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Now, SJB lawmaker accused of being a UK citizen



EC Chairman denies allegations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya has denied accusations that controversial SJB National List lawmaker Diana Gamage is a dual citizen, and therefore not eligible to be a member of parliament.

Responding to a spate of allegations, the EC Chairman has said that both the Registrar of Persons and the Immigration and Emigration Department confirmed she was born at Kalubowila in 1965 and carried a Sri Lankan passport and not registered as a dual citizen.

In terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in early 2015, dual citizens are not eligible to contest either parliamentary or presidential elections.

Defeated UNP Colombo District candidate at the recently concluded general election Oshala Herath yesterday told The Island that the public really appreciated the EC Chairman responding to him personally after he raised the issue on the social media.

Herath alleged that lawmaker Diana Gamage at the time she took oaths as an MP held British citizenship. One-time aide to President Maithripala Sirisena acknowledged she may have not probably sought dual citizenship and, therefore, was a British citizen in Sri Lanka Parliament.

Herath said that he had received an assurance from Deshapriya a copy of Diana Gamage’s National identity Card handed over to the EC along with the Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s National List proved she was a Sri Lanka. Herath however said that UK trade information provider ‘Companies House’ recognised the new MP as a British national.

Responding to criticism against him on social media, Deshapriya emphasised that it wouldn’t be fair to criticise him as he wasn’t the EC. Deshapriya suggested whatever inquiries and complaints should be directed to the EC.

The EC comprises three members. In addition to Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera PC constitute the EC.

Diana Gamage was among eight Opposition MPs who voted for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution last Thursday (22) in violation of a decision taken by the SJB to oppose the Bill. She also voted for the clause that permitted dual citizens to enter Parliament.

Diana Gamage held the post of Secretary of Ape Jathika Peramuna, a political party recognised by the Election department/Election Commission before dissident UNP group led by Sajith Premadasa took over that party in the run-up to last the parliamentary election. Premadasa re-registered Ape Jathika Peramuna as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya under controversial circumstances, according to a complaint lodged by Herath with the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption).

In terms of the agreement between the two parties to the agreement, Diana Gamage received one of the seven National List slots secured by the SJB.

In the previous parliament, Galle District MP Geetha Kumarasinghe lost her seat following the Supreme Court ruling that she had been a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and Switzerland at the time of her election.

Herath said that he would complain to police headquarters later this week about the dual citizenship issue.

SLPP MPs including Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila are on record as having said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assured them the prohibition on dual citizens will be re-imposed when his government brings in a new Constitution.



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Scotland Police to stop training Lankan cops



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



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



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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