Closure of Public utilities Commission – II
By Dr Janaka Ratnasiri
This is further to the writer’s piece on the same title appearing in The Island of 07.12.2020. See https://island.lk/closure-of-public-utilities-commission-cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face/.
LETTER FROM PRESIDENT’S SECRETARY
The organization under scrutiny, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), was established in 2002 through an Act of Parliament No. 35 of 2002, mainly for the purpose of regulating the utilities industries in the country. Initially, the electricity and water service industries came under the Act. Later, through a resolution passed in the Parliament, the Petroleum Industry was also included.
The Commission comprises five members appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. However, any member could be removed for any alleged unbecoming reason, only after the Minister submitting a report to Parliament, including the complaint against the member, as well as the member’s representations, and the majority accepting the recommendation for the removal of the member. Under such a background for the removal of a Commission member, it is unlikely that the President’s Secretary has the powers to close down the Commission altogether.
Further, it appears that in instructing to close down the PUCSL, natural justice has not been exercised, which requires that a person, or an institute, is given adequate notice, receive a fair and unbiased hearing, before a decision is made against the person/institute. If the Government felt that the PUCSL was responsible for the alleged delays in building power plants and implementing generation plans, the logical action the Government should have taken was to appoint a competent and unbiased committee to examine the allegations and make recommendations, after giving a hearing to the PUCSL’s explanations.
Even if the allegations are found valid, the correct course of follow-up action would have been to either remove the Chairman, or the Director General, if they are found responsible, or amend the Act, and certainly not close down the Commission. If the government still feels that the PUCSL is not wanted, an Act needs to be passed in Parliament to repeal the original PUCSL Act. The writer believes the President’s Secretary is well aware of this procedure. Further, in an hour-long interview given by him to a TV Channel on Sunday (6th) which went past midnight, he described how he takes decisions on important national issues. In that context, it is very unlikely that the alleged letter was issued by him.
Perhaps, the response of the government Parliamentarians, claiming that the letter was a fake, when the matter was taken up by a member in the Opposition, may have some truth. According to media reports, their attempts to contact the Secretary to the Treasury to verify the authenticity of the letter ended up with no success. If the letter is indeed a fake, the government should find out who originated it and prosecute him for dis-reputing the government.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PUCSL AND THE CEB
Nevertheless, it is necessary to clarify certain matters pertaining to these two organizations, the PUCSL and the CEB, irrespective whether the letter is a fake or not. This is because there is a burning issue between them as evidenced from the remarks made in the Budget Speech and by the CEB Chairman, described in the writer’s previous article. Hence this write-up is published.
In the first half of the last century, electricity was available only in Municipal and Urban Council areas, and they themselves generated the electricity and distributed it within their own jurisdiction areas under the general supervision of the Department of Government Electrical Undertakings. With the development of the Laxapana Hydropower Complex, beginning 1950, and building of a national grid to transmit the electricity generated to the rest of the country, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was established under Parliament Act No. 17 of 1969. The CEB has been granted powers to generate, transmit and distribute electricity in bulk or otherwise, under Article 11 of this Act.
The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) was established mainly for the purpose of regulating the utilities industries in the country, including the electricity industry. In order to give effect to this provision in this Act, the Sri Lanka Electricity Act, No. 20 of 2009 was passed for the purpose of regulating the electricity industry. By Article 2(1) of the Act, the administration of the provisions of this Act was vested in the PUCSL and the Commission shall exercise, perform and discharge all the powers, functions and duties as are conferred on or assigned to it under this Act.
Among the functions vested in the PUCSL under Article 3(1) of the Electricity Act No. 20 are the following:
to act as the economic, technical and safety regulator for the electricity industry in Sri Lanka,
to advise the Government on all matters concerning the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and use of electricity in Sri Lanka; and
to approve such technical and operational codes and standards as are required from time to time to be developed by licensees;
It should be noted that the PUCSL serves as the regulator, not only for the electricity sector, but also for the water services and petroleum industries. Having such a regulator is an internationally accepted practice and it enhances the confidence among overseas parties to invest in these industries and the credit-worthiness of regulated industries. Any attempts to close down the PUCSL is therefore a very shortsighted measure, to say the least.
PERMISSION TO GENERATE, TRANSMIT AND DISTRIBUTE ELECTRICITY
Under the Article 9(2) of the Electricity Act No. 20, “No person other than the Ceylon Electricity Board, (CEB) shall be eligible to apply for the issue of a transmission licence”, while the CEB, a local authority or a company incorporated in Sri Lanka is eligible to apply for a transmission or a distribution licence. When a Chinese Company was planning to build a transmission line from its power plant being built at Hambantota to their industrial estate, they had to do it jointly with the CEB to circumvent this restriction.
In the past, generation licences have been issued to several independent power producers (IPP) for operating thermal power plants and to a large number of IPPs for operating renewable energy power plants. Whereas, only one company, a subsidiary of the CEB has been issued a distribution licence. It may be recalled that prior to the establishment of the CEB, generation and distribution functions, within the municipal and urban councils were handled solely by the respective local bodies.
Under the Article 13(3) of the Act, “a person shall not be granted both a transmission licence and (a) a generation licence; or(b) a distribution licence, while the Article 13(4) says “a person shall not be granted both a generation licence and a distribution licence”.
What this means is that both the PUCSL and the CEB were acting in violation of the Electricity Act No. 20, because the CEB was issued licences by the PUCSL for generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, disregarding the provisions in the Act.
In the Amended Electricity Act No. 31 of 2013, the Article 9 of the original Act was amended to “exempt any person or category of persons from the requirement of obtaining a licence for the generation or distribution of electricity, where such person engages in community-based electricity generating project on a non-commercial basis. However, as described before, under the CEB Act 79 of 1979, the CEB has the powers to generate, transmission and distribute electricity in bulk or otherwise.
So, there appears to be a conflict between the CEB Act and the Electricity Act No. 20. Neither the Electricity Act 20 of 2009 nor the Electricity (Amended) Act No. 31 of 2013 has repealed the CEB Act. Hence, the provisions of the CEB Act with regard to its powers to generate, transmit and distribute electricity still remain valid.
REFORMING THE POWER SECTOR
In order to comply with the provisions of the Electricity Act, it is necessary to have separate entities for undertaking the three functions – generation, transmission and distribution. For this purpose, a draft bill titled Electricity Reforms Bill was presented to the Parliament in 2002, outlining sector reforms comprising restructuring of the electricity industry by breaking the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Lanka Electricity Company (LECO) into several independent state-owned companies to carry out generation, transmission, and distribution functions.
The Bill when presented to the Parliament brought in strong protests from many quarters including CEB trade unions and other trade unions as well as from several political parties. They saw this Bill as an initial step towards privatizing the CEB and consequently loss of employment for its staff. Once the government gave the workers an assurance that the companies formed will hold 51% share by the government and that the workers’ rights will be safeguarded, the protests died down and the Bill was passed in March 2002.
It was gazetted as Electricity Reforms Act No. 28 of 2002 on 13 December 2002. However, the necessary order to give effect to the Act was not gazetted by the Minister and as a result the Act was left in abeyance, until it was repealed by Article 63(1) of the Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009.
However, considering the need to unbundle the CEB, including compliance with the Electricity Act and also to make its administration more flexible, the writer published an article in The Island of 07.12.2020, highlighting the advantages that could accrue by unbundling the CEB as recommended by several international consultants. The article is accessible via the link: https://island.lk/power-sector-reforms-urgent-need-to-revisit-them/.
CEB’S LONG-TERM GENERATION EXPANSION PLAN
In Article 13 of the Sri Lanka Electricity (Amended) Act No. 31 of 2013, the Section 43 of the principal enactment was amended and the following section is substituted: (2) A transmission licensee shall, based on the future demand forecast as specified in the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion (LCLTGE) Plan prepared by such licensee and as amended after considering the submissions of the distribution and generation licensees and approved by the Commission, submit proposals to proceed with the procuring of any new generation plant or for the expansion of the generation capacity of an existing plant, to the Commission for its written approval.
Though the requirement that procuring of any new generation plant or expansion of generation capacity should be based on the LCLTGE Plan prepared by the CEB has been incorporated into the Act, the concept of a LCLTGE Plan itself is highly flawed, as described in the writer’s previous article. Hence, the Act itself is placed on an unsound footing when it specifies that compliance with the Plan is necessary to proceed with a project to build a new power plant. The other reason is that the Plan is updated once in two or three years and the requirements specified in the Plan with respect to the type of plants and their capacities keep changing. Hence, it is difficult to ensure compliance with such a Plan.
In the proposed amendments to the Acts in the Electricity Sector, priority needs to be given to exclude the reference to the compliance of any new power project with the CEB’s LCLTGE Plan for reasons given above.
SRI LANKA SUSTAINABLE ENERGY AUTHORITY’S ROLE
The Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) was established under the SLSEA Act No. 35 of 2007, with the objective to “(a) identify, assess and develop renewable energy resources with a view to enhancing energy security and thereby derive economic and social benefits to the country and (b) develop a conducive environment for encouraging and promoting investments for renewable energy (RE) development in the country”. The idea was to promote the generation of electricity through renewable energy projects. However, there are many barriers put in against this.
The Act specifies that no person shall engage in or carry on an on-grid (Article 16) or off-grid (Article 23) renewable energy project .. except under the authority of a permit issued by the Authority, and the person who is desirous of engaging in and carrying on an on-grid renewable energy project shall make an application to the Director-General for the same in the prescribed form together with the prescribed fee and the prescribed documents. The fee for issuing the application form, the writer understands, is LKR 100,000 irrespective of the size or the type of the project.
Further, the SLSEA Act says that “a permit issued on approval of an application .. shall be valid for a period of twenty (20) years, provided that the developer commences the project and begins to generate electricity within two years of being issued with the permit. At the end of the period of twenty years, the Board may .. extend the period, of validity of the permit by a further period, not exceeding twenty (20) more years. Does this mean that after the lapse of 40 years, the 100 MW wind power plant being commissioned today (8th) at a cost of USD 150 million, will have to be sold for scrap?
Then there is another problem faced by an investor of an RE project. According to the SLSEA Act, he has to obtain a permit upon payment of a fee, from the SLSEA to commence the project. But the Electricity Act No. 31 says that he has to obtain a generation permit from the PUCSL for the same project. Then, at the end of the project, he has to get the approval of the CEB to get the project output connected to the grid and sell power to the CEB. In the past, several projects permitted by the SLSEA have been delayed for years by the CEA citing various excuses which would discourage the private sector to invest on renewable energy projects in Sri Lanka. In any case, what is the necessity to have so many permits for a single project?
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO ELECTRICITY SECTOR ACTS
The 2021 Budget has made a proposal “to amend the Public Utilities Commission Act and the Ceylon Electricity Board Act to allow the rapid implementation of projects”. There are actually five (5) Parliamentary Acts that govern the development of the electricity sector in the country. These are CEB Act No. 29 of 1979, PUCSL Act No. 35 of 2002, SLSEA Act No. 35 of 2007, Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009 and Electricity (Amendment) Act No. 31 of 2013.
Naturally, there will be conflicts and inconsistencies among them, making decision making and implementation difficult. Limited space does not allow the writer to list these deficiencies one by one. A few, described briefly in this write up above, are summarized below.
Conflict in the CEB’s power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity
Removal of the compliance with the CEB’s Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan
Multitude of permits required for undertaking renewable energy projects
Community RE projects exempted a permit under Elect. Act No. 31 but not under the SLSEA Act.
Need to unbundle the CEB for greater efficiency and ease in operations
In addition, often the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) are referred to the Attorney General which causes further delays in granting approvals for the projects and sometimes denial for not conforming to the Act.
It is desirable if a competent committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Power, Ministry of Renewable Energy, Ministry of Finance, Legal Draftsman’s Dept, PUCSL, CEB, SLSEA as well as representatives from the IPP industry, Renewable Energy Industry and an independent academic be appointed to examine these Acts and make recommendations necessary to streamline the project approval process and improve the general efficiency of the system for rapid utilization of RE sources in the electricity sector ultimately leading to realization of the President’s target of achieving 70% of electricity generation by 2030 from renewable sources.
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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