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FM: UNHRC on political campaign against SL

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… points out duplicity of some members

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday (23) said double standards adopted by some countries would undermine the global fight against terrorism. Minister Gunawardena said so delivering the country statement at the 46th session of the Geneva based UNHRC. He spoke using video technology.

Minister Gunawardena said there was an unprecedented propaganda campaign against Sri Lanka on the basis of the report of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Minister said that he would leave it to the members and observers of this Council to make their own judgment on whether Sri Lanka represented a situation that warranted the urgent attention of this Council, or if this campaign was essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this Council has been established. Particularly at a time when legislation is enacted by some countries to protect their soldiers from prosecution in military operations carried out overseas, only points to duplicity and the hypocritical nature of their motives. This cannot but result in a significant loss of morale among countries engaged in the struggle against terrorism.

The following is the full text of the statement: “Sri Lankan heroic armed forces militarily neutralized the LTTE in 2009 after three-decades of conflict. The Sri Lanka Government acted in self-defense to safeguard the unitary state, sovereignty and territorial integrity from the world’s most ruthless separatist terrorist organization.

The LTTE is the only terrorist organization in the world which has killed two world leaders: a serving President of Sri Lanka and a former Prime Minister of India extending its terror beyond the borders of Sri Lanka.

End of terrorism guaranteed the most cherished of all human rights – right to life of all Sri Lankans – Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslims.

Nonetheless hegemonic forces colluded against Sri Lanka in bringing an unsubstantiated resolution against Sri Lanka which was defeated by the support of friendly nations who remain by Sri Lanka’s side even today. Further resolutions were presented to this Council on purely political motives. In each instance Sri Lanka presented the procedural improprieties, and how such processes could set a dangerous precedent affecting all member states of the United Nations.

The Government which assumed office in Sri Lanka in 2015, in a manner unprecedented in human rights fora, joined as co-sponsors of Resolution 30/1 which was against our own country. It carried a host of commitments that were not deliverable and were not in conformity with the Constitution of Sri Lanka. This led to the compromising of national security to a point of reviving terrorist acts on Easter Sunday 2019 causing the deaths of hundreds. The rejection of this resolution by the peoples of Sri Lanka was clearly manifested in the mandate received by His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019. Based on this mandate I announced at the 43rd session of this Council that Sri Lanka would withdraw from co-sponsorship of the resolution. I also stated that Sri Lanka would remain engaged with the UN system including this Council.

We have provided detailed updates to the OHCHR in December 2020 as well as in January 2021 on the progress of implementation of commitments that Sri Lanka had undertaken such as continuity of the existing mechanisms, appointment of a special commission of inquiry headed by a Supreme Court Judge, achieving the SDGs, progress made in returning lands, demining and creating new avenues of livelihoods.

These steps have been taken even as Sri Lanka was battling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past one year. In spite of these challenges we held a free and fair general election in August 2020 and elected a new Government with a two-thirds majority in one of Asia’s oldest Parliamentary democracies.

It is regrettable that despite the spirit of cooperation with the HRC and its mechanisms, elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution based on this OHCHR Report. This rejected report by Sri Lanka has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic in any self-respecting, sovereign country.

I leave it to the members and observers of this Council to make their own judgment on whether Sri Lanka represents a situation that warrants the urgent attention of this Council, or if this campaign is essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this Council has been established. Particularly at a time when legislation is enacted by some countries to protect their soldiers from prosecution in military operations carried out overseas, only points to duplicity and the hypocritical nature of their motives. This cannot but result in a significant loss of morale among countries engaged in the struggle against terrorism.

The Council must hold the scales even. Not going by hearsay, unilateral action or one angled doubtful sources but adhere to its guiding principles. Insistence on such ever-expanding externally driven prescriptions notwithstanding our continuous cooperation and engagement with this Council can pose numerous challenges.

As the Council is aware this is a critical time to the entire world in the last hundred years where we need to be united in our efforts to overcome the Covid19 pandemic and to revive battered economies. I appeal to the members of this Council to take note of our continued engagement and cooperation on its merit and support us by rejecting any resolution against Sri Lanka. We believe that the extent to which the resources and time of this Council has been utilized on Sri Lanka is unwarranted, and carries a discouraging message to the sovereign states of the global South.

The need of the hour, in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, is solidarity rather than rancor and acrimony arising from divisions within this council. In view of the circumstances set out above, we urge that this resolution be rejected by the Council and be brought to closure.”


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AG not bound by its recommendations, yet to receive report

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PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC is not bound by recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, or presidential directives in that regard, according to authoritative sources.

They said that the AG couldn’t under any circumstances initiate legal proceedings until he had received the full PCoI report.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the PCoI report on Feb 1. The President’s Office delivered a set of PCoI reports to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Feb 23, a day after the report was presented to the cabinet of ministers. The Island raised the matter with relevant authorities in the wake of a section of the media reporting the PCoI recommending punitive measures against former President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujitha Jayasundera, Chief of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen et al over the Easter Sunday carnage.

Sources pointed out that due to the inordinate delay in sharing the PCoI report with the AG, the department hadn’t been able to take preliminary measures required to initiate the proceedings. Sources said that a team of officers would take at least six weeks or more to examine the report before tangible measures could be taken.

With the AG scheduled to retire on May 24, 2021, even if the AG Department received the P CoI it would be quite a tough task to initiate proceedings ahead of retirement, sources said. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, both the AG and the IGP could receive extensions beyond 60 at the President’s discretion.

 

Dappula de Livera received an Acting appointment as the AG a week after the Easter Sunday carnage whereas his predecessor Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was elevated to Chief Justice.

Responding to another query, sources said that the Attorney General two weeks ago requested Secretary to the President for a copy of the P CoI. However, the AG was yet to receive one, sources said. In spite of the AG not receiving a P CoI copy, the AG had instructed the IGP to obtain a copy of the report when he requested the police to complete investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage. The AG issued specific instructions after having examined police files pertaining to the investigations.

The IGP, too, hadn’t received a copy so far though some sections of the report were in the public domain.

Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage displayed at a live political programme on Derana a copy of the P CoI report he received at the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.

Sources said that the Attorney General’s Department couldn’t decide on a course of action in respect of the Easter carnage on the basis of a section of the report. In terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Section 24), the AG enjoyed significant powers/authority in respect of investigations; sources said adding that the Department urgently required both the P CoI report and police investigations report. The Attorney General’s Department has raised the delay in receiving a P CoI report amidst the Catholic Church attacking the government over the same issue.

Sources said that ministerial committee appointed to study the P CoI report couldn’t decide on how to proceed with the recommendations and the matter was entirely in the hands of the AG. Sources pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to release the report had received the attention of sections of the international media, including the New York Times. Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera having met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at the Bishop’s House on Dec 8, 2020 said that the AG would get a copy of the P CoI report once the President received it. Minister Weerasekera said that the CID had handed over the relevant files after having completed investigations into eight blasts. Referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Easter Sunday carnage, the former Navy Chief of Staff said that all such documents would have to be brought to one place and considered before initiating legal proceedings. Acknowledging that there could be delays, lawmaker Weerasekera said that on the instructions of the Attorney General a 12-member team of lawyers was working on the case. The minister vowed to expose the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks. Investigations continued while some of those wanted were overseas, the minister said.

The minister acknowledged that the Attorney General couldn’t proceed without the P CoI report. Minister Weerasekera reiterated that once the President received the P CoI report, it would be sent to the Attorney General. The minister said that there were documents two to three feet high that needed scrutiny. The minister assured comprehensive investigation. The minister said that investigations pertaining to eight blasts had been completed and the reports handed over to the AG. However, the Attorney General had found shortcomings in those investigations.

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JVP picks holes in PCoI report

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By Saman Indrajith

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday bombings had failed to identify the mastermind of , the JVP said yesterday.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that the PCoI report had levelled accusations against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former IGP and head of intelligence for their dereliction of duty, shirking of responsibilities and not taking action to prevent the attacks and negligence. There were reference to the causes of the terror attacks and actions to be taken to avoid such attacks and the influence of extremist organisations. “However, there is no mention of the mastermind of the attacks, the handlers of the attackers and those whose interests the carnage served. It is also not mentioned whether there has been any foreign or local organisation behind those attacks. As per the PCoI report the attack took place as a result of culmination of extremism.

“According to the PCoI the extremist activities were a result of the prevailing political situation then. The entire nation was waiting to see who was responsible and who masterminded those attacks. The PCoI has failed to identify the true culprits responsible for the terror attacks. The report says that the leader of the suicide cadres killed himself in the attacks and it was a puzzle. That means those who are actually responsible for the attacks are still at large. The report does not provide exact details of the sources of the attacks. The PCoI had sittings for one year and five months. It summoned various persons and got their statements but it has failed to shed any light on the terror attacks. Everybody knows that the top leaders of the government and heads of security and intelligence establishments failed in their duties. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command and he too is bound by the responsibility but the PCoI report fails to identify him as one of the persons against whom legal action should be instituted. The PCoI has treated Wickremesinghe and former President Maithripala Sirisena differently. We are not telling that this report is a total failure but we cannot accept this as a complete report. The PCoI handed over its report to the President on Feb 1. After 23 days it was sent to Parliament. Now, a copy of the report is there in the parliamentary library for the perusal of MPs.”

Herath said that the PCoI did not have powers to take punitive action. “It only has powers to name those responsible and recommend action to be taken against those named.

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TNA MP faults govt. for delay in answering questions, gets under Johnston’s skin

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By Saman Indrajith

It did not matter whether the MPs were wearing pressed clothes or had travelled long distances when their questions were answered, Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday.

 The Minister said so in response to a complaint by Batticaloa District TNA MP Shanikyan Rasamanikkam, who expressed his dismay for government taking time to answer a question raised by him.

 MP Rasamanikkam has raised a question whether the Minister of Health is aware that the Dikkodai ospital, located in the Batticaloa district is not used for public purposes and the patients who visit the hospital for receiving services, face inconveniences, owing to that. On behalf of the Minister of Health, the Chief Government Whip and Minister asked for additional two weeks time.

 MP Rasamanikkam: I come to parliament from Batticaloa, which is 422 km away. To attend Parliament we take great care including pressing our clothes. After taking so much trouble to come there braving the pandemic threat we do not get answers. There is a Health Minister and Acting Health Minister and neither of them is here. I saw Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle in the House this morning. She too has gone out. I travel more than 800 km. We could attend to many other problems. It is because the government does not give answers we are conducting protest marches, but when we do so we are hauled up before courts.

Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: Every MP comes here wearing pressed clothes. But that has nothing to do with questions and answers here. I have been requested by the subject minister to ask for two weeks’ time. The MPs have a right to ask questions and in the same way the ministers have the right to ask for time. On the other hand, whether you cover 400 km to reach parliament does not matter. The majority of MPs travel 200 to 250 kilometers to come to Parliament. It is for that purpose they contest elections and get elected. Once elected the distance is not an issue you have to come to Parliament. The government has answered all your questions. This is the first time the Minister has asked for additional time. It is unfair for you to level charges. A more responsible conduct is expected of you as an upcoming political leader.

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