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Govt. urged to ratify ILO Convention to protect migrant domestic workers who contribute much to country’s economy

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Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, has urged the government to ratify “ILO Convention No. 189 in order to better protect and safeguard the rights and interests of domestic workers, who make a substantial contribution to the economy of Sri Lanka, especially through foreign remittances”

The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus issuing a press release in Celebration of the ‘International Migrants Day’ states:

History has shown time and time again that migrants play an important role in shaping and transforming landscapes of countries through various contributions ranging from knowledge, skills and networks in order to build more resilient societies.

This year, on the 18th of December, we celebrated the International Migrants Day under the theme ‘Harnessing the potential of human mobility’. This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the International Organisation for Migrations (as renamed in the year 1989), which was founded with the original intention of assisting those who were displaced by the Second World War, but went on to and continues to lead the way in promoting humane and orderly management of migration in not only countries of destination but also that of origin and transit. A milestone that warrants celebration.

Each year, due to various factors resulting from increased magnitude and frequency of natural disasters, economic challenges, poverty and conflict, more and more people either voluntarily become, or are forced to become, international migrants. For example, in the year 2020 alone, almost 281 million people were International Migrants who represent 3.6 of the global population.

“Therefore, it is vital to take note of the increasing trends in out-migration and take steps to develop policies and strategies in order to harness the maximum contribution of migration to the economy of the country while safeguarding and protecting the rights and interests of the migrants as well”, said State Minister of COVID19 control, Primary Healthcare and Epidemics and the Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

The most common form of migration in Sri Lanka in particular is international labour migration which has been on the rise during the last three decades. Estimates suggest that generally around 1.5 million Sri Lankan migrants work abroad while the annual reported outflows average around 200,000 persons per year.

“This day is of special interest to the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in particular as statistics show that generally around 47.7% of the labour migrants of Sri Lanka are women”, added Dr. Fernandopulle.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting the global economy and human movement since early 2020, the statistics pertaining to migration, labour migration in particular, has altered during the last two years.

“In August, the Government, with the support of the International Organization for Migration and the Australian Government, undertook measures to repatriate a group of Sri Lankan migrant workers from Kuwait”, said Dr Fernandopulle.

With the mobility of people being affected and more labour migrants returning home from destination countries, Sri Lanka is developing strategies to reintegrate and re-socialize by harnessing the skills obtained by such individuals from working abroad for the country’s economic benefit, especially in some identified sectors for economic recovery such as in the fields of tourism and Ayurveda medicine.

She remarked, “For the year 2022, Rs. 150 million has been allocated in the budget for the Safe and Regular Labour Migration Programs. We are mindful of the fact that these centers should also be duly monitored ensuring that human rights-based practices are followed”. Furthermore, focusing on one of the most vulnerable stages in the migration process, providing better pre-departure training to labour migrants and also to implementing agencies would be prioritized in the coming year.

In 2018, less-skilled and domestic worker categories represented 55.2% of the total departures for foreign employment from Sri Lanka, as per the statistics obtained from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE).

“In special consideration of this fact, the Women’s Caucus has initiated discussions with the Government for the ratification of ILO Convention No. 189 in order better protect and safeguard the rights and interests of domestic workers, who make a substantial contribution to the economy of Sri Lanka, especially through foreign remitances”, said Dr Fernandopulle.



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NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused

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Welikada Prison killings

‘The BASL should make its position clear now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners, Attorney-at-Law, Senaka Perera, says his outfit will soon move the Supreme Court against the acquittal and discharging of Inspector Neomal Moses Rangajiva, the first accused in the Welikada Prison killings.

The civil society activist, in a brief interview with The Island, over the weekend, said that the relatives of those who perished in the violence in the Welikada Prison compound on Nov 09 and 10, 2012, had requested him to pursue this matter.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar last Wednesday (12) sentenced to death ex-Welikada Prisons Chief Lamahewage Emil Ranjan over the Welikada killings. He was the second accused in the high-profile case, whereas Rangajiva, at that time attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), was acquitted and released from all charges.

Lawyer Perera said that as the verdict had been given by a Trial-at-Bar, the appeal would have to be made to the Supreme Court. The Trial-at-Bar bench comprising High Court judges Gihan Kulathunga (President), Pradeep Hettiarachchi and Manjula Thilakarathna was unanimous in its decisions.

The Trial-at-Bar said that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the PNB officer beyond reasonable doubt.

Responding to questions, Senaka Perera said that if it hadn’t been a Trial-at-Bar, his group would have moved the Court of Appeal. Senaka Perera explained: “We intend to write to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, in this regard. We are of the view the AG should appeal against the acquittal and discharging of Rangajiva. However, if the AG refrained from doing so,  the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners will accept the responsibility.”

In terms of the Trial-at-Bar proceedings, the eight prison inmates who were killed in the incident are Kankanmalage Malinda Nilendra Pelpola alias Malan, Attapattu Sangakkara Nirmala Atapattu, Mohammed Wijaya Rohana alias Gundu, Chinthamani Mohottige Thushara Chandana alias Kalu Thushara, Asarappulige Jothipala alias Ponna Kapila, Harshan Sri Manakeerthi Perera alias Manju Sri, Raigamage Susantha Perera alias Mala Susantha, Devamullage Malith Sameera Perera alias Konda Amila.

However, lawyer Senaka Perera said that altogether 27 inmates had been killed after the deployment of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Army inside the Welikada Prison. According to official records, in addition to 27 deaths, at least 43 other inmates received injuries. The then Prisons Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera informed Parliament of the deaths of 27 inmates.

The then Police Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakoday said that inmates had triggered violence as the STF was looking for drugs and hand phones inside the prison.

The Attorney General filed indictments against IP Rangajeewa, Lamahewage Emil Ranjan and Indika Sampath, an officer attached to the Prisons intelligence unit under 33 counts, including committing murder, conspiring to commit murder after being members of an unlawful assembly.

The Court proceeded in spite of the third accused Indika Sampath who managed to evade the police so far.

The human rights activist recalled how Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, named a Trial-at-Bar to hear the Welikada case on a request made by Rajaratnam’s predecessor, Dappula de Livera, PC. The latter made the request in late June 2019. Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera in late May 2021.

The Prisons Department and the Justice Ministry couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for ensuring safety and security of those in their care, lawyer Senaka Perera said. Those who had been remanded and sentenced could be serious offenders and some may even deserve a death sentence but the State shouldn’t under any circumstances resort to extra judicial measures, the public litigation activist said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that he believed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) should examine the Welikada case and make its position known to the public. “Perhaps, the BASL, too, should consider moving the SC against the acquittal and discharging of the first accused,” the lawyer said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that before the former AG made an intervention the progress in investigations had been slow. In fact, real progress was made since 2017, two years after the change of government following the 2015 presidential election, the lawyer said, alleging that the powers that be continuously hindered the investigations.

According to lawyer Perera and other sources, there had been four separate investigations at different levels beginning with the one launched by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) immediately after the Welikada killings. Subsequently the then Prisons Minister the late Chandrasiri Gajadeera named a three-member team to inquire into the Welikada killings. The committee comprising retired High Court judge Bandula Atapattu, retired DIG Gunasena Thenabadu and Prisons Ministry Legal Officer Lalith Andrahannadi produced two reports in Feb 2013 and Nov 2013. There had been two other investigations ordered by the then Prisons Chief P.W. Kodipillai and the Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that the four investigations undertaken during the Rajapaksa administration should be examined. The lawyer emphasized the importance of appraisal of the investigations as the Trial-at-Bar declared that the progress had been made only since 2017.

In addition to those four investigations, there had been another report prepared by the three-member committee comprising retired High Court judge Wimal Nambuwasam, retired Senior DIG Asoka Wijeyatilleke and senior public servant S.K. Liyanage. Appointed on January 22, 2015, less than two weeks after the presidential election, the committee handed over its report to the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, on June 09, 2015 as the latter appointed it.

Lawyer Perera said that the former Prisons Chief claimed that the inmates after having broken into the Prisons armoury seized weapons, including machine guns.

The activist pointed out that the 2012 incidents were the worst since the 1983 massacre of Tamil terrorist suspects. The public have lost faith in law enforcement authorities and the political leadership regardless of the party that held power, the lawyer said. There couldn’t be better example than how the current dispensation handled the then State Minister for Prisons Lohan Ratwatte’s ‘raids’ on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons in September last year.

The report prepared by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena into the incidents involving Ratwatte should be made public as the police were yet to at least record the State Minister’s statement, lawyer Perera said.

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China donates shipment of rice to Sri Lanka

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By Anura Balasuriya

China will soon send a shipment of rice to Sri Lanka as a donation, a Ministry of Trade spokesman said.

The donation comes in the wake of the 70 year anniversary of the Sri Lanka – China Rubber Rice pact on 1952.

Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardane had discussed the matter recently with a senior Chinese Embassy officia, the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

“The Chinese Embassy in Colombo is already doing the needful. The Trade Ministry has informed China of the varieties of rice that Sri Lankan consumers like,” the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

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Rating downgrades discourage investors – JVP

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JVP MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, on Friday (14) day, said investors were discouraged by the continuous downgrading of the country’s credit ratings.

Speaking at an event in Colombo, MP Amarasuriya said import costs had increased as the country was going through a forex crisis. The President’s agricultural policy had been a disaster and that in the coming months, the government would have to import large volumes of food.

Amarasuriya added that Sri Lanka’s relations with other nations had deteriorated and that too would have an adverse impact on the country.

Dr. Amarasuriya said that international rating agencies were independent and that their ratings were very important for investors to make decisions.

“Investors don’t consult Ajith Nivard Cabraal before investing. Besides, in other countries, it is economic experts, not politicians, who become Central Bank Governors,” she added.

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