Dinesh insists SL is neutral, non-aligned
By Shamindra Ferdinando
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo yesterday (28) side-stepped a query whether the government of Sri Lanka had requested him to reconsider the travel ban imposed on Army Chief Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva on the basis of unsubstantiated and unverified war crimes allegations.
The US in February this year slapped a travel ban on wartime GoC of the celebrated 58 Division and his family on the basis of the Geneva Resolution, co-sponsored by the previous yahapalana administration in Oct 2015.
The media raised the issue at the Foreign Ministry after Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Secretary of State Pompeo addressed the press.
Earlier in the day, Pompeo met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat. Among those present on both occasions was one-time Foreign Secretary Ravintha Aryasinha named the next Sri Lankan Ambassador in Washington.
Asked for comment on the current status of the US action against Lt. Gen. Silva, Pompeo, the one-time head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said: “It is a legal process in the US. We always continue to review it. We want to make sure; we get it technically, factually and legally right.”
Pompeo functioned as CIA Director from January 2017 to April 2018 before he received appointment as Secretary of State. The US quit the Geneva-based UNHRC two months after Pompeo took over the State Department.
Pompeo launched a scathing attack on China when the local media asked whether the US was seeking to neutralise growing Chinese influence here by way of MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation), SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) as well as strategy adopted by US-India-Japan-Australia quartet as part of the overall strategy to counter Beijing. Pompeo was also asked what he was trying to accomplish here just days ahead of the US presidential election.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena authorized signing of ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) in early August 2017.
Pompeo emphasized that the US wanted Sri Lankans to have sovereignty and independence. Reiterating their commitment as a friend and partner, Pompeo said as democracies they shared a vision. Declaring that he was here to explore ways and means of taking the US-Sri Lanka relationship forward, Pompeo said: “We want to make sure the people of Sri Lanka have the capacity to execute their sovereign rights to remain independent.”
Comparing the Chinese policies with those of the US and other democracies, such as India, Pompeo alleged that the Chinese had a ‘very different vision’.
The US-based media accompanying the Secretary of State asked Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena whether Sri Lanka welcomed further enhancement of US presence in the region. Sri Lanka’s response was sought against the backdrop of growing Chinese influence in the region. Minister Gunawardena, having emphasized the importance of US-Sri Lanka relations reiterated: “We are a neutral, non-aligned country committed to peace. On that principle, we continue our relations with the US and other countries.”
Minister Gunawardena, in his opening address at the joint press event, made reference to the US Secretary of State being in Colombo the day before the countries celebrated the establishment of diplomatic ties 72 years ago.
Minister Gunawardena said: “As a sovereign, free, independent nation Sri Lanka’s foreign policy will remain neutral, non-aligned and friendly. Conscious of the opportunities and responsibilities that come with our strategic location, we see the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in our seas and air space also protecting sea lines of communication and the undersea cables. We believe all countries should adhere to and respect international law, including the UN Convention on Law of the Sea [UNCLOS]. We share views on the potential multifaceted maritime cooperation which Sri Lanka is keen to progress.”
BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”
“Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.
“We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”
The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.
The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
Full text of the BASL letter to the President:
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.
Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.
The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.
We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.
The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.
The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.
SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution
By A.J.A. Abeynayake
A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.
The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.
The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.
A/L may be delayed by one month
Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.
Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.
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