BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, March 22:
India on Monday named Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, revered in Bangladesh as father of the nation, and Oman’s long-time ruler Sultan Qaboos for the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is Sheikh Mujib’s daughter.
This is the first time that the prestigious prize for 2019 and 2020 has been awarded posthumously. The award carries an amount of INR10 million, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handloom item.
Modi, who heads the jury for the Gandhi Peace Prize, called Bangabandhu a champion of human rights and freedom, and is a hero to Indians as well.
An official statement said the prestigious award “recognizes the immense and unparalleled contribution of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in inspiring the liberation of Bangladesh, bringing stability to a nation born out of strife, laying the foundation for the close and fraternal relations between India and Bangladesh, and promoting peace and non-violence in the Indian subcontinent”.
The decision to confer the award for 2020 on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, his first foreign trip since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Modi will attend the national day programme of Bangladesh on March 26 as the guest of honour and participate in the commemoration of what New Delhi has described as “three epochal events” – Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two neighbours, and 50 years of Bangladesh’s war of liberation.
Modi’s itinerary in Bangladesh includes visits to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s memorial in Tungipara, about 400 km from Dhaka, the capital. Tungipara is Mujibur Rahman’s birthplace. It is also also where the architect of the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence lies buried inside a tomb called the ‘Bangabandhu mausoleum’.
Modi will also pay respect to Harichand Thakur, the founder of Matua Mahasangha, a religious reformation movement, at his shrine in Orakandi. On March 27, Modi will visit the famous Jeshoreshwari Kali temple in Satkhira.
A large number of people from the Matua community migrated from Bangladesh to parts of neighbouring Indian states of West Bengal and Assam over the last five decades to escape religious persecution.
In West Bengal, they are mostly concentrated in Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Kolkata and Hooghly, districts that together have 16 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman was the Middle East’s longest-ruling monarch, and known internationally for his diplomatic balancing in the volatile Persian Gulf. He often served as a facilitator of talks between adversaries, Iran and the U.S. He was a key to meeting India’s energy security needs in the Persian Gulf.
Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill
… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory
Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law
By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.
Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.
Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.
The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.
Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.
Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.
The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties
Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.
Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.
Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander
An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.
Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.
“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.
The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.
“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.
Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”
Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period
Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.
Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.
DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.
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