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Tamil diaspora groups in Britain pressing for new resolution against SL

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At forthcoming UNHRC sessions in Geneva

By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

Politicians in Western countries backed by Tamil diaspora groups are exerting pressure on their respective governments to adopt a tougher line on Sri Lanka by introducing a new resolution on alleged human rights violations, at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions scheduled to be held in Geneva from February 22 to March 19, political observers in London warned.

The Tamil diaspora in other parts of Europe could possibly team up to pressure their governments to pursue this line of action for a firmer stand on Sri Lanka through a new resolution, they further cautioned.

“The Sri Lankan government should be well prepared to counter the possible new human rights allegations at the sessions”, they said in the backdrop of Siobhain McDonagh, Labour member of parliament for Mitcham and Morden urging the British government to bring a resolution that would maintain human rights monitoring by the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Speaking during the last week’s Global Britain Debate in the British parliament, she asked the UK government to use the UNHRC sessions to introduce a resolution that would mandate a mechanism to gather, preserve and analyze evidence for future investigations and prosecutions that build on the work of previous UN investigators.

She said the resolution should call upon the office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on options for international action for the promotion and protection of human rights, justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.

“The measure of success for global Britain comes not just in rhetoric but in the actions that we take on the international stage particularly in the face of international injustices. So, I use my time today to draw the minister’s attention to the situation in Sri Lanka and particularly to the vital upcoming UN Human Rights Council meeting”, she noted.

McDonagh said the challenges in Sri Lanka are well documented with its president and his brother, the prime minister, facing accusations of crimes against humanity for their role in killing thousands of their own people, Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war. They have placed their closest allies in senior government positions including military commanders accused of war crimes and politicians accused of corruption, violence and common criminality.

“I received thousands of emails from shocked and frightened members of the Tamil community following the destruction of the Mullavaikkal Tamil genocide memorial monument at the Jaffna University. It was an act that completely undermined the process of Truth, Justice and Accountability that would set Sri Lanka on a path to lasting peace”, she continued.

She further said: “It’s how the UK responds to the ongoing injustices in Sri Lanka and in support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law that would speak volumes for our leadership role on the international stage. The 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council will take place in March. So, I ask the minister what preparations the government is making to ensure a new resolution is agreed on this issue?

“A resolution that would maintain human rights monitoring by the office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a resolution that would mandate a mechanism to gather, preserve and analyze evidence for future investigations and prosecutions that build on the work on previous UN investigators and a resolution that would call upon the office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on options for international action for the promotion and protection of human rights, justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.

“I urge the minister in the strongest terms to ensure that we use the unique opportunity that March provides to continue the global leadership we have previously demonstrated on this issue and show on the international stage that we are truly global Britain.

“While British parliamentarians put pressure on their government to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka at the upcoming UNHRC session, parliamentarians in Canada too are saying that the Sri Lankan army committed genocide. Canadian education minister Stephen Lecce, parliamentarians Natalia Kusendova, Kaleed Rasheed, Paul Calandra, Gurratan Singh, Doley Begum, Suze Morrison, Rima Berns-Mcgown and Mitzie Hunter said the perpetrators should be held accountable for the crimes committed and the Tamil survivors of the war deserve justice”.



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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill

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… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.

 

 

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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander

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An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”

 

 

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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period

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Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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