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War crimes allegations: SLAF Chief’s diplomatic appointment rejected again

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Govt. yet to take up the issue at hand, Parliament silent 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government is now planning to appoint retired SLAF Commander Air Marhal Sumangala Dias as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Malaysia.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Malaysia AM Kapila Jayampathy, who, too, served as the Commander of the SLAF previously, is likely to complete his term next December.

Having served the SLAF since 1984, Air Marshal Dias retired on Nov 02, 2020, as the SLAF’s 17th Commander. The Island learns that the government has been compelled to look for a new station in the wake of European Union member Italy’s refusal to accept Air Marshal Dias as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador there.

Authoritative sources said that retired senior members of the Sri Lankan military had been rejected on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations. Some countries have declined to issue visas even for private visits, sources said. They cited Australia’s refusal to issue visa to General Chagie Gallage, before his retirement, and the US slapping a travel ban on General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Earlier, the government sought to appoint the retired Air Marshal as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Canada, a member of Sri Lanka Core Group, in Geneva, spearheading accountability issues. Canada campaigned for the resolution adopted on March 23 at the UNHRC with 22 countries voting for, 11 against and 14 abstentions.

Authoritative sources said that there hadn’t been a single specific accusation against Dias.

The Canadian High Commission declined to comment on the matter. Asked for clarification regarding Sri Lanka’s request and Canadian denial, the HC said that ‘as it is subject to state-to-state confidentiality, we do not comment on the process.”

The Island

sought Canadian HC’s response in the wake of the Air Marshal, receiving parliamentary approval.

The Communications Department of the Parliament on April 23, 2021, quoted the Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake, as having said that the Parliamentary High Posts Committee, chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, had approved Air Marshal Dias and P.M. Amza as Sri Lanka’s envoys in Canada and Saudi Arabia, respectively. The Secretary General made no reference to those countries declining to accept previous nominations. Amza held the rank of Acting Additional Secretary, Foreign Ministry.

Due to Canada and Saudi Arabia refusing to accept retired Air Marshal Sumangala Dias and Ahmed A. Jawad, respectively, as heads of Sri Lankan missions, Parliament made the April 23 announcement.

The government announced the appointment of AM Dias, as well as Ahmed A. Jawad, in late Oct 2020. The HPC approved their appointments the following month. Sources said that Saudi Arabia rejected Jawad’s appointment as he served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Riyadh at the time teenage Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek was beheaded in early January 2013. The then Rajapaksa administration protested the Saudi execution by recalling Ahmed. Saudi Arabia, too, recalled its envoy. Sources said that HPC should have considered Nafeek’s incident before making the announcement.

The Island

 raised the issues at hand with the Public Diplomacy Division of the Foreign Ministry.

The Island:

What is the status of the move to appoint retired AM Dias as Ambassador in Rome?

FM:

Air Marshal Sumangala Dias has not been appointed as the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Italy.

The Island:

On what grounds Ottawa declined to accept AM Dias as HC?

FM:

The Government of Canada has not declined the nomination of AM Dias as the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka.

The Island:

When will civil society activist Harsha Kumara Navaratne, who recently resigned from the Human Rights Commission, leave for Ottawa?

FM:

The new High Commissioner-Designate of Sri Lanka to Canada, Harsha Kumara Navaratne, is expected to take up duties at the Mission shortly.

The Island:

How many foreign missions do we have?

FM:

The Government has established a total number of 66 diplomatic missions, excluding the Embassy of Sri Lanka, in Kabul, Afghanistan, temporarily closed due to the current developments in that country. The network of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions comprises 36 Embassies, 13 High Commissions, 02 Permanent Missions to the United Nations, 01 Deputy High Commissioner’s Office, 13 Consulates-General, and 01 Representative Office abroad.

The FM said that the Heads of Missions/Posts of Sri Lanka consists of a total number of 29 career officers appointed from the Sri Lanka Foreign Service, two career officers from the Department of Commerce, and 21 non-career personnel (excluding the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Afghanistan whose tenure was concluded recently), serving as Heads of Mission/Post abroad.

Responding to another query, the FM said that 14 Sri Lanka Heads of Missions/Posts remained vacant excluding the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Afghanistan. Accordingly, the Government of Sri Lanka was in the process of formalising appointments of new Heads of Missions/Posts to those vacant, posts as appropriate in collaboration with the receiving states, the FM said.

Ministerial sources said that Parliamentary High Posts Committee (HPC) chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena should seriously consider the issue at hand. The rejection of diplomatic appointments and visas in respect of private visits on the basis of unproved war crimes accusations should be properly dealt with. War winning Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, a current member of the HPC, too, remained blacklisted by the US.



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Two-year reconciliation project spurns Lord Naseby’s disclosure

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EU, Germany funded scheme costs Rs. 8 mn

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Peace Council (NPC) says war-related matters hadn’t been discussed at the nearly two-year-long reconciliation project that brought together students from Eastern, Jaffna, Ruhuna and Sabaragamuwa Universities.

More than 160 students have participated in the project that culminated with a conference on the theme of ‘Plural Sri Lanka: Paths to reconciliation.’ Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris delivered the closing address and responded to questions from the audience.

Pointing out that post-war reconciliation efforts had been badly hampered by allegations that the Sri Lankan military killed over 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front, The Island sought clarification as regards measures taken by the NPC to improve relations among the communities, and the following questions were raised:

The Island:

During your two-year long project did participants discuss specific war crimes allegations and disclosure made in the House of Lords in Oct 2017 that contradicted unsubstantiated accusations pertaining to 40,000 civilian deaths.

Executive Director NPC Dr. Jehan Perera:

“No, we did not discuss these war-related matters. The project was titled “Creative Youth Engagement for Pluralism” and it focused on the nature of Sri Lanka as a plural society and the value framework that should guide it.  The research papers highlighted the diversity within Sri Lankan society that goes beyond ethnicity and religion.  They included topics such as “Attitudes of Society on Education and Transsexuality: A Comparative Study on the Ideologies of a Community with Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Education,” and “Pluralism and University Subculture: An Ethnological Study on Young Behavior towards Social Cohesion,” and “An Investigative Study of the Challenges Posed by the Changes in the Aboriginal Society.”

The Island:

What is the total cost of the project?

The NPC

: Rs 8 million was spent to train and mentor the writers of the 30 research publications in four universities, translate, review and publish their findings in book form and for the conference which brought the students to Colombo.

Question 3:

What is the GoSL’s contribution?

The NPC:

There was no direct financial support by the government. Four state universities supported through their faculty members and students.

The Island: What is the NPC’s stand on accountability resolution and announcement made in Geneva that the Sri Lankan military would be subjected to a fresh inquiry?

The NPC:

In order to get out of these allegations, there is a need for a credible and independent investigation. Our preference is for a national mechanism that is acceptable to all sides.  Accountability will need to be a part of the reconciliation process.  NPC favours the restorative justice approach which focuses on ensuring justice to victims. This includes an acknowledgement of wrongs done and reparations and institutional reform to ensure that there is non-recurrence. 

 The Island: Are you also engaged in post-war reconciliation projects funded by Norway?

The NPC:

NPC hasn’t obtained funds from Norway for the past five years.

The recently concluded project has been funded by a project called Strengthening Reconciliation Process here jointly funded by the European Union and the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by Deutsche Gesellsschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the British Council in partnership with the Sri Lankan Government.

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Speaker promises to appoint bi-partisan committee to look into incidents in Parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced in Parliament yesterday (06) that a committee consisting of senior members from the Government and Opposition would be appointed within the week to look into the incidents that took place in Parliament last Friday and Saturday and submit a report.

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High Court Trial-at-Bar orders release of several accused from 11 charges in CB bond auction case

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By AJA Abeynayake

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar yesterday ordered the release of several accused, including former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke and former Central Bank former Governor Arjuna Mahendra, from 11 charges out of 22 in connection with the Central Bank bond auction held on 31 March, 2016.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar held that public property charges against the accused could not be maintained. Indictments had been filed against Perpetual Treasuries Private Ltd (PTL), former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke, CBSL former Governor Arjuna Mahendran, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) beneficiary owner Arjun Aloysius, PTL Chief dealer Kasun Palisena, Chairman of PTL Jeffrey Joseph Aloysius, Chitta Ranjan Hulugalle, Muthuraja Surendran, Ajahn Gardiye Punchihewa and Badugoda Hewa Indika Saman Kumara in connection with bond auction held on March 31, 2016.

The case against seventh accused Ranjan Hulugalle was dismissed on preliminary objections raised.

President’s Counsel Anil Silva, Counsel Asela Serasinghe, Hafeel Farisz, Sahan Kulatunga and Vishwaka Peiris appeared for the seventh accused.

The Attorney General’s stance regarding the future cause of action to be informed on 26 Jan. 2022.

The Attorney General had alleged that the PTL had been using the Central Bank’s important undisclosed information to alter the final outcome of the Treasury bond auction and it had a huge impact on the overall national economy as a result of the subtle; the systematic conduct of the offences related to the fraud and had caused injustice to other primary sellers in the bond market, and the PTL had acted cunningly and made a huge profit and conspired to cause a huge loss to the government.

The case was postponed until 26 Jan. 2022.

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