President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, addressing the 27th International conference on ‘Future of Asia’, yesterday, called upon the international community to help Sri Lanka overcome its economic crisis.
Addressing the virtual summit, the President said that it was no secret that the last several months had been extremely difficult for Sri Lanka.
“We are currently undergoing a severe economic crisis, which has profoundly impacted the lives of all Sri Lankans, resulting in social unrest. The virtual shutting down of the tourism industry and the sharp decline in inward remittances from expatriate workers due to COVID19 in the past two years and increasing inflation due to other events combined with Sri Lanka’s high outstanding debt obligations to cause a severe financial crisis,” he said.
President Rajapaksa said that in April, Sri Lanka announced a ‘Debt Standstill’ with the intention of restructuring this external public debt through negotiations with our creditors, whilst simultaneously approaching the International Monetary Fund for a suitable programme.
“In parallel to these efforts, we have appointed a new Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers with representation from multiple political parties, and we are fostering ongoing discussions in Parliament towards forming a national consensus on the way forward,” he said.
Given below are excerpts of his speech: “Sri Lanka is Asia’s oldest democracy. It is crucial that the solutions to our present national crisis are supported through our nation’s democratic framework.
“As we work through such solutions, however, we urgently require the assistance of our friends in the international community to ensure that our immediate needs in terms of the importation of essential medicines, food supplies, and fuel are met.
We are also in urgent need of bridging financing to restore confidence in our external sector and stabilise our economy until the debt restructuring process is completed and an IMF programme commences.
“Sri Lanka is grateful for the support provided by India, our close friend and neighbour, which responded with generosity in our time of need. The support extended by our other neighbours and development partners, as well as regional and global institutions, is also deeply appreciated.
“Japan remains one of Sri Lanka’s key development partners, and we hope that the negotiations now underway regarding bridging funds from Japan will conclude soon, and support Sri Lanka as we try to stabilise our economy and our nation.
“I appeal to the other friends of Sri Lanka present here today, to also explore the possibility of extending support and solidarity to my country at this very difficult time.
“A positive aspect of recent events in Sri Lanka has been the increased engagement of our youth in the nation’s politics.
“We have seen similar activism in other countries too, where the loss of confidence in prevailing systems has led to strong displays of opposition against governments.
“It is important to ensure that these systems undergo the reforms that are essential to their improvement so that future generations will benefit from better opportunities in education and employment, leading to an increase in their productivity.
“The grave difficulties facing Sri Lanka are an early indication of the long tail effects of the COVID19 pandemic, made worse by the ongoing conflict in Europe that may affect other vulnerable nations too.
“Supporting such vulnerable nations through these difficulties is essential for regional as well as global stability.
“It is therefore earnestly hoped that nations able to do so, lend a helping hand to these countries as they seek to overcome the very serious threats they face. An even more widespread problem that the world will face in future concerns food security.
“The shortages of food items and sharp increases in food prices likely to occur in the months ahead will place considerable strain on many countries.
“It is therefore essential that we pay attention to this crucial problem and prioritise agricultural production locally and improve our resilience in the face of this coming issue.
“Increased cooperation amongst nations will also be necessary to ensure that we overcome this issue.
“As we look to the future, it is no secret that even more widespread challenges caused by human induced climate changes lie ahead for the Asian region as well as the world.
“The adverse impacts of such climate change, including loss of biodiversity, water scarcity and pollution, degradation of air quality and ecosystems, will all contribute to significant challenges for many nations including in food security.
“Maritime security in Asia is another thorny issue that require serious policy attention. In addition to traditional security concerns involving the projection of naval power, many non-traditional issues including piracy, human trafficking, drug-smuggling, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continue to pose challenges in this region.
“Sri Lanka has a great interest in the security of the Indian Ocean region, and the protection of the sea-lanes has established a strong relationship between Sri Lanka and dominant regional players including Japan.
“Sri Lanka has responsibility over protecting sea routes, maritime resources and combating maritime crime over a significant region of the Indian Ocean, and we look forward to partnering with the Asian community as we seek to expand our capacities in these areas in future.
“Another enduring regional concern has been civil unrest, conflicts, and communal violence. Sri Lanka too has been marred by sectarian tensions throughout its history. I am of the view that policymakers must come together to devise collaborative regional mechanisms on such issues.
“Exchanging expertise and experience to build capacity in the fields of peacebuilding and reconciliation is essential. So too is the empowerment of the underprivileged, because this is one of the root causes of unrest.
“In this context, I respectfully submit to this forum that the core objectives and functioning of some existing regional bodies are presently affected by conflicts of member countries on matters relating to economic, political, or strategic interests.
“It is my hope that member countries will be able to overcome such impasses and work together in the true spirit of Asia to fulfil the region’s priorities.
“In concluding, I once again thank Nikkei for having organised this conference, and the Government of Japan for hosting this event.
As Sri Lanka overcomes its present difficulties and starts rebuilding for tomorrow, we look forward to constructively participating in future such events too, for the betterment of Asia.”
Cardinal appeals to Pope to solicit aid for Sri Lanka
“Fix responsibility on those accountable”
by Norman Palihawadane
Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith says that the need of the hour is the initiation of a high profile investigation to find out how this country was dragged down to its present plight of being a beggar nation, fix responsibility for these crimes and find ways to recover the money stolen from the people.
“People have a right to know how the foreign reserves that had been at around seven to eight billion US dollars had dropped to zero within two years,” the Cardinal said at the Feast of the Sacred Heart Mass at the Ragama Hospital Chapel last week.
He asked how the gold stocks in the Central Bank had disappeared and why were they wasted wasted irresponsibly.
“The disappearance of the gold will have to be investigated someday. People need to know who wasted this money,” Cardinal Ranjith said.
He said the country’s reserves were down to zero.
“Doctors working in hospitals find it difficult to come to hospitals on time due to the fuel crisis. We are with the people in their grief,” he said.
The Cardinal appealed to the international community to assist in providing Sri Lanka with medicines and equipment for hospitals amid its economic crisis.
“We urge Pope Francis to request the international community to assist Sri Lanka,” he said.
“We need to support the children’s hospital in Borella and the cancer hospital in Maharagama, especially for medicines and equipment.”
“People suffer without fuel and essential goods because of mismanagement. Children can’t go to schools due to the fuel crisis”.
Election win should trigger Scottish independence, says Sturgeon
Scotland could become independent if the SNP won a majority of votes in a UK election, Nicola Sturgeon has said, according to a BBC dispatch.
It said: The first minister wants a referendum in 2023, and is pushing for the Supreme Court to rule on a bill to set this up.
If this does not happen, she has said the SNP would treat the next general election as a “de facto referendum”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was the government’s “longstanding position” that it was not the right time for another independence vote.
He said: “We will look carefully at what [Nicola Sturgeon] says. Don’t forget that the longstanding position is that we don’t think this is the right time to be doing a constitutional change.”
“I think our economy is all the stronger for being together,” he added.
Johnson continued: “This is a time really now to focus on things which the union can deliver for the economic benefit of everybody.”
In an interview with BBC Scotland, the first minister said: “Scotland can’t become independent without a majority of people voting for it”.
She said: “I hope we can resolve these things in a referendum, that is the proper way of doing it. But if all routes to that are blocked then the general election will become the vehicle for people to express their view.”
Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to be clear about the principle and the practical reality “that Scotland cannot become independent unless and until a majority of people in Scotland vote for independence”.
She added: “The issue of practical reality is that when a majority vote for independence, I hope in a referendum, that will have to be followed by a negotiation with a UK government to implement that decision.”
If there were to be a vote in favour of Scottish independence – whether that be via the referendum Ms Sturgeon wants, or a de facto referendum based on a general election result – it would be followed by negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments.
Then, legislation would have to be passed at Westminster and perhaps Holyrood before Scotland became independent.
Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that the UK Supreme Court had been asked to rule on whether the Scottish government has the power to hold an independence referendum without agreement from Westminster.
Ahead of the 2014 referendum, the UK government agreed to a temporary transfer of powers to Holyrood to allow the referendum to go ahead.
he idea of a “de facto referendum” is a radical one, given Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation for caution and the fact her team had previously dismissed it as a strategy.
It raises many questions about how such a scheme would work, which ministers now find themselves talking about rather than their main plan – to hold an actual referendum.
After all, the first minister’s hope is that the last resort will never be needed. Her wish is still to do a deal with the UK government which would see both sides sign up to an agreed process in the style of 2014.
Bold talk of using a general election instead is chiefly a tool to force the pro-UK side to take their fingers out of their ears and engage with the issue, rather than a finalised strategy to deliver independence.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon’s deputy John Swinney suggested that he considered a win to be the SNP winning the majority of seats contested in Scotland.
He was asked on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland: “If you have a majority of Scottish MPs at the next UK general election, that would be a mandate to start negotiations for an independent Scotland?”
He replied: “That’s correct, yes.”
But he went on to Tweet that he had “misheard” the question, and added that his view would be that the SNP would need to win a majority of votes in a general election, not a majority of seats.
He said when he was asked about a “majority of seats”, he had only picked up on “majority”.
Mr Swinney added: “Referenda, including de facto referenda at a UK general election, are won with a majority of votes. Nothing else.”
Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said on Tuesday that another referendum was the “wrong priority for Scotland” and would hinder Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.
Scottish Labour’s constitution spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said the SNP were “hell-bent on gaming the electorate to suit their ends”.
She said it was “deeply embarrassing for Nicola Sturgeon to be so publicly contradicted… by her own deputy”.
The party has also asked for the Lord Advocate to make a statement to MSPs on Thursday to ascertain her views on whether the Scottish government had the power to hold a referendum without the UK government’s approval.
It was the Lord Advocate – as the Scottish government’s chief legal adviser – who was responsible for referring the matter to the Supreme Court.
A statement from Scottish Labour said it wanted the Lord Advocate to appear in the chamber to “shed some light on her views, decisions and role”.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said less than a day after Ms Sturgeon’s plan was unveiled that “the wheels are falling off the clown car”.
He went on: “They seem to have conceded that they are heading for a defeat in court and so they are brainstorming barmy schemes for what comes next.”
Human Rights Council President appoints Radhika Coomaraswamy to serve on Ethiopia rights body
GENEVA (28 June 2022) – The President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Federico Villegas (Argentina), announced today the appointment of Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka to serve as a member of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia. Ms. Coomaraswamy will join Kaari Betty Murungi of Kenya (chair) and Steven Ratner of the United States of America, who were appointed to serve on the human rights investigative body on 2 March 2022.
The Geneva-based Human Rights Council created the Commission of Human Rights Experts on 17 December 2021 with a mandate to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in Ethiopia committed since 3 November 2020 by all parties to the conflict.
Today’s appointment comes after the resignation of Fatou Bensouda as a member of the three-person Commission on 8 June 2022, following her nomination to serve as The Gambia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Ms. Coomaraswamy brings to this position years of experience as a human rights lawyer, expert and advocate having served in various positions in her country and in the international arena. She has held several prior roles, including as a member of the Human Rights Council-created Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar from 2017 to 2019 and as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict from 2006 to 2012.
The Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia will deliver an oral report to the Human Rights Council on 30 June, which will be its first presentation to the Council. The Commission is scheduled to present a comprehensive written report to the human rights body in September and subsequently to the UN General Assembly session later this year.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, a lawyer by training and formerly the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, is an internationally known human rights advocate who has worked as the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (1994-2003) and as a Member of the Human Rights Council-mandated Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar from 2017 to 2019. Additionally, she served as Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (2006-2012), for which she was charged with preparing the annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. In 2014, Ms. Coomaraswamy was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as lead author on a Global Study on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. She received her B.A. from Yale University, her J.D. from Columbia University, an LLM from Harvard University and honorary PhDs from Amherst College, the Katholieke Universities Leuven, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Essex and the CUNY School of Law.
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