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Sabry says those with vested interests distort his statements



by Saman Indrajith

Justice Minister Ali Sabry yesterday said a group with vested interests had distorted his speeches to tarnish his image.

 “They take sentences in my speech out of context and level various accusations against me. I am accused of things that I have not said and not even intended to say,” the Minister said in a brief interview with The Island.

 “I actually have no time to respond to these allegations because it would deprive me of my time that I need to attend to my work. But since you asked about these sustained malicious attacks, I respond that I have seen recently that whatever I say get misinterpreted in other forums. For example recently in Parliament there was a question posted to me.

It asked whether I understand that article 12(1) of the Constitution required that all laws should apply to everyone equally in this country. Then I was asked whether I agree that Article 16 of the same Constitution was preventing that previous law taking into effect. The Article 16 has been included in the constitution allowing for the functioning of special laws that prevailed in the country when that constitution was promulgated. When that constitution came in there were special laws for particular communities and for particular subjects.

“In my response I said that there are a number of such special laws. I said that they cannot remove Article 16 from the Constitution because all personal and special laws will collapse. There is Theswalamai law, there are Upcountry laws and there are Muslim laws. I also pointed out that if that Article 16 is taken out of the constitution all such personal laws will be abolished including the Buddhist Temporalities Act. I also said not to do that and it could not be done. Soon after that my speech was misinterpreted and I was accused of speaking to remove the Buddhist Temporalities Act. I never said so. That is not even intended, never said and in reality one could not do away with it anyway because this is a Buddhist country.”

President’s Counsel Sabry said: “I can’t remove the laws that I like or dislike just because I am the Justice Minister. I have no such powers. There is a whole process. It has to go to the cabinet and get its approval, thereafter it has to go to the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Legal Draftsman has to send it to the Attorney General. The Attorney General if he thinks that it could become law has to send it to the Cabinet again. If the cabinet approves it again then it has to be published in the gazette. Then that has to come before parliament as a draft bill. It is read and debated twice. In parliament it has to be passed by majority of votes. 

“I single-handedly cannot amend existing laws or bring in new laws. These accusations have got the support of ignorant people who do not know about that process. This would not have happened if they look into the teachings of the Buddha in the Kalama Sutra of the Tripitaka which instructs one not to accept anything merely because somebody says so but to use one’s brain and find out what is correct and what is not.

“If we follow Kalama Sutra in this country, most of those mishaps and effects of miscommunication could be avoided. We must follow the Kalama Sutta in spirit and in law. I am not talking of Buddhism but of Buddhist values which state that hatred never ceases by hatred but by love.  And there is the Buddhist value- wishing may all beings be happy,  may all beings be well, may all beings be relieved of pain and attain liberation. That means all kinds of people including the animals should get liberated. It is time that we question ourselves whether we live by those values. And the Buddha has also said that somebody would never become an outcaste or Brahamana by birth, but by conduct.

“These are the values that I have been brought up. I may be a Muslim but I am a Sri Lankan. I studied in the Sinhala medium from Grade One. Those values are inculcated in me and my sub conscience through the readings, through the society, through the speeches. I am inspired by those values not by these hegemonic values. Beautiful values of the Buddha are part of my life. I do not hate anyone, I do not think I am superior to anyone else.”



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Geneva HR vote:



UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative



by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award



Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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