sri Lanka, as the CPC alone could not import fuel.

He said the CPC would become a more service-provider-based institution to facilitate fuel imports, and it had 9000 MT of diesel and the IOC 10,000 MT while the CPC had about 6000 MT of Petrol and the IOC about 8000 MT, of petrol.He said the IOC was issuing about 300 MT a day and their next shipment was due only after 10 July.

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Economic crisis: Govt. MPs slam Cabinet, Finance Ministry

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‘How come SLPA paid to Treasury just a faction of massive revenue earned in six years?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

T wo SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have, at different forums, lashed out at the government for the rapidly deteriorating status of the public sector finance. Godahewa has warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructured nearly 400 loss making public sector enterprises or at least take tangible measures to cut down on recurring losses.The former Media Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, said so addressing a group of Gampaha-based professionals and entrepreneurs recently.

Alleging that the failure, on the part of the government to establish an all-party government, contributed to the further deterioration of the situation, Dr. Godahewa emphasized the urgent need to curb, what he called, unbridled corruption as part of the efforts to revive the economy.The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has addressed the issues at hand with a sense of responsibility.The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, especially the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier, in spite of his party having just one seat in Parliament, against the backdrop of even the government parliamentary group not being properly represented.

Dr. Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, the Ceylon Electricity Board, and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would deny the country an opportunity to recover as they remained a massive burden on taxpayers. The One-time top level private sector executive said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But, the situation would have been different if the Cabinet-of-Ministers included representatives of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr. Godahewa declared that the government couldn’t take decisions on sensitive matters as long as it didn’t command political power.

Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage has questioned the responsibility, on the part of the Finance Ministry, in the overall deterioration of public sector finance with the focus on the handling of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Finance Ministry had conveniently failed to make required intervention on behalf of the government, thereby deprived the opportunity to utilize SLPA profits.

Prof. Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne attended the meeting whereas Ports and Shipping Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team.Both MP Vithanage and Prof. Herath asserted that the Finance Ministry should have intervened on behalf of the people. The COPE examined how the SLPA continuously refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts in spite of receiving massive profits over the years.  The Director General Public Enterprises, who has received that position recently, struggled to explain their failure to take up the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. The COPE was told of Rs 69,686 mn revenue earned from 2016 to 2021, only 600 mn had been transferred to the Treasury.

Lawmaker Vithanage yesterday told The Island that the recent examinations of various enterprises and the Central Bank, by the COPE, as well as other watchdog committees, disclosed how the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and the Monetary Board contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA had been able to withhold funds required by the Treasury for want of Finance Ministry intervention.Responding to queries, MP Vithanage said that the Parliament should act without further delay to ensure the Finance Ministry and the Monetary Board acted responsibly.

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Ceylon Chamber distributes dry rations

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The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Diwiyata Diriyak’ social initiative provided emergency relief, in the form of 10,000 essential dry ration packs, to vulnerable families in the Kegalle and Colombo districts.

A press release from the Chamber said: Mobilising the Chamber’s Membership to assist low-income families that are struggling to survive the current crisis, the initial distribution, which took place at the Kegalle District Secretariat, was the first phase of Diwiyata Diriyak, which aims to provide 5,000 relief packs.

Containing essential items such as rice, lentils, sugar, wheat flour, canned fish, etc., costing Rs. 5,000 each, vulnerable families, identified by the respective District Secretaries in the Warakapola, Galigamuwa, Mawanella and Rambukkana DS divisions, were among the initial beneficiaries.

CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber Manjula de Silva said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the public during this immensely challenging time, and would always strive to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Home Garden Starter Packs, sponsored by the CIC Group, were also distributed among the families, in order to assist and encourage home garden cultivation as a viable option to address the rapidly rising costs and predicted shortage of food items, the release said.

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