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

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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.

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Hemasiri’s counsel complains to PCoI against ex-President Sirisena’s media statement

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… says it has placed the life of his client at risk

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena had placed ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando’s life at risk by issuing a media statement that the evidence given by the latter before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was “malicious and fictitious”, Attorney-at-Law Dilshan Jayasuriya appearing for Fernando said yesterday.

Jayasuriya told the PCoI that by issuing that statement Sirisena had also undermined the PCoI.

Sirisena, on Sunday, issued a press release claiming that the testimony given by Fernando at the PCoI about his behavior was completely false.

“I vehemently deny what was said at the Commission by Fernando. These are malicious and fictitious statements and I wish to reiterate to the public that Fernando’s statements are false,” Sirisena said.

Counsel Jayasuriya pointed out that by disseminating such an idea, the former President was trying to intimidate the former Defence Secretary who was still testifying before the PCoI. Sirisena, who was a former President, a current Parliamentarian and a party leader, was powerful and thus, there were now concerns about the security of his client, Jayasuriya said.

The counsel said that it was up to the Commission to decide whether Fernando’s evidence was true or false.

Issuing of a statement undermining Fernando by Sirisena, who was the Commander-in-Chief, the Minister of Defence and the Minister in charge of law and order at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, was a very bad precedent, the counsel for the ex-Defence Secretary said.

“The former President has been given the opportunity to crossexamine Fernando. However, he has issued press releases. People will be afraid to tell the truth openly if powerful people start issuing press releases on judicial matters,” counsel Jayasuriya added.

Jayasuriya requested the Commission that Sirisena’s Personal Secretary, Sameera de Silva, who issued this media statement, be summoned before the Commission. Silva should explain why he should not be charged with contempt of court. He also requested the Commission to take measures to ensure the safety of his client.

When the Commission asked the counsel appearing for the former President if he had anything to say in that regard, he said that he had not received any advice from his client. Accordingly, the Chairman of the Commission ordered that if there was anything to be said by Sirisena in that regard, it be presented before the Commission today through his legal representatives.

The Additional Solicitor General, who is leading Fernando’s evidence, also informed the Commission that she hoped to comment on the matter once the explanations were made by the former President.

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Kandy tragedy:

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What remains of the building that collapsed

Ill-fated building constructed on loose soil

By Ifham Nizam

Structural engineers’ approval was essential for the construction of building in hilly areas, a senior scientist said.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) Director (Landslide Research and Risk Management Division) R.M.S. Bandara told The Island to ascertain the real cause of the building collapse in Kandy on Sunday, an investigation would be conducted within the course of this week. “Initially we thought that could be done in two days or so,” he said

Bandara said that they would work with the Kandy Municipal Council Building Department to find out whether the original plan of the structure had been changed.

According to Senior Chartered Geologist Laksiri Indritilake, who was at the site, the NBRO team was carrying out the technical inquiry into the incident. He said as per their observations the collapsed building was an ad-hoc construction which had been erected blocking a valley path.

“Water flows from above grounds via a valley path. From our preliminary observations, it was evident that this building has been constructed blocking such a valley path. No safety precautions had been taken.”

“The multi-storyed building has been constructed on loose layers of soil in the respective valley region, and the building had caved-in, as the soil layers could not bear the weight of the construction,” said Samantha Bogahapitiya – NBRO’s Geologist in-charge of the Kandy district.

According to him, four families in the area have been were temporarily relocated as a precaution measure.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Geological and Mines Bureau, Anura Walpola said that the collapse had not been caused by a tremor.

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SJB MPs decide unanimously to oppose 20A

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by Akitha Perera

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would oppose the 20th amendment to the constitution to be presented to Parliament, today, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

The SJB had studied all the proposed amendment in detail and they couldn’t agree with any of them, he said. Therefore, the SJB had no choice but to work with like-minded forces inside and outside parliament to prevent the bill from becoming law, the MP said.

Kiriella said that SJB MPs HAS met yesterday in Parliament to discuss the matter and they unanimously agreed to oppose the amendment given the weakening of checks and balances imposed by the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that the replacement of the constitutional council with a parliamentary council, the weakening of the independent commissions, increasing the powers of the executive presidency and removing a number of key institutions from the purview of the auditor general were proposals that would not be accepted by any democratic minded person.

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