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‘UNHRC missive exposes UK duplicity in grave accountability matters’

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama says that the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva–based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the United Kingdom’s policy of double standards has been challenged by no less a person than UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Bogollagama said that the Bachelet warning couldn’t have been issued at a better time as the UK stepped up pressure on Sri Lanka over accountability issues. The former FM was responding to Bachelet’s declaration on April 12 that the proposed new Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, in its current form, would undermine key human rights obligations that the UK has committed itself to respect.

The UK is a member of the UNHRC. Bogollagama pointed out that Bachelet had called for amendments to the proposed Bill to ensure that it didn’t protect British personnel deployed overseas for acts of torture and other serious international crimes.

The Bill is now reaching its final stages in the legislative process, and will shortly be debated again by the House of Lords, the UK’s upper chamber, where amendments may still be made.

In the run-up to the Geneva vote on a resolution spearheaded by the UK on March 23, SLPP Chairman and former External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris questioned the rationale in British actions. Prof Peiris asked how the UK sought protection for its armed forces deployed outside their territory whereas it sought punitive measures against Sri Lanka for fighting terrorism in its own land.

Bogollagama said that British double standards should be examined taking into consideration the UK’s current membership in the UNHRC as well its role as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group. The Core Group members include Germany and Canada.

Bogollagama who served as the Foreign Minister during the fourth phase of the war (2007-2010) alleged that the UK adopted an extremely hostile position primarily because of domestic political reasons. Wikileaks disclosed the true extent of Tamil Diaspora influence on the British political establishment, Bogollagama said. So much so, the UK allowed the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to announce its formation in the House of Commons in early 2010, the former Minister said. Would the UK accept Geneva advice as regards the proposed Bill, Bogollagama asked, those who voted for the resolution moved against Sri Lanka and abstained to realise that the UK’s stand in respect of Colombo was political.

The UK succeeded the US as Sri Lanka Core Chair in 2018 after the latter quit the Geneva body in a huff calling it a cesspool of political bias.

The purpose of the controversial British Bill is stated as being “to provide greater certainty for Service personnel and veterans in relation to claims and potential prosecution for historical events that occurred in the complex environment of armed conflict overseas.” British Forces played significant roles in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bill seeks to achieve this, in particular, by introducing new preconditions for the prosecution of alleged offences covered by the Bill.

“As currently drafted, the Bill would make it substantially less likely that UK service members on overseas operations would be held accountable for serious human rights violations amounting to international crimes,” the UNHRC statement dated April 12 quoted Bachelet as having said.

It stated that in its present form, the proposed legislation raises substantial questions about the UK’s future compliance with its international obligations, particularly under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), as well as the 1949 Geneva Conventions. These include obligations to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts such as torture and unlawful killing, and make no distinction as to when the offences were committed.

Responding to another query, Bogollagama said that Bachelet’s statement exposed the British hypocrisy. While demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lankan military on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, the British deprived Geneva of wartime dispatches (January-May 2009) from its High Commission in Colombo in a bid to facilitate the campaign against Sri Lanka, former minister Bogollagama said.

The British exposed their hostile intentions when London turned down Sri Lanka’s request to hand over those dispatches to Geneva, the ex-lawmaker said, urging the government to continuously highlight the need for examination of all available evidence by the proposed new Geneva inquiry unit appointed at a cost of USD 2.8 mn.

Bachelet’s request to the UK was interesting, Bogollagama said. The former minister was referring to Bachelet’s appeal: “I urge UK legislators in both Houses of Parliament, and the Government, to take these concerns fully into account when reviewing the Bill, and to ensure that the law of the United Kingdom remains entirely unambiguous with regard to accountability for international crimes perpetrated by individuals, no matter when, where or by whom they are committed.”



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Prez to unveil plan on 13 A

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SJB, SLPP rebels to boycott opening of new parliamentary session

By Saman Indrajith

The main Opposition party, the SJB, and the dissident SLPP MPs have decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Fourth session of the Ninth Parliament by President Ranil Wickremessinghe today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared, on January 26, that he would brief Parliament on his decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

MP Prof G.L. Peiris told the media that the FPC would boycott President Wickremesinghe’s speech, scheduled to take place today (08) when the Fourth session of the Parliament is ceremonially declared open.

Prof Peiris called the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session a mere show. “This is not acceptable. The people are fed up with policy statements. They need solutions instead,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing a press conference, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo yesterday said that his party members too would boycott today’s ceremony.

Kiriella said that President Wickremesinghe was now speaking of economic development in 2048. “This he is promising to do while doing everything possible under the sun and the moon to deprive people of their democratic right to an election. Therefore, we have decided not to attend President’s ceremonial treading of the government policy statement which is another example of this makeshift government’s predilection for waste of money and time.”

All Ceylon Tamil Congress, led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, too, has decided to boycott today’s sessions.

TNA spokesman, Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran, said that his party would attend Parliament sessions today.

Political party sources said that TNA, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Makkal Congress, in the Opposition ranks, however, would attend Parliament today.

Following the ceremonial opening of the day’s session, the President is scheduled to present the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at 10 am, according to the powers vested in him, under Article 33 of the Constitution.

A rehearsal for the ceremonial opening was held Monday at the Parliament premises where many, including students of Presidents’ Girls College, Kotte, were present.

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MSC America belonging to largest shipping line calls at ECT

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Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander, exchanging plaques to mark the occasion (pic courtesy Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry

MSC America, the first container vessel under the business promotions programme to attract new lines to the Port of Colombo (POC), called at the East Container Terminal (ECT), owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday (07).

The latest programme to attract new shipping lines to the POC has been planned and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Owners (SLAVO) to effectively address strategic business promotions as a fruitful mean to overcome the prevailing economic crisis. Attracting more new lines to the POC, increasing operational efficiency, expediting naval services, efficiency in logistics and warehouse management and container and cargo transportation are among the objectives.

MSC America that called at the ECT, owned by the POC, will hereafter operate a weekly call to Colombo.

On the first call, yesterday, the vessel carried 2300TEUs to Colombo and is expected to carry 2500TEUs on a weekly basis. The vessel, with a length of 334m and a 7.5m draft, sails under the flag of Panama. The port rotation includes Singapore and South Africa.


MSC is the largest global shipping line, with a fleet of more than 775 TEU vessels for container transportation around the world. The shipping line that maintains long term operations with the POC has a collaborative business relationship of more than 10 years with SLPA. Since 2015, it is the prime shipping line of the POC with an annual operational capacity of 2.0m TEUs. It performs about 900 calls per annum at the POC.

The deep draft vessels, owned by MSC, call at the CICT of the POC, whilst calling the SLPA controlled JCT and ECT with more than 1.0m TEUS per annum, becoming the main customer of the SLPA.

According to MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the local agents for MSC shipping lines, another new three shipping lines, under INGWE West Bound service, East Africa Express service and East Med Service, will be calling this month at the POC.

To mark MSC America’s first call at the POC, a special plaque exchange was held at the ECT of the SLPA between Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander. Chairman of SLPA, Keith D Bernard, and several representatives of MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., also attended the occasion.

Expressing views at the occasion Minister de Silva said:

“With the deep draft of the East Container Terminal, there is ample potential for mega vessels to call at the port. The remaining development process of the terminal is expedited with an investment of Rs.5.9 billion. Today, a mega vessel of the MSC has contributed for container operations via the Port of Colombo. Similarly four new services will be added to increase the capacity of the POC. That will increase our revenue. This has further strengthened the credibility placed by the international shipping community on the Port of Colombo.”

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Remembering Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group

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The Upali Group of Companies, its employees, and sales agents countrywide, have made arrangements to invoke blessings on its founder, Upali Wijewardene, who disappeared in his Learjet, 40 years ago. Bodhi Pooja, Pahan Pooja and an alms-giving will be held, in his memory, on Feb. 13 (Monday).

A special Bodhi Pooja will be held at the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, at 6 p.m. on February 13 with the blessings of Prof. Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkhitha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.

Arrangements have been made to offer alms to the Maha Sangha at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, and scholarships to 10 needy children, from the Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

Alms-giving to the inmates of the Home for the Elders at Mulgampola, Kandy, Bodhi Pooja Pinkama and Kavi Bana Pinkama, from 4.30 p.m. onwards, at the Ceylon Chocolates factory premises.

Bodhipooja, Pahan Pooja and Kavibana deshana will be held at Vidya Niketha Piriven Viharaya, Sapugoda Kamburupitiya.

The employees of Upali Consumer Products have arranged an alms-giving lunch at the ‘Children’s Home’ at Ja-Ela.

Founder’s Day Programme on February 13, 2023.

9.00 a.m. – Holy Mass at Mattakkuliya Church.

10.00 a.m. – Offering of Buddhapooja at the ‘Dhathumandiriya’.

10.30 a.m. – Scholarships to 10 needy children from Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

11.30 a.m. – Alms-giving for the Maha Sangha at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

12 noon – Providing lunch for the Children’s Home, Ja-Ela, organized by the employees of Upali Trading Co. Ltd.

5.15 p.m. – Offering Gilanpasapooja (permissible drinks) for Dhathumandiraya.

6.00 p.m. – Bodhi Pooja and Pahan Pooja at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

All these pinkamas (meritorious acts) are organized by Upali Group employees and newspaper, Kandos/Delta and soap agents.

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