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SJB urges Speaker to restore TNA MP Sumanthiran’s security

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by Saman Indrajith

The main opposition SJB in Parliament called on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to intervene in restoring the security detail given to TNA Jaffna district MP, M. A. Sumanthiran.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that Sumanthiran’s life has been exposed to danger and his security should be restored without further delay.

“We know the outcome of removing the security of political leaders who were under threat. When Janaka Perera contested for the Chief Minister post of the North Central Province, his security detail was removed. There was only one bodyguard left with him on the day he was killed. That was a very unfortunate incident. We have lost many good Tamil political leaders. It is our duty to protect the minorities and we call on the Speaker to take action to restore MP Sumanthiran’s security”, he said.

MP Kiriella said that an MP’s security should not be removed just because he participates in a protest march. “When Mahinda Rajapaksa took part in the Pada Yathra, his security was not removed. The then President Ranasinghe Premadasa ensured his security. That is political morality,” the chief opposition whip said.

Gampaha District SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said that it was wrong to say a court order had been taken against the protest march. “As far as we know, the court order had been taken against violating quarantine laws. You cannot remove the security of an MP on the charge of violating quarantine laws”.

He further said: “It is wrong to describe the attempt to restore Sumanthiran’s security as an attempt to give security to a terrorist. Then what about the security given to Karuna Amman and Pillaiyan? Who is Pillayan? He used to come to my office on all-fours. Now look at how he stands up amidst his bodyguard soldiers. Sumanthiran was always against terrorism. It is unfair to rank him among terrorists”.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: Sumanthiran was given a special security detail due to threats on his life. It has been removed now. However, the threats continue. I therefore request the Speaker to intervene in this matter to restore the MP’s security.

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Sarath Weerasekera: I removed Sumanthiran’s security as he participated in protests despite police warnings and court orders. We cannot give police protection to a person who attends unauthorized protests which are illegal. On the other hand, if Sumanthiran has real threats against his life, he should not go to places where 2,000-2,500 persons had gathered. He did that.

“Even after doing that, he is still alive. This means he has no threat to his life. So we have been right in removing his security. I informed him that it was a joke to provide police or STF security to persons who take part in illegal events. He did so against court orders.”

Sumanthiran said in Parliament the previous day that the government should take responsibility if anything should happen to him. The STF security of the MP was withdrawn immediately after his participation in the five-day Pottuvil to Polikandy march by Tamil political parties, civil society activists, and people from the North and East, he said. 

The MP said that removal of his security would send a signal to those who wanted to harm him that they could go ahead. Therefore, if anything should happen, the government must take the responsibility for it.



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Geneva HR vote:

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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

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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

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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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