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UN rights chief under ‘tremendous pressure’ over Xinjiang report

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The United Nations human rights chief has admitted to “tremendous pressure” over a long-delayed report on China’s Xinjiang region, where Beijing stands accused of detaining more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.Michelle Bachelet has repeatedly said she will publish a report on the rights situation in Xinjiang before her term ends on August 31.

“We’re trying very hard to do what I promised,” Bachelet said, on Thursday, during her final press conference as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

However, she added that there was uncertainty over when the report would appear as her office was under “tremendous pressure to publish or not to publish”.

“[We] received substantial input from the government [of China] that we will need to carefully review, as we do every time with any report with any country,” the UN rights chief said.

She received a letter signed by countries, including North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba “asking for the non-publication” of the report, which has been repeatedly delayed.Bachelet, whose successor has yet to be announced by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the enquiries about the report had been non-stop.

“You cannot imagine the numbers of letters, meetings asking for the publication. Huge amounts,” she said, adding that for the past year the issue came up “every day, every time, every… meeting”.

Campaigners accuse China of human rights violations in Xinjiang including mass incarceration, forced labour, compulsory sterilisation, family separation and the destruction of Uighur cultural and religious sites.The United States and legislators in other Western countries have accused China of committing “genocide” against the minority groups.

Bachelet completed a long-awaited trip to the Xinjiang region earlier this year that sparked criticism. The US said ahead of her trip that it was “deeply concerned” that Bachelet had failed to secure guarantees on what she could see. She had previously demanded “unfettered” access to the area.

“We have no expectation that the PRC will grant the necessary access required to conduct a complete, unmanipulated assessment of the human rights environment in Xinjiang,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at the time, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth described the trip as “an utter failure” and stressed the need for the UN to release a “strong” Xinjiang report to “make up for that disaster and put us back on a path of putting real pressure on China to end its persecution” of the Uighurs.

After Bachelet returned from China, some 47 countries signed a statement asking for “more detailed observations, including on the restrictions the Chinese authorities imposed on the visit”. Academics specialising in Xinjiang also asked for more details on what had happened.

Beijing vehemently rejects the accusations of a crackdown in Xinjiang, calling them “the lie of the century”, and has said the Xinjiang camps are vocational training centres designed to counter extremism. Source: Al Jazeera



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Businesses can collapse due to electricity tariff increase next year– Patali

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Patali Champika Ranawaka

The Cabinet has approved increase in electricity tariffs in two stages in January and June 2023.

The disclosure was made on Tuesday (29) at a meeting of the Sub Committee on Identifying the Short & Medium-Term Programmes, related to Economic Stabilisation of the National Council.

The government increased power tariffs in August this year.

Parliament announced that although the electricity tariffs had been increased in the recent past, the CEB was still running at a loss.

The representatives of the government and private institutions related to the power sector were called before the Committee to obtain proposals for the purpose of solving the issues in the power sector.

In order to cover the current losses of the CEB, electricity tariffs had to be increased by about 70%, the statement issued by Parliament quoted CEB representatives as having said.

The statement quoted Chairman of the Committee, Patali Champika Ranawaka, as having said that if electricity tariffs were increased to cover CEB’s losses, businesses could collapse as a result.

It was also disclosed that the CEB currently owed nearly 650 billion rupees as outstanding debt to various parties including banks and electricity suppliers. The Electricity Board representative stated that out of the amount to be paid, nearly Rs. 35 billion were to be paid to the organisations that supplied renewable energy, and 75 billion rupees are to be paid to Thermal power suppliers. Thus, it expects to pay at least part of what it owes the suppliers from the 50-billion-rupee loan to be received. (SF)

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PMD claims President’s response misinterpreted

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe denied recent media reports stating that the Provincial Councils will be replaced with the District Development Committees.

Issuing a press release his media division said President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s response in Parliament on Tuesday has been misinterpreted.

Wickremesinghe’s media Division said that in response to a statement by former President Maithripala Sirisena, the President stated that the District Development Committees (DDCs) would be established within the Provincial Councils.

The DDCs would provide a platform for coordination between thegovernment, the Provincial Councils and the Local Government bodies for all executive decisions, the Media Division said.

“This will ensure the process is not duplicated and will reduce financial wastage. Apart from that, the president has not made any statement about the dissolution of provincial councils.”

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Kumudesh: Top bureaucrat demands service extension from Minister’s daughter to approve shady deal

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A senior official of the Ministry of Health has asked the daughter of a Cabinet Minister to help him obtain a service extension in return for approving a controversial tender for medical supplies, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) Ravi Kumudesh says.

Kumudesh told The Island yesterday that the Minister’s daughter was working for a company that supplied oxygen generators.

“The official told the Minister’s daughter that he would grant the tender to a company of his choice to ensure a comfortable retirement and if her company wanted to secure the contract he should be given an extension in service.”

Kumudesh said the money for the medical equipment was to be paid through the grants from the Global Fund. The World Bank is a major contributor to the Global Fund.

“Officials can grant these tenders to companies of their choice by changing criteria. They make small technical specifications to ensure that only one company qualifies. These officials are a law unto themselves.”

Health Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

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