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Implementing Geneva resolutions

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By Dayantha Laksiri Mendis

“Treaties and Non-treaty instruments are the bones and sinews of global politic, making it possible for states to move from talk through compromise to solemn commitment.”

Professor Thomas M. Frank

Taking Treaties Seriously

[1988] 82 AJIL 67

 

Implementation of the Geneva Resolution is an onerous task. It will encounter various challenges and dilemmas. It requires the establishment of institutional structures and national legislation to give effect to operative part of the Geneva Resolutions. Implementing legislation must not offend the 1978 Constitution and the 1976 Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties (VCLT 1976)

 

The Geneva Resolutions

The Geneva Resolution can be classified as a non-treaty instrument. It is different from a treaty in many respects (Anthony Aust – Modern Treaty Practice). It does not require the consent of the State to be bound by such Resolutions. It has a preambular and operative part. It is likely to be interpreted in the same way as a treaty by reference to articles 31 and 32 of the VCLT 1969. It resembles the Resolutions of other UN Specialized Agencies such as IMO or ICAO which are of a binding nature.

The proposed Geneva Resolution is likely to be different and devastating for Sri Lanka if it is based on the Report of the UN High Commissioner for HR. If so, it is desirable at this point of time to draft a counter resolution and outline Sri Lanka’s proposals relating to reconciliation and accountability without taking a confrontational approach at this time.

 

Operative part of the Geneva Resolutions

Implementation of the operative part of the Geneva Resolutions can be dealt under four areas. These areas are – (a) Establishment of a Truth-seeking and reconciliation commission; (b) Investigation into violations relating to human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL); (c) Reparation to victims; and (d) Guarantee of non-recurrence. All these areas are seen as an integral part of transitional justice.

 

(a) Truth-seeking and reconciliation

Establishment of a Commission for Truth-seeking and Reconciliation is an important consideration in dealing with transitional justice. It is a sensitive area. It can “open old wounds” and therefore such investigation should not be undertaken in Sri Lanka. It can create “new wounds” that can get festered over a period of time. If so, the situation might become worse for reconciliation.

In South Africa, such a commission was established under National Unity and Reconciliation Act No. 34 of 1995. It was necessary to do so as apartheid was inherently anti-democratic and unjust system perpetrated by a white minority. The global community denounced apartheid with sanctions and recognized the right to self determination by the majority community. In Sri Lanka, LTTE was engaged in an armed conflict to establish a separate state in defiance of the Constitution and International law. The global community proscribed LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

Hence, we should gently reject this requirement in the preambular part by reciting the reasons as outlined above.

 

(b) Investigation into violations relating to human rights and humanitarian law

Geneva Resolutions require investigation into violations relating to human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL). It is a requirement of transitional justice. Investigation should not be restricted to the final phase of the war, where Sri Lankan security forces had to proceed, amidst protests, to save the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka from the tentacles of the rebel forces who used child soldiers and civilians as a human shield

The Resolution requires Sri Lanka to establish a credible domestic mechanism. It must be fair to the accused as well as to the victims. The Resolution requires the inclusion of Commonwealth judges and prosecutors along with national judges and prosecutors. Inclusion of Commonwealth Judges and Prosecutors may encounter political and constitutional issues. In this context, when formulating the Report on Sri Lanka, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should read article 46 of VCLT 1969 which says that any treaty or non-treaty instrument should not offend the fundamental principles of the Constitution.

Any investigation relating to violations of human rights law or IHL would be dangerous in Sri Lanka, unless such investigation is conducted as a non-international armed conflict under common article 3 of Geneva conventions 1949.

Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, the Common Article 3 was not given effect to by the Geneva Conventions Act of 2006. The initial draft Bill prepared by me in 2001 incorporated the provisions relating to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (draft Bill is on file with me) on the advice of the top legal advisers at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. These legal advisers came to the conclusion after consulting Jean Simon Pictet’s five points enshrined in the negotiating record (travaux preparatoires) of the Geneva Conventions 1949 and I was given the go ahead to draft the requisite legislation.

International human rights standards are also not properly transformed into national legislation in Sri Lanka. There are many “deficiencies” and “inconsistencies” in our national legislation. Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015 requires substantial amendments.

 

 

 

Unless international human rights standards are properly transformed into the domestic legal system by way of new legislation or amendment to existing law using the correct legislative techniques, any domestic mechanism established for this purpose will not be effective and will not be able to function according to international standards.

Operative part of the resolution will recite that accountability will be determined under common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and therefore national legislation needs to be enacted to incorporate common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the existing Geneva Conventions Act 2006 (A draft Bill is annexed as a schedule to this paper to illustrate the requisite amendment).

 

(c) Reparation to victims and tracing missing persons

Reparation to victims is also an important requirement under Geneva Resolutions to promote reconciliation. Legislation has been already enacted to establish a domestic mechanism for such reparation. The amount granted is too small and may be increased in the future.

It does not take into account reparation already provided to victims of war either through legislation or army routine orders or Cabinet Memoranda.

Unfortunately, the civilian victims, especially women who have lost their husbands or children have not been adequately compensated. Hence, there is a great need to compensate civilians who have suffered due to eviction, injuries, unlawful killing and/or and those who have suffered due to suicide bomb attacks. The legislation must clearly identify those who are really entitled to these benefits in the context of the Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.

Operative part should recite the continued implementation of national legislation relating reparation and of missing persons.

 

(d) Guarantee of non-recurrence

Guarantee of non recurrence is a very challenging requirement of the Geneva Resolutions.

In most countries, the reconciliation between ethnic and religious groups are handled by an Ethnic Relations Commissions. In developing countries such as Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, these Commissions are established through constitutional provisions. These Commissions are empowered by law to take action where there is a threat to ethnic or religious harmony.

These Commissions have produced enormous literature relating to peace, harmony and development and organised drama festivals to promote racial and ethnic reconciliation. I have seen many plays written by Eric Brathwaite in Georgetown and Port of Spain and cried how backward my beloved country is in regard to reconciliation and creating ethnic harmony and unity. We have not understood that national security is ethnic harmony and unity, and ethnic harmony and unity is national security.

These Commissions are empowered to refer any matter to a Tribunal established by legislation. Such matters include “hate speech” or any act which causes ethnic disharmony. Issues relating to burial or cremation regard to those who died from covid19 should be referred to such a Commission and not to politicians or religious bigots

Establishment of an Ethnic Relations Commission and a Tribunal may satisfy the reconciliation requirement, as these Commissions have prevented a fully fledged armed conflict between diverse religious groups and ethnicities in many countries.

Operative Part should recite the establishment of such institutions to make reconciliation more effective and efficient. It can be described as a 13+.Ethnic harmony is national security.

 

Additional requirements

Geneva Resolutions imposes additional requirements. These include the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, reform of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Public Security Ordinance. Implementation of the 13th Amendment, PSO and the PTA is part of the “domain reserve” under article 2(7) of the Charter of the United Nations. Hence, such intervention is not fair and legitimate.

 

Impact on State sovereignty

Implementation of the Geneva Resolutions and the recent Report of the HR Commissioner can impact on State sovereignty. In today’s world, State sovereignty is diminished through ratification, accession or succession to treaties. A treaty per defitionem may restrict State sovereignty. However, a non- treaty instrument is not in the same category unless there is express or implied consent to be bound by it. Co-sponsoring gives implied consent

In regard to ratified treaties, a State cannot hide behind state sovereignty to avoid international obligations. International compliance and control measures established by various legal regimes demonstrate that state sovereignty is diminished and the Westphalian Order does not exist anymore in its pristine form.

Implementation of the Resolutions may offend the provisions of the Constitution. In Sri Lanka, the Constitution grants sovereignty to the people and its elements are enshrined under Article 4 of the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka. If the legislative implementation of the proposed Resolution offends the Constitution, Sri Lanka should propose an alternative counter resolution which is in harmony with our constitutional provisions.

 

Conclusions

Implementing the Geneva Resolutions is an exacting task. It will encounter many challenges and dilemmas. The draft report evince that High Commissioner has not understood the atrocities committed by the rebel forces or Kadi’s Case in the European Court of Justice on freezing of assets without due process.

High Commissioner has gone on to declare unfairly and wrongly that security forces who saved Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as enemies of mankind (Hostes Humanis) by subjecting them to universal jurisdiction and International Criminal court. (preambular part).

At this time, we must not forget that President Mahinda Rajapaksa saved the country from the rebel forces. If not for him, the armed conflict would have dragged on for many years. In this context, he was assisted by India, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. He was also assisted by the Defence Secretary, Army Commander and many others. Since then, we have enjoyed freedom from fear and freedom from unlawful killing. (preambular part need to recite this fact).

Geneva Resolution must not be rejected in toto. A rejection might send wrong signals to UN Member States. After all, the UN is the best friend of small and weak States, although the Thucydides’ doctrine (powerful States do what they can and small States must accept what they must) still continue to apply in the conduct of international relations and diplomacy. Notwithstanding the aforementioned phenomenon, the UN has assisted small and weak States in situations where might is not right. Let us engage with quiet diplomacy and convince the international community to go along with our counter resolution. (preambular part needs to recite some of these observations)

Hence, it is necessary to draft a counter resolution and identify how we intend to deal with reconciliation and accountability taking into account ground realities, constitutional provisions and the political ramifications.

We need to understand Morgenthau’s realism in dealing with this vexed issue and not engage in an unnecessary confrontation with Western countries. In my career, I have experienced quiet diplomacy and good reasoning with my Western counterparts at the UN or in diplomatic circles constitute the best tools that lead to victory at the end of the day. Such a strategic approach is important as the victories on the battlefield.

ANNEX

GENEVA CONVENTIONS (AMENDMENT) ACT 2021

 

AN ACT

to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 2006 (No. 4 of 2006); to give effect to common article 3 and for connected matters.

BE IT ENACTED

by the Parliament of ……………

Short title and date of commencement

1. This Act may be cited as the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 2021 and shall come into operation as the Minister may appoint by Order published in the Gazette.

 

Amendment of section 2 of the Act

2. Section 2 of the Geneva Conventions Act No. 4 of 2006 is hereby amended by adding immediately after section 2, the following section 2A.

“2A.(1) A person who in Sri Lanka commits or aids, abets or procures any other person to commit a breach of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) in sub-article (1) of Common Article 3 of the Conventions as provided in Schedule V to this Act is guilty of an indictable offence.

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(2) A person who commits an offence under section 2A is liable –

(a) Imprisonment for life or any lesser period where the offence involves the willful killing of a person protected by the relevant Convention; and

(b) Imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years for any other offence.

 

(3) An offence against section 2A shall not be prosecuted in a Court except by indictment in the name of the Attorney General.”

 

Amendment of the Schedules

(3) The Schedules to the Geneva Conventions Act No. 4 of 2006 is hereby amended by inserting immediately after Schedule IV, the following new Schedule V

SCHEDULE V (Section 2A)

CONFLICTS NOT OF AN INTERNATIONAL CHARACTER

In the case of an armed conflict, not of an international character occurring in the territory of the one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions.

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced and regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

 

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

 

Mendis LLB (Cey), MPhil (Cantab) is former Legal Adviser to the ICRC, Lecturer on IHL at the KDU and University of Colombo, former Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, former UN Legal Expert and Legal Adviser to several Caribbean, African and Asian countries. He has drafted diverse legislation, treaties and non non-treaty instruments at the time he served as Commonwealth Legal Expert to the Caribbean Community Secretariat in Guyana, South America.



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Ranjan loses the People’s Crown

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Last week it was Avurudu Thel Keliya. Now we have come to Ranjan Keliya. 

SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake has been removed from Parliament, in what is said to be in keeping with the decision of the Court of Appeal, to reject his application against the Supreme Court order sentencing him to four years of imprisonment for Contempt of court.

A parliament, of which Ranjan was a most active and spoken member, has shown its overall failure to deal with an issue that affects the rights of all citizens. The mockery of it all is to have a parliament where a person found guilty of murder and imprisoned by a court order is allowed to be a member of the House, but a person guilty of contempt of Court, who has not injured or killed anyone, is removed from it.

With all due respect and honour to the judiciary, one must begin to look at the entire thinking and process of charging people for and punishing them for contempt of Court. 

In the present parliamentary situation, with all the power that the President and the government have with a two-thirds plus majority, the future Independence of the Judiciary is certainly in question.

If Ramanayake has committed contempt of Court, he is now the player in calling for a change of our legislation on Contempt of Court. Is it truly wrong to criticise a member/or members of the judiciary; are they above the law; what is the practice and trend on this in other democracies?

It is time our Members of Parliament, the Bar Association and organizations of Civil Society made deep study of this entire issue, and moved to prevent the right of free speech being incorrectly restricted. We must look at how Contempt of Court is considered legally in the UK, from where we got this.

How is Contempt of court handled by the Courts of India, our closest neighbour and next to us in years of democracy? How is this issue handled in other democracies too such as France and Germany, and even the US? 

The Ranjan  Keliya  has certainly brought us to realising the Contempt for Democracy that prevails, and is being expanded in Sri Lanka. This contempt is the reality of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and the prevailing show of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Saubhagye Dekma”.    Changing our laws on Contempt of Court to make them modern and democratic will be the real crowning of Ramanayake.

 

Beauty Queen crowns

We have now come to the Ru Rajina Otunu Keliya too. The story of the crown being grabbed from the new Mrs Sri Lanka has spread in the international media. 

There was a lovely piece of social media, where Queen Elizabeth II of the UK is showing her joy at getting rid of Sri Lanka from the royalty domain as far back as 1948, as otherwise there would have been moves to grab her crown, too.

Mrs Sri Lanka or Mr. World is certainly not of much interest to us who are facing much bigger problems than the ownership of beauty crowns. Yet, the issue of a Mrs Sri Lanka or Mrs World having to be married does raise many issues today. Are the organizers of the global event thinking of temporary or shaky marriages, or those that last through decades and more, with a commitment to each other?

Can a person, who is undergoing the process of a divorce in a court of law, one who wants to leave a marriage through the law, be one who is really married? The very concept of marriage has undergone many changes in recent decades. Should these realities not be accepted by the organisers of these events? 

Why not have a rule that a contestant for Mrs (Country) or Mrs World, should be married several times – as is fast becoming a reality in the west, and countries that are following such traditions.

We will certainly have candidates seeking the crown if a few or many marriages are a condition. It will also show a genuine interest in the promotion of marriages, without confining it to just a single marriage, even with a pending divorce.   

We can then have a Mrs World, with a show of strength to those with achievements of more than one, or several marriages. 

The “Vivahaka Ru Rajina” will then be a “Boho Vivahaka Ru Rajina”.

The current Mrs World, Caroline Jurie, who was the key crown remover in this show of crooked farce, and a model who helped her, are now facing action in the courts.

Marriage or not is certainly an issue for Miss or Mrs Sri Lanka. A winner of the very early Mrs Sri Lanka events had earlier contested a Miss Sri Lanka, while being married. If she had not lost the contest, we would have seen loud calls for her crown to be removed. The senior ladies who played a big role in this Mrs. Sri Lanka event, certainly reminded us of such past records.

Let the crown be with the people, whether married or not. The rising call is for the Janatha Kirula, against a Pol Thel or Seeni Vancha Kirula of the Abhagye  Dekma.

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Bio-Piracy:

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A Pervasive Threat to Biodiversity and Human Security

By Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
Continued from yesterday

According to Prof. Wijesundara, in 1994, a multinational company, W.R. Grace and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were granted a patent by the European Patent Office (EPO) “Covering a (special) method for controlling fungi on plants by the aid of a hydrophobic extracted neem oil” that is diluted with a certain percentage of water was withdrawn in 2000. Lot of concern after 10-year battle, some patents on neem were squashed some still prevail. There are 65 patents so far only for neem. According to Prof. Kotagama, a US company wanted to produce insecticide from neem. They came with Azadariktin as a product. They obtain the patenting required to use and own neem. There is a law that if you are contesting patenting right it has to be in the country it is registered at. So the neem battle has to be fought in the US. With lot of money and help from the NGOs and help along with the Indian government they fought against this patenting. The company contested that they did not bring neem from Asia or India, they brought it from Africa because it grows in Africa. But it was identified that the seeds that had gone to Kenya had been coming from Sri Lanka according to the Registers of the forest department records from Sri Lank. Based on that evidence the patent was revoked. The neem campaign was consisting of a group of NGOs and individuals was initiated in 1993 in India. This was done to mobilize worldwide support to protect indigenous knowledge systems and resources of the Third World from piracy by the west particularly in light of emerging threats from intellectual property rights regimes under WTO and TRIPS. Neem patent became the first case to challenge European and US patents on the grounds of biopiracy.

Basmati Rice patent case is another instance bio-piracy was reversed. Prof. Kotagama remarked that it is known as the India – US Basmati Rice Dispute (Case number 493, Case Menemonic – Basmati; Patent number – US 5663484A, publication). A US company registered a new hybrid variety of Basmati. India and Pakistan got together and they fought using media, using negative advertisement and they squashed American variety of Basmati) proving ‘Texmati’ was not Basmati.

According to Prof. Sarath Kotagama, an Indian Ecologist, Vandana Shiva has said ‘bio-piracy deprives us in three ways: It creates a false claim to novelty and invention, even though the knowledge has evolved since ancient times as part of the collective and intellectual heritage of India”. Secondly “it divests scarce biological resources to monopoly control of corporations thus depriving local communities the benefits of its use” and thirdly “it creates market monopolies and excludes the original innovators (farmers) from their rightful share to local, national and global markets”. She fought a lot for the biodiversity conservation in India and a well-respected ecologist in India who also had to do much with the fight against Neem, Basmati and Turmeric.

There are similar cases where patents were revoked: Kava Kava from Fiji and Vanuatu; Quinoa from Andes; Banaba and other medical plantys from Philippines; Bitter gourd from Sri Lanka and Thailan; Ilang-Ilang from Philippines and Periwinkle from Madagascar, highlighted Prof. Wijesundara.

In 1989 bioprospecting started with the Institute of Biology established in Costa Rica purely for this purpose. It was the idea to do research on rainforests, animals and plants in Costa Rica and give the ownership to the country if something was discovered. However, this institute was dissolved in 2015 in Costa Rica. According to Prof. Kotagama, the institute still exists with the idea surveys on the resources of rainforests and commercialization of the products will be done for the benefit of Costs Rica. Prof. Kotagama highlighted why bio-piracy needs to be also understood in legal jargon. In the research paper “Bio piracy and its impact on Biodiversity: A Special review on Sri Lankan context” (Kusal Kavinda Amarasinghe), it has mentioned that 34 plants and animals have been taken out of Sri Lanka and Indian subcontinent and patent obtained for biological constituents already. According to Prof. Kotagama, Naja naja naja (Cobra) is an endemic spices in Sri Lanka and still it has lost the control from the country and others are using the species to derive benefits. Prof. Kotagama also highlighted that while there is so much indifference, there is so much consorted efforts to prevent bio-piracy and bio-theft in the countries like the Philippine, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Nepal who have strengthen the situation and have increased regulations and continue strict border control measures.

Illegal Trafficking and Bio-Piracy

According to Prof. Siril Wijesundara, illegal trafficking is also directly linked to bio-piracy and theft. One of the ways that can prevent bio-piracy is through detecting illegal trafficking of various types of endemic and endangered plants and animals. Most common plant species affected by illegal trafficking in Sri Lanka at present are Gyrinops Walla Walla patta, Salacia reticulate Kothala Himbutiand Santalum album naturalized sandhun. Sri Lanka Customs have detected many instances of illegal trafficking. Target destination varies from India, Dubai, Pakistan, Australia, and China. The most popular destination for Kothala Himbotu today is China.

Another classic example of trafficking of plants is by misleading the authorities. Prof. Wijesundara highlighted that a plant called Kekatiya (Aponogeton crispus) were exported in large quantities under the name Aponogeton ulvaceus, a plant native to Madagascar. However, Prof. Siril Wijesuriya mentioned that during his tenure at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, he managed to test this plant and discovered it is a different plant from the one in Madagascar. After this discovery, this Sri Lankan variety of the plant (Kekatiya) was prohibited from being exported and necessary action were taken to a point where the company went out of business.

 

Importance of Utilizing the Chemical Compounds in the Medicinal Plants

Prof. Veranja Karunarathne highlighted the popularity among the people now for medicinal plants. That is because the Medicinal properties and compounds that are useful found in the medicinal plants. Natural products are made out of these compounds. According to him, the use of medicinal plants go over for 5000 years ago. Probably we have used medicinal plants since existence.

According to Prof. Veranja Karunarathne, the medicinal plants are being used in traditional medicinal systems popular in Sri Lanka such as Ayurveda, Deishiya Chikithsa, Siddha and Unani. Siddha and Unani don’t use much of the plants necessarily and have much to do with involving plants. In different medicinal systems, over 2500 plants are being used in Sri Lanka. These are being used for disease curing and ailments in traditional medicine practices. In the Western medicine sense, it is one compound for one disease. In Ayurveda and indigenous system, it is many compounds for one disease many compounds curing one disease. Pollypahrmachology is accepted in the indigenous system. These aspects of pollypahrmachology in traditional medicine are becoming valuable. If we take asprin that cures heart disease, it is isolated from Villon plant. Quinine that is used in Malaria prevention is isolated from cinchona plant. That is the practice of the Western medicine. Prof. Veranja Karunarathne says that if we look at plant evolution, it is evident that the plants didn’t intend to cure diseases. This evolution of the plants happened by co-evolving with the insects. It never intended to cure diseases for humans. In 1915, the Western medicine avoided using plants due to various issues including intellectual property matters and since plants are very difficult thing to manage. However, they have come back discovering medicine from plants. That is why co-evolution is important. Diversity of functional group of plants is important. Diversity of use of plants cannot be matched with the evolution of the plants.

From Kothala Himbotu, an endemic plant in Sri Lanka, water soluble anti diabetic compounds were found by Japanese scientist. There are over 50 patents for Kothala Himbotu plant. Sri Lanka has only one patent which was a discovery of a Sri Lankan team. As a Chemist who worked on the kothala himbotu plant and tried to find the chemical compounds, Prof. Karunarathne felt humiliated when Japanese scientists found that water based compound in the kothala himbotu plant. He used a Sri Lankan source and worked on a zeroing from Sri Lankan lichen, patented at the US patent office the, lichen called ziorine that can be used on cancer patients. Sri Lankan government dealing legally with bio-piracy is when they intervened to stop exporting Kothala Himbotu plant in bulk that is being used for anti-diabetic drug. For anti-diabetic drug creation some sections of the plant are still being exported, but in small quantities.

In the meantime, there is also bogus bio-piracy. An undergraduate student of University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka found out that Clarins skin care product in France is using Hortinia floribanda that is endemic to Sri Lanka.

In their website it was mentioned that this plant is being used to improve the skin tone. When studied their website, closely, they found that they are using plants found in amazon and plant found in Europe during winter. After finding the endemic Sri Lankan plant do not contribute to any skin tone improvement and when the research was published in National Science Foundation journal, the skin care production company removed the name of the plant from their website. This is an instance where bogus bio-piracy is being taken place and that it too needs to fight and that even an average Chemist can make a difference, said Prof. Varanja Karunarathne.

According to Prof. Varanja Karunarathne, there are about 3000 odd plants endemic to Sri Lanka, out of the total flowering plants, 2000 are endemic. Because of this density and diversity, UNESCO named Sri Lanka as a biodiversity hotspot. 1300 of these plants are in the Red book of endangered plants of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the value of the plant is only the timber value. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka value plants in Sri Lanka only for its timber value which is a drawback. The government needs to fund for projects that study the chemistry of these plants, government never have done such in that greater scale. The chemists would want be able to study the chemistry inside the plant, the knowledge inside the plant. It is important to lobby to find the chemicals of these plants that are endangered to Sri Lanka. This means conserving the knowledge inside the plant is much more than just evaluating its value for timber. There is a far greater use of the plant than just the timber value.

During the discussion, Mr. Lakshman Gunasekara highlighted the importance of getting media involved along with the Scientists to intervene in promoting knowledge, education and awareness about bio-piracy and possible ways of counter-fighting it. He said that unlike in the past, mass communication can bring this issue to a different level. In this regard the scientific community needs to intervene in order for the media community to get activated. However, Prof. Siril Wijesundara made a remark that media is always working with political agendas, but Scientists are not and they cannot do so. Therefore, it is important, media step aside from political agendas and look at this issue apolitically.

Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri highlighted the colonial dimension of bio-piracy. With the involvement of government in bio-piracy and the inclusion of concept of government and empire –building bio-politics came into being. In empire building, establishing the political centre outside the location of the centre was important. Same is true to colonialism which was more than traditional Empire building exercise. It was new kind of administration, where there was capturing a grip on the land and space, fauna and flora. It was rather “governmentalization” which has multiple dimension. According to him, in that sense, colonialism is a multidimensional phenomenon. It is not more colonialism now; it is a new process. This is very much part of the enlightenment project at the time. It was governed by knowledge. Accumulation of information of social and natural environment became a new kind of project. The new political challenge is also this.

Prof. Nalani Hennayake highlighted the fact that how in terms of conservation and information sharing India came out with digital library registered with patent offices in the inventories library in the United States, while Sri Lanka has our own Red Book of inventory. She further highlighted the fact that countries like Sri Lanka having enough laws that needs immediate activation. Monopolizing the ownership needs to end and commercializing our plants needs to happen according to the Fauna and Flora Act in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka said no to digital register of plants in 1994 and we need to rethink such decisions mentioned the discussants.

In his concluding remarks, Prof. Veranja Karunarathne said that at present, other people are working on synthetic biology, combination of chemistry, biology and genomics, creating biosynthetic pathway of genes. Genes are mass produced in genomic mass factories which is controlled exploitation of bio wealth. That is where the world is heading and he says Sri Lanka needs to value the conserved knowledge inside the plant and explore the immense possibilities that the plants are presenting. Concluded

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Acknowledged (only?) Statesman speaks out; so do a few others

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The editor of The Sunday Island (April 4), mentions in his succinctly titled editorial – Down the pallang with no end in sight – this statesman. He speaks of Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha’s successful manouevre to curtail the power of the Rajapaksas and President Mahinda R’s attempt to go in for a third term of his presidency in 2014. Thus, the editor writes: “It is in this context that the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) that Ven Sobitha founded now led by respected elder statesman Karu Jayasuariya ….” The organisation is seeking to push the rulers on to a correction course. It seeks to project an apolitical stance and denies subversive interest. “The 20th Amendment that abolished the 19th has thrown the baby with the bathwater….” Cassandra adds – and we are drowning in the waters; floundering in fear and surrounded by sharks of the sugar and oil scams; also those who are still destroying our natural resources.

 

Karu wise plus experienced and apolitical

The same paper published on page 3 excerpts of what the Chairman NMSJ – Karu Jayasurirya – said at a press conference at Janaki Hotel Colombo, on April 2. His considered warning was ‘Don’t fiddle like Nero as the country plunges into a precipice.’ A due warning of rather mixed metaphors. Cass would have preferred … ‘as the country burns’, but plunging into a precipice is really more catastrophic and that, says many, is what is happening to this wonderful land of ours. We should all read and reread what Karu J had to say; we should analyse and see whether he was correct and then in our own small way try to obtain a change of course. The principle consideration is that Karu Jayasuriya speaks apolitically here as an elder statesman who has been both in politics and the private sector and knows full well what he is speaking about. If you want definite credentials on his ability and sincerity, recollect how he acted as Speaker of Parliament when the then Prez, Maitripala Sirisena stole the government from its elected members of Parliament and handed it over to his dire enemy of yesteryear, now befriended buddy – Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coyotes to govern the land. PM Ranil W with loyalists holed themselves at Temple Trees and bided their time. Karu J faced a battery of assaults: vulgarly vocal, totally injurious thrown bound volumes and deadly chilli powder mixed with water. He braved it all; took his rightful seat and gave judgment that restored order from utter chaos.

He is one politician whom Cass and so many others rooted for. Now he is out of party politics but fighting for the very survival of the nation of free Sri Lanka.

 

Voices should be listened to

At the recent meeting of people to solve their problems and bring succour to them, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa somewhat belittled protestors attempting to save our forest cover. Cass heard him on TV news on Saturday April 3 speaking about people accusing a previous government of running white vans, threatening journalists etc and now it is environmental groups that are out against the new government and him. No, they and we are against those who cut trees, deforest the land, sand mine ruthlessly and of course make money on horrible scams and seem to get away scot free, not even paying to government coffers billions garnered illegally.

He, government Ministers and MPs, and relevant administrators should all listen to the call of even a single concerned person, and know they are calling out completely altruistically with no political biases. One such is Padmini Nanayakkara of Colombo 3 who cries out (we imagine in horror) Reservoirs in Sinharaja? in the Sunday Island of April 4. She starts her letter to the editor with this: “Have we an enemy within or has a foreign force taken over Sri Lanka? I can’t imagine any Lankan contributing to an idea as bizarre as building reservoirs in Sinharaja.”

The editor referring to the pronouncement made loud and clear by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa about building two reservoirs in Sinharaja as if it were a foregone construction plan; writes thus: “A minister from the ruling family outrageously declares that two reservoirs will be built in the Sinharaja reserve to provide water for their pocket borough, He promises to plant 150 acres elsewhere to compensate saying that rubber will be planted to give people an income”. The editor dubs it a “madcap project” (cheers!!). Plenty water could be tapped downstream of rivers flowing near Hambantota; and this for people and not to keep watered vanity projects like cricket stadiums.

 

Semicentennial of a terrible uprising

I speak here of the JVP uprising of 1971 which has been written about with Jayantha Somasunderam from Canberra detailing it meticulously with copious references. Cass has been typically Sri Lankan in that she had forgotten about those days of fifty years ago which she refuses to term either jubilee or never golden anniversary. The Editor/The Island introduced a new word – quinquagenary – a tongue twister but pins down the number five. Whatever its now earned name, it was a brutal and absolutely purposeless shedding of young blood: blood of youth by the government and killing of police and causing utter chaos by the newly marshaled JVP under Rohana Wijeweera. They were disciplined and dedicated to a cause then. Incidentally, his grown son was shown on TV news a few days ago. A misunderstood message to attack police stations, conveyed via radio annonced obituary notices, saved the country because the attack was so deadly, power over the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike could have been gained. The second JVP uprising was deadlier as it was minus principles and all restraint. Again the rivers flowed with young Sinhala blood. The 1971 insurrection was short lived and we who cowered, emerged to usual routines fairly soon. Not the 1ate 1980s uprising. It created widespread fear psychoses; complete mayhem from hospitals, schools and offices to thé kadés. Universities were closed for two years and thus a considerable exodus of young students to universities overseas. We lost many of our teenaged children and the country – brains and ability.

May such never happen again is our earnest prayer. The young seem to have imbibed or decided to work through principles. Consider the recent protests against environmental degradation, particularly denudation of forests. They were all peaceful and intelligently carried out, and acknowledged as such, and the message they carried should certainly have been given an ear to by the President, PM and Ministers in charge of relevant subject areas. Perhaps it was peaceful marches and speeches and placards because the aim was altruistic – benefit for the entire country and not for self.

 

Beauty gone batty?

The public fracas of excessively groomed and dressed up beauties at the recent Mrs Sri Lanka finals was shockingly disgraceful. It confirmed to Cass that even the slightest mix-up or argument in this land of ours very soon escalates to a debacle, often accompanied by violence. But in this incident, there wasn’t even a whimper of argument. We witnessed how last year’s Mrs S L – Her Mightiness Caroline Jurie – crowned, de-crowned and re-crowned Pushpika de Silva. The latter’s hair was pulled, since the crown was rudely pulled off her by Her Mightiness and another, but unless it had long sharp spikes it could not have injured the stunned winner’s head. And all because of a heard rumour at the moment of crowning. Cass spits out: How dare Caroline Jurie take judgment to her tearing hands when a panel had discussed, gone into details and decided on the winner; the panel including herself! Cass comments the glass slipper gifted to Cinderella Caroline a year ago seems to be a misfit now; her feet swollen to match her head.

Back to the ordinary: Cassandra wishes all her readers a family oriented Aluth Avuruddha, with safety precautions vigilantly observed against infection given first priority. Much should be sacrificed to prevent the deadly third wave of Covid 19.

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