The UK-based Global Tamil Forum yesterday (21) described President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s declaration that he was ready to have a dialogue with the expatriate Tamils as certainly a progressive move. GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran welcomed the announcement made in New York on the sidelines of the 76th UNGA.
The Island: President GR told the UN Chief he was ready for a dialogue with the Tamil Diaspora. He reiterated he wanted to discuss domestic mechanisms with the Tamil Diaspora. What is GTF’s response to Prez’s declaration?
GTF : Isn’t it interesting that this is the same President on his watch, a gazette notification was issued in March 2021, only six months ago, to proscribe most of the Tamil diaspora organisations including GTF and individuals including myself, as terrorists. Now, from New York, he has declared that he wants to engage with us. We wonder why the sudden change of mind.
In any event, wanting to engage is certainly a progressive move and we welcome it. As for the domestic mechanisms, in transitional justice, there are judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms. We will be very happy to engage and discuss about the latter but as for the former, for judicial mechanisms, in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 30/1 which describes what exactly needs to happen. If the President so wishes, he can engage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the relevant UN bodies and special mandate holders (Special Rapporteurs) and they will be very willing to progress these as described in the already adopted resolutions.
The Island: During the previous administration GTF had talks with Prez Maithripala Sirisena and in fact met him in London. Do you think a similar dialogue can take place now?
GTF: GTF met President Maithripala Sirisena twice in London (2015/2018) and once in Berlin (2016). We are ready to talk to anybody if grievances of our people, in fact, grievances of all peoples of Sri Lanka can be resolved. The first impediment that the President will have is that he will have to somehow justify his actions or the seeming u-turn to his constituency.
The GTF didn’t stop its engagement with the people of Sri Lanka just because of the ill-advised action of this administration. Even recently, we facilitated multi-million US dollars’ worth of medical equipment to assist in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, not just in the north and east of the country but the entire Sri Lanka.
Just for the record, we recently did a calculation of the potential loss of foreign currency income for Sri Lanka due to the proscription of organisations and persons being over US $300m per annum. This is in addition to the professional help and assistance that many organisations and people used to render.
The Island: What are the other Tamil Diaspora groups working with the GTF?
GTF: We have members and associates in Norway, Australia, US, UK, Canada, South Africa and many in Sri Lanka from all communities
The Island: Will GTF take up this issue with TNA?
GTF: We work and will work very closely with the TNA, as democratically elected by our people in Sri Lanka, not just on this but on a multitude of matters concerning our people.
Vasu defends constituents’ right to differ
Prez chairs govt. group meeting:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has strongly defended the right of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) constituents’ to take up contentious issues in public.
Minister Nanayakkara told SLPP parliamentary group meeting at the President’s House on Sunday night (24) that their right to differ on matters of public interest shouldn’t be questioned.
Nanayakkara said so when Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi faulted some constituent parties for dissenting views on certain issues.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was present at the meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The meeting lasted for about two hours.
The SLPP held Sunday’s meet in the wake of some constituent parties of the ruling coalition asking for a discussion on the questionable agreement between the government and the US New Fortress Energy Company over the Yugadanavi power plant, etc. Sources said that initially, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated that the issue could be discussed with the Premier but subsequently arrangements were made for the Sunday’s meeting.
The New Fortress recently announced that a definitive agreement had been executed for the external investment in West Coast Power Limited (WCP).
WCP owns the 310 megawatts Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo. The deal is also for the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo. In terms of the agreement, New Fortress will acquire a 40 per cent ownership stake in WCP. The US energy firm plans to build an offshore LNG terminal located off the coast of Colombo.
Minister Nanayakkara has said it is not unusual for members of a coalition to hold different views depending on the issues as they also represent the interests of the public.
Nanayakkara has pointed out how the left parties remained with the UPFA though they didn’t agree with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to enact the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on 08 Sept. 2010, enabling the President to seek a third term among other things.
The SLPP constituents have differed with the government on several issues such as fuel price increases announced by Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on 12 June as well as the abortive bid to transfer 49 percent of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port to India and Japan.
National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the constituents’ campaign. He sought an explanation particularly as regards Cabinet approval for the controversial energy deal with the US firm, without a discussion among ministers.
NFF sources told The Island that their leader felt the urgent need to take up the matter to prevent further deterioration of relations among the coalition members.
Several parties including government ally the Jathika Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, respectively against the secretive energy deal with the US firm.
‘Those who hesitate to get vaccinated pose a threat to others’
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said yesterday a significant number of people had not received the Covid-19 vaccine, and posed a threat to society.
“No matter what your age category is, you will be at a higher risk of being infected and spreading it to others. So please get vaccinated,” he urged.
The DDGHS said that a booster shot would be given to people from 01 Nov.
The Health Ministry would carry out the ongoing vaccination drive until everyone got the first two doses, he said.
“However, we won’t keep hundreds of vaccination centres open. Most likely, those who have not got vaccinated will have to go to designated locations to receive the vaccine.”
School attendance high as parents have faith in teachers – CTU head
By Rathindra Kuruwita
School attendance was high Despite inter-provincial travel restrictions, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin said yesterday. “The government announced on 22 October that primary sections of all schools would be reopened on 25 October. Despite the short notice the attendance was high, and this is testament to the faith parents have in teachers,” he said.Primary sections of 9,155 schools recommenced yesterday.
“However, we will only teach. Teachers do a lot of additional work instead of teaching and most people who slander us have no idea about this,” he said.
Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath urged relevant authorities to provide safe and adequate transport facilities to students. It was vital that those vehicles were ventilated, and social distancing was maintained.
“We urge parents to buy reusable face masks for kids. If your child has any symptoms of COVID such as fever and cold, don’t send him/her to school until you are certain this is not COVID. Teach your child the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. This is the way we can ensure there is no spread in the school system,” Dr. Herath said.
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