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HRCSL head vacancy: BASL urges Prez to appoint distinguished person



The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint as chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka a person is one who is distinguished in the field of human rights and the law, and whose appointment will be acceptable to a wide cross-section of the Sri Lankan community.

The BASL in a statement titled ‘Nomination of the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka’ said: “Following the resignation of the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) wishes to highlight the importance of this office and the need to appoint a person to the said office who will be widely accepted by the community. The Human Rights Commission which was established by Act No. 21 of 1996 plays an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights in Sri Lanka.

“Since its inception the HRCSL has been chaired by persons who have distinguished themselves in the fields of human rights and law. Prior to 2020, the Chairpersons of the Commission were Justice O.S. M. Seneviratne (retired Judge of the Supreme Court); Faisz Mustapha PC; Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy; Justice P. Ramanathan (retired Judge of the Supreme Court); Justice S. Ananda Coomaraswamy (retired Judge of the Supreme Court); Justice Priyantha Perera (retired Judge of the Supreme Court) and Professor Deepika Udagama. As Your Excellency will note the Chair of the HRCSL have been held by either retired Judges of the Supreme Court or those who have been renown in Sri Lanka and internationally for their professional and academic work on human rights.

“As Your Excellency is aware, among the many functions of the HRCSL are to inquire into, and investigate, complaints regarding procedures, with a view to ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Constitution relating to fundamental rights and to promoting respect for, and observance of, fundamental rights and to advise and assist the government in formulating legislation and administrative directives and procedures, in furtherance of, the promotion and protection of fundamental rights and to make recommendations to the Government regarding measures which should be taken to ensure that national laws and administrative practices are in accordance with international human rights norms and standards.

“In May 2018, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was designated an ‘A’status human rights commission by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights institutions (GANHRI) the global forum of National Human Rights institutions (NHRI).’A’Grade status is based on compliance with the Paris Principles (1993) adopted by the UN General Assembly as the global standards by which the credibility and effectiveness of a NHRI is to be assessed.

“One of the main requirements under the Paris Principles is the political independence of a national institution, both in law and practice. The process of selection and appointment of members, the removal procedure as well as whether an institution demonstrates political independence in practice are closely scrutinized.

“In addition, a national institution must reflect the diversity in society, possess a broad mandate that permits protection of internationally recognized human rights, have adequate powers of inquiry, and be adequately resourced.

“As such the composition and leadership of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is an important measure of the human rights situation in the country and it is important that the person who is appointed as Chairperson is one who is distinguished in the field of human rights and the law and whose appointment will be acceptable to a wide cross-section of the Sri Lankan community.

“We trust that Your Excellency will consider the above in submitting the relevant nomination to the Parliamentary Council.”

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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials



Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely



By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted



Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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