President Ranil Wickremesinghe participated in the ‘Ocean Nations: The 3rd Annual Indo-Pacific Islands Dialogue,’ moderated by Dan Baer, Senior Vice President for Policy Research at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and hosted by the Carnegie Endowment and Sasakawa Foundation. During this event, he highlighted the reluctance of island nations in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific to become embroiled in the rivalry between major world powers. The President emphasized that these nations are focused on their own priorities, including social, economic, and ecological development and seek to maintain their sovereignty and independence.
President Wickremesinghe asserted that Sri Lanka’s government does not align itself with either India or China and firmly stands for Sri Lanka’s interests above all else. This commitment to sovereignty extends to other island nations in the region.
Island nations in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific have distinct priorities, unrelated to the Quad (comprising the US, India, Japan, and Australia) or China’s objectives, he said, adding that Sri Lanka is open to collaboration with any partners willing to respect its autonomy.
In terms of regional frameworks President Wickremesinghe noted that China’s rise occurred within existing regional frameworks such as APEC and ASEAN, which many nations prefer to maintain. The recent expansion of great power rivalry beyond these frameworks has raised concerns among member nations.
He noted that the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean hold immense strategic value. The South Pacific is a vital hub for the US Navy and the Indian Ocean played a crucial role in World War II. President Wickremesinghe noted, “The South Pacific which includes Hawaii – it is here that the US dominance of the Pacific established in WW2 and Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway as well as the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto’s plane took place. The importance of the Indian Ocean was best described by Winston Churchill who said the most dangerous moment of war was the capture of Ceylon and consequently the loss of Indian Ocean.”
The Indo-Pacific concept has gained recognition, primarily due to mounting challenges from China, the President said, adding that it has prompted a re-evaluation of regional dynamics and cooperation, such as the Jakarta Concord within the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
The G7’s attempt to involve European powers and NATO in the Indo-Pacific was met with opposition, with only France expressing interest. This move was seen as violating IORA’s rules-based order, the President pointed out.
The President also noted that the Quad has shifted from a focus on security and dialogue to applying coordinated pressure in the region. While surface warfare threats are minimal in the Indian Ocean, the issue of submarine warfare needs to be addressed within IORA.
In terms of Security Dialogues, the President pointed out that the island nations find security dialogues acceptable but emphasize non-interference in their internal affairs. Many island nations, including Sri Lanka, have not engaged in high-level discussions regarding the Indo-Pacific. Recent developments such as the US opening an embassy in the Maldives were also noted.
The power balance in the Indian Ocean is evolving, influenced by ASEAN, the Russian-Ukraine war, and the emergence of BRICS+. This changing landscape favours the independence of island nations and calls for strengthened cooperation between IORA, ASEAN, and BRICS+.
In response to a question posed on the Hambantota port, President Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka expressed concerns over the labelling of the Hambantota commercial port as a Chinese military base. The country is developing the Trincomalee harbour in cooperation with India and intends to raise the matter at international forums.
He also emphasized the need for IORA to accommodate the Indo-Pacific concept, recognizing the interconnectedness of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and enabling cooperation among small island states in both regions.
The island nations of the Indian Ocean and South Pacific are resolute in their pursuit of independence, non-interference and the protection of their unique priorities amidst the evolving dynamics of great power rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region.
Report on child protection delivered to President
The Committee appointed to Study and Make Recommendations for the Protection of Children handed over their comprehensive report to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday (03) evening.
This committee was established on April 19, 2023, to study and provide recommendations for the protection, care and overall welfare of children who have been subjected to various forms of violence within Sri Lanka.
Over the course of nearly five months, the committee conducted 21 meetings to gain an in-depth understanding of the existing issues and to formulate practical recommendations. The committee comprised a diverse group of members, including representatives from institutions such as Children Homes, Remand Homes, Certified Homes, Child Development Centres, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Chambers of Commerce, Trade Unions & Associations, Principals of Schools, Civil Society Organizations, Telecommunication and Digital Service Providers, Telecommunication Regulators, Digital Crime Security Experts, Lions Club, Rotaract Club, representatives from the U.S. Embassy, Colleges of Medicine, Solicitors General from the Attorney General’s Department, National Child Protection Authority, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, Family Health Bureau, Foreign Employment Bureau, Sri Lanka Women’s’ Bureau and officials from the Ministries in charge of Women & Children and Education.
The report, which was completed and submitted to the President yesterday, addresses a wide range of issues concerning child protection, including issues related to institutionalized environments, lack of parental care, family separation, digital media exposure, child labour and more. The committee also evaluated the adequacy of existing institutional, administrative and legal safeguards for child protection, aiming to meet the demands of modern society.
Furthermore, the report explores strategies to enhance the physical and mental health of children who have experienced various forms of violence, abuse and neglect. It also delves into the concerning trend of children engaging in violent acts and seeks innovative approaches for community participation in child care initiatives
Landslide Early Warnings Issued to Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts extended
The landslide early warnings issued by the landslide early warning center of the National Building Research Organisation to the districts of Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts have been extended untill 1630 hrs today.
Level II landslid early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Neluwa in the Galle district, Ingiriya in the Kalutara district, Pasbage Korale in the Kandy district, Kotapola and Pitabeddara in the Matara district, Ayagama, Kuruwita, Pelmadulla, Nivithigala, Kiriella, Ratnapura, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.
Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district, Elpitiya in the Galle district, Walasmulla in the Hambanthota district, Mathugama, Buathsinhala, Aggalawaththa and Walallawita in the Kalutara district, Yatiyanthota, Kegalle and Dehiowita in the Kegalle district, Athureliya and Mulatiyana in the Matara district and Imbulpe and Kolonna in the Ratnapura district
Opposition: Judge’s resignation has tarnished Lanka’s image
He should have taken action against those who threatened him – govt.
By Saman Indrajith
Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that there were serious questions and concerns about the independence of the judiciary following the resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge T. Saravanarajah, citing threats and harassment.
“This is a serious issue and the government should conduct an independent inquiry into this matter immediately,” Premadasa said.
Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said the judge’s resignation, citing threats and harassment following his ruling on the Kurundimalai temple, had led to concerns about the independence of the judiciary. He said that the Mullaitivu Magistrate had been pressured to change his judgment.
Justice Minister,Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said Sri Lankan judges had power to issue summons and take appropriate action against individuals who attempted to exert influence over them. He asked why the judge concerned had not used his powers.
Minister Rajapakshe said that the Opposition could file a contempt of court case if anyone had pressured the Mullaitivu Magistrate to reverse his judgment as claimed, without levelling allegations against the government.
The Minister said the government had no powers to investigate the matter involving the Magistrate and that the JSC was the relevant body to handle the matter and requested if anyone had any issue, they could complain to the Judicial Service Commission.
TNA MP Sumanthiran said that the whole world knew that there was pressure on the Judge. “The Minister cannot claim that there was no pressure on the judge.”
Minister Rajapakshe said that if there was anyone in the House who had exerted pressure on the judiciary it was MP Sumanthiran. He said MP Sumanthiran had on 20 October, 2022 told Parliament that the judges of the Supreme Court should be sent home. “You said in this House that people had no faith in the Supreme Court.”
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