By Saman Indrajith
India had no moral right to ask for the full implementation of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament yesterday.
Participating in a debate at the time of adjournment of the House on foreign agreements of Sri Lanka, the Minister said that the amendment had been interpreted as an outcome of Indo-Lanka Accord, of which the role and commitment of India as a party to the agreement was in question because India did not fulfil its commitments.
“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked our Prime Minister to implement the 13th Amendment although the amendment is an internal affair of this country. When foreign governments adversely commented on India’s abrogation of Article 370 from its Constitution, accusing India of scrapping the special status given to people in troubled Jammu and Kashmir region there, our prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa when asked to comment said that it was an internal matter of India.”
“Knowing that the 13th Amendment is an internal matter of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Modi is asking for its implementation does not show the same reciprocation. Some interpret that PM Modi is asking so on the mandate of Indo-Lanka Accord. But the question is whether India has adhered to its own commitments specified in the Indo-Lanka Accord. The 13A is not even mentioned in the Accord. The Accord is something forced down on us by India.
“I have my reservations about the Accord. As per the agreement India is to enable the return of the Sinhalese and Muslims to vote. Thousands of Sinhala and Muslim Lankans are still unable to return.
“India also promised in the agreement to ensure within 48 hours cessation of violence and all arms of the terrorist groups in Lanka would be surrendered to authorities. We know that it had been done only as a token because the LTTE handed over few firearms but there were no cessation of hostilities. Even the Indian army, one of the largest armies in the world, had to withdraw after suffering heavy casualties at the hands of the LTTE.
“It was the Lankan forces under proper political leadership who defeated the LTTE. So, India did not fulfill her commitments in the agreement.
“It should also be asked whether the agreement was signed under duress, or whether contents of the agreement compromised Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. When our forces were about to crush the LTTE and capture LTTE leader Prabhakaran at Vadamarachchi, India violated our airspace and dropped food and medicine in Jaffna famously known as dhal dropping operation of India.
“Also it mentions Trincomalee Harbour and Oil Tank Farm. The Sri Lankan courts have nullified the merger of the northern and eastern provinces which was one of the clauses of the Accord.
“So, there is a serious concern about the validity of the agreement and if it is not valid, India has no moral right to interfere in our internal affairs.
“Let India be reminded that soon after its Independence there was a separatist movement by the Dravidians. EVR Periyar advocated Nazi style anti Brahmanism. That is why Jawahar Lal Nehru broke India into 28 linguistic states.
“Ambedkar expressed that ‘linguistic states and political entities will become a stepping stone for creation of separate states’. He further said that the road between an independent nationality and independent state is very narrow. If this happens, modern India will cease to exist.
“Here, we talk about devolution of power with the province as the unit with provisions for mergering two provinces.
“So India should be cognizant of the fact that granting self-determination to the North or the merged North and East could be utilised as a stepping stone for a Dravidistan or if not they could link up with Tamil Nadu. So Balkanization of Sri Lanka into provincial governments through 13 A will invariably affects the existing unity of India. The promoter will then become the victim.
In the North, Tamil account for 99% of the population. The LTTE resorted to ethnic cleansing and all Sinhala and Muslim people who lived in the North were either massacred or chased out. Now, the separatist politicians seek self-determination.
“That is why the experts say power should never be devolved on the basis of ethnicity. The 13 Amendment provides for ethnic enclaves. We know the devolution of power as opposed to decentralisation and result in the division of our nation.
“So, we do not believe in the devolution of power but of course in decentralisation up to the lowest levels. The centre must retain the power. Our culture of governance was centered with the ruling king. It has not fundamentally changed. Raja Bhavatu Dhammiko is the theme of governance by a virtuous ruler that we recognise, respect and expect.
“India and Sri Lanka have a very long history of friendship and we recognize the importance of nurturing that friendship.”
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
Top medical man in North threatens lockdown
Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area
20% of IDH patients need oxygen
By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita
Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.
“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”
He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.
Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.
One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.
On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.
Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.
Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.
PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.
“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.
Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.
All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.
Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.
Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.
Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.
President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”
The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.
“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”
Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.
“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”
Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.
“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”
CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.
Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.
“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said
About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.
“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”
Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.
“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”
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