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UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people

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November 29 has been named as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people by the United Nations. 

In drawing attention to the struggle of the Palestinian people we cannot but remember the firm stand that the United Nations took against racism, against the evil of Apartheid and supported the liberation struggle of the people of South Africa, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, MP, Co-chairman Sri Lanka – Palestine Solidarity Committee, said in a statement to mark the occasion.

At the time his people were liberated, the celebrated leader of the liberation struggle for South Africa Nelson Mandela made a profound statement, which resonates around the world to this day, he noted.

He further said: “For many years, the United Nations stood firm against racism. Because of that a worldwide consensus was built against this unfair system. We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.

“The Palestinian conflict is a complex one and it is a mistake for us to make judgements by viewing it on the surface with pre-conceived notions. Instead, I urge everyone to understand the underlying deep reasons why the Palestinian conflict has not been resolved after all these years. We have to take a humane view of their issues, their status and problems, and understand the realities. In short, we need to address these issues in a correct and just manner.

“The Palestinian struggle has gone on for seven long decades and we are disturbed to note that currently moves are afoot so that the Palestinians will lose their motherland forever. 

“The world has failed to implement the international consensus sought by the United Nations to find a fair and just solution to the Palestinian issue because the Superpowers in the United Nations Security Council have used their veto powers to stop important UN Resolutions aimed at actualizing the broader view of the majority of the countries around the world. It is with sadness that we observe that the UN has been powerless to do the right thing for the Palestinians.

“At this time I remember the statement made by President Barack Obama, who lit up the hopes of all those who sought a solution to the Palestinian issue when he made the famous “Cairo declaration.” 

In that statement Obama said: “It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighbouring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.  They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”

Little has happened since and unfortunately we have to add Obama to the list of US Presidents who have historically been unable to fulfil its promise to provide a just solution to the Palestinian question, Bakeer Markar said.

He added: President Bush also asked once “why do these people hate us so much?” It is also said that a US President who was there before Bush, Eisenhower, in a discussion with his staff asked the same question: “Why does the Arab world look at us in such a wrong way?”

“Actually the question arises not from the governments but from the ordinary people of the Arab world. The people rightly accuse the United States of safeguarding corrupt and autocratic regimes in the Middle East preventing the dawn of democracy in the region. The actual actions of the United States in the Middle East is contrary to its claim of being the “watchdog of democracy” in the region.

“The initiatives made by Washington to bring peace to the Palestinians from the Camp David Accords to the Oslo Accords have been rendered useless by Israel. 

“In January 1976 the United Nations, backed by a wide global consensus, passed a Resolution granting Palestine political sovereignty. This Resolution received the support of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the Arab countries, the European Bloc and the Soviet Bloc. However this UN effort was also stopped by the exercise of a veto from the United States. The 1981 initiative from Saudi Arabia called the FAHAD peace deal was also rejected by Israel.

“For decades the world has been helplessly watching the Palestinian tragedy unfold as the people of this land are being driven out of their homes which are being destroyed. They are forced to wander as they are constantly harassed and deprived of the very basic necessities such as water. “They have no freedom of movement, as they are being arrested arbitrarily, even little children and women have been detained. 

“In the year 2020 alone 684 homes and other buildings in the West Bank were completely destroyed by Israelis.

“In October 2000, the UN Security Council resolved with a 14 to 0 vote that Israel should act according to the obligations and agreements contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention and return all Palestinian lands that have been occupied. At that time the US abstained from voting. 

“In addition, in 2001 when Israeli troops clashed with Palestinians, attempts by the United Nations to send in international observers to minimize violence under the so-called Michael plan was opposed by Israel and the United States. 

“These actions of the US has damaged its credentials as a neutral player in resolving issues in the Middle East and has ruined its reputation as a champion of democracy and global justice.

“Under President Donald Trump the US Middle East policy has been very one-sided. However under the new Democratic President it is hoped that the policy towards this region will be fairer and more progressive. If that does not happen then it will be a big blow against America’s boast of being a country that is a proponent of peace and democracy across the world.

“We wish all the peoples in the region a secure peace, in which they may live with dignity and mutual respect”.

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MCC inconsistent with Constitution

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AG agrees with Prof. Gunaruwan report

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, has informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, Project Implementation Agreement, as well as Articles of Association of MCA (Millennium Challenge Act), Sri Lanka, are violative of cerain provisions of the Constitution.

The AG has said so in a 20-page report sent to Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President.

The President’s Office on Sept. 3, 2020, sought the AG’s opinion on the MCC Compact and related matters in the wake of the Cabinet-appointed Prof. Gunaruwan Committee strongly advising against going ahead with the US initiative. The US sought Sri Lanka’s consent for the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and MCC. The previous government finalised ACSA in early August 2017.

Dr. Jayasundera made available the Gunaruwan report to the AG.

The outgoing US administration in Dec 2020 announced Sri Lanka had been left out of the MCC project.

AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne confirmed the MCC et al were inconsistent with the Constitution and other laws.

The Island,

 however, learns that the AG’s Department on two previous occasions, in letters dated Oct 10, 2018 and June 10, 2019, addressed to Jonathan G. Nash, Chief Operating Officer, MCC, and Director General, External Resources Department, respectively, asserted that the Compact and the Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA) were in line with the Sri Lankan law.

The first letter was sent during Jayantha Jayasuriya’s tenure as the AG and the second under incumbent AG without his approval, sources said. Dappula de Livera succeeded Jayasuriya in April 2019 about a week after the April 21 Easter Sunday carnage. Jayasuriya is the incumbent Chief Justice.

Prof. Gunaruwan’s Committee soon after the last presidential election in Nov 2019 failed to obtain the AG’s Department opinion in spite of making representations through the Prime Minister’s Office.

In the run-up to 2019 parliamentary election, then Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the Attorney General had approved the US project though the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) called it a sell-out.

The following is the text of the letter dated Oct 10, 2018 captioned ‘Legal Status of Proposed MCC Compact signed by Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, Senior Additional Solicitor General, addressed to Jonathan G. Nash, Chief Operating Officer, MCC:

“I refer to your communication dated 27th September, 2018 in respect of the above captioned matter. In this regard, I am made to understand that the delegation from the Government of Sri Lanka was able to have fruitful discussion with the Millennium Challenge Corporation Team in resolving some of the outstanding issues.

“Having gleaned through the proposed Millennium Challenge Compact, the draft Program Implementation Agreement (PIA) as well as the Points of Discussion (without prejudice) between the negotiating parties which has been made available to me, I wish to at the very outset opine that no existing laws of Sri Lanka inhibit the Compact and the PIA being implemented in Sri Lanka. If I may elucidate further, the covenants of the Compact and the PIA do not infringe any existing domestic law or any previous undertakings given by the Government of Sri Lanka. It is acknowledged that the Compact imposes legal obligations on both parties to the Agreement

“Further, consequent to the negotiations and discussions had between parties, it is proposed that the Government of Sri Lanka would seek the passage of a law in Parliament to establish the MCA- Sri Lanka as a non-profit Company limited by guarantee under the Companies Act No.07 of 2007 to implement the provisions of the Compact. It is envisaged that the proposed enactment would encompass the Compact and the PIA as Annexures, which would form an integral part of this enactment.

“Thus, I am of the view that the passage of the said enactment by Parliament would result in the Compact and the PIA, having the parity of status of a domestic law in Sri Lanka.

“In the Context of the above, it is requisite that Section 7.1 of Article 7 of the Compact referring to the provisions on Entry Into Force, would be revised with the deletion of the sentence pertaining to the Compact prevailing over the domestic laws of Sri Lanka.

“However, in order to assuage any concerns with regard to the implementation of the Compact, by an unlikely event of a legislation in the future which may impinge or infringe the said compact, upon notification by the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media (the relevant Ministry) of this fact, a legal opinion would be tendered that the proposed legislation if proceeded with would violate the covenants of the Compact. This would enable the relevant Ministry to forward its observations to the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament, that the Attorney-General has opined that the proposed Bill if enacted would violate the Compact.

“In the circumstances, I believe that the aforementioned matters would confirm the legal status of the Compact and its entry into force.”

“Copies were sent to Ms. Caroline Nguyen, Managing Director- Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America Millennium Challenge Corporation and J. Charitha Ratwatte, Head of Policy Development and Chief of Party MCC- Sri Lanka Project.”

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Environmentalist accuses Govt. of resorting to trickery to hand over 800,000 acres to pvt. companies

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Gama Samaga Pilisandara’ is a psychological operation to counter people’s resistance to a move to hand over chena and grasslands to large companies, environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said yesterday.

Chamikara claimed that the government had earmarked 800,000 acres of land to be given to corporations, and those lands would mainly consist of forests and areas used for chena cultivations and to feed cattle by small scale farmers.

“The Gama Samaga Pilisandara is an attempt to misguide the people by giving them false promises. The government tells people they could cultivate lands belonging to the Forest Conservation Department and instructs officials not to punish people who send cattle into forests. People walk away feeling good but a few months later they will find that these same lands handed over to big companies.”

They had conducted a survey on the lands that had been given to corporations by the government during 2020 Most of those lands in fact were those used by cattle herders and chena cultivators, he said.

For example 70,000 acres in Demaliya and Wandama were being given to a company engaged in sugarcane cultivation, and almost all those lands were those used by small scale farmers and cattle herders, Chamikara said. Among the lands that were given were those earmarked for those displaced by the Uma Oya project. The previous administrations tried to provide irrigation water to those lands through the Handapanagala scheme.

Chamikara said: “Another 62,000 acres have been earmarked in Moneragala, Ampara and Badulla districts for sugarcane cultivation. 80% of these lands are chena cultivations. In Rambaken Oya 5,426 acres have been earmarked for 15 companies to carry out various agro projects and most of these lands are now used by small scale cattle herders. Recently, the Department of Agriculture wrote to the Forest Conservation Department requesting that 80,000 acres in Moneragala, Anuradhapura and Badulla districts be released. These lands are to be used for corn cultivation. The Forest Conservation Department then asked the Department of Agriculture to identify the lands and we know that these lands for the most part are those used by small scale cattle herders and chena cultivators.”

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Contempt of Court case against GMOA President re-fixed for hearing on March 03 and 10

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By Chitra Weerarathne

The Court of Appeal yesterday re-fixed for hearing on March 3 and March 10, the Contempt of Court application against the President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya.

Counsel Ravindranath Dabare said that his client Dr. Padeniya was under self-quarantine and was unable to attend Court.

Dr. Padeniya was summoned for Contempt of Court under Article 105/3 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka for allegedly having criticised a Superior Court ruling in respect of the admission of students to the Sri Lanka Institute of Technology and Medicine, Malabe, at a public rally on April 7, 2016, disrespecting a Supreme Court order pertaining to the enrolment of a student in the Private Medical College, which will ultimately lead to an MBBS degree.

The Court of Appeal bench comprised Justice Arjuna Obeysekera (President) and Dr. Mayadunne Corea.

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