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Hakeem alleges PTA used against political opponents … raises arrest of lawyer over Easter Sunday carnage with visiting EU team

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‘The government is a failure’

Leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Rauff Hakeem, MP, expressed serious concerns over continuing human rights violations when he received a six-member European Union (EU) delegation here to review the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), at Darusalaam, on Tuesday (28).

The former Minister alleged that minority Muslims were being targeted and that the government brazenly used the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to hunt down opposition parties and those who fight for democracy and human rights. SLMC Chief Hakeem and his Party Secretary, Nizam Kariapper, PC highlighted what they called were the worst kinds of human rights violations were occurring in the country in recent times.

The EU delegation, comprising Nikolaos Zaimis, Senior Adviser on Trade and Sustainable Development, Ionnis Giogkarakis-Argyropoulos, Head of Division South Asia, European External Action Service (EEAS), Guido Dolara, Coordinator GSP Trade Preferences, Lluis Prats – Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, and Monika Bylaite, Desk Officer for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, EEAS, met MP Hakeem and Kariapper.

The EU delegation inquired about the SLMC’s views on the current situation in the country. The EU’s query prompted the SLMC representatives to declare that the PTA was being used as a tool for harassment of certain people and communities.

They recalled the detention of lawyer and public litigation activist Hejaaz Hizbullah. “He is detained for nearly a year and a half. He is the only lawyer who has been detained under the PTA”. The MP reiterated to the EU delegation that the lawyer’s unwarranted detention has been mentioned in the EU Parliament’s resolution that was adopted in June 2021.

MP Hakeem said that the lawyer could be released on bail and the case could continue in court, but the government had determined to keep him under the PTA and use his detention for its political goals.

Similarly, several young people, the elderly and women have been detained without any charges, the MP said.

The police have detained Hizbullah over his alleged links with those involved with 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

The former Minister also highlighted the controversy over Muslim religious matters, especially the amendments to be made to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), and said it was fully resolved by the community. Nevertheless, beyond that, the government has been overstepping and intervening in these affairs. “We made it very clear that this government needs to make some changes in its efforts to intervene without the need for a separate legal process for Muslims”, he added.

“We also should discuss the matter with the Minister of Justice. We have also made it very clear to the EU that these should not be allowed to become an issue in which the government unnecessarily deprives minorities of their rights. At the same time, we have also told the EU delegation that we are keen on and agree with all the provisions for the full granting of Muslim women’s rights”.

In addition, to the Muslim-related issues, the MP has stressed that the current government’s emergency legislation should be lifted. He noted that the emergency law had been used to curtail freedom of expression, demonstrations, and anti-government activities in the country.

The SLMC Leader said the government had not taken measures to curb the actions of the Buddhist monks who were spreading hate speech when the people were facing a crisis situation in the country.

“Our intention is not to halt the GSP Plus benefits for Sri Lanka, but we know it depends on the way the government extends its support to contain the ongoing human rights abuses in the country. We have expressed that we are not satisfied with the government and that the government is a failure”, he added.

“It’s not satisfactory as the Opposition and those who are concerned about human rights and therefore we have urged the EU to take the necessary steps to get the Government on the right track by taking alternative measures.

He also said the government should explicitly show that it is refraining from backing the Buddhist monks. “Besides, there should be punishment for inciting and acting on hate speech, but we don’t want to see that happen. It is the pro-government media that gives the opportunity for them to use the platform and the government should take measures to stop them”.

At the same time, these monks who were speaking out on behalf of state intelligence and the upper echelons of government, leave a strong suspicion that the government was behind the move. The government needed to act with transparency, he said.

The MP also condemned the series of gazette notifications that had been released by the government. They had no meaning as they did not control the prices of commodities. “The government is a failure”, he said.



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No immediate hike in fuel prices – Udaya

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Finance Minister rules out bailout package for CPC

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has told Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila that the Treasury is not in a position to assist the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). However, there would not be a fuel price hike in the short term, the Minister of Energy told the media yesterday.

Minister Gammanpila said that if a fuel hike was on the cards, he would announce it publicly.

“This is what I did last time also. This time around, I have told the people that we are facing a serious problem. We incur a loss of Rs. 15 on a litre of petrol and a loss of Rs 16 on a litre of diesel. The Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has asked for a price increase,” he said.

Gammanpila said he told the Chairman of the CPC that they should first seek assistance from the Treasury. Given that prices of all essential items had increased, a significant increase in fuel prices would cause great inconvenience to the people, he said.

“At the last Cabinet meeting, I asked the Finance Minister for assistance. He said it was hard to provide assistance and was non-committal. I will again take the matter up at the next Cabinet meeting,” he said.

The government was discussing the possibility of obtaining a 3.6 billion US dollar credit line for fuel from Oman. Sri Lanka spent around USD 300 million on oil imports per month and the credit line would allow for a year of fuel supply at concessionary rates, the Minister said.

“If we get this credit line, we should be able to weather this storm. Otherwise, I will ask the Cabinet for relief. While people are suffering, we can’t also let the CPC go bankrupt. If CPC goes bust, the People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon will be in deep trouble too,” the Minister said.

Gammanpila added that there was no point in queuing at fuel stations because a decision to increase fuel takes a few months to be approved. For example the previous hike in June was first proposed in April. “If takes a few months for such a proposal to be approved and implemented. I was told that people were queuing at fuel stations last Monday and Wednesday.”

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JVP calls for multi-agency probe into Rs. 4 bn. Gin-Nilwala scam

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Ex Prez can assist inquiry

By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says a comprehensive multi-agency investigation is required to get to the bottom of what he called the massive Gin Nilwala scam perpetrated in 2012 and 2015.

In spite of disclosures in that regard, both in and outside Parliament, over a period of time, absolutely nothing had been done so far, lawmaker Dissanayake told The Island.

The government owed an explanation why over Rs 4 bn had been paid to a Chinese firm, in Dec 2012, and on January 7, 2015, as the project was yet to get off the ground, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that he felt the need to highlight the Gin Nilwala scam against the backdrop of the Pandora Papers exposure of former Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa’s husband, Thirukumar Nadesan, as the Chinese company, allegedly involved in the Gin Nilwala project had moved money to a foreign account, in Hong Kong, held by the businessman.

Asked whether the Gin Nilwala scam, too, had been dealt by Pandora Papers, MP Dissanayake said as far as he knew Pandora Papers’ disclosure didn’t include the Gin Nilwala project.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Dissanayake said that though the then President Maithripala Sirisena questioned the Gin Nilwala project, the yahapalana government never investigated the issue properly.

MP Dissanayake said it wouldn’t be a difficult task to establish the transferring to a foreign account of Rs one bn in Dec 2012 and the over Rs. 3 bn on January 7, 2015, the day before the presidential election. Since the release of Pandora Papers, the video footage of former President Sirisena, now an SLPP MP, on the Gin Nilwala project had gone viral, the MP said.

The JVP leader said that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) should inquire into the matter as part of the ongoing examination of matters relating to Thirukumar Nadesan in respect of Pandora Papers.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Oct. 06 instructed CIABOC to inquire into Sri Lankans mentioned in Pandora Papers. Nadesan, too, also on the same day, asked President Rajapaksa to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations by appointing a retired Appeals Court Judge for the task. The CIABOC has recorded Nadesan’s statement in this regard.

MP Dissanayake alleged that successive governments had conveniently turned a blind eye to major cases of corruption. The very basis of parliamentary control over public finance was under threat, MP Dissanayake said, urging the government to take remedial measures or face the consequences. “Billions of rupees had been moved around, misappropriated and squandered. Those responsible for ensuring the proper practices are accused of exploiting the system. What is happening now is tragic,” MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that examination of proceedings of the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Finance) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) since the last general election revealed a frightening situation. The reports before the last general election were no exception, the parliamentarian said, the level of corruption in the public sector and the private-public sector joint ventures was horrifying. The national economy was being mercilessly exploited by persons holding office, the JVP leader said, the CIABOC could examine proceedings of the parliamentary watchdog committees if it was genuinely interested in stamping out corruption.

MP Dissanayake said that the national economy was in such a desperate situation thanks to decades of waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence on the part of political parties in power. “Today, we are seeking finance assistance from various countries. Recently, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris revealed he discussed ways and means to overcome financial crisis with the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary,” he said.

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Inter-provincial travel restrictions extended to Oct 21

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Inter-provincial travel restrictions have been extended to October 21, the Presidential Media Division (PMD) said issuing a press release yesterday.

The PMD added that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed the security forces to strictly enforce the inter-province travel restrictions during the weekend.

The decision was taken at the COVID-19 Prevention Committee meeting held Friday (15) morning.

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