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GTF welcomes President’s offer



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.

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Earliest Sri Lanka can recover from bankruptcy is in 2027 – Dr Bandula Gunawardena




Minister of Transport and Highways and Minister of Mass Media Dr Bandula Gunawardena at a press briefing held at the Presidential Media Center today (30) said that the earliest Sri Lanka can recover from bankruptcy is in 2027, at which time it is envisaged that the countries foreign reserves which stand at USD 3.5 billion at present would increase to USD 14 billion..


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Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican




US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)

Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.


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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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