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GL: Will UK hand over suppressed wartime dispatches to USD 2.8 mn Geneva probe team?

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Memo reveals Lanka to be dealt in terms of universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial jurisdiction

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (29) asked whether the UK would hand over wartime dispatches (January-May, 2009) from its High Commission in Colombo to the proposed special unit tasked with gathering information and evidence, attached to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s Office.

The resolution adopted last Tuesday (23) authorized the High Commissioner’s office to set up a special unit to gather information and evidence on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. According to the resolution the new unit was meant to “strengthen the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner to collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve information and evidence and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings, including in Member States, with competent jurisdiction” (operative clause 6).

One-time External Affairs Minister Prof. Peiris said the UK as the leader of the Sri Lanka Core Group that spearheaded the latest initiative to introduce a new resolution, owed an explanation why such documents had been suppressed over the years. “The existence of British diplomatic cables which contradicted their accusations directed at Sri Lanka military as well as the political leadership came to light in Oct 2017,” Prof. Peiris said.

Addressing the media at the Waters Edge, Prof. Peiris said that the UNHRC had been in such a hurry to allocate funds to the tune of USD 2.8 mn for the proposed unit. Prof. Peiris, who holds the education portfolio emphasized that it would be the responsibility of the new office to obtain the British dispatches.

The top academic, who had even taught law at a leading British university, also questioned the rationale in the UK being a member of the UNHRC fighting a near three year-old legal battle to prevent the release of dispatches sought by member of House of Lords, Lord Naseby. The Conservative party member was given only a section of the dispatches, Prof. Peiris said.

Minister Peiris said that the House of Commons was recently told the UK government didn’t hand over those dispatches nor the UNHRC asked for them. Prof. Peiris said that the proposed unit comprised three Legal Advisors, two analysts, two investigators/human rights officers, one information and evidence officer, two Juris-Linguists, one victim support officer and one programme assistant. Prof. Peiris said that the team had been tasked with putting in place information and evidence gathering mechanism therefore the need to examine everything available could not be ruled out.

The former head of the Colombo Law Faculty said that the proposed mechanism should be examined against the backdrop of the so called evidence/information gathered by the then UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s Panel of Experts’ remained covered by UN confidentiality clause till 2031. An internal UNHRC memo dated March 22, 2021 readout before the adoption of the resolution revealed that the new unit was tasked with coordinating with member states as regards universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial jurisdiction cases and other accountability purposes. The new unit is expected to function for a period of 12 months (Oct-Dec 2021 and January-Sept 2022). The memo revealed that the Office of the HR Commissioner intended to develop an efficient strategy meant to pave the way for individual countries to take action. The UK received the appointment as Sri Lanka Core Group leader in 2018 after the US quit the UNHRC alleging the UN body was a cesspool of political bias.

Prof. Peiris said that it would be interesting to see whether those tasked with gathering war crimes evidence would seek a meeting with Adele Balasingham, wife of the late LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham now living in the UK. At the onset of the briefing Prof. Peiris said that efforts to drag Sri Lanka before the International Criminal Court were futile. “We are not party to the Rome Statute,” Prof. Peiris said, Sri Lanka was confident China and Russia would thwart any attempt to secure a UN Security Council endorsement of specific actions against Sri Lanka. The US imposed travel restrictions on Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva and his family in Feb 2020 whereas Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage were among those denied visas to the US and Australia, respectively.

The UK had been partial in the whole process and recent efforts to ensure immunity to UK forces deployed within the country or overseas revealed the double standards, the internationally renowned law academic charged.

 

 



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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