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SJB, SLFP decry members switching sides as nine ministers are sworn in

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question all-party tag, allege moves to bribe lawmakers

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmakers, Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara are among nine new Cabinet ministers sworn in yesterday (20).The swearing in ceremony took place at the President’s House as protests continued in front of the Presidential Secretariat demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa.Two of the strongest critics of President Rajapaksa’s handling of investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre, the former UNP lawmakers joined the government following talks with UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. UNP Leader and its National List member Wickremesinghe received the premiership on 12 May.

The SJB won 54 seats, including seven National Lists seats at the last general election.The SJB lawmakers visited Geneva in early March, 2022 at the beginning of the 49th session of the UNHRC, where Sri Lanka’s human rights record was strongly criticised. They had been also at the forefront of the SJB’s efforts to secure presidential pardon for ex-MP Ranjan Ramanayake, sentenced for contempt of court by the Supreme Court during the yahapalana administration.The other newly-appointed Cabinet ministers are Nimal Siripala de Silva (Ports, Shipping and Aviation), Susil Premjayantha (Education), Keheliya Rambukwella (Health), Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapkse, PC (Justice, Prisons, and Constitutional Reforms), Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (Plantations), Tiran Alles (Public Security) and Nalin Fernando (Trade, Commerce and Food Security). Except Tiran Alles who entered Parliament through the SLPP National List, others contested on the SLPP ticket.With the appointments made yesterday, the number of Cabinet ministers increased to 13. President Rajapaksa on May 14 swore in Prof. G.L. Peiris (Foreign Affairs), Dinesh Gunawardena (Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government), Kanchana Wijesekera (Power and Energy), and Prasanna Ranatunga (Urban Development and Housing). Except for MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena, the rest are SLPP members. But, Gunawardena, too, contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket while his son, Yadamini was accommodated on the SLPP National List.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and SLFP Senior President Prof. Rohana Lakshman yesterday told The Island that their parties were strongly opposed to their members accepting ministerial posts.Both said that they had assured President Rajapaksa and Premier Wickremesinghe of their support for government economic recovery efforts while being in the Opposition. Prof. Lakshman insisted that Nimal Siripala de Silva taking up ministerial portfolio was contrary to the understanding reached with the current dispensation.The SLFP won 14 seats, including one National List seat at the last general election.Of the 13 lawmakers sworn in as ministers, Tiran Alles and Nalin Fernando representing the SLPP entered the Cabinet for the first time.

Among those accommodated in the Cabinet was Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, who was overlooked by the SLPP when the appointment of the original 30-member cabinet in terms of the 19th Amendment took place. Since then Rajapakse has been campaigning for the abolition of the executive presidency and on more than one occasion flayed President Rajapaksa. The lawmaker, in January this year shot off a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping urging him to stop Chinese economic invasion of Sri Lanka. In a 45-point letter to the Chinese leader, the lawmaker alleged that most of the Chinese funded projects had been wasteful and large commissions paid to the corrupt politicians and officials to secure such projects.After the 2020 general election which the SLFP won comfortably securing a 2/3rd majority in Parliament, MP Rajapakse refused to accept the State Ministry for Education. Susil Premjayantha, who accepted that ministry was sacked last early January this year within 24 hours after he criticised the government’s handling of the economy.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem on Thursday (19) accused the government of bribing Opposition lawmakers in a bid to secure their support. MP Hakeem questioned the government strategy while alleging that the original plan was to swear in a Cabinet of 15. Subsequently, the government planned a Cabinet of 18 and then they increased it to 22 ministers.PM Wickremesinghe assured Parliament on Thursday that members of the new Cabinet would not be entitled to minsterial salaries and perks.The Finance Minister has not been appointed. Ali Sabry, PC, served as the Finance Minister briefly after the removal of Basil Rajapaksa. Government efforts to persuade SJB’s Dr. Harsha de Silva, who is an economist to accept the finance portfolio have failed.



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Cardinal appeals to Pope to solicit aid for Sri Lanka

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“Fix responsibility on those accountable”

by Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith says that the need of the hour is the initiation of a high profile investigation to find out how this country was dragged down to its present plight of being a beggar nation, fix responsibility for these crimes and find ways to recover the money stolen from the people.

“People have a right to know how the foreign reserves that had been at around seven to eight billion US dollars had dropped to zero within two years,” the Cardinal said at the Feast of the Sacred Heart Mass at the Ragama Hospital Chapel last week.

He asked how the gold stocks in the Central Bank had disappeared and why were they wasted wasted irresponsibly.

“The disappearance of the gold will have to be investigated someday. People need to know who wasted this money,” Cardinal Ranjith said.

He said the country’s reserves were down to zero.

“Doctors working in hospitals find it difficult to come to hospitals on time due to the fuel crisis. We are with the people in their grief,” he said.

The Cardinal appealed to the international community to assist in providing Sri Lanka with medicines and equipment for hospitals amid its economic crisis.

“We urge Pope Francis to request the international community to assist Sri Lanka,” he said.

“We need to support the children’s hospital in Borella and the cancer hospital in Maharagama, especially for medicines and equipment.”

“People suffer without fuel and essential goods because of mismanagement. Children can’t go to schools due to the fuel crisis”.

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Election win should trigger Scottish independence, says Sturgeon

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Scotland could become independent if the SNP won a majority of votes in a UK election, Nicola Sturgeon has said, according to a BBC dispatch.

It said: The first minister wants a referendum in 2023, and is pushing for the Supreme Court to rule on a bill to set this up.

If this does not happen, she has said the SNP would treat the next general election as a “de facto referendum”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was the government’s “longstanding position” that it was not the right time for another independence vote.

He said: “We will look carefully at what [Nicola Sturgeon] says. Don’t forget that the longstanding position is that we don’t think this is the right time to be doing a constitutional change.”

“I think our economy is all the stronger for being together,” he added.

Johnson continued: “This is a time really now to focus on things which the union can deliver for the economic benefit of everybody.”

In an interview with BBC Scotland, the first minister said: “Scotland can’t become independent without a majority of people voting for it”.

She said: “I hope we can resolve these things in a referendum, that is the proper way of doing it. But if all routes to that are blocked then the general election will become the vehicle for people to express their view.”

Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to be clear about the principle and the practical reality “that Scotland cannot become independent unless and until a majority of people in Scotland vote for independence”.

She added: “The issue of practical reality is that when a majority vote for independence, I hope in a referendum, that will have to be followed by a negotiation with a UK government to implement that decision.”

If there were to be a vote in favour of Scottish independence – whether that be via the referendum Ms Sturgeon wants, or a de facto referendum based on a general election result – it would be followed by negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments.

Then, legislation would have to be passed at Westminster and perhaps Holyrood before Scotland became independent.

Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that the UK Supreme Court had been asked to rule on whether the Scottish government has the power to hold an independence referendum without agreement from Westminster.

Ahead of the 2014 referendum, the UK government agreed to a temporary transfer of powers to Holyrood to allow the referendum to go ahead.

he idea of a “de facto referendum” is a radical one, given Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation for caution and the fact her team had previously dismissed it as a strategy.

It raises many questions about how such a scheme would work, which ministers now find themselves talking about rather than their main plan – to hold an actual referendum.

After all, the first minister’s hope is that the last resort will never be needed. Her wish is still to do a deal with the UK government which would see both sides sign up to an agreed process in the style of 2014.

Bold talk of using a general election instead is chiefly a tool to force the pro-UK side to take their fingers out of their ears and engage with the issue, rather than a finalised strategy to deliver independence.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon’s deputy John Swinney suggested that he considered a win to be the SNP winning the majority of seats contested in Scotland.

He was asked on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland: “If you have a majority of Scottish MPs at the next UK general election, that would be a mandate to start negotiations for an independent Scotland?”

He replied: “That’s correct, yes.”

But he went on to Tweet that he had “misheard” the question, and added that his view would be that the SNP would need to win a majority of votes in a general election, not a majority of seats.

He said when he was asked about a “majority of seats”, he had only picked up on “majority”.

Mr Swinney added: “Referenda, including de facto referenda at a UK general election, are won with a majority of votes. Nothing else.”

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said on Tuesday that another referendum was the “wrong priority for Scotland” and would hinder Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.

Scottish Labour’s constitution spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said the SNP were “hell-bent on gaming the electorate to suit their ends”.

She said it was “deeply embarrassing for Nicola Sturgeon to be so publicly contradicted… by her own deputy”.

The party has also asked for the Lord Advocate to make a statement to MSPs on Thursday to ascertain her views on whether the Scottish government had the power to hold a referendum without the UK government’s approval.

It was the Lord Advocate – as the Scottish government’s chief legal adviser – who was responsible for referring the matter to the Supreme Court.

A statement from Scottish Labour said it wanted the Lord Advocate to appear in the chamber to “shed some light on her views, decisions and role”.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said less than a day after Ms Sturgeon’s plan was unveiled that “the wheels are falling off the clown car”.

He went on: “They seem to have conceded that they are heading for a defeat in court and so they are brainstorming barmy schemes for what comes next.”

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Human Rights Council President appoints Radhika Coomaraswamy to serve on Ethiopia rights body

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GENEVA (28 June 2022) – The President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Federico Villegas (Argentina), announced today the appointment of Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka to serve as a member of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia. Ms. Coomaraswamy will join Kaari Betty Murungi of Kenya (chair) and Steven Ratner of the United States of America, who were appointed to serve on the human rights investigative body on 2 March 2022.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council created the Commission of Human Rights Experts on 17 December 2021 with a mandate to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in Ethiopia committed since 3 November 2020 by all parties to the conflict.

Today’s appointment comes after the resignation of Fatou Bensouda as a member of the three-person Commission on 8 June 2022, following her nomination to serve as The Gambia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Ms. Coomaraswamy brings to this position years of experience as a human rights lawyer, expert and advocate having served in various positions in her country and in the international arena. She has held several prior roles, including as a member of the Human Rights Council-created Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar from 2017 to 2019 and as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict from 2006 to 2012.

The Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia will deliver an oral report to the Human Rights Council on 30 June, which will be its first presentation to the Council. The Commission is scheduled to present a comprehensive written report to the human rights body in September and subsequently to the UN General Assembly session later this year.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, a lawyer by training and formerly the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, is an internationally known human rights advocate who has worked as the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (1994-2003) and as a Member of the Human Rights Council-mandated Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar from 2017 to 2019.  Additionally, she served as Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (2006-2012), for which she was charged with preparing the annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.  In 2014, Ms. Coomaraswamy was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as lead author on a Global Study on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.  She received her B.A. from Yale University, her J.D. from Columbia University, an LLM from Harvard University and honorary PhDs from Amherst College, the Katholieke Universities Leuven, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Essex and the CUNY School of Law.

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