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UK rejects Lanka’s request for handing over of Gash dispatches to Geneva

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… blames Defence Advisor for not verifying info, contradicts its own position

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The UK has rejected Sri Lanka’s request for the disclosure of wartime dispatches from its High Commission in Colombo.

 Authoritative sources told The Island that the request was made during the 46th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

 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.

 Sources said the UNHRC member and the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group the UK informed the government of its decision soon after the conclusion of the sessions. The request has been made in the second week of March. “We strongly believe those dispatches from the then British Defence Advisor Lt. Col. Anthony Gash can facilitate Geneva investigations. However, the British, despite repeatedly assuring us of longstanding friendship denied information in their possession,” a government source familiar with accountability matters, said.

After Gash’s departure, the UK discontinued having a resident Defence Advisor in Colombo. 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.

 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. 

 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.

 Responding to Sri Lanka’s request for the full disclosure of dispatches, the UK much to the surprise of the government played down the importance of Gash reports that dealt with the situation on the Vanni front between January1-May 18, 2009. The UK faulted Gash for not obtaining independent confirmation of reports he had sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Sources said that the contrary to the position taken by the FCO when Lord Naseby moved the UK information Commission to get hold of dispatches in 2015, the government asserted that such a disclosure would impede their relations with Sri Lanka. However, when Sri Lanka made the request, the UK asserted that Gash reports couldn’t be taken seriously as he merely reported irregular information obtained from various parties at different times, sources said.

 The US has dismissed Gash reports on the basis they hadn’t been based on properly examined evidence and information.

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

 The UK has told Sri Lanka that it would abide by UN reports, including POE report and the 2015 OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) which faulted Sri Lankan military of causing deaths of tens of thousands by carrying widespread large-scale attacks.

 The UK has reminded Sri Lanka of OISL blaming the country for gross violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international law, and international crimes were committed by the government and the LTTE.

 Sources said that the UK had taken contradictory positions as regards Gash dispatches at the hearings at the UK Information Commission and when Sri Lanka requested for the full disclosure of relevant dispatches. Sources said that if the UK wasn’t pursuing an agenda inimical to Sri Lanka, dispatches from Colombo would have been released. The UK owed an explanation whether those dispatches weren’t made available to POE and OISL also on the grounds they weren’t credible. 

The Island sought former Constitutional Council member and attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf’s opinion on the Geneva move to set up a new inquiry at a cost of USD 2.8 mn to gather accountability info, evidence pertaining to Sri Lanka. On behalf of GoSL, Prof. GLP (at a recent media briefing) asked whether the UK would hand over what he called suppressed Gash dispatches to the new inquiry. GoSL stand for examination of all available evidence received SJB backing (Dr Harsha de Silva). My query: Do you think UK should submit all available evidence in its possession to Geneva inquiry?

 Yusuf said: “It goes without saying that if justice is to be done all available evidence must be placed before the inquiring authority so that all the available evidence is evaluated and a fair and just determination is made.

The unit that is being set up by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seems to be more in the nature of collecting evidence for future use and therefore whatever evidence is available with the UK should most certainly be submitted to the new unit.

“However from the perspective of Sri Lanka’s National Interest it is best that since there are continuous allegations being made in relation to the conduct of the end of the conflict,  an independent and credible inquiry acceptable to all stakeholders be initiated by the Sri Lankan state and concluded.  Only then will there be closure in respect of the matter. This will be fair by those who have been victims as well those against whom allegations have been made. Unless satisfactory closure is achieved the victims will feel that justice has been denied to them and the members of the armed forces will have the allegations hanging over them like a sword of Damocles.”



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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