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Govt. should obtain support of SL’s natural allies in NAM and Global South who form a majority in UNHRC

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While taking action to negate and disprove the charges

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has scheduled, at its February/March 2021 Sessions, to take up for discussion the report on Sri Lanka prepared by the High Commissioner, Mrs. Bachelet on human rights.

This is to discuss the implementation of Resolution 30/1 adopted in 2015, and the subsequent resolutions co-sponsored by the previous government on alleged past violations of human rights in Sri Lanka.

The arguments advanced by the High Commissioner are what she uses to justify the imposition of sanctions against Sri Lanka and to take it before the ICC, the International Criminal Court of Justice. There is also provision for legal action to be taken in the courts of any foreign country against individual citizens of Sri Lanka alleged to have committed crimes against humanity, (which are genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes).

If we are to counter these sinister moves against Sri Lanka and its citizens, then action must be taken within Sri Lanka to deprive the High Commissioner and the Western Group led by the UK (in the absence of the USA, which has left the UNHRC) of the arguments levelled by the High Commissioner to the extent that they interfere with Sri Lanka’s responsibility under the UN Charter and international human rights conventions.

Action must also be taken by the government to expose the manner in which the Report and its recommendations, should they be endorsed by the Council, will seriously undermine the Charter-based multilateral system, which is the guarantor of state sovereignty and independence established under the multilateral system based on the UN Charter.

Such action will also help to draw in its natural allies in the Global South to extend their own support to Sri Lanka within the UNHRC, and help defeat the sinister moves.

The High Commissioner’s arguments are based on the following six broad areas of concern:

* Militarization of civilian government functions.

* Reversal of Constitutional safeguards, including the passage of the 20th Amendment.

* Political obstruction of accountability for crimes and human rights violations such as the presidential commission of ‘political victimization’, which has intervened on behalf of a number of military officers implicated in gross human rights violations, including the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga abduction of Prageeth Ekneligoda, and the naval officers implicated in ransom induced abductions and murder of Tamil youth in Trincomalee.

* Majoritarian and exclusionary rhetoric.

* Surveillance and obstruction of civil society and shrinking democratic space.

* New and exacerbated human rights concerns.

These concerns are already being addressed domestically by the people of Sri Lanka themselves, both in the past (LLRC Report) and the present. The UK-led forces backing the UNHRC resolution are well aware of this. It is important that the government should also further intensify its efforts in this direction.

In doing so, the government should fully appreciate the real motivations for these concerns by the High Commissioner. They are to advance the global agenda of the United States to maintain its hegemony and consolidate the unilateral global order that it desires.

Therefore, while taking action to negate and disprove these charges, the government should obtain the support of our natural allies in the Non-aligned Movement and the Global South, like Russia, who form a majority in the UNHRC, so as to counter what is a common threat.

Some sections of the government, including the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are seeking to reach a consensus with the UK-led Western bloc. The danger of trying to reach a consensus with the US and its Western allies is that the negotiations will necessarily be between unequal partners, as a result of our high economic dependence on the very same powerful Western countries that are leading the resolution against us.

Moreover, if there are direct bilateral negotiations, then Sri Lanka’s natural allies in the Global South, which are the majority in the United Nations, will not want to get involved by supporting Sri Lanka, as shown by our own past experience.

A consensus between such unequal partners can only, therefore, result in Sri Lanka having to make compromises and also accommodate America’s global agenda, undermining Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. We may be even compelled to accept the MCC, SOFA and ACSA agreements that were rejected earlier.

Under these circumstances, the option is to call for a vote in the Council through a friendly nation, such as Cuba, and to work towards obtaining the support of the Council’s majority, who are members of the Non Aligned Movement, and the Global South, including Russia. This option has already proven to be successful in numerous cases where draft resolutions against individual countries by the Western Group have been defeated.

For example, in the specific case of Sri Lanka, in September 2011, we even succeeded, with the support of the Non Aligned Movement and Russia to force the US and Canada to withdraw a draft resolution against Sri Lanka, even before it was tabled.

The support of most, if not all, Non-aligned countries and others like Russia is a certainty provided they are all made aware of the hidden agenda motivating the USA/UK led Western action against Sri Lanka, as well as the precedent that such a resolution would create in the future for the Global South as a whole.

Even if the matter is brought before the Security Council, which alone can take punitive action against a member state, and even then only when there is a threat to international peace and security or a war of aggression, both Russia and China can, and I am sure will, be able to use their veto in our defense.

In the circumstances, Sri Lanka must under no circumstances try to reach a consensus that will necessarily require compromising the multilateral principles of the UN system. If it acts on its own, it will get the necessary support of the Non-aligned countries and the Global South as it is acting on a matter of common concern for a vast majority of the countries. We must follow the successful example of Cuba, which regularly gets the support of all countries, except the USA, and Israel on its General Assembly Resolution condemning the illegal US blockade against Cuba.

Prof. Tissa Vitarana

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query

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SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign

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The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.

 

 

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