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India, too, should be investigated -Int’l HR organisations

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Geneva resolution:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Four international human rights organisations yesterday (20) said that atrocities perpetrated during the deployment of the Indian Army in Sri Lanka, too, should be properly investigated by the mechanisms proposed by the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

London-based Meenakshi Ganguly said that they sought a strong resolution on Sri Lanka to address all international crimes, including those that occurred during the conflict. “Indian troops had been deployed at the invitation of the then Sri Lankan government to enforce a truce agreement, and the abuses that occurred at that time should be properly investigated and those responsible held to account.

Ganguly said so when The Island sought their stand as regards India’s accountability. The Island asked her whether she believed the latest Geneva Resolution should also address India’s accountability as the Indian Army, too, had been accused of atrocities during its deployment in Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka (July 1987-March 1990) and India having sponsored half a dozen terrorists groups in Sri Lanka?

The 51 regular sessions of the UNHRC are underway.

Ganguly responded on behalf of South Asia Regional Director, Amnesty International, Programme Manager, UN Advocacy, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Human Rights Watch and UN Representative & Senior Legal Adviser, International Commission of Jurists.

However, Lucy McKernan, Acting Geneva Director, Human Rights Watch didn’t respond to The Island query.

Sri Lanka Core Group led by the UK has submitted a new resolution demanding punitive action against Sri Lanka. Former Minister and leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Udaya Gammanpila on Monday warned that Sri Lanka could lose the vote on the new resolution by a big margin in the 47-member council. The PHU leader warned that it could be tied to aid to Sri Lanka.

The four international human rights groups declared that the UNHRC should adopt a strong resolution that strengthened current UN mandates on accountability for crimes under international law and monitor Sri Lanka’s deteriorating human rights situation. They emphasized that the resolution should also request Sri Lanka to address the ongoing abuses, including by ending use of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Asked whether the Indian intervention, too, should be investigated by Geneva, the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) spokesperson Suren Surendiran said that “Root causes why the Tamil youth took up arms in 1983 thirty five years after independence, Tamil political leaders tried their best to resolve through political negotiations the inequality, blatant discrimination and treatment of Tamils as second class citizens through constitutional means by successive Sinhala leaderships in the south should/must be publicly established. If part of that investigation should include the Indian involvement, so be it.”

Surendiran said that “Truth seeking mechanism is one of the four transitional justice pillars. Therefore, it is an important initiative. However, just by itself will not resolve or be accepted as part of serving justice to victims. Addressing accountability through a credible international mechanism needs to be part of the program. That’s what resolution 30/1 was going to address. However, successive governments of Sri Lanka keeps deferring or intentionally avoiding addressing this very point. Hence the resolution 46/1 went with the recommendations of the High Commissioner to address accountability via collecting and preserving evidence and serving justice through other international mechanisms including, universal jurisdiction.

“We know how pathetically successive governments have tried to hoodwink the international community by a half-baked Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and other reparation ideas.

“Until Sri Lanka acknowledges that international laws were breached during the war, especially at the end of the war, and charges persons who had command responsibility including the then political and civil service leaders, there will not be any let up by the international community. This is not just to punish for the alleged crimes committed but to ensure that there won’t be any such breaches of international law elsewhere in the world in the future.”



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State FM calls for report from IR, admits difficulty in punishing racketeers

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Sugar tax scam: National Audit Office estimates Rs 16.7 bn revenue loss

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has asked for a report from the Inland revenue Department on the income tax returns of sugar importers who have allegedly benefited from an unprecedented reduction of duty on a kilo of sugar on 13 Oct., 2020.

The gazette pertaining to the duty reduction (Special Commodity Levy) from Rs 50 per kilo to 25 cents was issued by the Finance Ministry during the tenure of the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who also served as the Finance Minister. S. R. Attygalle served as the Finance Secretary at the time.

State Minister Siyambalapitiya revealed his decision to call for a report during a visit to the Inland Revenue head office on Thursday (22).The Ministry spokesperson quoted Minister Siyambalapitiya as having told Inland Revenue Department officials that losses caused by the duty reduction couldn’t be recovered by re-imposing the duty even if a fraud had been perpetrated in the process. The State Minister was further quoted as having said that it wouldn’t be an easy task to punish those responsible for

the duty reduction. Those responsible could claim that their intention was to bring down the price of sugar, the SLFPer has said.The State Minister has intervened in the sugar tax scam in the wake of the National Audit Office recommending the recovery of revenue losses from those sugar importers. The National Audit Office has conducted a special audit to examine whether consumers benefited at all as a result of the sharp reduction of sugar tax.

The special audit revealed that within four months of reducing the tax (14th October 2020 to 8th February 2021) the cash-strapped government was deprived of tax revenue of a whopping Rs. 16.763 Billion.The audit investigation named one of the main sugar importers recorded a massive profit of some 1,222%.

The report underscored that the tax reduction did not provide relief to the people, but greatly benefited the importers and traders.The former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance SLPP MP Anura Priyadarshana Yapa declared that consumers didn’t benefit from the duty reduction.

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Combination of ill-timed decisions prevented Lanka recover from pandemic shock

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The country has lost several hundred thousand jobs to Covid-19. The impact of the agrochemical ban on agriculture, the mismanagement of the exchange rate, a highly accommodative monetary policy, and the use of foreign exchange reserves for debt repayment thwarted the country’s ability to recover from the initial shock of COVID-19, an ILO study titled, ‘The labour market implications of Sri Lanka’s multiple crises,‘ has revealed.

“These policy decisions generated multiple crises which impacted on businesses, workers, and their families, manifesting in shortages of essential consumer goods including food, fuel, power, raw materials, and capital equipment on the one hand, and the disruption of key public services, such as education and health, on the other. The fiscal bind and looming debt crisis have also left Sri Lanka very little room to manoeuvre. The economic crises have, in turn, generated political instability and further constrained timely decision-making about how to deal with the crisis,” the ILO report said.

The multiple crises have intensified long-standing worrisome features of the labour market: they have expanded unemployment, widened gender gaps in labour force participation, and given rise to job insecurity, uncertainty, and hardship, it said.

“Sri Lanka lost more than 200,000 jobs to the pandemic between the fourth quarter 2019 and the second quarter 2021. The employment share of the informal sector increased because formal sector employment contracted more sharply. Although there was some recovery, during the second half of 2021, extensive job losse, among employers, augured ill for the vigorous regeneration of jobs,” the study reveals.

The report added that the pandemic also impacted the skills development sector. Efforts to provide education and training online were constrained, mainly due to problems of infrastructure access, particularly outside of the Western Province. Enrolment and completion of TVET courses in 2020, relative to 2019, declined by 50 and 57 percent respectively. However, the imposition of power cuts, in 2022, are likely to have disrupted even these limited measures.

“The pandemic also saw the emergence of the new poor — those who fell into poverty because of the pandemic – among the more educated and employed in industry and service sectors, particularly in urban areas and Western Province, the latter which accounted for the largest share of the new poor. These negative developments would have worsened in 2022 as the economic crises intensified,” it said.

Sri Lanka is currently in a full-blown debt and balance-of-payments crisis, leading to massive shortages of essentials and severe disruption to economic activity. As the crisis continues to deteriorate and is likely to lead to a deep impact on the labour market, which will require careful monitoring and analysis over the months to come, the ILO said. The severity of the crisis means that policy-makers need to grasp the nettle of structural reforms needed for recovery and job-rich growth, which will require carefully balancing macroeconomic stabilization with longer-term goals of creating decent, sustainable, and productive employment. The report suggests eight areas of policy intervention for the short, medium and long term.

They are; addressing current macroeconomic crisis through fiscal consolidation and debt restructuring, plus improved fiscal space, restoring investor confidence, reformulating investment, industry, and trade policies to support export-led growth, technological transformation, productive efficiency and job creation, especially for SMEs, increasing R&D and infrastructure investments with a clear focus on 3IR and 4IR technologies, promoting demand-driven skills development and adjustment to a post-COVID-19 economy, including remedial education/training, creating a social dialogue and legislative reform to support flexible arrangements while protecting workers, promoting policies that foster women’s entry into the labour market and support other hard-hit groups, and expanding access to adequate social protection to workers and families (including institutional reforms).

The report also said that Sri Lanka needs to work on improving learning outcomes. Even the TVET sector performs no better than the general education system, the ILO said. According to a 2018 ADB study, a sizable proportion of TVET graduates leave training programmes, without the skills that employers require. Tracer studies on the employability of TVET graduates reveal a high rate of unemployment among TVET graduates who had been trained for employment in even the fast-growing ICT, construction, tourism, and light engineering subsectors.

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Royal Park murder convict barred from leaving country

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The Supreme Court, yesterday, directed the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration to prevent Don Shamantha Jude Anthony Jayamaha, who was convicted for the murder of a person at Royal Park Apartment Complex, in 2005, from leaving the country, without Court permission.The Court made this decision when taking a case filed by Women and Media Collective seeking the suspension of the Presidential Pardon, granted by former President Maithripala Sirisena to Jayamaha.

The Court also granted leave to proceed with this petition for violating Article 12(1) of the constitution.A three-judge-bench comprising Justices Priyantha Jayawardena, Shiran Goonaratne and Mahinda Samayawardena fixed the petition for argument on 30 March 2023. Previously the Court allowed the petitioners to add former President Maithripala Sirisena as a respondent since he no longer has presidential immunity.

Women and Media Collective had named Attorney General, Jude Anthony Jayamaha, Commissioner General of Prisons, Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, Inspector General of Police, Justice Minister, President of Bar Association of Sri Lanka, as respondents. The petitioners also want the Court to issue guidelines governing the process of granting Presidential pardons.

Jayamaha was indicted at the High Court by Attorney-General for committing the murder of Yvonne Jonsson, on or about 01 July 2005. On 28 July, 2006, the High Court sentenced Jayamaha for 12 years of rigorous imprisonment, and a fine of Rs. 300,000. The Attorney General then filed a case in the Court of Appeal stating that the punishment was inadequate. The Court of Appeal sentenced Jayamaha to death. On 9 November, 2019, Jayamaha was granted a presidential pardon by Maithripala Sirisena during his last week in office.

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