By Shamindra Ferdinando
Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris during a three-day visit to Jaffna that ended up with a pow-wow with civil society activists at the Jaffna District Secretariat on Monday (31) repeatedly urged the Northern community to integrate with the South.
Twice Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris who is also the Chairman of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) emphasised the responsibility on the part of the government as well as all communities to achieve genuine post-war national reconciliation.
Jaffna District SLFP MP Angajan Ramanathan and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) heavyweight M.A. Sumanthiran, too, associated with the government’s latest initiative, ‘Access to Justice’ in Jaffna spearheaded by Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC.
Ministers Peiris, Douglas Devananda and Sabry launched the ‘Access to Justice’ project at the Jaffna Central College on Saturday (29) morning. The programme was meant to educate the northerners of the government initiatives, promote reconciliation and pay compensation to families of those who had been reported missing during the conflict.
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
Addressing a gathering at the Jaffna University soon after the event at the Jaffna Central College, Prof. Peiris explained the work undertaken by the Justice Ministry.
Prof. Peiris was flanked by Minister Sabry and Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University Professor Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah.
Minister Peiris pointed out that compensation amounting to Rs 100 mn had been so far paid through the Office for Reparations for missing persons’ families.
The Office for Reparations is one of the four mechanisms Sri Lanka promised to establish in terms of the 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1.The other mechanisms are Office on Missing Persons, Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel and Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence.
Recalling a visit to the Jaffna University during his tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and subsequent visits as a politician, Prof. Peiris urged the academics and the undergraduates therein to seek closer ties with the South.
Referring to the forthcoming sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), Prof. Peiris stressed that a section of the media had misinterpreted their visit to the North. Prof. Peiris stressed that their programme was not related whatsoever to the Geneva sessions
The next Geneva session is scheduled to commence later this month.
Prof. Peiris said that the failure on the part of the communities to resolve their differences was nothing but a national tragedy. The minister said that the communities had been sharply divided and engaged in disruptive strategies for decades.
Pointing out how the Jaffna University accommodated students from all communities, Prof. Peiris discussed how that environment could be used to encourage closer relationships among the people.
Before his meet with Jaffna-based civil society groups, Prof. Peiris addressed the media at the Jaffna Divisional Secretariat where the Foreign Minister focused on the allocation of a substantial amount of funding for northern development.
Referring to his visits to the South and Batticaloa, Prof. Peiris said that the government was keen to know about the needs and priorities of the people. The problems faced by those living in one province could be different from another region, Prof. Peiris said, explaining the efforts made by the government to meet high profile UN initiative-Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Declaring that he felt comfortable and didn’t experience hostility at all, the foreign minister said that the youth whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim wanted to do well in life. As their objectives were common, all communities could work together to achieve national objectives, Prof. Peiris said.
Responding to queries, Prof. Peiris explained ongoing efforts to secure assistance of friendly countries to overcome the financial crisis. Reference was also made to the ongoing talks with China to secure 1 mn tonnes of rice before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
Other issues addressed by Prof Peiris were the closure of the Palaly Airport at the height of Covid-19 and Indian fishers poaching in Sri Lankan territorial waters.
BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”
“Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.
“We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”
The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.
The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
Full text of the BASL letter to the President:
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.
Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.
The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.
We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.
The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.
The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.
SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution
By A.J.A. Abeynayake
A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.
The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.
The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.
A/L may be delayed by one month
Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.
Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.
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