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UN told how Lanka tackled child soldiers’ issue

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Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Mohan Peiris, PC last Friday explained how Sri Lanka had successfully tackled the child soldiers’ issue. Addressing the Virtual Event, titled “Early Warning to Early Action: Implementing the Vancouver Principles to Prevent and End the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers”, Peiris thanked the Permanent Missions of Canada, Rwanda and Uruguay as well as the UN Department of Peace Operations and the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security for organizing the important event.

The following is the text of the speech by Peiris: “Particularly, today (Feb 12), as we mark the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. I cannot but recall the words of Kofi Annan the former Secretary-General when he said “if there is any lesson that we can draw from the experience of the past decade, it is that the use of child soldiers is far more than a humanitarian concern; that its impact lasts far beyond the actual time of fighting; and that the scope of the problem vastly exceeds the number of children directly involved.” I was further encouraged by the reassertion of this thought when Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau stated ‘the use of child soldiers have no place in our world … by bringing countries together and putting the Vancouver Principles together we can make sure children remain children and build a safer and more just future for all.’

“As you would all know, Sri Lanka experienced the sad phenomenon of child soldiers at the hands of a group of non-state actors that terrorized the country for nearly 30 years. Following the neutralization of this group in 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka undertook the substantial task of rehabilitating these children and reuniting them with their families. I would now like to show a few photos that depict the rehabilitation programme conducted by Sri Lanka for the ex-child soldiers, where we treated these children like our own children and apart from the formal education, they had the opportunity to attend scouting programmes and even some radio programmes at a media institution.

“I must refer to the mandates and early warning chapters in the Vancouver Principles which opens up a wide window of scenarios. We cannot be heard to turn a blind eye to some of the activities of these non-state actors who as we speak are engaged in the very activity which we are seeking to stop. I will briefly show you some photographs which depict the use of child soldiers and are being used to promote the idea of hate and terror. In one picture, as you see children dressed in combat uniforms carrying replicas of rocket launchers, missiles and guns. This is a lovely play! This is not Cinderella or Jack & the Beanstalk or Little Red Riding Hood but promoting hate, little children carrying replicas of bazoocas and all kinds of weapons. In the other, schoolchildren as young as eight years is enacting a drama dressed as suicide soldiers. Here is another one of glorification of child soldiers, in another little skit. These pictures speak a volume.

“We all know the modus operandi of such groups and I do not wish to get into that here. But I think it’s important to highlight that while the actual child soldiers created by this group were physically in Sri Lanka, they were being aided, sponsored and glorified by segments of the diaspora abroad. Unfortunately, we have witnessed children living thousands of miles away from Sri Lanka taking part in ceremonies that glorified child soldiers and to raise funds for this group of non-state actors. The modus-operandi included the use of schools, particularly in foreign countries, ostensibly for the purpose of imparting knowledge on culture and language to diaspora children. Under the fine and laudable cover of teaching the younger generation their culture and values, something far more sinister and scary was being carried out and that is the brainwashing of small children into a state of hate of nationalities they are falsely made to believe were antagonistic to them. We have found that some of these institutions had very close associations with this group of non-state actors and were actually their front organizations and were being used to propagate their illegal activities overseas as well as a source of income. Indeed, in Europe alone there were more than 350 such institutions with nearly 20,000 students.

“Some of the activities of the diaspora are depicted in these photos – innocent looking concerts and plays by little children who are compelled to re-enact the grim and sad story of child soldiers on a mission to kill their brothers and sisters. My dear friends, what are we in the international community doing about it? The answer is very little, but an avalanche of rhetoric and passively allowing the glorification of terror. This has gone on unabated and un-noticed and has led to the systematic radicalization of Tamil youth. It is evident that systematic psychological conditioning of students to become martyrs and terrorists started with this group of non-state actors long before it manifested itself in Islamist madrasas.

“This is extremely unfortunate, and continues even today. It is important that in our efforts to combat this gruesome ordeal we do not forget the sophisticated mechanizations of various non-state actors to further their cause of terror.  Our efforts to move forward on these issues must ensure that we do not allow them to use the same procedures that we use to foster and propagate our ideals of humanity at the UN for their own purposes.

“Most often children end up a numerical notation on international podiums, and scant regard is paid as to why children are made to carry arms and under what circumstances they become victims of movements that would do anything to ensure that their agendas are realized. The Vancouver Principles are something that is long overdue for the reason that nothing constructive has been done internationally to put an end to these children’s misery.

“I will end by citing a grim warning from scripture about protecting children when Christ said “if anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come; let woe to the person through whom they come.” The sophistication of our treaties will not suffice unless and until we act true and fast. The Vancouver Declaration will be a stepping stone in the right direction.”



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Govt. will implement PCoI recommendations, but won’t ban BBS

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (8) ruled out the possibility of proscribing the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) as recommended by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

Addressing the regular weekly SLPP briefing at the Waters Edge, Prof. Peiris, who is also the minister of education, emphasized that the particular recommendation wasn’t acceptable to the government. He described it as a difficult recommendation.

Declaring that the proscription of the BBS wouldn’t do any good, Prof. Peiris said implementation of PCoI recommendations would be the prerogative of the government.

Prof. Peiris assured that the government would implement the remaining recommendations.

Chairman of the PCoI, Supreme Court judge Janak de Silva handed over its report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Feb 1, 2021. Other members of the PCoI were Court of Appeal judge Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne, retired Supreme Court judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksha and A. L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu and former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice W.M.M.R. Adhikari. H. M. P. Buwaneka Herath functioned as Secretary to the PCoI.

Prof. Peiris said that the Opposition could raise any issue related to the Easter Sunday carnage during the three-day debate scheduled to commence tomorrow (10).

Minister Peiris that the incumbent government would ensure a no holds barred investigation into suicide bombing spree that claimed the lives of 270 and wounded 500 others.

Alleging that the majority of those who had been severely critical of the PCoI hadn’t perused it, Prof. Peiris said that a careful examination of the dossier revealed some critically important factors pertaining to the attacks blamed on the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ).

 Prof. Peiris said that many inquired about the alleged involvement of a foreign hand in the NTJ terror project. Against the backdrop of the release of PCoI report many condemned the report claiming it didn’t address contentious issues such as possible foreign hand in the Easter Sunday carnage, Prof. Peiris said.

The SLPP Chairman said that the PCoI had made a revelation about a certain foreign organization. He declined to name the organization.

However, inquiries made by The Island revealed that FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organization) aka the Gulen Movement

had been named by the PCoI. During PCoI proceedings, it transpired how the previous yahapalana administration had received specific information from Turkey but it chose to ignore the dire warnings. Turkey blamed July 2016 coup attempt on FETO and its US based leader Gulen.

Referring to January 2019 explosives recovery at Wanathavilluwa, Prof. Peiris said that the PCoI emphasized the need to further investigate that particular detection. The PCoI also pointed out how further interrogation of three persons already in custody in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage could help investigators to establish the truth.

Dismissing accusations that the PCoI hadn’t served any useful purpose, Prof. Peiris pointed out that some persons arrested in Qatar were now in Australia. Prof. Peiris said that the attention of the Australian authorities were on them. The Education Minister refrained from going to further details.

Quoting the PCoI, Prof. Peiris also referred to a person, whom he called a leader of an extremist organization responsible for making an alleged attempt to cause massive death and destruction in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. Prof. Peiris said that the PCoI had recommended punitive measures against this person in terms of the relevant law.

Commenting on specific recommendations issued in respect of the Easter Sunday carnage, Prof. Peiris said that the police, CID, TID, AG and CIABOC had received those instructions. The PCoI had created a solid framework for relevant authorities to take tangible measures.

Prof. Peiris declined to comment on queries based on various assumptions meant to divert public attention. He emphasized that whatever the breakaway UNP faction, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said the public however was aware they were all part of that utterly pathetic government that failed to thwart the NTJ in spite of having advanced intelligence.

Prof. Peiris called Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa’s vow to hang all those responsible as nothing but a joke.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the previous regime caused mayhem by lifting restrictions in place to prevent undesirable persons entering the country. During Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tenure as Secretary Defence visas were denied to the majority of those who sought opportunity to address religious issues. The yahapalana lot simply did away with restrictions and essentially failed to take precautions fearing what Prof. Peiris called political repercussions.

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Only reason for vesting Muthurajawela under the UDA

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By Ifham Nizam

The government had decided to conserve the Muthurajawela wetland under the Urban Development Authority as the Wildlife Ministry and Department could not afford to pay for the immediate acquisition of some of the land, Urban Development State Minister Nalaka Godahewa said.

Godahewa said that his Ministry had both institutions with the relevant technology and capability to conserve the ecosystem.

He said Muthurajawela would be handed over to the Ministry of Wildlife after being conserved as a Ramsar wetland.

He said so participating at the Inter-ministerial discussion on sustainable environment development. Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was also present.

Muthurajawela, which encompassed 3,064 hectares in 1990, had now shrunk to 1,200 hectares due to encroachment, the Minister said.

Minister Godahewa added that although a private company had acquired part of the wetland for some projects, steps would be taken to acquire the entire extent and make it part of the Muthurajawela Wetland Zone.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that although the private company had planned to set up golf courses, hotels and even a helicopter yard, none of them would be allowed.

The company posed a danger to the Muthurajawela wetland, the Minister said, adding that the 700 acres acquired by it would be taken back. Therefore, no new constructions would be allowed to be carried out in the Muthurajawela wetland and it was the position of the government to conserve what remained of the eco-sensitive region and pass it on to the next generation, he said.

The Ministers emphasised that the city of Colombo was named as the first Ramsar Wetland City in the world due to the measures taken by the President during his tenure as the Defence Secretary to develop the city of Colombo under a green city concept.

The inter-ministerial coordination programme was launched last week at the Ministry of Environment to address the issues related to the environment.

A Cabinet memorandum submitted by the Minister of Environment Amaraweera to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee on monitoring environmental issues in January was approved by the Cabinet.

The inter-ministerial coordination programme involves the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, the Ministry of Water Supply, Wildlife Conservation, the construction of elephant fences and ditches. Relevant Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Secretaries to the Ministries Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Bandula Harischandra also participated. Among the issues discussed at the meeting were the recent media reports of deforestation, especially the Muthurajawela Wetland Conservation Programme.

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Ranil predicts worst economic shocks by year end

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UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the government was printing money like printing newspapers.

Speaking at a meeting held at Borella on Sunday with the youth of the Green Blood organisation, affiliated to the party, Wickremesinghe said that managing the economy was not an easy task and it would take a decade for the Sri Lankan economy to bounce back.

The former PM said that the present government had printed three times the amount of money printed during the past 10 years during the tenure of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 and of UNP rule in 2015.

Wickremesinghe said that the government had slashed taxes and reduced the country’s income by giving concessions to companies and big businesses; the general public did not get the benefit of such tax cuts. “The country’s revenue had decreased even before the arrival of Covid,” he said.

“The government prints money like printing newspapers because it has no revenue. We saved $ 7.5 billion as reserves. Now, it is down to $ 4.5 billion. We built the economy despite criticism. We allocated money for health.

They opposed when we planned to give tabs to students. If tabs had been given, children would have benefited during the pandemic,” the UNP leader said.

The former Prime Minister said that no development was taking place and investors were leaving the country. He added that the government had requested a loan of US $ 2 billion from India and China but it would be disappointed.

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