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New Geneva challenge: Chagie calls for united stand

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says the country should take a united stand at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) or face the consequences.

The battle-tested Gajaba regiment veteran said that there shouldn’t be a difference of opinion whatsoever as regards Sri Lanka’s defence in the face of a new investigative mechanism approved at the recently concluded 46th sessions.

“We are on the Geneva agenda. Let us be realistic about the threat and take tangible measures without further delay to set the record straight. We may not get another chance to present our case,” Gallage said. The outspoken officer underscored the need to revisit the accountability issue with an open mind.

Responding to another query, the celebrated infantry officer emphasized that Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from an accountability resolution co-sponsored by the previous administration in Oct 2015, six years after the triumph over terrorism, was irrelevant.

Two years before his retirement in August 2018, Australia refused to issue a visa to Gallage based on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations directed at the Army.

Referring to statements attributed to SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris and Samagi Jana Balavegaya lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva recently in The Island, Gallage welcomed the government and the main Opposition taking a common stand on Lord Naseby’s disclosure based on wartime dispatches from the British High Commission, Colombo. Sri Lanka should collectively ask for examination of all available information pertaining to the war and strive to bring everything before the proposed new inquiry.

The retired soldier noted that the UN had already allocated USD 2.8 mn. “Thanks to the disclosure of BHC, Colombo dispatches, the world now knows their diplomatic representative (Lt. Col. Anthony Gash) contradicted high profile lies propagated by their own,” Gallage said.

Examination of Gash reports, along with UN report that dealt with the Vanni war (Aug, 2008-May 13, 2009), Wikileaks cables, Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith’s astonishing declaration at the first Colombo Defence Seminar 2011 and exposed lies pertaining to Mannar mass graves and poisoning of detained terrorists would help the government to unravel the truth, he said.

Sri Lanka’s overall failure to disapprove accusations even a decade after the successful conclusion was a slur on those who paid the supreme sacrifice and the wounded, Gallage said. Nearly 6,000 security forces personnel died in the Eelam War IV. Of them approximately 2,400 lost their lives during January-May 2009 in fighting east of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road.

Gallage emphasized that individual countries could always act on unsubstantiated findings and recommendations.

It would be a grave mistake on Sri Lanka’s part to take things lightly on the basis the country couldn’t be hauled up before the International Criminal Court (ICC) because UN Security Council members, China and Russia could veto proposed actions. Among those declared not welcome by the US and Australia were Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva and Maj. Gen. Gallage.

At the behest of the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Army headquarters moved Gallage out of the Jaffna peninsula following a public spat with the former.

Gallage pointed out that those pursuing war crimes issues were only interested in the final phase. Alleging that Sri Lanka was being targeted by both local and foreign elements who couldn’t stomach eradication of the LTTE, Gallage called for a determined bid to overcome the Geneva challenge. “Let us hope now that the Feb-March sessions are over the Geneva threat won’t be forgotten for the time being,” the war veteran said.

Gallage said that the country paid a very heavy price for not countering blatant lies. Unfortunately, some of those propagating lies against the country’s armed forces were elected members of parliament, the retired soldier said. “It is certainly an unfortunate situation,” Gallage said.

Despite public assurances given over the years, Sri Lanka never really addressed the denial of visas. Actually denial of visas was one of the first indicators of hostile foreign action directed against the war winning military, Gallage said, pointing out in the wake of the recently adopted resolution, Geneva was now talking about a host of measures, including universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The war veteran said that whatever the political differences, there couldn’t be a dispute over the need to finish off terrorism for once and for all. “We should quite rightly be proud of maintaining peace since then.”



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BASL calls for independent and impartial probe into killing of ’Uru Juwa’ & ’Kosgoda Tharaka’

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‘Such deaths are an affront to the Rule of Law’

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) condemned the killing of Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ and Tharaka Perera Wijesekera alias ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’, who were taken into police custody.

The State and the Police should have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such person, the BASL said in a statement.

“These deaths have all the hallmarks of extra-judicial killings and we call upon the State to ensure the safety and security persons in their custody, it said.

The statement further said: “On May 12, 2021, an Attorney-at-Law representing Tharaka Perera Wijesekera informed the BASL by e-mail that his client had been suddenly transferred from the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to a special police Unit at Peliyagoda and that he fears that his client will be killed in custody.

“Acting on the complaint of the Attorney-at-Law, between 2000 and 2100 hours, the President of the BASL informed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickremeratne via email to igp@police.lk and also by text message and WhatsApp the apprehensions of the said Attorney-at-Law and reminded the IGP that the Police and the State have a duty to protect persons in their custody.

“The IGP was reminded that the Supreme Court in many decisions has re-iterated the duty and responsibility cast on the State to ensure the safety and security of persons in its custody.

“The Attorney-at-Law concerned had also informed the IGP, the Director CID and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka of his concerns.

“Despite the said notifications by the BASL on behalf of an Attorney-at-Law representing his client, the news media reported that Tharaka Wijesekera has been killed while being detained by the Peliyagoda Special Crimes Division, allegedly “when he tried to attack police while recovering some weapons”. This happened at a time when the Police including the IGP had been notified of the same.

“On May 11, 2021 another suspect named Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ had met his death in a similar manner. We are informed that representations were made to the police as regards his safety, prior to his death.

“The State and the Police have a duty to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody, irrespective of the character of such persons and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations against such persons.

“Such deaths are an affront to the Rule of Law and will tarnish the image of Sri Lanka. It is an imperative requirement of criminal justice that persons accused of serious crimes including murder are tried by a Court of law and punished for their crimes and that the networks that aided and abetted such activities are prosecuted and dismantled. This requirement is defeated by the failure of police officers to control the unarmed suspect purportedly accompanied by them without the use of lethal force.

“It is incomprehensible how on several occasions the Police have been unable to protect unarmed suspects in their custody.

“The Executive Committee of the BASL expresses its grave and serious concern and condemns the failure of the Police including the IGP to protect persons in their custody.

“The BASL calls upon His Excellency the President and the Government to take serious note of these incidents and to take action to prevent such occurrences.

“The BASL also requests the authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these incidents. As far back as 2013 the BASL highlighted the issue of the killing of suspects in the custody of Police and will use all means at its disposal to prevent similar acts of omission and commission on the part of the State authorities in the future.

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Korean Ambassador meets with WFP Representative and Country Director

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Korean Ambassador Santhush Woonjin JEONG met with Abdur Rahim Siddiqui, the newly-appointed United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Sri Lanka Country Director and Representative, at the Korean Embassy last week.

They had a productive discussion about the progress of the ongoing projects on the resilience building and strengthening sustainable livelihoods of communities in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador said he is pleased about the recent project initiated in March 2021, by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to support the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha amid COVID-19.

The Ambassador extended his warm congratulations to Siddiqui for his latest appointment and took the opportunity to renew the partnership between the Republic of Korea and the World Food Program (WFP) in Sri Lanka.

Santush Woonjin JEONG also expressed his confidence that Siddiqui will lead the World Food Program in Sri Lanka to greater heights with his previous experience of over 30 years in the field of nutrition and food security. The government of the Republic of Korea would like to restate its commitment to the global efforts to achieve WFP priorities at all levels. The Republic of Korea and WFP will work together to promote better outcomes in Sri Lanka and globally in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Siddiqui commended the staunch efforts by the government of Korea for the agricultural and economic development in Sri Lanka especially with reference to the continued investment of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in building resilience and ensuring food security in Sri Lanka under the ongoing projects.

The Country Director appreciated the Korean government for its projects in Sri Lanka; funding worth $ 600,000 (Rs. 117 million) to procure maize for the production of “Thriposha” and for continuing the existing partnership to build resilience against recurrent natural shocks by rehabilitation of irrigation schemes in Moneragala, Matale, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Batticaloa districts.

Ambassador Santhush said the Republic of Korea is committed to jointly work with international organisations to achieve the sustainable development goals. The Korean government is working closely with the government of Sri Lanka to achieve our common goals in line with the national objectives through Korean government institutes such as Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA), Export-Import Bank of Korea (Eximbank) and Saemaul Globalization Foundation in Sri Lanka.

Siddiqui further assured that the World Food Program (WFP) is geared to achieve the targets set for 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the country director appreciated the concessional loan of USD 500 million provided by the Korean government under the Framework Arrangement of Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) which is timely as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all countries including Sri Lanka.

The World Food Program will stand in solidarity with the “Stay Strong Campaign”, the anti-COVID19 initiative launched by the Korean Embassy in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador further expressed his admiration towards the invaluable role The United Nations World Food Program plays in providing global food security and building resilience among vulnerable communities which contributed to the great achievement of becoming the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

The Ambassador also invited the Country Director to join the “#Live Together Campaign” which was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea with UNESCO, to raise awareness of and to end discrimination experienced globally during the pandemic.

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18 jumbos felled in Assam’s Nagaon district probably due to lightning

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By Utpal Parashar

Eighteen wild elephants have been killed, most probably due to lightning, in Assam’s Nagaon district, officials informed on Thursday.

“The incident took place at Bamuni area of Barhampur on Wednesday. Our officials got to know about it on Thursday. Teams of forest and veterinary officials are at the spot to take stock of the tragedy,” Nagaon, deputy commissioner Kavitha Padmanabham said.

The deaths took place in an area with small hillocks and forests. Officials suspect the elephants, which were part of a herd, were staying close to each other when lightning struck. While four bodies were found at the bottom of a hillock, 14 others were found at the top.

“Preliminary investigation of the spot suggests lightning could be the reason for the deaths. All the elephants killed were adults and sub-adults,” Vasanthan, divisional forest officer (Nagaon), said.

“We are trying to recover all the bodies and conduct post-mortems. The exact cause of the deaths would be known only after the results are out, most likely by Friday,” he added.

Wildlife experts confirmed that the incident was the single largest instance of deaths of wild elephants in one go. They also suspected that there could be other reasons as well for the deaths.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has expressed shock and anguish at the deaths of the elephants and directed forest and environment minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the spot immediately.

“A tragedy of such scale is unheard of in Assam. It is a big loss. While lightning has been suspected to be the cause, mass poisoning of the pachyderms shouldn’t be ruled out,” said Bibhab Talukdar, noted elephant expert and CEO of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based wildlife NGO.

“Assam has witnessed poisonings of wild elephants in the past, though not on such a large scale. I hope a thorough probe is done to know the exact cause behind the deaths,” he added.

According to a 2017 census, Assam (5719) has the second highest number of elephants in India after Karnataka (6049). Every year, several elephants are killed in man-animal conflict due to electrocution, poisonings etc. In 2019, the number of such deaths was nearly 80.

(Hindustan Times)

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