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HRW urges US to ratchet up pressure on SL

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Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis, and presumably growing anxieties about China’s dominance over its affairs are opportunities for Japan, the European Union, and United Kingdom to offer Sri Lanka renewed support and communicate if human rights improvements occur, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch John Sifton told the Hearing of United States House of Representatives Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights

Sifton said that in recent months, amid a worsening economic situation, the Rajapaksa government had begun reacting to international pressure over human rights by offering vague promises of reform to foreign diplomats, especially from the European Union, which is conducting a periodic review of rights-linked trading preferences enjoyed by Sri Lanka, known as GSP plus.

“This rhetoric is belied by the government’s actions. In particular, the Rajapaksa administration has issued vague promises to reform the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which it continues to use to target Tamils and Muslims, perceived opponents of the government, and members of civil society groups, with prolonged arbitrary detention,” he said.

Given below are his recommendations for the US government on Sri Lanka: “First, US government officials, including members of Congress, should continue pressing the Sri Lankan government on the importance of repealing or substantially amending the Prevention of Terrorism Act and ending the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and other critics of the government. US government officials should be urging the government of Sri Lanka to scrap recommendations from the commission on “political victimization.” And the United States should maintain its renewed engagement on Sri Lanka resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council.

“The United States should engage with allies to implement a coordinated and concerted strategy to protect human rights and civil society space in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa government has turned to China for various reasons, including providing diplomatic cover for its abusive laws and policies, but Sri Lanka’s most important economic relationships are with the United States, European Union, and India.

“Congress should also communicate clearly – to both the Biden administration and the government of Sri Lanka – that failure to address Sri Lanka’s human rights situation will imperil current and future military-to-military engagements and better economic relations. The US should also be harnessing other allies – in particular the European Union – to keep pressure on the Rajapaksa government.

“The country’s current economic crisis, and presumably growing anxieties about China’s dominance over its affairs, are opportunities for concerned democratic countries – Japan, the European Union, and United Kingdom – to offer Sri Lanka renewed support and communicate that more can be provided if human rights improvements occur.

“At the same time, the US should make clear that it cannot engage with security officials credibly implicated in gross human rights abuses. The US government has no choice but to engage with President Rajapaksa himself, the country’s head of government, with whom the US must engage as a matter of necessity and diplomatic protocol. But State Department and Pentagon officials and officers should continue to make clear that engagement is impossible with persons and units credibly implicated in human rights, and that Sri Lanka must take steps to hold such persons and units responsible for abuses. In the absence of accountability, the US has no choice but to consider imposing targeted sanctions on those persons and units, under the US Global Magnitsky Act.

“The United States has already imposed a travel ban on chief of defense staff Gen. Silva, for his alleged responsibility for war crimes. The US should also impose targeted sanctions on others in the government credibly linked to serious human rights abuses; and the US government should communicate that these sanctions will remain in place until human rights improvements are seen.

“The United States should ensure that members of the Sri Lankan security forces deployed on UN peacekeeping missions are subjected to independent vetting. Vetting has until now been conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, which lacks independence following the adoption of the 20th amendment to the constitution.

“Lastly, given the inconclusive results so far of Sri Lankan investigations into the 2019 Easter Bombings, the United States should push for a prompt, impartial, and credible conclusion. The United States and other governments should also examine evidence of transnational corruption and money laundering in cases where the presidential commission on “political victimization” has sought to block domestic investigations.”



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Solving vexed problems: Ranil calls for fresh approach

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‘What we are witnessing is end of politics’

By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to the present-day problems, and the MPs should adopt a novel approach to them, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: “We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of Parliament. We in Parliament must think afresh. We must discuss how to bring about long-term policies which would help us find solutions to the problems affecting the public. Thereafter, we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why can’t we do it here? If we can arrive at a consensus, we will be able to usher in a new era.

“The President has commenced this new session while the country is facing the worst economic crisis in 34 years. In his statement, he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far worse. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the economy is shrinking. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to ensure our collective survival,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. But that will not help us solve problems.”

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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SLPP MP and former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the SLFP for making the party a junior partner of the SLPP former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, Kumaratunga alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would be the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post in retaliation.

“Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Kumaratunga was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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