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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.


Another FR petition to push back presidential election



“19A subject to a referendum”

By AJA Abeynayake

Another fundamental rights petition was filed before the Supreme Court on Friday (12) seeking an order to prevent holding of the Presidential Election as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution has not been properly passed in Parliament.

The petitioner, Attorney-at-Law Aruna Laksiri, in his petition argues that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was not properly passed in Parliament and therefore calls for a referendum to ensure its proper passage. He says that the 19A must be subjected to a referendum and holding a presidential election before that is a violation of the constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of Parliament and the Attorney General have been named as respondents.

The petitioner asserts that the 19th amendment strips the president of the power to dissolve parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision has to be approved by a referendum, before the constitution becomes law. The petitioner says the referendum was never held, thus 19A could not be considered a law.

He avers the Elections Commission is to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it was unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner asks the Supreme Court to issue a ruling stating that holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the president, was unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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Govt to start flora spatial mapping, eyes carbon credit trading



Ruwan Wijewardene


ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in the process of starting spatial mapping on all tree species in the island nation before going for carbon credit trading in the global market, Senior Presidential Advisor on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene said.

Sri Lanka has been in the process of carbon credit for more than a decade. Carbon credit is a way of compensating for emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

If Sri Lanka reduces its Carbon Dioxide emissions through efforts like reforestation and large number of renewable energy projects, they will help the country to earn money through carbon trading from some other higher Carbon Dioxide emitting nations as compensation.

“We are doing spatial data plan. We have just put the plan to cabinet. We are still waiting for approval,” Wijewardene, the Senior Advisor to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Climate Change, told EconomyNext in an interview on Friday (12).

“That is where we will map out whole of Sri Lanka’s every tree species, and what the carbon output of each tree species.”

“Then we have the knowledge of what our potential is in Sri Lanka. Then it will be much helpful when we go out to tap market for (Carbon) trading. The process will take two years.”

He said the aim is to earn money through conservation and projects protecting the environment.

The island nation is also in the process of drafting regulations to ensure the monetary benefits from a proposed 6,400 “Green Entrepreneurs” projects along Sri Lanka’s coastline, focusing on mangrove restoration and development.

“So, we can get youth in these areas while looking after mangroves they can see how they can generate some income through tourism and carbon credit,” Wijewardene said.

“Right now we are drawing up a framework – some kind of regulations how the carbon trading in the carbon market can trickle down to communities.”

He said Sri Lanka will have to go for certification from international agencies before it goes for carbon trading.

“The regulations we are trying is how the carbon trading money can be used by the communities and used in projects to conserve the environment.”

The government move to speed up carbon credit trading comes as it has planned to become carbon neutral or zero carbon emission by 2040 with a raft of large renewable energy projects.

The island nation has been adversely hit by the impacts of climate change leading to frequent floods and droughts across the country.

President Wickremesinghe at COP-28  in Dubai last year launched his ambitious plans on establishing an International Climate Change University, Tropical Belt Initiative (TBI) and Climate Justice Forum (CJF) in a move to gather all countries vulnerable to climate change under a common theme to bargain strongly with advanced countries to invest in their nations on green initiatives including wind and solar power projects.

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Wijeyadasa slates cops for enabling controversial video



Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe found fault with police on Friday for releasing a video footage of the interrogation of a suspect arrested in connection with the recent shooting in Athurugiriya, in which businessman ‘Club Wasantha’ was killed.

Speaking in Parliament, the Minister said that in the video, the police were seen questioning a suspect in public and allowing media access. “This is a clear violation of the law. Under these circumstances, the services of the police officers involved in such interrogation must be suspended,” the Minister said.

He added that releasing such vital information to the media while investigations are in progress amounts to contempt of court.

“This is an obstruction of justice. Under the current circumstances, I do not believe that the judiciary can deliver justice. The police have already conducted their hearing for the whole country to see, and now they only need to issue the verdict. The judges have nothing more to do in this case,” he said.

Minister Rajapakshe emphasized that the actions of such police officials undermine public trust in the judicial system.

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