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Security threat to India is threat to Lanka: Envoy Moragoda

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Any security threat to India is also a security threat to Sri Lanka, Lankan High Commissioner Milinda Moragoda told Times Of India as he sought to reassure the Indian government that in line with their bilateral agreement and understanding, the island nation won’t allow its ports to be used by a foreign country in any manner that is prejudicial to India’s interests.

Describing India as the key to “sustainable” economic recovery of debtridden Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner said that the strategically located country is exploring with India trilateral cooperation opportunities with Japan, Israel and UAE.

According to Moragoda, Sri Lanka wants economic integration with India which, he said, will allow the country to expand its existing economic model and ensure quicker recovery from the debt crisis it’s facing. Asked about the recent controversy over the docking of a Chinese “spy vessel” at the Hambantota port, Moragoda said Sri Lanka is in talks with India to finalise a mechanism that would allow the two countries to address such issues.

“If we can hitch on to India, when you move we can move too. Geopolitical issues, in my view, will get resolved on their own once this economic integration with India takes place. Of course, till then we need to have dialogue, develop understanding and ensure we don’t cross the red lines,” said Moragoda.

“Our security concerns are totally in line. The basic principle is that we believe what is a security threat to India is also a security threat to us and we assume India also thinks the same,” he added.

While the supply of essential commodities in Sri Lanka has improved, the country is grappling with food inflation which has reached 80 per cent. Sri Lanka is currently having debt-restructuring talks with India, which has provided assistance worth $ 3.8 billion to the country this year, China and the Paris Club creditors. The talks, which are important for Lanka to access an IMF bailout package, are reported to have been impeded by India-China rivalry for influence in Sri Lanka. “The package may not be huge but a certificate of good economic engagement from the IMF is important. It will encourage investment, and also exports. I don’t think it (India-China rivalry) has affected the talks but it’s a fact that politics in our region has entered a dangerous phase. There’s no question that geopolitics has a bearing on every aspect of what we do,” he said.

Sri Lanka believes that trilateral cooperation will help expedite its economic recovery by attracting more investments. “President Wickremesinghe discussed trilateral cooperation with India and Japan during his visit to Tokyo. Renewables, petroleum, telecom and ports are four sectors where India, Sri Lanka and Japan can work together,” said Moragoda, adding discussions are also on with Israel for trilateral cooperation in agriculture. The UAE is another country Sri Lanka is hoping to attract investments from, through trilateral cooperation, involving India.

While India has said at the UN Human Rights Council that Sri Lanka hasn’t done enough to fulfil its commitments on the Tamil issue under the 13 th Constitutional Amendment, Moragoda said there was nothing new in what the Indian government had said. “The nuance may have changed but India has been very consistent on the substance part of it. Politically, Sri Lanka is in a transition phase and there is a need to renegotiate the social and political compact in the country. Sri Lanka is a complex country with many religions and ethnicities. This issue (13 th Amendment) also falls under the same category. We have to work out a new compact,” he said.

Moragoda added Lanka is looking to intensify cooperation with India in areas like tourism, electricity, petroleum and connectivity. “Sustainable recovery is important and we would like to look at ways we can integrate with the Indian economy. Had we integrated with the Indian economy earlier, we would have grown very, very fast,” he said.



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Full implementation of 13A: NFF vows to torpedo Ranil’s move, asks Dinesh, Mahinda to disclose their stance

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent member of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya (NJS), has declared that it would oppose President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The patriotic people were ready to defeat such plans, even at the expense of their lives, the party has vowed.

The breakaway JVP faction consists of six MPs, including former minister Wimal Weerawansa. The NJS is contesting the Local Government polls, scheduled for March 09, under the ‘Helicopter’ symbol.

NFF spokesperson, MP Jayantha Samaraweera, on Monday (30), told the media that his party was ready to lead a campaign against the UNP leader’s move to do away with constitutional safeguards meant to ensure Sri Lanka’s unitary status. The Lawmaker addressed the media at the NFF main office, at Pitakotte.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the controversial constitutional amendment at the Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15, President Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to the Eelam project during the party leaders’ meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, the former State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera asked Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had flanked President Wickremesinghe, at the party leaders’ meeting, to disclose their stand on 13th Amendment.

The Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, consisting of NFF, Democratic Left Front, Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya, Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya, Vijayadharani Jathika Sabhawa, Yuthukama, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, Jana Jaya Peramuna, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and Nidahas Janatha Peramuna, has yet to disclose its position on this issue.

MP Samaraweera attacked the President, close on the heels of NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also the Chairman of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), questioning the legitimacy of the move. Lawmaker Weerawansa addressed this issue at a meeting held at the BMICH, on January 26, to discuss ways and means to thwart the move to privatize the CEB.

The ULS consisting of seven political parties, and groups, is aligned with the NJS.

Referring to the circumstances UNP leader Wickremesinghe re-entered Parliament, through the National List, nearly a year after the last General Election, former Minister Weerawansa emphasized the President didn’t have a mandate to fully implement the 13th Amendment. How could the UNP leader abolish Sri Lanka’s unitary status, having received an opportunity to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remainder of five-year term, won at the Nov. 2019 Presidential Election.

The MP challenged their erstwhile comrades, in the JVP, to state their position on the 13th Amendment. Alleging that the JVP had been conveniently silent on the issue at hand, MP Samaraweera asked whether the current leadership would take up Wickremesinghe’s challenge.

In addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera, Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, has declared opposition to the President’s move, at the party leaders’ meeting.

Of the SLPP parliamentary group, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is the only MP to publicly oppose Wickremesinghe’s proposal.

Political sources said that the NJS, as a group contesting the forthcoming LG polls, was yet to deliberate this issue and take a stand. They said that consensus was required without further delay as the President’s proposal would be a major issue at the forthcoming election.

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PHU, too, opposes land, police powers to PCs

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A lawyers’ group, aligned with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), yesterday (31) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t unilaterally decide on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Attorneys-at-Law Pasan Gunasekera and Bhupathi Kahathuduwa, in a statement issued, explained why police and land powers, in terms of the controversial amendment, shouldn’t be granted to Provincial Councils. Abolition of current constitutional safeguard would undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status thereby paved the way for a new conflict.

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Bangladesh FM to deliver LK memorial lecture

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, will deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture at Block 3, Jasmine Hall, BMICH, on February 03, at 6 pm.

The LTTE assassinated the then Foreign Minister, Kadirgamar, on Aug. 12, 2005.

FM Momen will deliver the annual lecture on the invitation of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

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