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.”
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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