Speaking in the House of Lords last week, Lord Naseby unequivocally declared there had been no genocide here. But in a short response, Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for South Asia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reiterated that the UK “stands by the strength of the resolution passed at the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka.”
Ahamed also indicated that his planned visit to Sri Lanka had been canceled due to the national Covid lockdown.
“I am engaging directly with the Sri Lankan government”, he said in response to Naseby in the Queen’s Speech debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday.
Naseby, identified as a strong friend of Sri Lanka in the British Parliament, said in his speech that he was focusing specifically on Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt. He said he had lived and worked in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and he knows the rest of ASEAN quite well.
He concluded his speech dealing with current British Sri Lanka policy by asking: “”It (SL) will be forced back to rely on China, thereby threatening the sea lanes and the dissident Tamils setting up an independent state. Is this really a way to say thank you to a country whose people helped us in two world wars and whose Government accepted and helped our Government over the Falklands vote in the United Nations?”
Declaring an interest as joint chair of the All-Party Group on Sri Lanka, he said:
“Today in Sri Lanka, there is huge tension over the UNHCR’s report on alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan armed forces, and the UK in its role as chair of the Core Group — the USA having pulled out, as it sees no point in it. The war of 2009 was not some minor insurrection, so judgment must be made on the basis of the law of armed conflict, known as the international humanitarian law”.
It was a war between a democratically elected Government and probably the world’s most evil terrorists, who killed two presidents, Ministers, civilians in their thousands and the most moderate Tamil leaders. It was a war partially conducted from Camden in London, at the Tamil Tigers’ international HQ, led by Anton Balasingham—a UK citizen. Millions were raised illegally here on the ground in this country. His wife, Adele, was fighting in Sri Lanka and was closely involved in recruiting over 5,000 child soldiers, as stated by UNICEF. This is a war crime by any yardstick, he noted.
Continuing his speech, Lord Naseby further said: “Charges by the UN start with the Darusman report, from three human rights lawyers who never visited Sri Lanka. Worse still, they claimed that at least 40,000 civilians were killed. But all the sources of evidence are to be hidden for 20 years. Is this robust evidence? Why the secrecy?”The second UN report, from OISL, is largely based on the first, Darusman. I spent three years looking at all the sources, which I have listed in my book, Sri Lanka: Paradise Lost; Paradise Regained. I have given a copy to my noble friend; I do not know whether he has received it, because he has not yet told me. The claim is of Tamil genocide, but my firm conclusion is that there were a maximum of 6,000 to 7,000 deaths.
“My evidence is verified—there was no genocide. My evidence comes from sources such as US Ambassador Blake, the UN in-country team, the census done after the war by the Tamils, University Teachers for Human Rights, the UK’s own expert military attaché in the field and many others, all of whom confirm the figure of 6,000 to 7,000. But just recently, Her Majesty’s Government stated in a letter sent to me from the MoD on 25 March, and in another from the FCO, that”despatches written by Lieutenant Colonel Gash … reported on isolated information … from a number of different sources … without offering any independent verification of this information. As such, they cannot be considered an evidenced-based assessment”.”One wonders why in heaven the dispatches I have—48 pages of what has been produced—are so heavily redacted if they are so useless. In my judgment, that redaction should be removed forthwith.”It is wonderful—not only is our military attaché cast aside and my evidence seemingly cast aside but it goes on. I say to my noble friend: read the Paranagama commission report, which had some of the UK’s finest human rights lawyers as advisers—namely Sir Desmond de Silva, Sir Geoffrey Nice and others. Their eminent view on Darusman was that it was of no value to a court seeking to establish the truth because the reports are based on anonymous sources.
“There are others on top of this; there is the US military attaché. All report that the Sri Lankan army behaved appropriately under the leadership of General Shavendra Silva. OISL’s view on the camp of 200,000 was that it was a quasi-concentration camp. How so, when the Red Cross was there from day one? Additionally, the Tamil MPs who visited it said a huge thank you to the Sri Lankan Government for the way the Tamils were looked after.”I turn briefly to the way forward. Truth and reconciliation are a huge challenge, but the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury visited in 2019 and said that Sri Lanka was making real progress. Our colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, says from the Legatum Institute that Sri Lanka has done extremely well over the last decade. I urge the Minister to work with Sri Lanka on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the Paranagama report to establish a truth and reconciliation committee. If the UK chooses to dictate, then let me be clear: there is a clear risk to our Indo-Pacific strategy on Sri Lanka.
Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border
BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.
The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.
The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.
Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.
A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.
Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.
Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.
They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.
13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals
Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.
President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.
Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.
Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.
Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.
President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.
“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.
The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.
“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.
Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.
MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.
Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02 in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.
The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.
Gas prices up
State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.
Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.
Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border
Protesters among prisoners pardoned by Iran leader
Weekend avalanches kill 10 in Austria and Switzerland
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
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