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Palihakkara finds fault with High Posts Committee



Top diplomatic appointment: Italian response awaited

By Shamindra Ferdinando

European Union member, Italy, is yet to accept former Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sumangala Dias as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Rome. In response to The Island query regarding the delay in finalising the posting, the Public Diplomacy Division said that as per information received from the Sri Lanka Mission in Rome, the matter was currently being processed.

The High Posts Committee of Parliament chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena recently cleared the former Air Chief’s appointment as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Rome in the wake of Canadian refusal to accept Air Marshal Dias on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. The top post remains vacant in Ottawa.

Air Marshal Dias served as the 17th Commander of the Air Force from May 2019 to Nov 2020.

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake on April 23 announced Air Marshal Dias had been given all party parliamentary committee approval to take over the Rome mission. War winning Army Chief Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, too, serves in the parliamentary High Posts Committee.

The US, Canada and EU countries have taken a tough stand in respect of totally unsubstantiated war crimes allegations which are not even being examined in a court of law.

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told The Island that those who had served the country risking their lives during the conflict were being harassed by a section of the international community. Bogollagama referred to the US imposing travel restrictions on Army Chief General Shavendra Silva and Australia refusing visa to Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage (he hadn’t retired at that time) as instances of extremely unfair judgments based on baseless hearsay accusations.

Meanwhile, one-time Foreign Secretary H.M.G.S. Palihakkara emphasised that the Parliamentary High Posts Committee should be cautious in choosing heads of missions. The veteran diplomat who had served as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in New York however claimed that irreparable damage had been caused to the Foreign Service by clearing all top diplomatic appointments. Palihakkara said so in response to a query raised by The Island on a discussion organized by NMSJ (National Movement for Social Justice) to discuss the current status of the once proud service. The Island sought an explanation from the panel regarding parliamentary High Posts Committee chaired by successive Speakers, including Karu Jayasuriya, who now heads the NMSJ clearing all diplomatic appointments.

Foreign Service officer Sumith Nakandala and lecturer Kulani Wijebahu joined the discussion moderated by Prof. Rohan Samarajeewa.

Palihakkara suggested that parliamentary High Posts Committees should reject an applicant once in a way. The Island pointed out whichever political party in power, the body headed by the Speaker had been always used to facilitate political appointments and the incumbent government, too, was no exception. Palihakkara cited ruination caused by political interference while commending the efforts taken during Lakshman Kadirgamar’s tenure as the Foreign Minister to have some sort of balance as regards appointments shared by the Foreign Service and political appointees.

Palihakkara said that the country had to pay a huge price for the failure on the part of political parties to reach consensus on the LLRC (lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) recommendations meant to address the whole gamut of issues, including accountability. Palihakkara, who served as a member of that Commission, alleged that political parties neglected the LLRC report. Had they succeeded in achieving consensus, the ground situation would have been different today, the one-time Northern Province Governor said.

Palihakkara explained how the parliamentary Consultative Committee on Foreign Affairs could facilitate a bipartisan approach in matters of crucial national importance. The much respected former diplomat recalled how that particular Committee functioned during Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s tenure as the Prime Minister and in what way the mechanism could be used for Sri Lanka’s benefit.




Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused



By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.



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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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