(Excerpted from Senior DIG Edward Gunawardena’s memoirs)
It was indeed a privilege to meet and come to know Sir James Peter Obeysekera, a doyen of the Low Country aristocracy. Although the Obeysekera family was spread far and wide in the Western Province, Batadola Walawwa situated in the Gampaha District was its seat. This was the majestic residence of Sir James. With Lady Hilda Obeysekera having passed away earlier, he lived alone at Batadola. His son, J.P. Obeysekera Jnr., who was the Member of Parliament for Attanagalla and his wife, Siva, visited him frequently and attended to all his needs.
I had heard of him. After I met JPO Jnr. at the Fountain Cafe I remembered my father (the assistant manager there) telling me that he was the son of a former Maha Mudaliyar. With Batadola in the police district of Gampaha I was anxious to meet and strike a conversation with this senior colonial official when I was posted there. I was wondering how I could make an appointment and call on him. It was my good fortune that I mentioned this to Inspector Alex Abeysekera when I visited the Nittambuwa police station one day.
Alex was quick to say that Sir James was a man I should meet. He believed that few in the younger generation would have even have heard of him, leave alone meeting him. Alex had called on him several times and Sir James had begun to look forward to his visits. Small wonder because Alex, although he had started his police career as a constable, was an erudite gentleman who spoke excellent English.
Alex lost no time in informing Sir James of his intention to visit him with the ASP of Gampaha. He telephoned me to say that Sir James would be pleased to see us in the afternoon of the Saturday to follow. Dressed in uniform I drove to the Nittambuwa police station in my car. Alex was also in uniform. He suggested that we go to Batadola in the Police Jeep.
With a laugh Alex told me that Sir James was a man who had long associated with the uniformed elite as an ADC to the Governor. In any event, in the sixties men in uniform were much respected and trusted.
Alex took the wheel and I was seated in front. The Police driver and a constable got into the rear. With the time approaching five we reached the driveway to the Batadola Walawwa. The narrow avenue of Na (ironwood) trees resembled a dark tunnel. It was cool, silent and dark. The sky could not be seen. I felt that I was in a different country. I suggested to Alex to stop for a few minutes and enjoy the ‘silence of the afternoon’!
A minute after we started off again we saw the light at the end of the tunnel of Na trees. What a fascinating sight it was! The setting sun shone on the white walled, imposing, castle-like Batadola remains a sight firmly etched in my memory. From the darkness of the avenue of Na trees Batadola certainly resembled an edifice out of this world.
Recognizing the police jeep a middle aged man, presumably a watcher, opened the main gate. Alex cautiously drove the vehicle to the portico. Before we could even get off the jeep Sir James appeared at the main entrance. Behind him stood a man dressed in a white sarong and white tunic coat buttoned to the neck. “Come in gentlemen, please make yourselves comfortable”. So saying he bade us sit down. His voice sounded squeaky.
The furniture in the sitting room consisted of settees and chairs of ebony and calamander with crimson velvet cushions. On all the chairs were heaps of books, magazines and newspapers. Alex and I had to clear the chairs of these books and magazines to sit down. Before Alex could introduce me the old man turned to Alex and good humouredly said, “So Abeysekera this young man is your boss”. With this I got up, introduced myself and shook hands with him. He was gracious enough to get up from his seat.
Dressed in a long sleeved white shirt and cotton khaki longs and wearing gold rimmed glasses he looked wiry and fit. Although in his late seventies with wooden clogs as footwear he looked quite tall. After we settled down in our seats he was curious to know my family background, my educational achievements, the school that I attended, what my brothers were doing etc. He appeared to be very pleased when I told him that I had already met his son, the MP. But he laughed and said, “that fellow is not cut out for politics. He likes to drive racing cars and pilot aeroplanes!”
I then saw the man who was dressed in white bringing a tray with two cups and saucers and a small glass tumbler which had a liquid the colour of wine. He left this tumbler on a stool near his master and brought the tray round. He then said, “I don’t know whether police people will like this drink. You know Abeysekera this is what I sip throughout the day. It is plain cold tea without sugar. It is good for your health.” I responded by saying that I too like it, but with a little lime juice and chilled.
With the time approaching 6.30 p.m. it suddenly occurred to me that Alex had mentioned about the old man’s fondness to keep on talking. His advice to me on the way was to keep mum as much as possible and to allow him to do the talking. But to get him talking I had to ask a question or two. I then told him how fascinated I was seeing the Batadola Walawwa for the first time and asked him, “Sir, how old is this lovely structure?”
His immediate response was to say that it was the oldest Walawwa in Siyane Korale. I also remember him saying that an ancestor of his, a chieftain from the south who also had Dutch blood, had been able to obtain about five hundred acres from an early British Governor to plant coconut and cinnamon. This ancestor had first built a modest house by a stream lined with bata (small bamboo). According to what he related the present structure dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. However, Sir James himself truthfully admitted that he found it difficult to recall the details of the origins of Batadola Walawwa.
At 7 p.m. sharp the man in white brought a meat mincer and mounted it on a small table near which Sir James was seated. Alex kicked my leg as if to say it is time to go. Moments later this man brought a plate with a fork and spoon. A small dish of food was also brought. I knew it was food by the colour of the green beans and carrots. I got up from my seat to indicate that the time had come to leave. “No, no, please stay, let’s talk a little more,” he said.
“How is it, Sir, that Horagolla is better known than Batadola?” “Better known? What nonsense. True, the riff-raff have heard of only Horagolla. And that too only after Banda became prime minister”; he sounded slightly agitated, but appeared to be enjoying the banter. Proud of the superiority of Batadola, Sir James began to rattle off the ancestry of the Bandaranaikes and how they had become rich.
According to him the Bandaranaikes had been ‘Poosaris’ of the Nawagamuwa Devala who had got contracts from the British Government to supply labour and metal for the construction of the Colombo — Kandy Rd.
While we were talking the man in white started putting the contents of the dish in small doses to the meat mincer and turning out little lumps of minced food to be eaten by his master. Nevertheless, he appeared to be keen to keep talking about the Bandaranaikes even whilst eating his dinner. However keen he was to go on with the conversation, I thanked him for the wonderful reception we received and got up to leave. He virtually pleaded that we should drop in often. Despite eating his dinner at the time, he walked up to the door to see us off.
A few weeks later I visited the Wathupitiwala Hospital in connection with a serious motor accident that had occurred on the Kandy — Colombo Rd at Pasyala. As I drove in, from a distance I spotted Sir James standing near the entrance. He was dressed in a lounge suit of khaki cotton drill and wearing a brown felt hat. His footwear was light brown canvas deck-shoes. He also carried a black umbrella. In every respect he resembled a typical English country gentleman.
I saluted and shook hands with him. He remembered our meeting at Batadola. Before getting into his car he thanked us again for our visit and said he’d like to meet us again. As was his practice he had visited the hospital semi-officially to inspect the buildings and premises. This hospital had been built in memory of his late wife, Lady Obeysekera.
It wasn’t long before we met Sir. James again. Alex and I had to visit a scene of murder close to the Batadola Estate and we took the opportunity to drop in at the Walawwa. Sir James greeted us warmly. “I knew that you were coming to this area. I expected you to drop in. Perhaps we can continue the discussion from where we left off.”
He appeared to be keen to tell us more about the Bandaranaikes. The jovial mood he was in was obvious. “Today you will not get plain tea”. So saying he ordered the butler to bring us iced coca cola.
Starting off the conversation he expressed the opinion that the Obeysekeras were more refined people as a clan. Most of them were Oxford or Cambridge educated. He referred to his cousins, Forester and Donald. Alex butted in having been a boxer to say that he knew Donald’s sons, Danton and Alex. He also was keen to impress on us that the Bandaranaikes particularly the late Solomon and R.F. Dias reveled in crude ribald jokes. He was in an unstoppable mood. When I interjected to say that S.W.R.D was a distinguished Oxford alumnus, “Yes the first and perhaps the last,” was his response.
Perhaps he felt that I knew more about the Bandaranaikes. He may have even thought that I was an admirer of the Bs, by the questions he began to ask me. “Have you been to Tintagel?” he asked me. I told him that I called on the Prime Minister officially at his Colombo residence. “What do you know of the ‘Maligawa’ in Cinnamon Gardens?” “I have not seen or heard of a Maligawa other than in Kandy,” was my reply.
He laughed loudly. Alex who was a silent listener provided the answer. “It is adjoining the Cinnamon Gardens police station Sir, the palatial residence of the Obeysekeras in Colombo.” Sir James was pleased. He got another starting point to educate me more about the Obeysekeras.
Continuing he told me that the Cinnamon Gardens police station is on a land donated to the Police Dept. by the Obeysekera family. Unlike Tintagel which was owned by an Englishman the Maligawa had been built at about the same time that the Batadola Walawwa had been built. He recalled the WW II years when as a young man he had been an additional ADC to the Governor.
When I showed interest he began to speak freely. According to him the Maligawa, where he lived during the war years was only second to Queen’s House. He described two luxury suites that were reserved for visiting dignitaries and other special guests. Even Queen’s House did not have such accommodation, he said.
Unlike Queen’s House the location of the Maligawa had special advantages. He had been fond of riding and the Governor’s stables had been located across the road in the race course. Geoffrey Layton and Louis Mountbatten, whenever they wanted to ride, had been his guests at the Maligawa. What has stuck in my memory is the peculiarity that Layton had, a preference to ride a piebald named Tojo, the name of the Japanese war lord! What was unsaid was that the Bandaranaikes never hosted such important people at ‘Tintagel or Horagolla.
He also told some interesting stories about, Geoffrey Layton and Mountbatten. Saying both were playboys, he laughed. With the arrival of his son JPO. Jnr. apparently for a private and personal meeting with his father, Alex and I decided to take leave of Sir James.
I met him once more before I left Gampaha district on transfer; and this happened to be the last time. The occasion was a handicrafts exhibition at Nittambuwa. Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the chief guest at this exhibition and I had to accompany her as the ASP Gampaha. Most of the Members of Parliament of the area were present. I distinctly remember the tall and big made Wijayabahu Wijesinghe, Laksman Jayakody and M.P. de Z Siriwardena.
The MP for Attanagalle, J.P. Obeysekera Jr. was a notable absentee. But his father, Sir James, stood amongst the distinguished invitees. What struck me was his dress, the attire I had seen him in before; the khaki lounge suit, khaki canvas shoes and the brown felt hat.
When the Prime Minister started going round viewing the exhibits, the MPs too followed. They kept a reasonable distance from her but Sir James kept up with her talking to her all the time, even joking and laughing. The Prime Minister too appeared to enjoy his company.
One episode in which Sir James figured remains firmly etched in my memory. A large stall exhibiting terracotta statuettes drew the special attention of the Prime Minister. Prominent among these exhibits were several nude figurines. With a mischievous smile Sir James turned to the Prime Minister and to be heard by all close by commented, “Sirima, I never knew Attanagalla women had such lovely breasts!” Everybody nearby laughed. Without showing any embarrassment the Prime Minister smiled graciously.
Sir James Obeysekera was not a public figure when I met him. He was living in quiet retirement having faded away from the public gaze. From what I could gather in the limited moments I spent with him he longed for company and conversation. Having been a central figure among the social elite during the era of the Queen’s House Ball, the social evenings at the Maligawa and the Governor’s Cup the blue riband of local horse racing, loneliness had overtaken him.
I consider myself fortunate to have met this great gentleman. Undoubtedly, Sir James, the Maha Mudaliyar had been the leading aristocratic figure in the low country. But when I met him he was a simple, erudite, witty gentleman. I regret I could not attend his funeral in 1968 as I was out of The country as a Fulbright student in Michigan.
Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Uttareethara Maha Nayaka Thera turns 88
It was in the year 1803 that there was a renaissance within the Maha Sangha (the Great Community of Buddhist Monks) in Sri Lanka thereby adding a fresh chapter to the history of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. This was when the Most Venerable Welitara Sri Gnanawimala Thera, the Great Prelate received the Upasampada or the Higher Ordination in Burma, returned to Sri Lanka and established the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya. (The name of this monk is embellished with traditional appellations such as Bodhisattva Gunopetha or being imbued with the qualities of a Bodhisattva or Buddha-Aspirant, and Preacher to King and Emperor.)
Thus the Amarapura Nikaya, which began with this Most Venerable Thera, later spread itself very rapidly down five generations of the Sangha spanning the entire Island. These generations of the Sangha organized themselves into 22 Nikayas. This was with the blessings of each of the Mahanayakas. They also preserved the identity of each such Nikaya.
In Sri Lanka, Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha was formed in 1952 with the concurrence of 15 of these subsidiary Nikayas. Presidents of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha have been;
1. the Most Venerable Prelate Beruwela Siri Nivasa Thera
2. the Most Venerable Mapalane Pannalankara Maha Nayaka,
3. the Most Venerable Uddammita Dhammarakhita Maha Nayaka,
4. the Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithri Maha Nayaka
5. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka.
In the year 1962 all 22 Sub-Nikayas came together to form a more organized and properly constituted Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha. It was the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thera who was installed as President and has been succeeded by;
1. the Most Venerable Dhammavansha Thera,
2. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha,
3. the Most Venerable Ahungalla Wimalanandi,
4. the Most Venerable Kandegedara Sumanavansha,
5. the Most Venerable Boyagama Wimalasiri,
6. the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa and
7. the Most Venerable Dodampahala Chandrasiri.
The Most Venerable Chief Prelate Ganthune Assaji Thera is the current chair.
In terms of the Constitution approved in 1992, an Office of Supreme Prelate (Uttareethara Mahanayaka) was created, and the first to hold this office was the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thera who was succeeded by Most Venerable Davuldena Gnaneesara Thera. After his demise the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera, who turns eighty-eight today assumed and continues to be the Uttareethara Mahanayaka.
He was born on 26th January 1933 and ordained as a monk with the permission of his parents, on 17th August 1948. He received his Higher Ordination on 10th July 1954 at the Udakkukhepa Seemamalakaya set up on the River named the Kalu Ganga in Kalutara.
He had his training and primary instruction in the Buddha Dhamma from his Venerable Preceptors, later entered the Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena for his education. It was at the Maha Pirivena in Maligakanda where he received his Higher Education in three languages, under the shadow and tutelage of the Most Venerable Pandita Baddegama Piyaratana Thera.
With the demise of his preceptor, Dhammavasa Thera became the Prelate of the Dharmapala-arama Viharaya in Mount Lavinia. By this time he had already become very popular by broadcasting and delivering sermons in temples and in private homes, contributing to articles disseminating the Dhamma, and articles on topical subjects through the full-moon day publication entitled “Budusarana”, then to daily newspapers, and to the Vesak Annuals published by M D Gunasena & Co., Dinamina etc.
The Thera was also engaged in social welfare activities of the area by setting up Children’s and Young Persons’ Societies within the Vihara.
With the passage of time and the demise of remarkably eloquent monks such as the Most Venerable Narada Thera, Prelate of the Vajira-aramaya, Heenatiyana Dhammaloka, Kotikawatte Saddhatissa, Pitakotte Somananda, Kalukondayawe Pannasekera and other such classic preachers, Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera stands out as a prime orator among those who came to the limelight after the days of the erudite monks of yesteryear.
Owing to the ceaseless invitations to deliver sermons extended to our Venerable Thera he travelled to various regions of the Island, yet fulfilling all his duties pertaining to his own Nikaya and to the work of the Sangha Sabha neglecting nothing whatever. With all this he continued to participate in the discharge of the infinite services expected of all erstwhile office bearers of the Sangha Sabha.
Our respected Thera was gradually chosen to hold various posts within the Amarapura Nikaya. Some such are his appointment in 1970 as an ordained member of the Working Committee and to the Post of Honorary Prelate (Maha Nayaka); in 1981 as the Chief Ecclesiastical Sangha Nayaka; and in 1990 as the Deputy Chief (Anunayaka) of the Amarapura Nikaya. At the same time it is because of his quality of being industrious that he was elected the Secretary (Lekhakadhikari).
The Venerable Anunayaka Thera who served the Maha Sangha Sabha of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya with great dedication, in order to ensure its unity and advancement, was in 1980 appointed its Co-Secretary (Sama Lekhakadhikari) and in 1992 as its Chief Secretary (Maha Lekhakadhikari) It is only appropriate to place on record that during this period of about fifteen years he performed a very special quality of service to the Sasana by updating the Amarapura Sangha Sabha; by setting up a Kathikavata (Ecclesiastical Edict) for the Amarapura Nikaya (whereby ‘rules governing the discipline and conduct of Buddhist monks including matters related to the settlement of disputes’ together with a Sanghadhikarana Panatha (i.e. an Ecclesiastical Act) were drafted and approved; and finally by drafting a strong, formal Constitution and obtaining approval for same.
It was on 17th December 2016 that the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayaka Thera became the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya, and that on a proposal made by none other than the Most Venerable Agga-maha-panditha Ambalangoda Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera who, at the time, was himself the incumbent.
On 3rd October 2008 the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera was appointed to the post of Chairman, and it was on 26th May 2017 that he was elected Uttareethara Maha Nayaka or Supreme Maha Nayaka, which is the highest position within the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya.
He has visited many countries in Asia and Europe disseminating the Dhamma and participating in Conferences thereby earning great international fame. Meanwhile he also serves as the incumbent monk of the Sri Lanka-aramaya in Myanmar and of the Charumathie Viharaya in Nepal.
In the matters of national and religious issues in the country he expresses his views in such a calm and collected manner that he has earned the respect of the Supreme Maha Nayaka Theras of other Nikayas and politicians both in power and in the Opposition and of intellectuals.
He has been honored with the title of “Agga Maha Panditha” by the Government of Myanmar. Although other honorary awards were conferred upon him by foreign countries and foreign institutions he does not use them, entirely because of his humble disposition.
At the end of and exposition of the Dhamma (a Dharma Desana) at Temple Trees His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa (who was then the incumbent President of the country) made an offering to him of about 14 perches of land in Wellawatte. Upon this land stands today, the “Office of the Sangha Sabha of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya”, a three-storied building replete with all conceivable facilities. It is a matter of great joy to us that in honour of the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera it was possible for us to make an offering of this building to the Buddha Sasana, on the 15th of August 2020.
We offer merit to His Excellency the President and the Honourable Prime Minister who are today attending to each and every need of our Supreme Maha Nayaka Thera in a spirit of extending infinite regard and respect to him, in appreciation of the national and religious service the Maha Thera has rendered.
Let us also gratefully place on record that the Honourable Sajit Premadasa, Leader of the Opposition, has provided an elevator as an offering to facilitate the caring for our Mahanayaka Thera.
I also wish to thank the Doctors, the Staff of the Nawaloka Hospital, Members of the Nikaya-abhivrudhi Dayaka Sabha (Organization for the Advancement of the Nikaya) and the Dayaka Sabha of the Mahanayaka’s Vihara and who are all providing medical care.
Arrangements were made by the Dayaka Sabha and the student monks to offer alms to the Sangha to mark the birthday of our Thera when he reached the age of 88, on 26th January 2021.
On 21st January 2021 at 7.00 p.m. a Bodhi Pooja was organized by the Amarapura Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha at the historic Kalutara Bodhi to invoke blessings upon our Supreme Maha Thera.
May the Supreme Maha Nayaka Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nahimi live a life free from sickness and sorrow.
Deshamanya Ajita de Zoysa
Sri Lanka Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha
Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation
By Jehan Perera
Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.
Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”
Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.
The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”
It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.
International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.
In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”
As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.
The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.
Album to celebrate 30 years
Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.
However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.
All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.
Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.
Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.
Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.
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