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‘Military Assistance Protocol’ signed, Chinese backing at Geneva appreciated

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Defence Secretary retired General Kamal Gunaratne has greatly appreciated the stand taken by China on behalf of Sri Lanka at the recently concluded 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), during talks with the high powered Chinese delegation led by State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe.

The delegations led by Minister Fenghe and Defence Secretary Gunaratne met at the Shangri-La Hotel, Wednesday (28). Minister Fenghe is the highest foreign dignitary to visit the hotel overlooking the mega China investment Colombo Port City since it was attacked by two suicide bombers on April 21, two years ago.

UN Security Council member China on behalf of Sri Lanka called for a vote on controversial draft resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,’ after the UK led Core Group targeting Sri Lanka insisted on a punitive text and the setting up of a new inquiry at a cost of USD 2.8 mn. The UNHRC adopted the latest resolution on March 23 with 22 countries voting for, 11 including China against and 14 abstaining.

Having condemned the resolution as typical example of politicization of human rights, Chinese Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador CHEN Xu alleged Western attempt to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and undermine its development and stability under the pretext of human rights.

China and Sri Lanka also signed what the Defence Ministry called ‘Military Assistance Protocol.’ The Defence Ministry statement quoted General Fenghe as having said: “We are looking forward to work together with Sri Lanka to enhance practical cooperation and to promote bilateral relations to a greater extent.” The Chinese Minister highlighted the existing military ties between the two countries. China remained a primary supplier of arms, ammunition and equipment to the Sri Lankan military throughout the war.

Chinese Ambassador in Colombo, Qi Zhenhong, Foreign Secretary Admiral (ret) Prof. Jayanath Colombage and Tri-Forces Commanders were also present.

The Chinese delegation comprised Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of PLA Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming, Director General of Office for International Military Cooperation of Central Military Commission (CMC) Maj. Gen. Ci Guowei, Deputy Director General of General Office CMC Maj. Gen. Shen Fangwu, Assistant Chief of Staff of Southern Theatre Command of PLA Maj. Gen. Hu Xianjun and Chinese Defence Attaché Senior Colonel Wan Dong.

General Fenghe also launched the official website of the Chinese National Defence University Alumni Association of Sri Lanka at the invitation of Gen Gunaratne and the Director General of Sri Lanka Customs and the Chairman and founding member of the Alumni Association Maj. Gen. Vijitha Ravipriya (Ret).

The Chinese delegation arrived in Colombo Tuesday (27) night and left yesterday (29) morning. The delegation met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and defence delegation led by Gen. Gunaratne.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met the Chinese delegation along with Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera whereas Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena joined Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s delegation that included several ministers.

Over a decade after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka maintains close relations with major regional powers, including members of Quad the US, Japan, India and Australia. Interestingly none of them backed Sri Lanka battling unsubstantiated war crimes allegations paving the way for Western powers to include Sri Lanka on the Geneva agenda.

Sri Lanka re-entered into high profile ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) with the US in August 2017 though talks on MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact) and SOFA (Status on Forces Agreement) failed. Sri Lanka first signed ACSA in March 2007 during Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tenure as Defence Secretary.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Parliament prorogued

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by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA

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By PRIYAN DE SILVA

Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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