Connect with us


GTF extends cooperation to newcomers, reiterates commitment to partnership with TNA



By Shamindra Ferdinando


The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) is ready to extend cooperation to Ahila Illankai Tamil Congress (AITC) and Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK) led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and C.V. Wigneswaran, respectively.

AITC won two seats, including one National List whereas the TMTK secured one.

GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran told The Island that the grouping would continue to work with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as in the past but would very much like to extend cooperation to the new parties as well.

Both AITC and TMTK hadn’t been represented in parliament before though Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Selvarasa Gajenthiran elected and appointed on the AITC National List, respectively, represented the TNA in parliament twice in 2001 and 2004.

Retired Supreme Court justice Wigneswaran, who served as the first Chief Minister of the Northern Province in the TNA run administration, hadn’t been a parliamentarian before.

The GTF officially formed after the end of the war in May 2009, has been working closely with the TNA. Surendiran said that among the issues they worked closely on was the accountability issue leading to the previous Sri Lanka government co-sponsoring a controversial resolution in Oct 2015 at the UNHRC.

Surendiran appreciated Wigneswaran and Gajendrakumar taking a strong stand in respect of 13th Amendment as well as the accountability issue in parliament during debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement.

Asked whether there was any likelihood of GTF reaching consensus with the AITC and the TMTK, in addition to the existing GTF-TNA cooperation?

Surendiran said: “GTF is a diaspora based organization consisting of member organizations and members who live overseas. One of our mission statements is to collaborate and work with elected representatives of our people in Sri Lanka, to progress the Tamil cause, be it seeking justice for the wrongs of the past, economic development or finding a political solution for the Tamils’ grievances and aspirations. As GTF, we have met Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and others from his party many times in the past and we will be ready to work with both him and Wigneswaran in the future, just as we will continue to work with TNA.

Pointing out Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam challenged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mandates (received at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls) in respect of the North-East and a number of other issues, including war crimes, The Island sought the GTF’s stand on AITC tough position vis-a-vis the President’s policy statement.

Surendiran said: “As you have described, indeed, it really was a powerful speech! I think he made a few factual statements, very eloquently. The point about, the people of North and East unanimously voting on points of principle, be it for different parties and candidates, the fact that sovereignty cannot be a defence to avoid investigating and delivering justice to victims of heinous crimes and that it was the State in fact which should have protected these people who were alleged to have committed these breaches of international laws against them, were made very effectively.”

In addition to newcomers, AITC and TMTK, the SLFP won a seat in the Jaffna peninsula. Angajan Ramanathan yesterday told The Island that he was the first Tamil to successfully contest Jaffna on the SLFP ticket ever. Responding to a query, Ramanathan said that he gained entry into Northern Provincial Council in 2013 on the SLFP ticket. Ramanathan was accommodated on the UPFA National List in the previous parliament. The UNP failed to retain its Jaffna seat at the Aug 5 poll.

Ramanathan said that Vijayakala Maheswaran represented the UNP in Jaffna following the assassination of her husband.

Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) won two. In the previous parliament, Douglas Devananda’s EPDP had only secured one seat at present.

Batticaloa-based Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) won one seat (Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pilleyan) whereas the TNA secured ten seats, the highest number obtained by any Tamil political party though in the previous parliament the coalition was represented by 16. The TNA’s ten included one National List slot. In the previous parliament, the TNA had two National List slots.

At the height of its political power, the TNA parliamentary group comprised 22 lawmakers.

Surendiran said that the Tamil community expected their representatives at all levels to take up issues whatever the party they represented in parliament. Surendiran noted that the AITC leader emphasized the pivotal importance of those elected working together regardless of being elected or appointed from different political parties.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


PMB declines to release Rs 1.2 bn FD for paddy purchasing



Treasury forced to bear responsibility for Rs 2 bn in loans

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said that the State Banks weren’t in a position to release funds to the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) as the enterprise owed them a staggering sum, running to over Rs 20 bn.

Due to the failure on the part of the state enterprise to settle previous loans, the Treasury has been compelled to accept the responsibility for repaying them, the State Minister said.

The Kegalle District lawmaker said so on the live political programme, Salakuna, telecast on Hiru on Monday night. The State Minister was responding to interviewer Chamuditha Samarawickrema’s query regarding the inordinate delay on the part of the government to implement the paddy purchasing scheme.

Referring to Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera’s abortive efforts to obtain the required funding, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the Treasury was helpless.

State Minister Siyambalapitiya said the PMB couldn’t be faulted for the crisis as successive governments had directed the state enterprise to purchase paddy at a higher price, then ordered it to sell at a much lower price, thereby causing staggering losses.

The State Minister also acknowledged management level shortcomings and political interventions caused the ruination of the PMB.

The PMB owed the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank Rs 1,600 mn and Rs 690 mn, respectively.

The State Minister acknowledged that the issue couldn’t be resolved in spite of interventions made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Premier Dinesh Gunawardena. Referring to a subsequent discussion he had with the Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the BOC has asked for Rs 1.2 bn fixed deposit as security though the PMB declined to do so. According to the State Minister the PMB asserted that it couldn’t forgo the fixed deposit as the

interest received was utilized for day to day running of its operations.

The State Minister said that the banks could release the required funding on the basis of a guarantee given by the Treasury. The lawmaker explained the inability on the part of the Treasury to give such a guarantee as further deterioration of public finance could have a devastating impact on the banking sector. Such an eventuality couldn’t be allowed, the SLFPer said.

The Minister acknowledged that the failure on the part of the government to launch a paddy purchasing scheme would dishearten the farmer community.

Chamuditha Samarawickrema pointed out that the private sector had managed their ‘operations’ in a much better way.

The State Minister said that the situation was so bad that of the recent Rs 93 mn public sector salary bill, the government could meet Rs 82 mn. The government had no option but to ask those state enterprises to pay salaries from their funds, pending repayment, the MP said, reiterating the Treasury couldn’t help the PMD at the moment.

Responding to further questions, the State Minister said that the government would definitely give priority to the PMD issue once they finalized public sector salary payments. The Minister urged the media not to pursue an agenda detrimental to the government’s recovery efforts. Asked to explain, the State Minister said that there had been accusations the government didn’t purchase paddy to clear the field for the private sector. The Hiru team pointed out that the banks had released substantial amounts to the private sector to purchase paddy. The Minister explained the banks tried their best to help but circumstances were such the government couldn’t help at the moment.

Continue Reading


PSC proposes amendment to Children and Young Persons Ordinance



A meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure gender equality in progress. Among those present were lawmakers Rohini Kaviratne, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Dr. Seetha Arambepola and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Kushani Rohanadeera (pic courtesy Parliament)

The Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure gender equality has decided to propose amendments to the Children and Young Persons Ordinance to consider all those below 18 years as children.

The PSC presided by its Chairperson Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle that met in the Parliamentary Complex last week also decided to replace the reference ‘young persons’ in the Ordinance and to rename it as the Children’s Ordinance.

As per the amendments every reference to “Children and Young Persons Ordinance”, “children and young persons”, “child or young person” and “age of sixteen years” in any regulation or rule made under the principal enactment or notice, notification, contract, communication or other document issued under the principal enactment shall be read and construed as a reference respectively, to “Children’s Ordinance”, “children”, “child” and “age of eighteen years.

Section 71 of the Ordinance will be amended, by the repeal of subsection (6) of that section establishing that “nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the right of any parent, teacher or legal guardian to punish a child or youth”.

The purpose of the Children and Young Persons Ordinance Clause 23 is to make orders for the establishment of Juvenile Courts for the supervision of juvenile offenders for the protection of children and young persons.

State Minister Dr. Seetha Arambepola, Members of Parliament Thalatha Atukorala, Rohini Kaviratne, Eran Wickramaratne, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Manjula Dissanayake, Secretary to the Committee and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Kushani Rohanadeera and senior officials representing the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms were present at the PSC meeting.

Continue Reading


80 houses destroyed in fire at Thotalanga



The scene of the fire(pic by Jude Denzil Pathiraja)

At least 80 houses were destroyed due to a fire that broke out in a highly congested area in Colombo on Tuesday (27) night. Around 220 people had been displaced, the police said.

The fire broke out at Kajeemawatte in Thotalanga at around 8 pm on Tuesday and it took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. Twelve fire engines were deployed, but many of the dwellings had been burnt out as approach roads were not wide enough for the vehicles to reach the fire.

Those who are affected are now housed in community centres and places of worship.

No casualties were reported in the incident. The police are yet to determine the cause of fire and the total damage to property has not been estimated still.

Meanwhile, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is on an official visit to Japan, has instructed Presidential Secretary Saman Ekanayake to take steps to provide immediate relief to all victims of the fire.

Continue Reading