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New Fortress energy deal: SLPP says it won’t give in to dissidents’ pressure

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‘Opposition group within govt. not acceptable’ 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (08) declared that the government wouldn’t, under any circumstances, succumb to the rebel group within the ruling coalition.

 SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L.Peiris emphasized that there couldn’t be several governments within an administration. Prof. Peiris, who holds the Foreign Affairs portfolio, declared that the SLPP wouldn’t accept an Opposition group within the government. The SLPP Chairman said so at the weekly briefing held at the party office.

The National List MP said that whatever the issues and differences of opinion within a coalition once the government took a stand on a particular matter the entire parliamentary group should abide by it. The SLPP group in the 145-member parliamentary grouping consists of 117.

Of the 30-member Cabinet of ministers, National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader and Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila and Democratic Left Front (DLF) Leader and Water Supply State Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara recently broke ranks with the SLPP leadership over the controversial agreement with New Fortress Energy on the Yugadanavi power deal et al. Although Nimal Siripala and Mahinda Amaraweera who represented the SLFP in the Cabinet refrained from joining the rebel project, on behalf of the party leader Maithripala Sirisena State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera joined the launch of the rebel campaign at the Solis Hall, Pitakotte.

The rebel group declared that they wouldn’t keep quiet for ministerial perks and privileges but take a stand in public interest.

Constituent parties opposed to the New Fortress Energy deal consists of over two dozen lawmakers with the SLFP being the largest among them. The SLPP members in the government parliamentary group comprised 14.

Having dealt with his recent visit to the UK where the focus had been on British investments in Sri Lanka and expansion of trade tries against the backdrop of Brexit and the current status of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination project, Prof. Peiris said the right to dissent within a political grouping was nothing but a healthy sign of a democratic system. It wouldn’t be realistic to achieve 100 percent consensus on all issues, Prof. Peiris said, while underscoring the importance of a common stand on contentious issues.

Reiterating the SLPP’s call to address whatever the issues at hand, they should be addressed within the parliamentary group, Prof.   Peiris advised that their problems shouldn’t be taken to the public nor external issues allowed to interfere with their programme.

Several parties, including nationalist groups led by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera have moved both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal against the energy deal. Trade unions representing major political parties are also opposed to the agreement.

Prof. Peiris said that the failure on the part of the constituents of reach consensus on issues of public importance undermined public confidence as well as that of the international community.

The same group spearheaded protests that compelled the current dispensation to rescind a decision taken by the previous government to sell 49 percent shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) to India and Japan.

Prof. Peiris recalled how they got together in the face of growing international pressure on the country in the wake of the UNP-led administration betraying the war winning armed forces through the co-sponsorship of an accountability resolution at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Declaring the overwhelming mandates received by the SLPP at 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively, paved the way for the formation of a strong government, Prof. Peiris acknowledged the daunting challenge in maintaining the momentum.

Responding to media queries, SLPP General Secretary Attorney-at-Law Sagara Kariyawasam dismissed SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera recent comment on the conduct of ministers. National List MP Kariyawasam questioned the rationale in Jayasekera taking a critical stand while enjoying all perks and privileges as a State Minister. MP Kariyawasam challenged his colleague Jayasekera to be specific in his accusations. “Name the minister and what the specific issue is,” MP Kariyawasam said.

Commenting on recent social media reports, Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris stressed that there was absolutely no basis for claims as regards a dispute between him and Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage, a former Commander of the Navy. Prof. Peiris said that they worked closely and the Foreign Ministry performed its responsibilities amidst challenges.



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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops

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Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Concerns over the human rights record in Sri Lanka has led to the halt of the police training contract between the Sri Lanka and Scottish Police, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of the Scotland Police confirmed.

He said they have written to the British High Commission in Colombo to inform the Sri Lanka government that they are no longer planning to renew the training contract with Sri Lanka’s police force due to end in March next year.

The British Foreign Office reported last week that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation deteriorated during the first half of 2021.

The report said: “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests.

The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

News of Scotland’s Police not renewing the contract was welcomed by critics of Sri Lanka including Mercedes Villalba who is a Scottish Labour politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland since May 2021.

British MPs and MSPs jointly sent a letter to the Scotland Police and the British High Commission in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago requesting them to stop the training programme.

Villalba was one of the signatories and after this announcement, she said “I have been pleased to support the campaigners and thank them for their tireless efforts in securing the commitment from the chief constable. I also want to thank Police Scotland for being responsive to the real concerns which were expressed about Sri Lanka’s record of human rights violations.”

Talking about the decision to stop training, Chief Constable Livingstone said that a review must be done to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since the initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

“We remain of course committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world so that we can enhance and enable human rights and we can underline the values that we hold dear in Police Scotland of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”, he added.

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Interfaith Week celebrated in London

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Sujeeva Nivunhella reporting from London

A Pooja to celebrate Interfaith Week was organized here last week with the advice and guidance of Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayake Thera, head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain.

This annual event begins on Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of the World War I to remember armed forces personnel who died in the line of duty. This tradition was inaugurated by King George V in 1919.

Adhering to the country’s Covid guidelines, this year’s celebration was held using Zoom technology on the theme “Altruism in each religion”.

Ven. Seelawimala welcomed everyone who joined the session. Notable participants of the event were Ven. Thawalama Bandula Thera, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thera from London Buddhist Vihara, Dr Harriet Crabtree – Director of Interfaith Network, UK, Ranjish Kashyap, General Secretary/Director Hindu Council,UK, Dr. Pujya Samaniji Pratibha Pragya, who is a Jain nun from Harrow, Rev Gyoro Nagase, Japanese monk, London Peace Pagoda, Battersea, Dr Desmond Bidulph – Chairman of Buddhist Society and Charanjith and Ajith Singh MBE, Hounslow Friends of Faith, who represented the Sikhs.

All present chanted prayers according to their own faiths to eradicate human suffering, to have peace and especially to see an end to the pandemic situation in the world.

A pre-recorded video of Devotional Songs by London Buddhist Vihara Dhamma School Children was played at the event.

Interfaith Network – UK was founded in 1987 with representatives from the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Islam, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities,

National and local interfaith bodies, academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter-religious issues are affiliated to the organization. Then head of the London Buddhist Vihara late, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera was actively involved in forming the Network and was a founding member.

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Frankfurt Consulate massive white elephant, alleges Lankan living there

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Foreign office looking at closing some overseas mission due to financial constraints

by Harischandra Gunaratna

Sri Lanka’s Consulate in Frankfurt has turned out to be a white elephant although the Sri Lankan government spends a whopping Rs. 200 million per year for its operations, Azad Shaukatally, a businessman and a Sri Lankan expatriate in Frankfurt told the Sunday Island.

“Over the years, this consulate has not contributed anything tangible to the country. All that has happened is successive governments appointing political loyalists to head the Mission. None of them have done anything concrete to promote business between the two countries,” he said.

According to him, the Mission could have contributed a great deal by promoting Sri Lankan exports and tourism as Frankfurt is the business hub of Germany.

“What actually happens is, the Consulate in Frankfurt simply replicates several tasks performed by the Embassy in Berlin and that’s it. But it cost the country exorbitantly without the knowledge of the authorities. This is sheer waste of national resources and it needs to be brought to an end,” Shaukatally said.

When the Sunday Island contacted the Foreign Ministry on the matter, its Acting Director General Sugeeshwara Gunaratna said: “The Foreign Ministry regularly evaluates individual performance of each Sri Lankan mission abroad, and constructively engages with them from time to time on specific issues or matters which are mutually beneficial in promotion of Sri Lanka’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the host country and various international organizations while ensuring best interests of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan citizens living abroad.”

He said that any decisions related to opening of new missions or closure of particular Missions/Posts abroad including the Consulate General in Frankfurt would be taken after wider consultation with relevant stakeholders based on the relevance of each Mission/Post in promotion of Sri Lanka’s relations abroad.

“Under the current financial constraints, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of closing down some of the Sri Lankan Missions/Posts abroad after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. However, no final decision, has so far, been taken with regard to the Missions/Posts which would be closed down in the near future,” Gunaratna said.

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