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GL at KDU confab:

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Prof. Peiris addressing KDU conference recently (pic courtesy Education Ministry

 

Reconciliation cannot be achieved at the expense of the majority community

Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris recently said that reconciliation could never be achieved without accommodating the interests of the majority community.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said that the previous government’s (2015-2019) reconciliation efforts failed primarily because the sentiments of the majority community were conveniently ignored. The SLPP Chairman said so addressing the 13th International Research Conference, KDU.

Commenting on what he called the concept of reconciliation, which became very important after the end of the war in 2009, Prof. Peiris said: “There was then, naturally, the feeling that we have to leave the pain and anguish of the war behind us. We have to emphasize unity and solidarity and bring together all the people of our cherished land, irrespective of caste, creed, ethnic or religious identity, to emphasize the oneness of this nation. That is the pith and substance of the concept of reconciliation.

“But it all went wrong during the yahapalana administration of 2015 to 2019. It is worth examining in an objective spirit the reasons why that endeavour failed so miserably.”

Alleging that the authorities at that time, forgot the sentiments, and aspirations of the majority community, Prof. Peiris said: ” Reconciliation, of course, places emphasis on minority aspirations, to make them comfortable, to convey to them in definite terms, the conviction, that they are very much a part of the country, they belong. That confidence has to be imparted to the minorities and at the same time, it is absolutely necessary to carry the majority community with you. If you leave them behind, if you engender in the minds of the majority community that they are not important, they can be side lined and forgotten about, they do not matter, such an exercise in reconciliation, is doomed to failure, as the empirical experience of those four years convincingly demonstrated.”

Excepts of the minister’s speech: “There is an intimate connection between national growth and security. It is fanciful to talk of any kind of national growth without the assurance of security. Security is the necessary and indispensable foundation. Without security, it is impossible to achieve growth in any sector of the country. The celebrated political scientist, the late Professor Harold Laski, of the London School of Economics said that the basic duty of a State is to provide security for its people. That is the ultimate reason for the existence of the Nation State.

We have seen empirical evidence of this in the recent past of our country. Through the 30-year conflict with the LTTE, it was impossible to attract substantial investment into this country. Every facet of Sri Lanka’s economy suffered grievously during that period. How can you attract investors into a country, which is being torn asunder by a ferocious war? Investment, international trade, all this was affected by the ongoing conflict.

“What happened during that period? I think the most alarming spectacle that we are seeing in this country today is the evidence that is transpiring on a daily basis before the Presidential Commission that is going into the catastrophic phenomenon of the Easter Sunday carnage. The evidence before the P CoI emphasizes the total breakdown of the security apparatus in the country at the time. It was not mere debilitation or weakening of the security apparatus, it was a total collapse of it.

 “When the incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, there was very close collaboration between the intelligence arm and immigration authorities. Whenever an application was made by a foreign preacher, somebody who wanted to come and teach in this country, when a visa was requested, a very thorough background check was done. And if there was something unsavory in the past of that person, if he had been involved in any activity which led to disharmony among communities, then the immigration authorities in close consultation with the intelligence arm, would turn down such a request for a visa to enter this country. That whole apparatus was consciously and deliberately dismantled. It did not happen unwittingly or inadvertently, it was the deliberate policy of the then government. The intelligence personnel were made to feel that they were an embarrassment. Surely, if you are talking of national growth and security, the first thing to ensure, is that funds coming from abroad, are brought in through proper channels. We have in this country such an established conduit. The conduit is the External Resources Department of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Of course, these resources are welcome. But they must come through the External Resources Department. The Central Bank must know the source, the origin of these funds. Where are these funds coming from? We must know the purpose for which these resources are going to be applied. Who is going to manage these resources? There must be audited accounts. All of this was dismantled. You then have a situation where, a university or what purports to be a university comes up in Batticaloa. The buildings that are constructed are better than the buildings that you have here at the Kotelawala Defence University. They are superior to the quality of the infrastructure in the Universities of Colombo and Peradeniya. If you go to Kattankudy blind folded and when the blind fold is taken off if you get there you will feel that you are in The Middle East. The date palms, the architecture, and the overall environment. The sums of money involved are colossal. But all of these was shrouded in secrecy. There is no exposure, visibility or accountability. It is that, that brought about a situation that culminated in the total collapse of the security establishment.

“Madrasas came up all over the country. They are not Sunday schools; many of them are providing instruction on a daily basis. Nobody examined the curriculum. There is no regulatory mechanism at all. So the seeds of racial hatred are sown in those institutions.

“This was true not only within the country, but in the conduct of our foreign relations. What happened there? Sri Lanka is unique among the nations of this world in committing to a Resolution in 2015 at the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka became co-sponsor of a Resolution condemning its own armed forces, accusing them of grievous crimes under international law and under international humanitarian law. The preamble to Resolution 30/1 of the 1st of September 2015 acknowledged with appreciation the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, The High Commissioner’s Report made the most damaging allegations, against the armed forces of this country. And the government of Sri Lanka endorsed all of that, and called for a thorough investigation at the international level. The Resolution gave responsibility to The Human Right Council and to the Commissioner for Human Rights, to keep Sri Lanka under constant review.

“So here was a government, which deliberately submitted the country to adjudication and assessment in respect of its armed forces to international tribunals.

“Just consider the enormity of what happened. There were pledges given in Resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, which are clearly contrary to the highest law of this country, the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Operative para six, of the first resolution 30/1 recommended that, Commonwealth and other foreign judges, should be entrusted with the task of judging our armed forces This is not possible under Sri Lanka’s Constitution, because foreigners cannot exercise judicial power in respect of our citizens. The then High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Hussein, publicly conceded that in respect of no other country has the Human Rights Council based in Geneva adopted so intrusive an approach, interfering directly with domestic policy in that country. The Resolutions involved matters, which are clearly within the domain of the Sri Lankan Parliament, not the business of foreigners. It calls for constitutional reforms. It calls for the devolution of greater powers to Provincial Councils. It calls for a thorough overhaul of Sri Lanka’s Armed Forces and the Police.

“The previous government’s attitude, which destroyed the very foundations of our national security, manifested itself both in respect of domestic policy and the conduct of the country’s foreign relations during the period 2015 to 2019. In such a situation you cannot possibly have national growth, you cannot have economic advancement, because security has broken down entirely.

“Just one other point that I would like to make before I conclude, That is the reference to militarization in the current political discourse. Non-governmental organizations and elements of the Opposition, as well as some prejudiced and biased foreign commentators, are finding fault with the role of the military in the conduct of national affairs in Sri Lanka at this time. They purport to sound a note of caution against an increasing role for the military in the conduct of Sri Lanka’s affairs. But no objective observer of the Sri Lankan scene can doubt the fact that when it came to the control of COVID-19, this country could not possibly have achieved what it did without the vigorous involvement and cooperation of the armed forces, particularly the intelligence arm. We were able to control the pandemic, because the armed forces were able to identify those who had been infected. First the immediate circle and next the outer periphery, that is still being done. The role of the armed forces is indispensable.”


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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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