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Maha Sangha issues ultimatum to PM

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having issued an ultimatum on Saturday (30) at the Independence Square to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) members including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to quit the Cabinet forthwith or face the consequences, senior members of the Maha Sangha asked political parties to support their initiative.

The meeting took place at the Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) on the joint invitation of Most Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobitha Nayaka Thera and Rt. Rev. Dr. Anthony Jayakody, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Colombo.

Among those MPs present were Ranjith Madduma Bandara, General Secretary, main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, of dissident SLPP group, Buddhika Pathitana (SJB), Eran Wickremaratne (SJB), Vijitha Herath (JVP), Rishrad Bathiudeen (ALMC/SJB), Patali Champika Ranawaka (SJB) and former MP Mrs Ferial Ashraff.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was represented by its President Saliya Pieris, PC. The top spokesperson for the Catholic Church Rev. Father Cyril Gamini was also present.

Lacille de Silva, former director administration, Parliament who is involved in the initiative, told The Island that the Maha Sanga had issued an unprecedented ultimatum to the President and the entire Cabinet-of-Ministers on the basis of letters dated April 04 and 20th, addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, by the Mahanayaka Theras.

Pointing out that the letter, dated April 20, has also been addressed to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament, de Silva emphasised the urgent need to reach a consensus on a political settlement.

The economic-political-social crisis has to be dealt with without further delay, de Silva said, adding that the Mahanayakes first letter, dated 04 April, received President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s response only on April 25th, five days after the Mahanayakes issued their second letter.

Before Prof. Olaganwaththe Chandrasiri laid down the conditions for a political settlement, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha had warned that the ruination of the country couldn’t be allowed for the benefit of the Rajapaksa family. The former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) lawmaker declared that Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa should quit as he had failed in his duties and responsibilities.

Having gathered at the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC), Baudhaloka Mawatha, the members of the Maha Sanga walked to Independence Square for a formal meeting, where the ultimatum was issued.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha warned that they expected the incumbent government to heed their warning and take tangible measures to address public grievances, without further delay.

Civil society grouping Purawasi Handa, working closely with the Catholic Church, backed Maha Sanga initiative, said that they expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and political parties, represented in Parliament, to reach a consensus on an agreement by 15 May.

Ven. Olaganwaththe Chandrasiri, on behalf of the Mahanayaka Theras and the Maha Sanga, declared the following :

(1) dissolve the Cabinet-of-Ministers

(2) an interim all-party administration pending general election

(3) an expert committee to advice the interim administration

(4) interim all-party administration to follow a national policy, developed on the basis of consensus reached in Parliament

(5) educating the public of the agreed proposals and

(6) the President should abide by decisions taken by the interim administration.

Asked whether in accordance with the proposed plan the President could remain during the interim administration, de Silva confirmed the continuation of the incumbent President for the time being. Of course, the President, under any circumstances, wouldn’t be able to exercise executive powers to the detriment of the interim administration, he said.

Purawasi Handa spokesperson de Silva emphasised that the Maha Sanga appreciated the high-profile protest undertaken by the public, at the Galle Face, demanding the resignation of both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as the rest of the Cabinet Ministers.

The former top House official said that the Maha Sanga expected the President and all political parties, represented in the Parliament, to abide by the Mahanayakes, proposals. Therefore, whatever the initiatives undertaken by the President and other political parties, especially the SJB, should be done away with, or amended, to pave the way for the Maha Sanga’s initiative, de Silva said.

At the onset of the meeting at Independence Square, Ven. Prof. Agalakada Sirisumana flayed the President and the Premier for having enacted the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to enable themselves to engage in waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement, which, he said, had led to the present economic fallout. The President, the Premier and their henchmen wanted an administration that was not subjected to state auditing process, hence the decision to introduce the 20th Amendment.

The 20th Amendment received on overwhelming 2/3 support in Parliament, in Oct 2020. The controversial Amendment did away with provisions in the 19th Amendment that ensured transparency and accountability. The yahapalana administration enacted the 19th Amendment in 2015.

Ven. Sirisumana alleged the current dispensation had given ministerial portfolios to those who couldn’t be entrusted with responsibilities and caused havoc by delegating responsibilities to retired military officers; 48 percent of state enterprises had been placed under the Rajapaksas, the Thera added.

The senior monk was referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa and Shashendra Rajapaksa receiving key ministerial portfolios.

Stressing severe economic difficulties experienced owing to the incumbent administration’s failure to meet the basic needs of the people and make available essential food items, and services, at affordable prices, Ven. Sirisumana said that the government had paved the way for an era of queues.

He lambasted the government for the ill-conceived ban on all agrochemicals, in late April 2021, thereby causing huge crop losses. That decision destroyed the farmer community, Ven. Sirisumana alleged, while declaring their support to the ongoing campaign to oust President Rajapaksa and his government.

For 20 days, the protesters had been asking both the President and the Prime Minister to leave but they have chosen to remain, regardless of growing public protests, Ven. Sirisumana said, alleging that the President and the Premier hadn’t felt the growing public anger and extreme difficulties they were experiencing due to the government’s failure. The Thera reiterated their intention to have an interim administration for a period of one year, under a new Prime Minister.

Ven. Sirisumana said that they called the gathering at Independence Square as the government disregarded the Mahanayakes’ letter, dated 04 April.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha asked PM Rajapaksa to acknowledge his failure and quit office. The monk said that unless the Rajapaksas did as advised by the Maha Sanga, they would be dealt with harshly.

Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera vowed that they wouldn’t allow the current dispensation to continue. One family or one political party shouldn’t be placed in charge of the country, Ven. Ananda Sagara Thera declared, underscoring the significance of the ongoing Galle Face protest campaign. The senior monk said that the vast majority of those demanding the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister were Sinhala Buddhists. Declaring the public demanded the immediate restoration of normalcy, he warned all political parties to shed their differences and work in line with the proposals put forward by the Maha Sanga.

Ven Ananda Sagara urged SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa to cooperate with the plan and help achieve the stated objectives or face the consequences.  The Thera said that the Maha Sangha expected all political parties, including those who had declared they would operate independently to back the Maha Sanga’s proposals.



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Bipartisan US Congress legislation calls for self-determination for Eelam Tamils

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Wiley

…proposes South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo style solution

A controversial resolution has been introduced to the US Congress calling on the United States to work towards an independence referendum for Eelam Tamils and recognize the genocide committed against them by the Sri Lankan state.

The resolution, introduced by Wiley Nickel, is the first of its kind to be brought to the US Congress. It comes as Tamils marked the LTTE’s defeat 15 years ago, with May 18 commemorated as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, worldwide.

The resolution calls for the “no recurrence of past violence, including the ‘Tamil Genocide’, by supporting the right to self-determination of Eelam Tamil people and their call for an independence referendum for a lasting peaceful resolution”.

It goes on to detail historic Tamil support for independence and how “similar conflicts have successfully been democratically, peacefully, and legally resolved by exercising the right to self-determination by the people in countries such as South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo via independence referendums with support from the United States and other countries”.

It resolves that the House of Representatives:

(1) urges the United States to strengthen diplomatic channels with the Eelam Tamils and collaborate toward peace and stability in the South Asian region of the Indo-Pacific;

(2) urges the United States and the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights of the Eelam Tamil people and work toward a permanent political solution based on their right to self-determination that is democratically and peacefully approved by them through a universally accepted process of independence referendum; and

(3) recognizes the genocide against the Eelam Tamil people by Sri Lanka.

The resolution has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Susan Wild, Danny K. Davis, Nicole Malliotakis, Mike Carey, Donald G. Davis, Summer L. Lee, and Jeff Jackson.

The full text of the resolution: “This conflict shattered families and communities, leaving deep scars that are still felt to this day,” said Nickel as he addressed the United States Congress today (May 15).

“My resolution recognizes the genocide in Sri Lanka and affirms the right of Tamils to self-determination through a democratic process.” Nickel stated that the resolution “emphasises the need for a peaceful and democratic solution to ongoing tensions in Sri Lanka”.

“It advocates an independence referendum, a process that has been used successfully to resolve similar conflicts in other parts of the world. This echoes our commitment to democratic principles and underscores our support for human rights globally.”

“The resolution is a significant step forward in our struggle for self-determination,” said an Eelam Tamil activist who worked closely with US representatives, from Washington DC. They were present alongside dozens of others, as Nickel spoke.

“This is the first time that support for an independent Tamil Eelam has been publicly and explicitly advocated for at the United States Congress. Fifteen years since the end of the Mullivaikkal genocide, our struggle is continuing and support for it has only grown. We are not a defeated people.”

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Refugee from Sri Lankan now Labour Party Mayor of UK town

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A smiling Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan (left) at a ceremony where he was accepted as the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

…worked in India, Uganda and Ruwanda before arriving in the UK

A Sri Lankan Tamil, who fled the country during the conflict, has been appointed the Mayor of Ipswich Borough Council.

According to the British media, Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan is the first Hindu to hold that position. Members of Ipswich’s Hindu community attended Wednesday (15) evening’s ceremony, with celebrations at the nearby temple planned for later in the week.

Having fled Sri Lanka, Elavalakan lived and worked in India, Uganda and Rwanda before moving to the UK, the media reported. He initially moved to Ilford, in east London, before moving to Ipswich in 2006.

Labour Councillor Elango Elavalakan has taken over the ceremonial role after a unanimous vote at Ipswich Borough Council’s annual meeting.

“I’m so happy today, and very proud to be Mayor of this great town,” the media quoted Elavalakan as having said.

Council leader Neil MacDonald, who proposed the nomination, said Elavalakan would get to read out a general election result during his year in office.

“The announcement by a refugee who fled war and persecution, and who has made a new life and contributed to society here, will send a message,” MacDonald said.

Dr. Sachin Karale, Chair of Ipswich Hindu Samaj, said: “It shows the great diversity and multiculturalism of Ipswich town that a Hindu man is becoming Mayor. I’m really proud.”Elavalakan’s wife, Manchula Elavalakan, will be his consort.

The Mayor’s theme for the year will be “support and wellbeing” with his two chosen charities Genesis Orwell Mencap and Cancer Support Suffolk. ‘Ipswich is my home town’

“When I came for one project here, in Ipswich, I felt the people were very friendly,” he said. “So I decided, Ipswich is my home town.” He became a Labour councillor for St John’s ward in 2014.

“Having lived in many different countries and experienced many different lifestyles, I have always been interested in helping those that need it,” he said. “I am passionate about empowering communities and representing those in need.” Elavalakan is not the first Ipswich Mayor from the Indian sub-continent, however.

Kavas Jamas Bashah was born in Mumbai and was a senior officer of the Indian Civil Service.

He retired to Ipswich and became Mayor in 1925.

The town elected its first Mayor, Benjamin Brame, in 1836, following the Municipal Corporations Act the previous year which reformed local government and made Ipswich a municipal borough. Its first female mayor was Mary Whitmore, in 1946.

She was a suffragette and member of Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and was made MBE in 1951 for her contribution to public services.

Albert Grant became Ipswich’s first black councillor and mayor of Ipswich in 1995.

He moved to the UK in 1955 at the age of 21 and has dedicated his life to tackling racism and fighting to secure equality and justice.

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Govt. asked how it intends to counter US-Eelam lobby

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Dr. Wasantha Bandara

‘Far worse than Canadian declaration of Tamil genocide’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Patriotic National Movement (PNM) spokesperson Dr. Wasantha Bandara said that the government should explain how it intended to counter the powerful Eelamist lobby seeking to divide the country on ethnic lines with the help of the US, a self-appointed world policeman.

Dr. Bandara said so commenting on a resolution that had been introduced to the US Congress calling on the government to work towards an independence referendum in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and recognise the genocide committed.

Dr. Bandara pointed out that the US move should be examined also taking into consideration the continuing Western support extended to the Khalistan movement seeking an independent state in India’s Punjab region.

The civil society activist said that the so-called bipartisan resolution had been timed for the 15th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s triumph over the separatist terrorist agenda.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bandara said that the US resolution meant that though the LTTE’s conventional military/terrorist power had been eradicated in the battlefield, the Eelamist lobby was busy in Western capitals.

According to him, the US-British led grouping pushed Sri Lanka over the accountability issue as part of their overall strategy to pressure the government on a solution that would end the country’s unitary status.

Dr. Bandara asked how could the government and the Opposition remain silent when the US-backed Eelamists’ push for a solution similar to self-determination granted to South Sudan, Montenegro, East Timor, Bosnia, Eritrea, and Kosovo through ‘independence referendums’ with support from the United States and other powerful countries.

The heightened threat to our unitary status should be one of the major issues at the forthcoming presidential poll, Dr. Bandara said, demanding that all political parties state their positions on the US moves.

Dr. Bandara said that the government should set the record straight in Washington and Geneva where agendas inimical to post-war Sri Lanka were being hatched.

Dr. Bandara said that successive governments, including the current dispensation, should be ashamed of their failure to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

The US move, unless countered, could be far worse than the Canadian declaration of Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18 and sanctions on former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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