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President appoints CoI to investigate entire gamut of HR probes and findings

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Amnesty dismisses it as eyewash

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed a three -member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate, inquire into, and report or take necessary actions on findings of preceding Commissions or Committees appointed to investigate into human rights violations, serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and other such offences.

The Extraordinary Gazette notification pertaining to this was issued on Thursday (21).Supreme Court Judge A. H. M. D. Nawaz has been appointed as the Chairman of the Commission. Retired Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando and retired District Secretary Nimal Abeysiri are the other members.

The Commission is entrusted with following responsibilities:

(a)Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences;

(b)Identify what are the findings of the said Commissions and Committees related to the serious violations of human rights, serious violations of international humanitarian laws and other such offences and whether recommendations have been made on how to deal with the said facts;

(c)Manner in which those recommendations have been implemented so far in terms of the existing law and what steps need to be taken to implement those recommendations further in line with the present Government policy;

(d)Overseen of whether action is being taken according to (b) and (c) above

The Commission has the authority to make required inquiries and investigations and to present interim reports where it is necessary to the President. All Government officials have been directed to provide required assistance and information when requested by the Commission.

The final report of the Commission should be handed over to the President within six months since the date of the appointment of the Commission.

The background to the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry is given in the Gazette. The decision taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw from co-sponsorship of 40/1 Resolution on Reconciliation, Accountability and Promotion of Human Rights Sri Lanka and its preceding resolutions 30/1 and 41/4 was announced at the 43rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions, the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation. The Government is also committed to ensure that other issues remain will be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.

The Government identifies as a fundamental requirement to pursue a non-aligned foreign policy that protects the sovereignty of Sri Lanka in achieving the objectives stated in the Government Policy Statement.

Since the Commissions and Committees that have been appointed to investigate alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian laws and have made recommendations, the 3-member Commission is entrusted with the task of investigating them and making recommendations on necessary actions to be taken.

Amnesty International South Asia (AISA) claimed the Sri Lanka has a long history of CoIs that have repeatedly failed to deliver justice and reconciliation for victims of Human Rights violations. Findings of past commissions have not led to any prosecutions of those responsible for atrocities, AISA said commenting on the PCoI.

AISA said that OHCHR investigations have revealed how these repeated failures have led to skepticism, anger and mistrust on the part of the victims.

“In her update to the UNHRC in February 2020, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights made clear her skepticism that the appointment of “yet another Commission of Inquiry” could advance accountability for past violations, noting the “systemic barriers that continue to exist within the criminal justice system remain an impediment to real justice” at the national level. Amnesty calls on the UNHRC to launch a new process or mechanism to pursue the objectives of resolution 30/1: to end the cycle of impunity and advance accountability for international crimes with a view to deterring future violations, particularly against minority communities and civil society groups. Central to the new approach must be continued monitoring and reporting on the situation, as well as the collection, analysis, and preservation of evidence for future prosecutions.”

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query

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SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign

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The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.

 

 

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