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UK bid to hide Gash reports challenged in House of Lords



… UNHRC avoids query whether new probe unit can seek those dispatches from Colombo

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Following the UK’s refusal to accede to Sri Lanka’s recent request for disclosing British wartime defence attaché Lt. Col. Gash’s dispatches from Colombo, Conservative member Lord Naseby has sought an explanation as regards the procedures followed by the Defence attachés in gathering and submitting information to Her Majesty’s Government.

Authoritative Sri Lankan government sources told The Island that the UK in spite of being a member of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had taken extraordinary steps to keep Gash dispatches under wraps.

Sources appreciated Lord Naseby’s efforts to unravel the truth in the face of a new high-profile inquiry initiated by the UNHRC.

In response to Sri Lanka’s request made in early March, the UK faulted Gash for not obtaining independent confirmation of reports he had sent to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) during the final phase of the Vanni offensive, only after Sri Lanka sought their release!

Sri Lankan government sources pointed out that the UK never questioned the legitimacy of its defence attaché during the conflict till over a decade after the end of the war.

The following are the questions tabled by Lord Naseby at House of Lords recently: (i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what criteria they used to assess the credibility of evidence reports they have received which related to the situation in Sri Lanka during the civil war in that country between 1 January and 18 May 2009; and whether it has ever been their practice to accept reports from unnamed sources (ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the information contained in dispatches written by UK defence attachés must be independently verified before submission; if so, whether it is standard practice to ensure that such attachés are briefed to that effect; and if so, what record, if any, they hold of Lieutenant Colonel Gash, being so briefed (iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what sources they used to inform their assessment of the situation in Sri Lanka during the civil war in that country between 1 January and 18 May 2009 and finally (iv) To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the dispatches written by Lieutenant Colonel Gash, the former defence attaché of the British High Commission in Sri Lanka about events in that country between 1 January and 18 May 2009 relating to the civil war, whether they consider all reports by UK military attachés and diplomats to be evidence based-assessments.

At the recently concluded 46th session of the UNHRC, the UK in its capacity as Sri Lanka Co-Chair led the offensive for the setting up of special unit at a cost of USD 2.8 mn to probe Sri Lanka accountability issues.

Sri Lanka requested the UK to handover Gash dispatches to the UNHRC in the wake of the proposal to set up a special unit to ‘collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve information and evidence’ in respect of Sri Lanka. The unit is also meant for the development of required strategies to deal with the country in case of gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, The Island on April 06, 2021, having obtained prior sanction submitted the following question in respect of the ‘Oral statement of programme budget implications arising from draft resolution A/HRC/46/L.1/Rev.1 of the Human Rights Council,’: (i) Is there provision for the proposed unit set up to gather evidence, information et al to ask for British HC dispatches from Colombo (January-May 2009) or diplomatic cables from any other UN member state? (ii) What remedial measures Geneva can resort to in case governments decline to cooperate?”

In spite of repeated reminders Geneva didn’t respond to The Island query.

The month-long Geneva sessions ended on March 23, with the 47-member council adopting a fresh accountability resolution with 22 countries voting for, 11 against and 14 abstaining.

 “We strongly believe those dispatches from Gash can facilitate Geneva investigations. However, the British, despite repeatedly assuring us of longstanding friendship denied credible information in their possession,” a government source familiar with accountability matters, said.

After Gash’s departure from Colombo, the UK discontinued having a resident Defence Advisor here. Instead, New Delhi-based Defence Advisor looked after matters pertaining to Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. However, in January 2019, the UK re-appointed Colonel David Ashman as their resident Defence Advisor in Colombo.

Sources pointed out that despite Lord Naseby’s disclosure of a section of the Gash reports in Oct 2017, Sri Lanka refrained from requesting examination of the dispatches till March 2021.

Gash countered the primary UN allegation (Panel of Experts’ report issued in March 2011 that the Sri Lankan military massacred 40,000 civilians. Gash estimated the number of deaths at 7,000 to 8,000, including LTTE combatants. His assessment largely tallied with a confidential UN survey (Aug 2008-May 13, 2009) that placed the number of dead at 7,721.

Sources said that the UK had taken contradictory positions as regards Gash dispatches at the hearings at the UK Information Commission following Lord Naseby’s initial bid compel disclosure and when Sri Lanka recently requested for the full disclosure of relevant dispatches. The UK owed an explanation whether those dispatches weren’t made available to POE and the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) also on the grounds they weren’t credible.



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Crisis over fuel price hike: SLPP constituents crank up pressure on party General Secretary



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eight lawmakers representing political parties affiliated to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, for challenging the government decision to increase fuel prices.

The group consists of National List MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana (Our Power of People Party), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (LSSP), A.L.M. Athaulla (National Congress), G. Weerasinghe (Communist Party), Tiran Alles (United People’s Party) and Asanka Nawaratne (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya) in a joint letter, dated June 14, have appealed for the immediate intervention of the President and the Premier in this regard.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana and Alles are among 17 appointed to Parliament on the SLPP National List.

They warned that failure to take tangible measures against such actions would result in the deterioration of public confidence in the government. The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 MPs.

The group of lawmakers was responding to SLPP National List MP Kariyawasam’s controversial call for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the sharp increase of fuel prices at midnight on June 11.

They issued the statement consequent to a hasty  meeting called at Minister Weerawansa’s official residence on Sunday.

Noting that the Presidential Secretariat, too, on Sunday confirmed that the decision to increase fuel prices had been taken on June 09 at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group of MPs accused the SLPP General Secretary of causing a wholly unnecessary problem. The group alleged that MP Kariyawasam’s actions had caused suspicion among the electorate whether a clique was in operation in the SLPP.

Minister Gammanpila, embroiled in simmering controversy has refrained from signing the petition though he called another press conference today (15) to explain the developments.

 The group said that in view of the financial crisis that had been caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic the government was forced to increase fuel prices in spite of it being an unpopular measure.

Political sources pointed out that in February this year MP Sagara Kariyawasam caused a media furore when he asked Minister Weerawansa to apologise for suggesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be accommodated in the SLPP decision-making body. The group that has thrown its weight  behind Minister Gammanpila also clashed with a section of the SLPP lawmakers over the government bid to allow Indian investment at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port.

MP Kariyawasam did not answer his mobile phone.

In addition to MP Kariyawasam, MP Jagath Kumara (Colombo District) too strongly condemned the fuel price hike.

The SLPP MPs demanding action against Kariyawasam assured that they would soon submit a comprehensive proposal to President Rajapaksa to provide support to low income groups.

The Presidential Secretariat said that the price increase was necessitated by the financial crisis caused by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) being heavily indebted  to the Bank of Ceylon  and the People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn. Of that sum, CPC owed Rs 652 bn, the biggest single amount in any of the state sector enterprises.

The Samagi Jana Balavegagaya MP Mujibur Rahman said that Minister Gammanpila owed an explanation why he made the announcement as regards the fuel price hike as the matter came under the purview of the Finance Ministry.  Rahman pointed out that Minister Gammanpila himself subsequently admitted that only the Finance Ministry could decide on this matter. The former UNP MP said that the government’s much touted claim that the decision to increase fuel prices had been finalized on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee was nothing but a joke. “We thought the Cost of Living Committee was meant to provide relief to the people not to increase their burden,” MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesperson ridiculed the statement issued by a group of eight MPs. He alleged that the SLPP was staging a drama to divert the attention of the public. Their parliamentary group should take up responsibility for the current crisis having promised to transform the country overnight. Those who had voted for the 20th Amendment in October last year as well as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill last month were engaged in a futile campaign to save the government, the SJB MP said.

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Basil R wouldn’t have allowed fuel price increase – MP



Gampaha District SLPP MP Nimal Lanza yesterday said that if Basil Rajapaksa had been in the country, he wouldn’t have allowed the fuel price increase. He said that he strongly opposed the decision as it seriously affected the people, particularly the fishing community.



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1198 lockdown violators arrested



By Norman Palihawadane

The Police had arrested 1,198 people countrywide for violating lockdown regulations in the 24 hours that ended yesterday morning, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

A total of 32,593 persons had been arrested on the relevant charges since Oct 30, last year,  he said.

DIG Rohana said that special police teams had been deployed to continue the operations today as well to nab lockdown violators.

During the same period 3,051 persons travelling in 1,757 vehicles were inspected at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province. Of them, 160 persons travelling in 100 vehicles were sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders for non-essential purposes, violating travel restrictions.

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