…assures probe on those foreign experts who backed JRJ govt
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The British government has sidestepped a query on the UK accommodating a group of LTTE cadres responsible for international crimes.
Global Justice Forum (GJF) representing civil society groups based in UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand-all member States of the Commonwealth, in addition to Israel, UAE and Switzerland has raised the continuing presence of those responsible for terrorism receiving privilege status at a time the UK was pushing for new resolution in respect of Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
A spokesperson for GJF told The Island that the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, in its response to their appeal dated January 8, 2021, refrained from commenting on the continuing presence of LTTE cadres therein.
The GJF has submitted a list of 27 LTTE cadres living there to Dominic Raab, MP, and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth.
Pointing out that UK based Tamil groups wanted an International Independent Investigation Mechanism (IIIM) to probe Sri Lanka and the UK was being asked to back the move, the GJF urged the UK to take tangible measures to investigate LTTE cadres living in the UK, probe Adele Balasingham, wife of late Anton Balasingham, the LTTE theoretician and prosecute former members of the Keenie Meenie Service (KMS).
Former employee of the British High Commission, Colombo, Anton Balasingham, a UK passport holder of Sri Lankan origin passed away in Dec, 2006 in the UK.
Responding to another The Island query, GJF spokesperson said that instead of opposing the proposed IIIM, the outfit felt the need to request the British to probe those who received shelter in the UK. The GJF also called for inclusion of KMS in the Geneva led investigation.
GJF made available a copy of the UK response to The Island released by South Asia Department.
The spokesperson pointed out that while the UK had assured the Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit initiated an inquiry into the conduct of KMS personnel who had been in Sri Lanka’s employment in the 80s, no specific reference was made to LTTE cadres and Adele Balasingham living there.
The UK also reiterated its firm commitment to the Geneva Resolution 30/1 adopted in early Oct, 2015. The UK emphasised that there was absolutely no change in its position as regards accountability issues regardless of Sri Lanka’s decision to quit the Resolution it co-sponsored in 2015.
The GJF consists of Global Sri Lanka Forum, UK, Sri Lanka Canada Action Coalition, Justice for Sri Lanka Global Movement, Friends of Sri Lanka, Canada, Global Sri Lanka Forum, Israel, Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights, Australia, Montreal Friends of Sri Lanka and Calgary Friends of Sri Lanka.
Interestingly, GJF didn’t make reference to Lord Naseby’s Oct 2017 disclosure that contradicted the very basis of the Geneva accusations.
Civil society activist involved in the GJF initiative Ajantha Premaratne told The Island that Sri Lanka was being persecuted for eradicating terrorism whereas a significant number of those who had been engaged in terrorism received British passports. Many EU countries, the US and Scandinavian countries provided citizenship to LTTE cadres without questions asked, Premaratne said, pointing out how war winning Generals were being hounded.
“Chagie Gallage’s is a case in point,” Premaratne said.
Premaratne referred to a study undertaken by Darusman Committee member Yasmin Sooka, which had revealed the presence of LTTE cadres in many countries, including UK and Germany.
Premaratne pointed out how Balasingham enjoyed privileged status as a British national in spite of his organization carrying out a murderous campaign. When Balasingham’s men assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005, the British allowed the then ‘peacemakers’ Norwegians to secretly meet the LTTE theoretician in the UK, Premaratne said.
Meanwhile, authoritative military sources questioned the rationale in GJF complaining against the KMS as the outfit was invited by the then JRJ government in the absence of anticipated Western support. KMS provided invaluable expertise and was instrumental in strengthening fighting capabilities of the military et al, sources said, urging those interested in defending Sri Lanka also to be mindful of facts.
KMS included former members of the elite British Special Air Services (SAS).
COVID-19: Jaffna faces serious risk
Top medical man in North threatens lockdown
Five villages isolated in Ganewatta DS area
20% of IDH patients need oxygen
By Dinasena Ratugamage and Rathindra Kuruwita
Tough restrictions would have to be imposed in Jaffna if religious leaders did not help health authorities, Northern Province Director General of Health Services, Dr. A. Kethiswaran said yesterday. Jaffna was facing a serious risk of COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Kethiswaran said so during a meeting with religious leaders at his office. He said that a large number of devotees were seen at various places of religious worship during the festive period.
“None of these people follow health guidelines. It is impossible to control the virus because of this. At this rate we will have to impose travel restrictions in the Jaffna District. We need everyone’s support, if we are to avoid this fate.”
He then urged religious leaders to inform devotees of the dangers of the virus and not to gather at places of worship in large numbers.
Dr. Kethiswaran also said that a large number of policemen in Jaffna had contracted COVID-19. About 258 PCR tests had been carried out on Wednesday after it was found that 13 policemen attached to the Jaffna Police station were infected. Altogether 788 PCR tests were done in the Jaffna District on Wednesday, Dr. Kethiswaran said.
One hundred and forty eight new COVID-19 cases had been detected in several villages in the Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area, Divisional Secretary Niranjala Karunaratne said yesterday.
On Wednesday alone 733 PCR tests had been done there, she said, adding that about 175 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 there.
Given these developments, Tittawelgala, Hunupola, Siradunna, Aluthgama and Hettigama Grama Niladari divisions at Ganewatta Divisional secretariat area have been isolated.
Travel restrictions were imposed on Kuliyapitiya Town, Thunmodara, Dhandagamuwa – West, Kanadulla and Pahala Weerambuwa as COVID-19 cases were increasing there.
PHI in charge of Divulapitiya said that 84 new COVID-19 cases had been reported from the area during the last 48 hours. However, no decision had been taken to impose travel restrictions in the area, PHI, S.A.U.T Kularatne said.
“Twenty-eight of these patients were among people who attended a sports event organised for the New Year in Aswennawatta Grama Niladari area. Forty-four people who went on a trip at Mellawagedara have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. If people are not careful, things might rapidly deteriorate,” he warned.
Deputy Director of IDH said that over 130 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment there although the hospital could accommodate only 120 patients.
All eight ICU beds at the IDH are occupied and 20% of the patients there need oxygen. The number of people admitted to hospital had increased after the Sinhala and Hindu New year, health ministry sources said.
Director General of Health Services – Western Province Dr. Dhammika Jayalath urged people to refrain from travelling to Colombo unless it was very urgent.
Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardane said that the coming three weeks would crucial.
Covid figures: Govt. accused of misleading the country
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) yesterday claimed that State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Prof. Channa Jayasumana was making statements on new strains of SARS-CoV-2 without any scientific proof.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Prof. Jayasumana said that there had been an increase in the spread of Covid virus in the country, especially among the young people and that was due to a new strain of the virus.
President of the CMLS, Ravi Kumudesh said: “The Minister claimed they were doing a research on this. As far as we know, neither the Ministry nor the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has done any research to identify this new strain. The Ministry of Health stopped identifying new variants a long time ago.”
The Ministry of Health could neither plan for new variants of COVID-19 nor determine what vaccine was effective as it simply didn’t have the equipment to identify new strains, Kumudesh said, adding that identifying COVID-19 variants across the country had been outsourced to the University of Sri Jayawardenepura.
“I have repeatedly said that the Health Ministry officials can’t make science and evidence-based decisions or statements on new strains. Institutions under the Health Ministry do not have the ability to identify new strains of the coronavirus; only the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has a gene sequencing machine. We said this was having a disastrous impact on the country’s pandemic response and here we are,.”
Kumudesh said that identifying various strains of COVID-19 was essential to respond to the pandemic as everything from PCR testing to selecting a vaccine, depended on that.
“There are a number of strains of the virus in the world now and we now know that the new variant that led to a lockdown in the UK is here. We have to be ready to identify what strains are coming.”
Kumudesh said that since the country had opened its airports people from various countries would arrive, carrying new strains. He added that there might also be a new strain that originated here without “our knowledge because we don’t do adequate gene sequencing.
“To identify new variants, we must sequence the genes of viruses detected through PCR testing. We need many gene sequencing machines because one cannot identify new strains through a PCR test. However, the Ministry of Health has not provided a single gene sequencing machine to labs under its purview.”
CEA accused of turning blind eye to cardamom cultivators raping Knuckles Forest
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow cardamom plantations inside the Knuckles Forest Reserve, which came under the Forest Conservation Department,it was already having a negative impact on the ecosystem, Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said.
Chamikara said that Knuckles Forest Reserve was not only a unique ecosystem but also an important catchment area for rivers such as Mahaweli and Kalu.
“Illegal Cardamom planters had been operating in the forest area for many decades and there had been many attempts to get rid of them,” Chamikara said
About six years ago, there was an attempt to remove illegal Cardamom planters from the Knuckles Forest Reserve. When the Forest Conservation Department tried to remove these encroachers, based on a court order, several politicians and officials intervened on their behalf, the environmentalist said. Due to those interventions, illegal Cardamom planters could not be removed from the Knuckles Forest Reserve, he added.
“In many areas of the Dumbara mountain range, forest undergrowth has been cleared to make way for cardamom plantations. This has drastically increased soil erosion and the soil that is swept away by rains have been deposited in many reservoirs after being taken downstream to the Mahaweli Ganga. Moreover, many trees have been cut to use as firewood to dry cardamom. There are many structures used to dry the cardamom dotting the Knuckles mountain range and these activities cause significant damages to the ecosystem.”
Chamikara said it was illegal to cut trees, cultivate and clear land in a Conservation Forest. The offences carried jail terms or fines or both. Moreover, the court could estimate the damage done to the forest and make the guilty pay that amount. Under the law, even people who encouraged such violations could be prosecuted.
“The CEA has the power to act against those who carry out such illegal activities. According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without obtaining approval, the CEA can present such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both. Unfortunately the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye.”
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