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Pompeo to ask China partner Sri Lanka to make ‘difficult’ choices

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will ask Sri Lanka to make “difficult” choices on its growing relationship with China amid criticism the island is sliding toward authoritarianism, an official said Thursday.

Pompeo plans to warn of risks surrounding China on a trip next week that will take him to Colombo as well as India, Maldives and Indonesia.

The trip will come days after Sri Lanka’s parliament voted to give sweeping new powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a move that the opposition decried as a step toward authoritarian rule.

The populist leader enjoys diplomatic and economic support from China, which lent billions of dollars for projects to Sri Lanka when his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president — including several white elephants that left the island with a mountain of debt.

Dean Thompson, the top US diplomat for South Asia, said Pompeo will raise with Sri Lanka “human rights, reconciliation and our common commitment to democracy.”

“We’re looking to frame a discussion with them about a more positive trajectory,” he told reporters.

“We encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development, in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices,” he said, in clear reference to China.

“We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity.”

Rajapaksa has also threatened to pull Sri Lanka out of the UN Human Rights Council if it keeps accusing Colombo of war crimes, including the killing of 40,000 civilians while crushing the brutal Tamil Tiger insurgency in 2009.

 

Under President Donald Trump, the United States has withdrawn from the UN body over what it says is a bias against ally Israel.

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, last year scrapped a previously planned trip to Sri Lanka that was meant to show solidarity after Islamist attacks killed 269 people on Easter Sunday.

Pompeo will be the first US secretary of state since Colin Powell in 2004 to visit Maldives, an archipelago which has also seen a spurt of interest from China, alarming US-friendly regional power India. (AFP)



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Another FR petition to push back presidential election

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“19A subject to a referendum”

By AJA Abeynayake

Another fundamental rights petition was filed before the Supreme Court on Friday (12) seeking an order to prevent holding of the Presidential Election as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution has not been properly passed in Parliament.

The petitioner, Attorney-at-Law Aruna Laksiri, in his petition argues that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was not properly passed in Parliament and therefore calls for a referendum to ensure its proper passage. He says that the 19A must be subjected to a referendum and holding a presidential election before that is a violation of the constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of Parliament and the Attorney General have been named as respondents.

The petitioner asserts that the 19th amendment strips the president of the power to dissolve parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision has to be approved by a referendum, before the constitution becomes law. The petitioner says the referendum was never held, thus 19A could not be considered a law.

He avers the Elections Commission is to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it was unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner asks the Supreme Court to issue a ruling stating that holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the president, was unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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Govt to start flora spatial mapping, eyes carbon credit trading

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Ruwan Wijewardene

By SHIHAR ANEEZ

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in the process of starting spatial mapping on all tree species in the island nation before going for carbon credit trading in the global market, Senior Presidential Advisor on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene said.

Sri Lanka has been in the process of carbon credit for more than a decade. Carbon credit is a way of compensating for emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

If Sri Lanka reduces its Carbon Dioxide emissions through efforts like reforestation and large number of renewable energy projects, they will help the country to earn money through carbon trading from some other higher Carbon Dioxide emitting nations as compensation.

“We are doing spatial data plan. We have just put the plan to cabinet. We are still waiting for approval,” Wijewardene, the Senior Advisor to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Climate Change, told EconomyNext in an interview on Friday (12).

“That is where we will map out whole of Sri Lanka’s every tree species, and what the carbon output of each tree species.”

“Then we have the knowledge of what our potential is in Sri Lanka. Then it will be much helpful when we go out to tap market for (Carbon) trading. The process will take two years.”

He said the aim is to earn money through conservation and projects protecting the environment.

The island nation is also in the process of drafting regulations to ensure the monetary benefits from a proposed 6,400 “Green Entrepreneurs” projects along Sri Lanka’s coastline, focusing on mangrove restoration and development.

“So, we can get youth in these areas while looking after mangroves they can see how they can generate some income through tourism and carbon credit,” Wijewardene said.

“Right now we are drawing up a framework – some kind of regulations how the carbon trading in the carbon market can trickle down to communities.”

He said Sri Lanka will have to go for certification from international agencies before it goes for carbon trading.

“The regulations we are trying is how the carbon trading money can be used by the communities and used in projects to conserve the environment.”

The government move to speed up carbon credit trading comes as it has planned to become carbon neutral or zero carbon emission by 2040 with a raft of large renewable energy projects.

The island nation has been adversely hit by the impacts of climate change leading to frequent floods and droughts across the country.

President Wickremesinghe at COP-28  in Dubai last year launched his ambitious plans on establishing an International Climate Change University, Tropical Belt Initiative (TBI) and Climate Justice Forum (CJF) in a move to gather all countries vulnerable to climate change under a common theme to bargain strongly with advanced countries to invest in their nations on green initiatives including wind and solar power projects.

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Wijeyadasa slates cops for enabling controversial video

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Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe found fault with police on Friday for releasing a video footage of the interrogation of a suspect arrested in connection with the recent shooting in Athurugiriya, in which businessman ‘Club Wasantha’ was killed.

Speaking in Parliament, the Minister said that in the video, the police were seen questioning a suspect in public and allowing media access. “This is a clear violation of the law. Under these circumstances, the services of the police officers involved in such interrogation must be suspended,” the Minister said.

He added that releasing such vital information to the media while investigations are in progress amounts to contempt of court.

“This is an obstruction of justice. Under the current circumstances, I do not believe that the judiciary can deliver justice. The police have already conducted their hearing for the whole country to see, and now they only need to issue the verdict. The judges have nothing more to do in this case,” he said.

Minister Rajapakshe emphasized that the actions of such police officials undermine public trust in the judicial system.

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