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‘Save Sri Lanka’ launches online petition against govt. demanding int’l intervention

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The protest at Galle Face began on April 9 and continues around the clock without a foreseeable end date.

Text and picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA

An online petition, initiated by ‘Save Sri Lanka,’ to be forwarded to the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, attributes Sri Lanka’s present plight to bad economic decision making, poor fiscal planning and management as well as rampant corruption by politicians and government officials.

As stated in the petition, for the first time in its history, Sri Lanka has failed to honour debt repayment and declared bankruptcy.

In response to this crisis, the Sri Lankan government is currently negotiating to restructure existing foreign loans and seek additional IMF loans to address the country’s deficit in foreign reserves. Sri Lanka is asking its expatriates and the rest of the world to help it weather this storm. It also wants to attract more foreign tourists. All measures are aimed at increasing Sri Lanka’s foreign reserve.

“Save Sri Lanka’ says that if entrenched patterns of financial mismanagement and corruption continue as usual, this latest injection of foreign investment will not contribute to sustained economic growth; nor will it improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable sections of the population. In a corrupt and mismanaged economy, investors cannot expect adequate returns or security for their investments. Tourists will not feel safe to visit a country where there are doubts about the rule of law and protection of human rights.

“In recognition of these structural problems, a loud cry for political and economic reforms has emerged from across the country. Even now, there are ongoing nonpartisan and non-violent protests in many parts of Sri Lanka with the main protest taking place at Galle Face, Colombo. These protests demand the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister, who are largely responsible for the current crisis. The Galle Face protest, which began on 09 April 2022 is attended by hundreds of thousands of people from different political, racial, religious, and social backgrounds.

“In solidarity with these protests, and with the aim of preventing corruption, establishing the rule of law, and fostering a culture conducive for sustained economic growth and tourism in Sri Lanka, the signatories to the petition request the Sri Lankan Government to make the following changes with immediate effect:

“The current President and the Prime Minister must resign immediately allowing an interim administration to take over governance of the country

“The interim and future administrations should:

:Abolish the 20th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution

Reinstate the National Audit ACT, No. 19 of 2018

“Pass new laws in Parliament requiring politicians to declare assets prior to running for election and to be subjected to an audit of their asset and liability declaration at the end of their term in Parliament

“Pass new laws in Parliament requiring politicians and state officials to declare conflict of interests relating to any posts that they hold

“Reinstate the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary to hold politicians (ministers, prime minister, and the president) accountable for their decisions and actions

“Restructure current taxation laws to minimise indirect tax that burden the low-income groups more and enforce income-based tax policies

“Establish mechanisms to recover the country’s stolen assets and proceeds of corruption.”



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Two arrested for paying with forged currency notes

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

The Kopay Police have arrested a man wanted for distributing forged Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000 currency notes.The 27-year-old suspect was taken in on Wednesday (10) after he tendered forged five Rs 1,000 currency notes for goods purchased from shops in the vicinity of the Nallur kovil.

The arrest was made consequent to an arrest made by Kankesanthurai police. The suspect had paid with two Rs 5,000 notes at Ilawali and Thellipalai, police said.

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SLMC asks govt. to lift emergency, jettison Gnanasara report, review Easter attack probe

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Conditions for supporting all-party intitiative

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has set several conditions for its support for the proposed ‘National All-Party Programme’.

Among the SLMC’s demands are the immediate lifting of the emergency regulation, discontinuation of the ongoing wave of arrests, the jetitioning of reports commissioned by ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and review of investigations into 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.The SLMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket whereas one was elected under its own symbol. The SLMC parliamentary group comprises five MPs.

The following is the text of the letter dated Aug 10 SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem, MP and its general Secretary Nizam Kariapper addressed the meeting : “Reference your letter dated 29th July 2022, we welcome your efforts to initiate a broad dialogue regarding the above subject. We appreciate the re-introduction of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the proposal to reactivate and re-energise the Parliamentary Oversight Committees in order to fulfill the above objectives.

The High Command of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress wishes to place before you the following issues for which a positive response from you in order to create a conducive climate for us to discuss further co-operation to be extended:

1. To lift the State of Emergency and discontinue arrests and harassment targeting peaceful protesters and their leaders. Many of these arrests are unwarranted and would be inimical to the maintenance of normalcy causing further embarrassment to the government in the forthcoming sessions of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is also our contention that some of these arrests have raised concerns regarding the proper enforcement of the rule of law in the country and may act as a disincentive for investment inflows and impact tourist arrivals as well.

2. In keeping with your Statement made to Parliament during the ceremonial sittings in order to achieve the objective of a liberal, tolerant and secular nation, it is important that you make a clear commitment to jettison reports commissioned by the former President under the theme “One Country, One Law “headed by a radical cleric, known for his bigotry and prejudice. The minority communities have been disproportionately targeted by suggestions made for reform in their practices, belief systems and personal laws resulting in much consternation among Muslims in particular.

3. Similarly, the appointment of another Commission purportedly to safeguard archaeological sites in the Eastern Province, with no representation for any minority community, giving the impression that the archaeological sites in the Eastern Province are in danger of being destroyed or encroached upon illegally by the people living in those provinces, is seen as another futile exercise which has caused much heartburn among Muslims and Tamils. There are various government institutions including the Department of Archaeology having stringent laws at their disposal to ensure and protect any violation of the law. This was perceived by the Muslims and the Tamils living in the Eastern Province as a deliberate attempt at polarization of the communities by the previous administration. We will very much appreciate that you take appropriate steps to allay the fears and concerns that the appointment of this Commission and its mandate has created.

4. The probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the manner in which some of the cases connected have been pursued leaves much to be desired. We expect a proper review of the investigations conducted to ensure that justice is served to the aggrieved parties and unnecessary and unwarranted insinuations and action pursued against innocent people including former high ranking members of the Police Department who had unblemished service records. Concerns expressed by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and many others with regard to mishandled investigation and deliberate attempts at concealing or diverting evidence and failure to investigate certain incidents properly to shed light on other hidden factors. We, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress has thoroughly examined the Presidential Commission Report and evidence led before the Parliamentary Select Committee and are prepared to share our concerns with the investigators to clarify why certain leads had not been properly examined or investigated.

4. Postponed Provincial Council Elections and the local government elections to be conducted under the same proportional representation system as before.

4. While we welcome the upgrading of some local government bodies announced this week we would urge that Mutur PS, Koralaipatthu West PS and Sammanthurai PS be upgraded as urban councils. The recommendation made by the Pannambalana Commission regarding the Koralaipatthu Central DS Division be implemented without delay along with the creation of Thopur DS Division. The Kalmunai Muslim Division/ Kalmunai Tamil Division dispute should be resolved only after a proper re-demarcation of the GN divisions taking into consideration the concerns of both communities in consultation with accredited representatives of the people.

4. It is regretted to note that minorities are being ignored in appointments such as Secretaries to Ministries and other important civil service positions. We would urge you to rectify this anomaly.

4. Constitute a committee to examine petitions by thousands of affected farmers, evicted from lands occupied/cultivated by them, from many parts of the country including the northern and eastern provinces, due to actions initiated by the departments of forests and or wildlife based on gazettes and circulars issued after 2005 ignoring the fact that those plots have been cultivated over several years either owned by them or held under a valid LDO permit. This will assist greatly in your effort to promote cultivation of crops on all available land plots to meet the impending food shortages.”

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Julie, Tiran discuss govt’s response to protest movement

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BASL fires letter to police chief

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles yesterday (11) said that there was absolutely no issue with regard to the launch of peaceful political protests. “We haven’t interfered at all with such protests,” Minister Alles said. He however said law enforcement authorities have no option but to deal with violent situations accordingly.The SLPP National List MP said so when The Island sought his views on the current situation in the wake of US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung taking up issues relating to ongoing protests, police operations and related matters.

Having met Minister Alles at the Public Security Ministry on August 10, Ambassador Chung tweeted: “Good meeting with Security Minister Tiran Alles today. I reiterated that respect for rule of law and due process are at the heart of any secure democracy. Those basic tenets protect both citizens and their leaders, and ensure security for all.”

The meeting at the Public Security Ministry took place close on the heels of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) warning Inspector General of Police C.D Wickremaratne over the operations undertaken by law enforcement authorities targeting protesters.Minister Alles said the meeting had been very cordial. He warned that threats would be dealt with appropriately whereas peaceful protests were acceptable in any part of the country.

BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC, and BASL Secretary Isuru Balapatabendi in a letter dated 09 Aug urged the police chief to ensure his officers and men adhere to Sri Lanka’s international obligations as regards preventive enforced disappearances.Some lawyers have challenged the BASL stand on measures adopted by the government to control protests.

The Public Security Ministry Spokesperson said that the discussion covered several pertinent issues namely the pivotal importance of protecting human rights, duties and responsibilities of law enforcement authorities, ongoing political protest campaign and the need for the government and the NGOs to work together. The spokesperson said that the US Ambassador expressed satisfaction that contrary to claims incidents didn’t take place on August 09.

The following is the text of the BASL’s letter to the IGP: We draw your attention to complaints received by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) from its members relating to arrests and detentions being carried out without adherence to due process in a manner akin to abductions.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has received complaints from its members and the Colombo Magistrate’s Court Lawyers’ Association on the arrests of persons by police officers dressed in civilian clothing and without possessing any identification.

It is alleged that persons so arrested have been taken away in unidentifiable vehicles and kept for several hours at undisclosed locations. On these occasions no receipts of arrest have been issued nor an opportunity given to the persons arrested to inform relatives, friends or lawyers of their whereabouts. On these occasions they have been deprived of access to Attorneys-at-Law or the Human Rights Commission for a few hours.

In one such instance a suspect named Anthony Veranga Pushpika de Silva had been taken away by persons in civilian clothing and his whereabouts were unknown for six hours. He was eventually found by Attorneys-at-Law to be in police custody. In another instance a suspect named Mangala Maddumage had been taken into custody by two persons in civilian clothing and his whereabouts known only a few hours later. In a third instance a student studying at the Kelaniya University had been abducted and questioned for nearly three hours before being released.

We are also informed that on several occasions Attorneys-at-Law appearing for suspects were not properly informed or given misleading information on suspects in custody and on the time that they will be produced in Courts. These have resulted in them being deprived of legal representation and due process especially when they were produced at the residence of a Magistrate during late hours.

We draw your attention to some of the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Act, No. 5 of 2018. Section 15 of the said Act provides as follows:

15. (1) No person shall be held in secret detention.

(2) Any person deprived of liberty shall have the right to communicate with and be visited by his relatives, attorney-at-law or any other person of his choice, subject only to the conditions established by written law.

(3) Law enforcement authorities, and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, shall have access to the places where persons are deprived of liberty.

Section 16 of the said Act states as follows:

16. (1) Any relative of a person deprived of liberty, the representative of a person deprived of liberty or

an attorney-at-law of a person deprived of liberty shall have the right to access the following

information:-

(a) the person or authority that ordered the deprivation of liberty;

(b) the date, time and place where the person was deprived of liberty and admitted to the place of

deprivation of liberty;

(c) the authority responsible for supervising the deprivation of liberty;

(d) the whereabouts of the person deprived of liberty, including, in the event of a transfer to another place of deprivation of liberty, the destination and the authority responsible for the transfer;

(e) the date, time and place of release;

(f) information relating to the state of health of the person deprived of liberty; and It is therefore of utmost importance that police officers carrying out arrests identify themselves at the time of arrest and afford persons so arrested an immediate opportunity to communicate with their relatives, friends or their Attorneys-at-Law of their whereabouts. We request you to ensure that adequate access is given to Attorneys-at-Law and the relatives of such suspects without delay.

Given the numerous instances in the past of persons being subject to arbitrary arrests, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances and in consideration of Sri Lanka’s international obligations on preventing enforced disappearances, we call upon you as Head of the Police Department to immediately ensure that all arrests are carried out strictly according to procedures established by law and that instructions are given to all police officers in respect of the above.”

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