By Shamindra Ferdinando
Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, who is also Chairman of the ruling SLPP, has questioned the rationale in UN human rights Chief Michelle Bachelet’s latest report that dealt with Sri Lanka accountability issues during the war and post-conflict period in the run-up to the 46th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Bachelet served as the Chilean President for nine years beginning 2006.
Acknowledging that Sri Lanka was again on the Geneva agenda, Prof. Peiris told a media briefing at the SLPP office at Battaramulla that Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena would state the government’s stand. Prof. Peiris, who served as the External Affairs Minister during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term (2010-2015) emphasized the government would take the following factors into consideration. Prof. Peiris asked how the UNHRC as regards Sri Lanka pursued a controversial agenda not compatible with its mandate. The top academic emphasized therefore forceful intervention in domestic matters was contrary to its mandate.
The UNHRC consists of 47 countries divided into five groups.
Referring to Bachelet’s latest report Prof. Peiris pointed out the absurdity in the UN human rights chief raising the enactment of an Amendment to the Constitution, appointments given to retired armed forces officers and interference in parliamentary matters. The Education Minister said the UN rights chief and the UNHRC had no business to intervene in such domestic matters.
Minister Peiris said that the UNHRC actions should be fair by all member states of the UN. Recollecting his recent three-day visit to Kilinochchi and the Jaffna peninsula, Prof. Peiris alleged that Bachelet conveniently ignored substantial development achieved in the Northern and Eastern Provinces since the eradication of the LTTE.
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
The former Chief Negotiator for the government in talks with the LTTE, Prof. Peiris faulted Bachelet for not giving sufficient attention to two key post-war factors namely rehabilitation of the LTTE cadre and vacation of public and private land and property occupied by the military.
Prof. Peiris said Sri Lanka had rehabilitated as many as 12,000 LTTE cadres after fighting ‘the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation’, in an efficient manner that received the appreciation of some sections of the international community. The UN human rights chief however had chosen to ignore Sri Lanka’s unique rehabilitation project, the minister said, urging the Geneva body to give up its offensive directed at post-war Sri Lanka.
Prof. Peiris explained the orderly vacation of public and private property in the Northern and Eastern provinces by the security forces would never have been possible without the eradication of the LTTE. Those who always inquire about the continuing military presence in the predominantly Tamil speaking areas were conspicuously silent about significant reduction of in military presence over the years, Prof Peiris said. Would that be possible until the armed forces crushed the LTTE, Prof. Peiris asked.
Prof. Peiris said that the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP), too, was continuing its work. The SLPP Chairman also pointed out Bachelet’s failure to recognize improvement in education, agriculture, fisheries and industrial sectors over the past decade.
Prof. Peiris said that the Geneva body lost its credibility as it dealt with countries differently. “We are a case in point,” Minister Peiris said, underscoring Sri Lanka was definitely not the first country investigated over accountability issues.
The former foreign minister alleged that the UNHRC targeted some countries while some received protection. The minister said that the Geneva body was being used by those with vested interests to suit their agendas. The minister described Sri Lanka as a victim of that despicable strategy.
The former Foreign Minister said that the Geneva body should give due recognition to local mechanisms set up by Sri Lanka to address accountability issues. Unfortunately, Geneva had ignored the LLRC, Paranagama Commission as well as its Second Mandate thereby deprived Sri Lanka of an opportunity to set the record straight.
The Minister said that the international community should recognize the political environment too. Having won two national elections overwhelmingly, in 2019 and 2020, the ruling party commanded the respect of the people, the minister said, urging Geneva to be mindful of the circumstances leading to the rejection of yahapalana administration, twice within 12 months.
Responding to a query by The Island, Prof. Peiris pointed out that the Geneva rights chief had been in such a hurry to pressure Sri Lanka she blamed the Mannar mass graves on the Sri Lanka Army before US lab revealed the bones found therein were several centuries old and belonged to the colonial period. They never bothered to verify facts, the minister said, calling for examination of disclosure made by Lord Naseby in Oct 2017, US defence attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith’s statement in June 2011, Wikileaks cables and dispatches from the UN office during Eelam War IV to establish the truth.
Geneva HR vote:
UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka
The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.
Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.
Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.
The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)
CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative
by Ifham Nizam
The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.
PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.
Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.
“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.
The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”
Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.
Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.
Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”
State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.
US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award
Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.
The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.
Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.
According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.
“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”
From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.
U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.
Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.
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