The political landscape of Sri Lanka seems gloomy and desolate. Most of the actors who strut about the political stage posing as visionaries and leaders are in actuality empty vessels devoid of substance. Proverbial wisdom tells us that empty vessels make most sound. This is most apparent in the cacophony of voices currently prevalent in the polity. In the words of William Butler Yeats “ The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” The positive dream of Sri Lanka evolving into an inclusive, plural nation is slowly turning into a numerical majoritarian hegemonic nightmare.
Vijaya Kumaratunga in Jaffna
One of the many reasons for this dearth of truly visionary, genuinely dedicated, leaders has been the political violence of the tragic past. The secessionary war spearheaded by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE), the anti-state insurgencies led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) and the repressive, no holds barred counter -violence unleashed by the state to combat the LTTE and JVP insurrections at different times have cumulatively resulted in the lives of many brilliant, benevolent leaders being snuffed out abruptly. This violence and counter-violence also brought to the forefront of politics many parochial personalities without depth of wisdom. Sri Lanka suffers! Continue reading ‘Vijaya Kumaratunga: Charismatic Actor-Politician May Have Changed Nation’s Destiny’ »
Dr. H. M. Gunatilake, Former Director, Asian Development Bank
The telephone recordings of Mr. Ramanayake, a Member of Parliament, which revealed deeply entrenched corruption across Sri Lankan society overwhelmingly shattered the confidence about the entire governance system in the country. It also highlighted the utmost importance of reinvigorating dialogue on corruption and empowering people to demand for a corruption free society. In this context, the upcoming parliamentary election is very good platform for making corruption the major issue of election debate. As I mentioned in my previous face book article on Presidential election, finding an election wining alternative to two major parties, which are competing to be the most corrupt, is not possible at this time. The newly elected president seems the only hope left for Sri Lankans in this regard.
Those who seek alternative to mainstream political parties should continue to raise their voices against corruption. If we can avoid some highly corrupt politicians going to Parliament in the upcoming election, it would be a major achievement to begin with. Understanding why corruption prevails in democratic governance system is the initial step in combatting corruption in the long run. It helps forming realistic expectations of reducing corruption. This article attempts to shed some light on prevalence of corruption in democracies. It also provides some suggestions for immediate actions to reduce corruption.
What is corruption?
Amongst many definitions, one simple way to define corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gains by political leaders, or public officials. It is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization to acquire illicit benefits. Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. Corruption occurs in both the public and private sectors and media personnel and civil society actors can also be involved in corruption. Actors can be individuals, companies, or organisations such as a political party.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ironed out their differences yesterday and forwarded an application to the Election Commission to register a new alliance under the Flower Bud symbol to contest the upcoming parliamentary election.
The nine-party alliance to be called the ‘Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Sandanaya (SLNPS)’ will be led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa while its Chairman will be former President Maithripala Sirisena. The General Secretary of the Party will be former Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The National Organisers of the SLNPS are MP Dayasiri Jayasekara and Wimal Weerawansa.
UNP MP S.M.Marikkar yesterday said, no Sri Lankan should apply for US visa until the US government revoked its decision to prevent the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and his family members from visiting that country.
(Text of Media Release Issued by Human Rights Watch)
Sri Lankan security forces and intelligence agencies have intensified surveillance and threats against families of victims of enforced disappearance and activists supporting them since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became president in November 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. The Sri Lankan government should fulfill its commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Council to strengthen efforts to locate the “disappeared” and bring those responsible to justice.
Activists working in six locations in the northern and eastern parts of the country on behalf of relatives of the forcibly disappeared told Human Rights Watch that there has been a significant increase in government surveillance and intimidation. One activist said that prior to a recent victims’ meeting, “every one of the mothers got at least six telephone calls from different intelligence agencies asking, ‘Where is the meeting?’ ‘Who is organizing the meeting?’ ‘What is being said?’” Another activist said, “We can’t do any visible programs.… We’ve stopped everything.”
“The families of Sri Lanka’s ‘disappeared’ have spent years waiting for answers, but with the Rajapaksas back in power, security forces are threatening them to drop their demands for truth and accountability,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to stop the harassment immediately and abide by Sri Lanka’s pledges to the UN to uncover the fate of the ‘disappeared’ and provide justice to victims’ families.”
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse ended a four-day trip to India on Tuesday. It was the third visit to New Delhi by leading figures of the Colombo government in the three months since the election of President Gotabhaya Rajapakse.
Three days after Gotabhaya Rajapakse won the election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his foreign affairs minister, S. Jaishankar, to invite the Sri Lankan leader to visit New Delhi. Gotabhaya Rajapakse responded with a two-day tour in late November. In early January, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena also travelled to India for talks.
The trips are part of the ongoing diplomatic efforts of the US and India to prevent the new Sri Lanka government developing close relations with China. Washington and New Delhi are determined to counteract Beijing’s influence on the strategically-located island nation that straddles key Indian Ocean sea lanes stretching from Africa and West Asia to the Malacca Straits in the east.
During the January 2015 presidential elections, India backed the US regime-change operation to oust Mahinda Rajapakse as president and replace him with Maithripala Sirisena. While the US and India supported Sri Lanka’s war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and Colombo’s repressive authoritarian methods, they were hostile to Rajapakse’s close relations with China. While former President Rajapakse later claimed some Indian intelligence officials and foreign countries worked against him, he never publicly named them.
Following his elevation into the presidency, Sirisena, with the assistance of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, quickly brought Colombo’s foreign policy into line with US and Indian geo-strategic demands and integrated the country’s armed forces with the US Pacific Command and its military planning against China.
Likewise, the Modi government, and the former Congress administration, systematically transformed India into a frontline state in America’s increasingly provocative operations against China. Washington is prepared to wage war against Beijing in an attempt to block its rise as an economic and geostrategic competitor.
Following the recent arrest of former SriLankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, after investigations revealed their alleged involvement in the corrupt deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, fresh details of the financial trail as well as the complex banking and corporate web that had been spun to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities have been discovered by The Sunday Morning.
Through extensive investigations and the study of a set of highly confidential documents, we have produced a point-to-point illustration of this network and the financial trail which implicates Chandrasena and his wife.
The Government yesterday conveyed Sri Lanka’s strong objections on the imposition of travel restrictions on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and members of his immediate family and requested the US Government to review its decision.
Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena summoned and conveyed to US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz Sri Lanka’s strong objections on the imposition of travel restrictions by the US Government on the Commander of the Army and Actg. Chief of Defence Staff, as well as his immediate family when the two met at the Ministry yesterday.
During his discussion, the Minister reiterated that Lt. Gen. Silva was appointed as the Commander of the Army by the then President Maithripala Sirisena taking into account his seniority and that there were no substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him.
His elevation as the Actg. Chief of Defence Staff by the current Head of State President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was on account of his being the senior most serving military officer.
Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana says no final decision has been made yet on the three proposals submitted by the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs).
Accordingly the three models proposed by the RPCs include outgrower, productivity-based incentives and revenue sharing model.
“We are still in the process of exploring how best we can work this out, to be able to provide a Rs. 1,000 daily wage for the estate workers March,” the Minister told the Daily FT.
With few more days to finalise the modality of the wage hike, when asked the Minister of the three proposals which seems to be considered best option, he said it was still difficult to disclose as the discussions with stakeholders were still ongoing.
On January 14, President Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s office issued a media release declaring that the president wanted the minimum daily wage of tea plantation workers increased to 1,000 rupees ($US5.50), starting on March 1.
The announcement was immediately hailed by Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) leader Arumugam Thondaman, a cabinet minister in the new government, who claimed that it fulfilled a promise made by Rajapakse during last year’s presidential elections.
Rajapakse’s announcement is a patent fraud. The president and his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) minority government, who are preparing a snap general election sometime in April, are sitting on a social time bomb, with rising working-class opposition over low wages and the high cost of essential items. Key sections of the working class, including the tea plantation workers, have been involved in a series of wage struggles over the past 18 months.
Rajapakse’s pay proposal is a crude attempt to diffuse the mounting anger of plantation workers over wages and win their votes in the forthcoming election. He hopes to win a two-thirds parliamentary majority for the SLPP and push through legislation to establish authoritarian methods of rule.
United States Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz has been summoned to the Foreign Relations Ministry today to be told of the government’s displeasure over the travel ban on Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Shavendra de Silva, considered a ‘war hero’ in Sri Lanka, and his family.
Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, who will meet her at noon today, will tell her that Sri Lanka is not pleased with the action of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
On Friday, the US designated that the current Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and Acting Chief of Defence Staff be blacklisted due to “credible information” of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings, by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009.
Mr. Pompeo made the declaration under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
A Foreign Relations Ministry source said the meeting today, despite being a Sunday, underscored the importance Sri Lanka attached to the issue.
The United States has imposed an entry bar on Sri Lanka’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva, citing his alleged involvement in war crimes during the final stages of the country’s civil war.
The travel restriction on the general is the first significant international penalty to be imposed on a Sri Lankan official over atrocities committed during the country’s 26-year civil war with Tamil Tiger militants, which ground to a halt in 2009.
The United Nations estimates that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians died in those final stages, many in extrajudicial killings, accusations the Sri Lankan government has denied.
The move was a rebuke to a Sri Lankan government that is stacked with officials accused of rights abuses during the civil war — including Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who won presidential elections last November.
Mr. Rajapaksa was the defense secretary during the final years of the war, and has appointed or promoted several officials accused of war crimes to important positions.
With the Ranil vs Sajith debate dragging on we are now moving to a battle on symbols. Ranil is not ready to give the elephant symbol to the new Sajith-led alliance. So we are moving to the heart of the matter. Sajith has picked on the heart symbol, and the polls commission has also agreed to it.
We will be fast moving to the politics of the heart, or “hadavath deshapalanaya”. The elephant symbol of green politics moved out of the battle ground some decades ago, although the UNP kept the largely unused symbol. From the campaign of Gen. Sarath Fonseka as presidential candidate in 2009, the elephant was kept in the UNP Zoo, and not brought out for big campaigning. The jumbo’s last show was in the local government polls in 2018, where it was a real ‘ali parajaya’ or massive defeat.
With Ranil embracing the elephant in the final phase of his politics, and Sajith missing the heartbeat of the elephant in his recent presidential defeat campaign, the country is now moving to a new political trend where the heart will face the lotus flower – the hadavatha – nelum mala satana.
The US has imposed sanctions on Sri Lanka’s chief of army staff, Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, for war crimes committed at final stages of the conflict against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, when up to 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed.
The US travel ban against Silva and his family marks the first time any of the leading suspects in the mass killings have been held accountable on the world stage.
The sanctions come three months after the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the defence secretary during the brutal counter-insurgency.
His victory increased fears there would be a return to impunity for war crimes, and a creeping erosion of human rights protections.
During the 2008-09 conflict, General Silva was the commander of the army’s 58th division, which was accused of shelling “no-fire zones” where ten of thousands of civilians had been told by the government to take shelter as it mounted a final offensive.
(Text of Press Statement Issued by US Secretary of State Michael R.Pompeo on February 14th 2020)
The Department of State has designated Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, current Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and Acting Chief of Defense Staff, as required under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, due to credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings, by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009.
Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in a gross violation of human rights or significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members. In addition to the public designation of Shavendra Silva, the Department is also designating his immediate family members.
The Government last night took strong objection against the imposition of travel restrictions by the US against Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva and his family to the United States.
Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the US Department of State has designated Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, current Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and Acting Chief of Defence Staff and his immediate family members. The public designation makes them ineligible for entry into the United States.
Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne yesterday said external timelines would only hinder the reconciliation process as they function independent of ground realities.
“Timelines evolved externally in achieving stated objectives would only seek to hinder the process of reconciliation since they would be bereft of ground realities,” emphasised Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne during a one-day debate at the UN Security Council, titled ‘Peace-building and Sustaining Peace: Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations’, held yesterday, a statement by the Foreign Relations Ministry said.
She added that when seeking mechanisms of transitional justice, related simple theories would need to also take cognizance of the various historical, cultural and religious sensitivities.
MSH Mohamed is an iconic figure in cancer philanthropy in Sri Lanka. He, together with his Fight Cancer Team, toiled with great determination and dedication to fulfill the sole ambition of his late son, Humaid, who succumbed to cancer three years ago. His last wish was to equip the Apeksha Cancer Hospital Maharagama with a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner.
As any other cancer story, Mohamed’s one too is filled with grief and despair. But his sheer dedication turned it into one of hope.
In 2014, Humaid, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. He was taken abroad for treatment, where millions of rupees were spent, but to no avail. On return to Sri Lanka, he was treated at a private hospital in Colombo for about six months, where again another couple of millions were spent. Three surgeries were performed on him, but with no improvement.
“We were feeling the strain, both economically and mentally. In 2015 we went to Apeksha hospital as we couldn’t afford the cost of treatment anymore,” Mohamed described how medical costs drain a family’s health and wealth today in Sri Lanka.
Commenting on the services available at the Apeksha hospital at that time Mohamed said, “As this is the only government run cancer hospital, and as the patients come from all around the country, we thought this would be of some standing. But we were disillusioned. When you compare the level of care and technology used to treat cancer elsewhere in the world with here, you feel sad and disgusted”.
Could Restorative Justice be the key to healing a deeply wounded society such as ours?
That was the discussion that took place on Monday, February 3rd, at the BMICH, where Barry Hart, Professor of Psycho-Social Trauma, Identity, Dignity and Peacebuilding, of the Eastern Mennonite University, USA and Initiatives of Change (IoC) Global, was the keynote speaker.
The seminar on Restorative Justice was hosted by Initiatives of Change Lanka. IoC works globally to build trust across the many divisions of the world; nationalities, cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.
Restorative justice seeks to repair a wrong by working with the victim, the offender and the community where making amends and accountability are the key roles.
While peacebuilding is a long and continuous process it does not always deal with the intangibles caused through violence, explained Professor Hart. Post-violence initiatives concentrate on the tangibles such as developing infrastructure and the economy while overlooking the psychological trauma an individual or a community has faced. Dignity, that ‘inherent feeling of value and self-worth of an individual or a community’ must be restored, he said, without which the emotional harm experienced would be carried on for generations.
Power without love, matures hate he pointed out, and revenge is not the solution. He explained that even if peace is achieved, it would be a ‘cold peace” where the body would continue to hold onto the trauma inflicted upon it.
Unarguably, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) is the most universally respected Asian statesman of our time. He is esteemed from Washington to Havana, from Moscow to Beijing; from East to West and North to South, both for the quality of his mind and his conspicuous practical success as a transformational leader.
LKY is also known as the one who encouraged and to a great extent inspired Deng Xiaoping’s economic revolution in a seminal conversation in 1978. Lee made 33 visits to China and was acquainted with five generations of Chinese leaders.
LKY’s main observations on Sri Lanka are available in four texts. His on-the-record views on our country traverse its position at independence, through the post-independence decades right up to its post-war period. He was a man who never suffered fools or foolishness gladly and refused to waste his or other people’s time, so he was crystal clear and brutally frank in whatever he said—leaving no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
It is of considerable relevance that Lee’s identification of Sri Lanka’s tragic errors remained consistent over the decades, right up to his extended conversation in ‘The Man and his Ideas’ (1998, 2015), his famous double-volume autobiography ‘From Third World to First: The Singapore Story’ published in 2000, his International Herald Tribune interview (2007), and his exposition in Prof Tom Plate’s book ‘Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew’ in the ‘Giants of Asia’ series (2011).
One of the stranger if not outlandish manifestations of the upending of Sri Lanka’s legal order is the ongoing tussle between the Attorney General and the Presidential Commission inquiring into alleged incidents of political victimisation of public servants during the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government.
A truly extraordinary directive
The source of this dispute is truly extraordinary. As such, it evokes more than a passing response. The controversy arose over a ‘directive’ issued by the Presidential Commission recently ordering the Attorney General to ‘halt’ investigations into prosecutions launched against former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy spokesman D.K.P. Dassanayake over the abduction and disappearance of 11 youth, ‘until the Commission concludes its investigations.’
The directive was issued notwithstanding the fact that the ‘Navy abduction case, (as commonly referred to), is easily one of Sri Lanka’s most egregious human rights violations, ranking high in an infamous list. The case has implicated several high ranking military officers and their subordinates in a ransom racket where children were allegedly abducted for money during the Rajapaksa (the First) Presidency between 2008-2009 and consequently ‘disappeared.’ There were also allegations of a ‘cover up’ which pointed fingers at senior state prosecutors at the time.
The Election Commission (EC) has recognised Sajith Premadasa as the new leader of Our National Front (ONF) or Ape Jathika Peramuna and MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara as its General Secretary, as well as a change in the party’s name to Samagi Jana Balawegaya or United National Power (UNP), with the new acronym widening divisions within the United National Party.
While Election Commissioner General Saman Sri Ratnayake, in a letter, informed the ONF that the EC had decided to agree to the request to change the names of office-bearers and the party, UNP Legal Secretary President’s Counsel Nissanka Nanayakkara wrote to the EC stating that as the English acronym for both parties was identical, the commission should refrain from recognising another party with the same acronymised name.
The Election Commission (EC) has approved a request from those supporting Sajith Premadasa to rename ‘Ape Jathika Peramuna’ as ‘Samagi Jana Balavegaya,’ and make MP Ranjith Maddumabandara its General Secretary.
The Premadasa faction wants to contest the upcoming general election from ‘Samagi Jana Balavegaya.’
Commissioner General of Elections Commission, Saman Sri Rathnayake in a letter to Secretary of the alliance MP Ranjith Maddumabandara, yesterday, approved the renaming of the Ape Jathika Peramuna as ‘Samagi Jana Balavegaya.”
The UNP Working Committee yesterday unanimously approved the name of MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara as the General Secretary of the new UNP-led alliance to be formed to contest the upcoming General Elections, but differences over the symbol under which the polls will be contested led to several members walking out of the meeting.
“No other names were proposed, and the WC unanimously agreed to support Madduma Bandara,” a UNP source said.
However, while there was consensus on the General Secretary’s post, there was no agreement reached on whether to contest under the elephant symbol or make an alternate selection. A majority in the UNP WC had wanted to go with the elephant symbol, but a group of members supporting MP Sajith Premadasa, who has been named the leader of the alliance, had insisted on contesting under a new symbol.
Bong Joon Ho saved the Oscars. His smile. His crazy hair. The way he walks, and, yes, the way he talks, but especially the way he directs — all of these (literally) winning attributes not only contributed to a history-making 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, but kept it from ranking among the worst telecasts of all time. Thanks to “Parasite’s” four wins — especially its dark horse victories for Best Picture and Best Director — the 2020 Oscars show stands as one of the best ever.
With any other champion, the post-ceremony conversation would already be focused on what to fix next year — and anyone in charge should start making a to-do list now: Hiring a host is a must. Cutting the length down from a bloated three-and-a-half hours is, too. Finding a unifying theme, or even a consistent tone, would be the ethereal pursuit for next year’s producers, while they sit in dread of more speeches like this year’s unmemorable crop. So much of what was put forth during the 2020 Oscars simply didn’t work, and it would’ve added up to an ugly failure on all fronts — if not for our Lord and Savior, Director Bong.
The “Parasite” wins represented everything the Oscars were otherwise lacking, from their element of surprise to the glass ceilings they shattered, but before we all choose to collectively forget the rest of the ceremony, let’s take it one more from the top: By all accounts, the 2020 Oscars looked first looked like a traditional ceremony, opening with a song-and-dance number, a comedic monologue, and a speech from a bonafide movie star. To all the folks wondering why the show’s producers didn’t just name Janelle Monáe host, I have no answers for you. She’s young, charismatic, incredibly talented, and they clearly trusted her to kick off the evening right. Plus, she did set the tone of the night — and it isn’t her fault that said tone was best described as “emotional whiplash.”
(Excerpted From the “Sunday Times” Political Column)
The news came many months after a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe into the procurement of Airbus A-350 aircraft by SriLankan Airlines and its findings remained in limbo.
All of a sudden, the Attorney General’s Department directed the Police this week to obtain a warrant from the Magistrate’s Court and arrest Kapila Chandrasena, a onetime Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan Airlines and his wife Niyomali Wijenayaka for alleged bribery. The CID could not locate them and a government minister said they were not in the country. The couple surrendered to their office on Wednesday. Their statements were recorded, and they were produced before Chief Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake and remanded till February 19.
This unexpected development came after it transpired in a British Court that the wife of SriLankan Airlines (“SLA”) Executive, through a straw company” registered in Brunei, was offered up to US$ 16.84 million by Airbus to “influence SLA’s purchase of ten Airbus aircraft and the lease of an additional four aircraft. The Court heard that the Special Frauds Office (SFO) in London had discovered that only two million dollars of the US$ 16.84 million had so far been paid. Of the ten aircraft to be procured, four were related to the purchase of the new A 350-900 and sparked the CID investigation. The CID’s findings had remained pigeonholed until matters surfaced in a British court. At least one director of SriLankan Airlines knew five years ago that all was not well. He raised issue but did not succeed.
Police Special Task Force (STF) yesterday arrested 21 people, including a Colonel and two soldiers, who were excavating a land in Dharmapuram, Kilinochchi in search of gold buried by the LTTE.
The Colonel and the two soldiers were providing security to those carrying out the excavation. All three were in army uniform and are members of the Vijayaba Regiment. They had previously worked in Kilinochchi but been recently transferred to other parts of the country.
Instructions have been issued by the President’s Office to all permanent ministry secretaries including the Prime Minister’s Secretary, not to accept or entertain any form of communications from the private staff or any other officer of the Prime Minister’s Office, ministry, or state ministry.
Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera had issued the instructions to all ministry secretaries on Friday (7), The Sunday Morning learnt.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is on his first visit to India since taking office. He spoke to Padma Rao Sundarji about Sri Lanka’s ship with Pakistan, which India accuses of being involved in cross-border terrorism; proposed changes to Tamil provincial councils instead of giving them greater autonomy under the constitution’s 13th amendment; and the island nation’s strategic ties with China, which is its largest investor.
One of the subjects you discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi today was counterterrorism. Suicide attacks by Islamist bombers killed more than 200 people and injured hundreds in Colombo last year. But you’ve been discussing the same issue with Pakistan, which, for India, is the fountainhead of state-sponsored terror. Isn’t that a contradiction?
We are against terrorism, wherever it comes from. So we discuss the subject with both India and Pakistan, and will continue to do so. And by the way, both Pakistan and India helped us to end the 30-year-long civil war against another kind of terrorism: that of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Pakistan gave us weapons and planes. India too helped, but didn’t want to publicise it at the time. Why, without India’s help, I don’t think we would have won that war.
In his media statement after talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa here on Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he is “confident that the Sri Lankan government will realize the expectations of equality, justice, peace and respect of the Tamil people within a united Sri Lanka.”
But the Lankan Prime Minister did not mention the Tamil question in his media statement. Instead, he spoke of bilateral cooperation in economic, educational and skills development, and defense and intelligence gathering.
The two Prime Ministers deliberated on the entire range of bilateral ties and resolved to further deepen anti-terror cooperation and boost trade and investment.
Sri Lanka wants India to allow debt repayments by Colombo to be deferred for three years, visiting Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in order to help the country deal with its massive debt burden. The issue was at the top of the agenda when Mr. Rajapaksa met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Saturday and discussed plans to utilise a $400 million Line of Credit extended by India.
“If the Indian government takes this step, then other governments might agree to do the same thing, including China. The previous government took so many loans, they beggared the economy, and it is a mess. It all [now] depends on the stand India takes,” Mr. Rajapaksa told The Hindu in an interview, when asked about plans to service the approximately $60 billion total foreign and domestic debt his government faces, with about $4.8 billion to be paid this year.
On his first visit after being sworn in as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. Mr. Mahinda told The Hindu about his hopes for debt-restructuring, and also about projects now on the anvil, although his government will not carry forward the projects agreed to by the previous Sri Lankan government.
You have had discussions at some length with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but no agreements were announced, especially on the $400-million Line of Credit offered by India for infrastructure. Tell us about the talks.
We did speak about several agreements and we have agreed to some of the projects that [the Indian side] were interested in. It was a fruitful and successful meet, for both sides, I would say. The housing project is something that is a priority area for us, and we asked for more funding for that. We have a new initiative, to cover the whole country, every village, and we should like to get some support for that. Apart from housing, there were several projects we discussed.
A Sri Lanka court has remanded the ex-Chief Executive Kapila Chandrasena and his wife over a suspected money laundering offence related linked a purchase of a fleet of Airbus aircraft from 2013, who surrendered to police.
Colombo Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanyake had remanded Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake till February 19, after they surrendered to police on February 06.
Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige told court that authorities in Singapore had informed that there was a bank account at Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore in the name of Wijenayake.
Both Chandrasena and his wife had made statements to police from October 04, 2019, he said.
Though I no longer support the UNP, because of its recent unpatriotic stance, I still do not, even in the wildest of dreams, wish for its demise. Unfortunately, this exactly seems to be what the leader and his deputy seem attempting to do. Are they so dumb that they do not see rhyme or reason or is it that their hyper-inflated egos simply do not care what happens to the party of the ‘Father of the Nation’? Have they completely lost the art of negotiation? Why are they encouraging battles by proxy rather than sitting down and coming to decisions that will benefit not only their party but also the country at large? Do we have to remind these two so called ’democrats’ that a strong opposition is vital for a vibrant democracy?
I cannot imagine why the UNP conference, which nominated Sajith as the presidential candidate, voted for Ranil to be the leader of the party till 2025. May be it was clever manoeuvring by Ranil. But having not raised his hand against the resolution then, is it not disingenuous of Sajith to attempt to get leadership now? Or, is it that we are to interpret that Sajith’s silence may mean disagreement? During the catastrophic Yahapalana administration, on many issues, Sajith observed the vow of silence, to speak against them later? Or, at worst is Sajith guilty of disloyalty and indiscipline.
Over the past three or four months, Thursday has been the decision-day for the UNP with many supporters waiting, with baited breath, for that never heard news; that the battle between the two big jumbos has ended. But it had been recurring disappointment as the two seem keen on continuing with elephantine errors.
While the publicity blitz on coronavirus seems to be settling down, there is now a political and corruption blitz catching on. It is the ‘Voharika Viganana Prahaaraya’ of Forensic Audit Blitz (FAB).
As the debate on the FAB gets louder the spread of corruption across the political divide in the country gets clearer. The divisions on party politics narrow down speedily when it comes to unity in the pastures of crooked profit and corruption.
While the Central Bank and Treasury Bonds are the formal issues involved in these forensic audits that are now the stuff of twisted debate, what is largely being hidden is how the savings of the vast majority of the people have been robbed by these Bond Scam rogues, and not necessarily the funds of the State.
A forensic audit relates to the application of scientific methods, tests or techniques relating to the detection of crime. The debate we have now is far away from the thinking of science, and closer to the unscientific, hooked and contorted thinking on how a crime could be hidden.
In a recent article in The Island captioned “Alleged war crimes lame excuse to introduce new Constitution”, the writer puts forward the view that the process initiated by the previous UNF government to draft a new Constitution, with the Parliament constituting itself into a Constitutional Assembly in 2016, was as a result of the UNHRC Resolution on “Promoting Reconciliation Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka” of 2015. This resolution which was adopted by consensus in the United Nations Human Rights Council and co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, along with the United States, has been subsequently reaffirmed in the Council in the succeeding years. My article is a refutation of the above view.
It is a well documented fact that the process of constitutional reform commenced nearly 30 years ago. From the time that the 1978 Constitution was passed, setting up an Executive Presidential form of government, there has been opposition thereto in this country. The Sri Lankan people had experienced a Parliamentary form of Government under the Westminster model for many years, and people were not happy with a form of government with so much power concentrated in the hands of one person. As President Jayewardene, who was the chief proponent of the 1978 Constitution, was to say, it gave him the power to do everything except change a man into a women and vice versa. Furthermore, this was a Constitution in the making of which the representatives of the Tamil people had not participated. Hence this was another reason for making a new Constitution which would be acceptable to all sections of the people of the Country.
At every general election, since 1977, the need for constitutional change has been an issue and the party in Opposition made a campaign promise to do away with the executive Presidency and the 1978 Constitution. At the 1994 presidential election, the SLFP and its allies, named as ‘the People’ Alliance’, under the leadership of Chandrika Kumaratunga, pledged to do away with the executive presidency and to introduce constitutional reforms. In 2000, the PA Government presented the Constitutional Reform Bill for a new Constitution in Parliament. The proposed constitution not only sought to do away with the executive presidency but also addressed the need for greater power sharing and devolution of powers to the provinces, a process which had been initiated by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution during the Jayewardene era following the 1987 Indo- Sri Lanka Accord.
The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar yesterday ordered to re-issue summons on former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda in connection with the indictments filed over the abduction of eleven persons in 2008 and 2009.
The Trial-at-Bar bench comprising High Court Judges Champa Janaki Rajarathne (President), Amal Ranaraja and Nawaratne Marasinghe ordered the CID to dispatch the summons through Acting IGP and Navy Commander directing the accused to be present in courts on February 24.
Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Spokesman Sajeewa Chamikara says the government has caused grave environmental degradation by allowing racketeers to extract granite, soil and sand with hardly any control
Some government ministers had also advised officials to turn a blind eye to environmental destruction caused by ‘development projects’, he alleged.
Martin Luther King Jr is often cited as a shining example of civility, of benign agitation. His was the kind of allegedly meek, half-hearted protestation the liberal intelligentsia of the West nostalgically point to when confronted with today’s youthful, unabashedly disruptive activism. The world’s collective memory of King Jr has been shaped by this flawed narrative so much over the decades that few remember him for the unapologetic radical that he was.
The US civil rights movement has little to do with Sri Lanka, but this revisionist take on King Jr and his brand of activism seems to share some similarities with our own views on protest politics. If the number of ordinary citizens defending yesterday’s announcement of a designated space in Colombo for public protests is any indication, critics say, there has been a serious breakdown in our education of our democratic rights.
An elected government allocating a physical space for public protests that’s literally called Agitation Site, right next door to the ivory towers of a high-end apartment complex no less, may be a cruel Orwellian joke to some; but to many middle class self-styled liberals, no matter which side of the political divide they’re on, it couldn’t have come sooner.
London, Feb 6 (PTI) British mercenary pilots helped Indian troops in their battle against the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, a new book reveals for the first time.
The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) received air support from these for-hire British pilots despite Indian diplomats publicly condemning the presence of UK mercenaries in Sri Lanka, according to the book, ”Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes”, authored by UK-based investigative journalist Phil Miller.
Deputy Solicitor General Thusitha Mudalige yesterday (06) told Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake that part of USD 2 mn received by Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, wife of former SirLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena, from Airbus SE of France, had been credited to the accounts of one or two persons living in Sri Lanka.
DSG Mudalige said that in addition to the funds transferred to an account or two in Sri Lanka, part of the money received by Wijenayake had been credited to several offshore accounts.
Representing Attorney General Dappula De Livera, Mudalige objected to the suspects being granted bail. The DSG said that investigations could be hampered if they were granted bail.
Magistrate Dissanayake, remanded the suspects till Feb 19 for allegedly receiving a bribe of USD 2 mn to influence the national carrier to acquire ten aircraft.
Colombo Fort Magistrate on Feb 3 issued warrants for the arrest of the two suspects.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s crisply yet firmly delivered (and electorally pitch-perfect) Conservative nationalist democratic discourse, the presence as ‘special distinguished guest’ of Russia’s Gen. Salyukov, Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, the impressive military parade and colourful multicultural display, and on the flipside, the non-rendition of the National Anthem in Tamil, constituted the point-counterpoint of the 72nd Independence Day, the first on the new President’s watch.
The non-rendition of the Anthem in Tamil was the canary in the mineshaft, because singing the anthem in Tamil was a key recommendation in the Report of the LLRC appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his second term, headed by a distinguished patriotic public servant, CR ‘Bulla’ de Silva, handed over to the (then) President and cited by Sri Lanka in Geneva pre-2015.
What Independence Day proved yet again is the abiding necessity for the citizenry to shape politics in a manner that maximises the public good obtainable from any leader and government while hedging against any negatives, pre-emptively containing any potential mistakes and damage. Granting a parliamentary two-thirds majority would run contrary to this imperative.
A parliamentary two-thirds majority is rare in a democracy. It did happen twice in Sri Lanka though. On both occasions, the results across the spectrum, for the country, the state, the government, the rulers and ruling party, were devastating. Nobody gained, everyone lost.
Former SriLankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, who were arrested on money laundering charges, were remanded until 19 February by Colombo Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake yesterday.
The couple surrendered to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) last morning and statements were recorded from them before they were produced before the Magistrate. Police had been on the lookout for them since an arrest warrant was obtained on the directive of the Attorney General on Monday.
A travel ban is also in place against Chandrasena and Wijenayake who are facing allegations of having accepted a bribe or commission of $ 2 million from French plane-maker Airbus as part of a deal with the company to purchase 10 aircraft for SriLankan Airlines under a re-fleeting program in 2013.
Details of SriLankan Airlines’ connection to the bribery scandal involving Airbus surfaced last Friday after judges in a UK court on Friday approved a record $ 3.9 billion settlement to be paid by Airbus over allegations that external consultants used by the company paid bribes in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Ghana between 2011 and 2015.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that those who had received houses in villages built by the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) between 2015 and 2019 were yet to receive deeds confirming ownership. The Premier said so in response to a query posed by UPFA MP Anuradha Jayaratne.
Premier Rajapaksa said that the actual number of housing units constructed was far less than what was announced. The Premier said that only 9,604 houses had been constructed in 367 villages though the previous government repeatedly claimed that 65,097 new houses had been built in 2,562 villages during yahapalana adinistration.
In his oration at the Independence Square here on Tuesday to mark Sri Lanka’s 72nd.year of freedom from the British, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa clearly outlined the policies he will pursue in the next five years.
He said that he will build a composite Sri Lanka where every group (including ethnic and religious groups) will enjoy equal rights. But at the same time, he left no one in doubt that these rights will have to be exercised under the over-arching dominance of the majority Sinhala-Buddhists, whose collective rights will have precedence over other’s rights.
That was amply evident at the function itself, when the Lankan national anthem was sung only in Sinhala and not in Sinhala and Tamil as was the case when the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe alliance was in power.
By discontinuing the singing of the national anthem in Tamil along with the Sinhalese version, Gotabaya has once again upheld the primacy and supremacy of Sinhalese over Tamil, the mother tongue of almost 25% of the Lankan population, including Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Origin Tamils and Muslims.
By doing so, Gotabaya again underlined the fact that he was elected by the majority Sinhalese and not the Tamils and the Muslims.
Police were unable to trace the whereabouts of former SriLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, after a warrant was issued for their arrest by the Colombo Fort Magistrate on Monday, following the Attorney General directing that they be apprehended and produced in Court to face charges of money laundering.
A CID source said that the Police had visited the residence of the couple in Colombo but they were not there.
“We believe the couple is in Sri Lanka and have alerted the immigration authorities to ensure they do not leave the country,” the source said.
· (Address by His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka at the 72nd Independence Day celebrations)
Most Venerable Maha Sangha,
Other Religious Dignitaries
Hon. Prime Minister
Hon. Chief Justice
Hon. Ministers, Ministers of State and Members of Parliament
H. E. the Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Secretary to the President and all State Officials
Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army
Commander of the Navy
Commander of the Air Force
Inspector General of Police
Director General of the Department of the Civil Security
All Sri Lankan brothers and sisters
Sri Lanka is a Unitary State. It is a free, sovereign, independent and democratic Republic. On this occasion when we celebrate 72 years of Independence after nearly 500 years of imperialist colonial rule, I address you as the Head of the State with a pledge to further strengthen your freedom.
I pay tribute to all Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher leaders who dedicated themselves to achieving and ensuring this Independence.
Every citizen living in Sri Lanka has the right to live freely and securely.
The Attorney General’s Department yesterday directed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to obtain an arrest warrant from the Magistrate Court to arrest former SriLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena and his wife due to their alleged links to a $ 2 million bribe from French plane-maker Airbus.
This followed investigative material submitted by the CID to the Attorney General’s Department which revealed that a Standard Chartered Bank account maintained in the name of Biz Solutions in Singapore, the only director and shareholder of which was Chandrasena’s wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, was paid $ 2 million (around Rs. 363 million) by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) N.V., the parent company of Airbus SAS in December 2013.
This is my third and final column in this trilogy of articles about the singing of Sri Lanka’s national anthem in the Sinhala and Tamil languages.
I would have very much liked to write about hot topics like Ranjan Ramanayake’s recordings or President Gotabaya’s Policy Speech or the internal troubles of the UNP , but I shall stick to this issue that I feel very strongly about. I have been deeply touched and vastly encouraged by the wide -spread response to the previous two articles in these columns. Most of the responses I received were of a positive nature while a few were certainly negative. Interestingly enough, many of the negative ones were from Sinhala and Tamil expatriates residing in western countries while the positive ones were preponderantly from readers living in Sri Lanka. This pattern was most revealing.
Another refreshing phenomenon was the appearance – in some English newspapers – of several articles, viewpoints and letters in support of the national anthem being sung in both languages. They were somewhat critical of the current Government’s declared intention of banning the National anthem being sung in Tamil also at the forthcoming 72nd independence day celebrations in Colombo on Feb 4 2020. I was greatly elated by the fact that almost all of these positive viewpoints were expressed by Sinhala people ranging from film makers to opinion makers. It made me realise that in spite of the poppycock uttered on this topic by political ignoramuses ensconced in the seats of power, there were multiple enlightened and courageous voices within the majority community who are willing to speak truth to power. Continue reading ‘Tamils Want To Sing The National Anthem In Their Mother Tongue’ »
2020 has dawned!Greetings for the new year to all “Daily Mirror” readers. My article in these columns last week about moves being contemplated to forbid the singing of Sri Lanka’s national anthem in Tamil at the 70th independence day event, seems to have been received well, judging by the positive responses I have been getting from readers this week. What makes me most happy is the fact that an overwhelming number of these responses have been from Sinhala readers.
Pundit M Nallathamby
Among those responding were two children of Pundit M. Nallathamby who translated the national anthem into the Tamil language. I gathered from their mails that they were very young when their father passed away. Pundit Nallathamby who translated Ananda Samarakoon’s “Namo Namo Matha” into Tamil as “ Namo Namo Thaaye” in 1950 had died in May 1951. The poem was approved officially as the national anthem by the then UNP Govt in November 1951 just five months after Pundit Nallathamby’s demise.
The news story appearing in the “Daily Mirror”last week was like a bolt out of the blue. It said that the national anthem would be sung in the Sinhala language only at the forthcoming celebratory event of Sri Lanka or Ceylon gaining full independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. The practice adopted since 2016 of singing the anthem in Tamil also would not be followed. This is what the news story written by Sandun A. Jayasekera in the Daily Mirror said –
“The 72nd Independence Day celebrations will be held on February 4 at Independence Square in Colombo on a grand scale, the Public Administration Ministry said, adding that the national anthem would be sung only in Sinhala. These decisions were taken at a meeting held yesterday at the Disaster Management, Local Government and Provincial Councils Ministry.” Continue reading ‘Singing The National Anthem in The Sinhala and Tamil Languages’ »
PLEASE JOIN US at an Independence Day event coinciding with the official government event on Feb. 4th, from 9-10.30am, at the Borella Cemetery (Kanatta) roundabout, where we will sing the National Anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil, at the same time it’s being sung at Independence Square, which we can follow on live feed.
Please come dressed in semi-formal/formal, black attire (in protest), and please share with/bring your family, friends and relations too. We hope to invite media (whoever’s not covering the official even at least,) and live stream our event as well.
We hope to see you all there in solidarity with the Tamil speaking people of this country, and as advocates of equality and justice in Sri Lanka.
United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his Independence Day message, called for Sri Lankans to refocus on unity, pointing out that the cohesion that existed between different communities had eroded since Independence.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) categorically rejected the idea mooted by opposition leader Sajith Premadasa for him to tie up with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in forming a government subsequent to the upcoming parliamentary polls.
Addressing a recent press conference, SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said the country had a bitter experience of coalition governance during the last five years.
The CID, yesterday evening, launched a search for former SriLankan CEO Kapila Chandrasena and his wife, Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, over a questionable aircraft deal. A senior CID officer said an arrest warrant had been obtained and a special team deployed to look for the suspects.
Attorney General, Dappula de Livera, yesterday, directed the CID to obtain an arrest warrant and take Chandrasena and his wife into custody, on charges of money laundering, etc.
After perusing a report, submitted by the CID, the AG directed the Director of the CID to obtain an arrest warrant and take Chandrasena and his wife into custody on charges of money laundering in the SriLankan Airlines – Airbus deal, the AG’s coordinating officer Nishara Jayaratne said.
Preparations are underway to celebrate Sri Lanka’s 72nd Independence Day in Colombo tomorrow with full military pageantry, attended by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, members of parliament, diplomats and others.
Tomorrow’s ceremony, to be held at Independence Square under the theme ‘A Secured Nation – A Prosperous Country’, will be Rajapaksa’s first Independence Day commemoration since taking office in November last year.
Marking a departure from the celebrations held under his predecessor Maithripala Sirisena, this year’s event will see the country’s national anthem performed only in Sinhala.
A day before the country celebrates her 72nd anniversary of independence, former Minister for National Integration and Official Languages MP Mano Ganeshan made a final hour call to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to allow the National Anthem to be sung in both Sinhala and Tamil at Tuesday’s celebrations, to be held at Independence Square, Colombo.
Airbus SE hired the wife of a SriLankan Airlines (SLA) executive as a business partner through a dummy company she registered in Brunei. The corporation then paid into this entity’s account US$ 2mn (Rs 362mn) out of a total US$ 16.84mn (Rs 3bn) promised in return for ensuring that the national carrier bought aircraft from Airbus, court documents revealed this week.
The SLA executive himself used his private Gmail account to communicate with and invoice Airbus for US$ 2mn (in November and December 2013) in exchange for buying aircraft from the corporation.
Airbus has been fined a record £3bn in penalties after admitting it paid huge bribes on an “endemic” basis to land contracts in 20 countries.
One of those countries is Sri Lanka and involves the purchase of six A330 and four A350 airbuses and the lease of four other planes in deals agreed to between 2012 and 2013.
Tourist arrivals from China to Sri Lanka have dropped about 40 percent from January 23 as both countries tightened travel requirements in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said.
“A considerable number of travelers have stopped coming to the country from China, as a percentage it could be on average 40 percent,” Director of Sri Lanka’s Airport and Aviation Services Shehan Sumanasekara said.
“We are anticipating a considerable drop in the future too.”
The head of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Kimarli Fernando said Chinese arrivals had dropped 15 percent in January 2020 from 26,414 visitors last year to 22,363 this year.
Sri Lanka’s overall tourist arrivals dropped 7.4 percent in January 2020, from a year earlier to 226,094.
Arrivals from other countries have dropped only 5 percent.
I have written about this on a few occasions before. But this is the first time I am venturing to do so since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected President of Sri Lanka. I reiterate, he was elected President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka as five others have been before him. But none of the others have taken cognisance of a simple historical fact. That they have been elected as Presidents of a Republic; that Sri Lanka, for the first time in its modern history, as its name states, is a Sovereign Republic, since May 1972. I am hoping that the sixth elected President of the Sri Lankan Republic will recognise that historical fact.
What else can I do except to restate what I wrote two years ago (‘The Island’ of 4th February 2018). I quote it in full below:
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday ordered a full inquiry into allegations that the wife of a SriLankan Airlines executive was paid $ 2 million by Airbus through a Brunei shell company to obtain or retain business or advantage in the conduct of business with the national carrier during 2011-2015.
“The President has become aware of the allegations that have surfaced in the media, regarding an agreement between SriLankan Airlines and Airbus in which fraud may have taken place. He has directed that a full inquiry be conducted, and a report be submitted to him,” a statement from the President’s Office said on Sunday.
There were no details of which authorities were directed to hold the inquiry in the press release sent by the President’s Office.
SriLankan Airlines, in a separate statement, said that it has become aware of a judgment in the United Kingdom related to a charge of corruption in the purchase and/or lease of aircraft between the period 2011- 2015 June, and the Chairman with the concurrence of the Board has directed the management to cooperate fully with any Governmental agency in the event of any investigation and/or prosecution.
Sri Lanka has been identified as a country at risk of conflict or escalation of violence in the International Crisis Group’s early-warning Watch List 2020.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict identifies up to ten countries and regions at risk of conflict or escalation of violence.
In these situations, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could generate stronger prospects for peace, the ICG said.
Along with Sri Lanka, the Watch List 2020 includes Bolivia, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region, Ethiopia, the US-Iranian impasse, ISIS returnees, Libya, Tunisia and Ukraine.
Sri Lanka is the only country in Asia identified in the Watch List 2020.
UNP MP and economist Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday declared that the expert forensic audits on irregularities of Bond auctions and EPF stock market investments have exposed the nexus between two Central Bank Governors Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Arjuna Mahendran with the controversial Arjun Aloysius.
Armed with the copies of the five forensic audits which was released by the Speaker to Parliament, Dr. de Silva yesterday told the media that the loss to the Government over irregularities on Bond auctions under former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran between February 2015 and March 2016 ranged from a minimum of Rs. 6.6 billion to maximum of Rs. 9.6 billion. The loss from direct placements of Treasury Bonds prior to 2015 was Rs. 10.47 billion.
The prominent primary dealer who bought these Bonds and then sold them in secondary markets was Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries fame.
Exactly a day after the pomp and the show of India’s celebrations of Republic Day 2020 faded, a young law student standing in the imposing shadow of India Gate in New Delhi, the country’s iconic war memorial,passionately confesses her uncomfortable dissonance with the lavish display.
‘All this passion, where will this lead to?’
‘We are celebrating the Indian Constitution which held millions together with the golden thread of civil rights. Now, Republic Day marks the very opposite of what B.R. Ambedkar’s Constitution stood for; military might, crude nationalism and the disparaging of minorities’ she says.
‘India invited Brazil’s Bolsonaro as the guest of honour not coincidentally’, she adds. ‘This is to pass a not-so-subtle message, that the old order of striving for equality and justice has given way to nationalist strongmanship. We, the young people of India have risen against supremacist Hindutva ideology and will continue to do so.’
Elsewhere in the sedate and scholarly confines of the India International Centre, older (though perhaps not necessarily wiser) pundits shake their heads in half perplexed bewilderment. ‘All this passion, where will this lead to?’ a historian asks. He acknowledges that nation-wide protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the National Population Register (NPR) were eminently justified. Even so, the worries are real. He points to Hong Kong youth standing up to China’s might over an extradition Bill that would have abandoned criminal suspects to the uncertain mercies of mainland China’s compromised legal system.
Trigger sparking national fury
The bill was withdrawn but protests continued. Hong Kong’s young explained that they were fighting for the ‘soul’ of their birthplace even as the self-administered territory experienced an economic downturn after months of riots and protests. Similar economic negativity would be devastating for India which is already coping with slow growth rates and a predicted recession. Like in Hong Kong, public anger came to a head with the Modi Government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) which overrode the secular basis of India’s Constitution by promising citizenship for persecuted religious minorities excluding Muslims.It was justified on the basis that it only sought to give protection to Hindu minorities fleeing state reprisals in majority Muslim countries in the region.
Earlier, the Government which had come sweeping back into power on a punishing wave of popular demand, revoked the special status given to Kashmir.
Nonetheless, the raft of citizenship amendments sparked national fury. Protests erupted in major cities and unprecedentedly, spilled over to renowned universities including Jamia Milia Islamia University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Masked attackers carrying clubs and sticks disrupted a meeting held by JNU students to protest against actions of a Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) linked right-wing student base and assaulted academics and students alike as the police watched. Images of traumatised professors and students with bleeding head injuries flashed across television screens around the world, leading to global shock and severe damage to India’s reputation as a liberal democracy.
The Government back-pedalled with swift damage control measures. Senior Ministers voiced their disapproval of inactive law enforcement officers as the campus was invaded. On Republic Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned that violence was never a solution to any issue but elsewhere in the city, Shaheen Bagh became the epicenter of protests as students and even parents recited resistance poetry.
Undeterred, students in universities across India continued to hold vigils in sympathy with embattled colleagues in the capital. Interestingly, private campuses, business colleges and engineering schools, joined the agitation. Even though the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed in early December by a Government dominated legislature, some states have refused to implement its provisions. The crisis therein demonstrates afresh the dangers of giving juggernaut majorities to any one political force.
Unmistakable warning to rightwing factions in Government
Even so, India’s mass protests transforming the political reality of the day was an unmistakable warning to powerful right-wing factions in Government that India’s young was not going to yield. ‘We will not give up our country to fascists without a fight’ declares my young conversationalist at India Gate. Some of this frustration is also traceable to the slowing down of the economy apart from growing awareness that India’s secular constitutional democracy is under siege. Yet absent a galvanised Opposition, there is only so much that people protests and the anger of students can accomplish.
Much like Sri Lanka’s dysfunctional Opposition with the United National Party led by a man who has liberal credentials to his name but has sadly undermined all those gains by an aloof and out-of touch style of leadership, India’s Congress Party remains demoralised.
Thus, the anxiety of the scholar who asked me where India’s protests were heading is perhaps understandable. But the young listen to the cautions of the old soberly, yet only up to a point. There is a gut instinct driving their anger as they see India turning into a country which is becoming very different to what their parents experienced.
‘This is not right. We must do something’ corroborates others who join the conversation at India Gate. They are also students at the Law University, Delhi. Emotion moves them, irresistibly. ‘Later, we should not be sorry that we kept quiet’ they say.
Their courage and steadfastness is a lesson for Sri Lankan students and activists who recently issued a statement in support of the struggle being carried on by their peers over the Palk Straits. However, it must be stressed that civil rights activism amounts to far more than the issuing of statements and pontificating on social media.
The main takeaway of civic protests in India
Today in Sri Lanka, as nationalistic forces gather strength, the effort to combat that menacing development must not be through social movements linked to compromised political forces masquerading as ‘independent.’ This is what crippled the ‘yahapalanaya’ effort. Lawyers, academics and academics paraded under party political banners for personal and professional profit, forsaking the core values of objective and independent critique. In effect, the very faults of the political parties and the political establishment were replicated in those efforts which were, ultimately self-defeating and counter-productive in the main.
That compromised process has enabled subversive attacks on even the small and limited democratic gains in Sri Lanka during the past few years. Political turncoats and perfidious men try to demolish institutional protections by saying that they were prompted by mala fide and ulterior motives. This has the potential of undermining of the Constitution and the ideal of independent institutions and replacing them with that exact notion of strongman centralisation of power that India’s young is protesting against. The agitations of the Indian youth in regard to dangerous shifts in the country’s basic structures of governance, are principled and devoid of political agendas.
This is the core takeaway for Sri Lankans as, along with India, we face multiple challenges in preservation of the democratic space in the months ahead.
Why does Sajith Premadasa have that uncanny feeling this Sunday morning of finding butterflies fluttering in his abdomen? Or feel his ire rising to find fish shakin’ a fin to the baila beat of his agitated heart? Why does he fear the shadow that falls before him making him constantly look over his shoulder to assure himself that it is truly his?
Like the Muslims await Friday to say their jumma prayers at the mosque and the Christians rush to get to the church on time on Sundays to hear the morning mass, for the last eleven weeks since the loss of the Presidential election, the UNP citadel of Sirikotha has been the temple of call every Thursday evening for the distraught, for the downtrodden and the dejected to pray for succour in hope of receiving answer.
But answer never came and the distraught, the downtrodden and the dejected trudged slowly home week after week without succour hoping as faith commanded them that the presiding deities who had in their hands the power to exile them East of Eden, would nevertheless see the light of reality and accept as inevitable the younger rising and the older gracefully stepping down.
The Attorney General’s Department will proceed with the case against former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy Spokesman D.K.P. Dassanayake — accused in the abduction of 11 youths — unless there is a court order otherwise.
This is after the AG wrote to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) inquiring into alleged political victimisation that it had no authority to order him to halt legal proceedings against former Admiral Karannagoda and Rear Admiral Dassanayake.
Earlier, the CoI had ordered the AG not to proceed with the case after the duo lodged complaints with the Commission on January 22 stating that the case was an act of political victimisation.
It’s such a pity, what social media and media in general is doing to our friends the Chinese, these days. It shouldn’t be that way, particularly in this country. The Chinese have been our friends for thousands of years, literally.
But look what the fringe elements in social media are doing these past few weeks. They are demonizing the Chinese, and worse, making them the scapegoat for a fear psychosis over a disease that is largely a media myth.
Is this so called coronavirus that’s supposed to be spreading these days, a myth? Certain people are bound to take issue with me for saying so.
The disease, as it’s represented in the media, is largely hyperbole, and that’s my point.To that extent the ‘contagion’ is a myth, though coronavirus per se is very real, and there is a pathogen by that name that’s spreading.
But the bottom line is that the media, and social media in particular has created a scare that’s demonizing our friends, the Chinese.
Twenty-year-old Anjeleena Stronach wasn’t worried about the hoo-ha people were making over a virus till the teacher in charge of the student group she belonged to sent a message on WeChat.
“There will be no bus between Tianjin and Beijing. If you want (to) go back to Sri Lanka you should take (an) airplane from Tianjin. And you should know where (you can) take your second plane to your country,” the message from Miss Lilly read.
By then several key cities in China were on lock down as the deadly coronavirus spread across mainland China.
Anjeleena was in Tianjin located about 1,150km from Wuhan where the virus broke out. According to reports, by Friday (31), there were 9,692 confirmed coronavirus cases with at least 213 deaths.
The book is titled ‘On Public Imagination’ and subtitled ‘A Political and Ethical Imperative’. It is edited by Victor Faessel, Richard Falk and Michael Curtin. It is a Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group publication out of New York and London. The introductory thematic essay is by Richard Falk and Victor Faessel and its title lets us straight into the problem that is sought to be tackled. “Public Imagination: The Challenge of 21st Century Populist and Authoritarian Politics”.
The date of publication of the slim volume is 2020. It is classified as Politics/Current Affairs, while in the descriptive text on the back cover the publishers place it more specifically in the category ‘Political Thought’. In the sphere of Politics/Political Thought, it deals with the most important theme or problem of the current period in world history.
I was lucky to get the volume in the mail in Moscow and have it collected from Customs the day before I left. I read it all the way through on the flight back to Colombo. It is co-edited by the man I most respect intellectually and am proud to call a friend, who was also the primary author of the volume’s Introduction, namely Prof Richard Falk.
Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University. Victor Faessel is managing editor of The Oxford Handbook of Global Studies as well as the four-volume Encyclopedia of Global Studies. Michael Curtin is Distinguished Professor of Film and media studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa’s Camp, yesterday, January 31, assured that it wouldn’t press for the leadership of the party.
Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, No 30, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Premadasa faction’s spokesman Nalin Bandara, MP, admitted that they couldn’t pressure incumbent leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to give up the party leadership.
When the media pointed out that the Premadasa camp never publicly admitted such a situation before and in fact vowed to secure the leadership by whatever means, lawmaker Bandara said that nothing could be done about Wickremesinghe’s refusal to give up party leadership.
The goals of progress that were the key expectations of the call and movement for freedom have been pushed aside as we approach the 72nd anniversary of Independence from colonial rule.
The celebrations on February 4 will be hugely affected by the coronavirus that has begun straddling the world, and the call for face masks gets louder than for the reduction in food prices in Sri Lanka.
Is this new coronavirus a real threat in a country trapped in the fever and deaths from Dengue in the past several years? Not very likely. From what we have read recently, what threatens Sri Lanka more is the Corona (or Crown) Maga Maru Virus – the Road Death Virus that takes eight lives, and maims double that number for life, every day. It is the crowning disaster in Sri Lanka that is wholly ignored by so-called national leaders, who must be delighted by the rise of the coronavirus from Wuhan, China; topping the news world, pushing away those recorded phone calls, and moving minds away from the Bond Scam, whether Ranil/Mahendran or Mahinda/Cabraal or both.
What do we have to celebrate on Feb 4 this year, as the country moves towards a general election, with a call for a 2/3rd majority in parliament by the lotus bud power handlers, and an opposition that is making a grand display of divisive politics?
Amnesty International (AI) said yesterday that Sri Lanka’s human rights record in 2019 was characterised by unrealised Government commitments to pursue truth, justice and reparations, continued impunity for violations and abuses, and compromised freedoms of religion and expression.
Speaking at the launch of the human rights organisation’s Human Rights in Asia-Pacific: Review of 2019, Deputy Regional Director Amnesty International South Asia Omar Waraich said that 2019 was a year of repression, but also of resistance in the region.
“Across Southeast Asia, repressive governments entrenched themselves further, silenced their opponents, muzzled the media, and shrank civic space to the point where, in many countries, even participation in a peaceful protest can trigger arrest. In South Asia, governments appeared anxious to keep up, innovating new ways to perpetuate old patterns of repression – especially through the introduction of draconian laws that punish dissent online,” Waraich said.
The report provides a comprehensive overview of the human rights situation in the region. Violations of human rights, death penalty, climate crisis, as well as dissent and fights against hate in the regional are documented under each country profile in the report.
Britain’s departure from the eu, says Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative mp, reminds him of an experiment his grandfather once carried out on a pet pike. He put a glass wall in the middle of the fish’s tank, thus halving its swimming space. After ramming the glass, “thunk, thunk” for a while, the fish adapted to its diminished quarters. But when the wall was removed, it continued making tight circles in half of the tank: it never grasped that its freedom had been restored.
On January 31st Britain leaves the eu. It goes into a sort of limbo—a transition period—until the end of 2020, when in dozens of areas, from trade, migration, environmental rules and farming to financial services, data policy, regional subsidies and state aid, the country’s freedom to run its own affairs will be constrained only by its ambitions to do deals with other countries. The big question, says Sir Bernard, an enthusiastic Brexiter, is whether it can remember how to roam.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, is bent on taking full advantage. There will be crowd-pleasing changes—taking back control of the vat regime will allow the Treasury to remove the levy on tampons, for instance—and weightier divergences. Earlier this month Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the exchequer, made clear that there will be no alignment with eu regulations once Britain is out of the single market and customs union, adding that there would be winners and losers.
The riposte from Brussels to Mr Javid’s remarks was swift. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, repeated that greater regulatory divergence would necessarily mean a more distant trading partnership with the eu. The government’s own economic analysis of Brexit last year put the long-term loss in gdp per person of a close relationship (like Norway’s) at some 1.4%, against a loss of 4.9% for a more distant one. The difference is a proxy for the cost of regulatory divergence.
From an architectural point of view, Sri Lanka had a parliamentary building near Galle Face which looked majestic and fitting for a Parliament. The affairs of the old Parliament were carried out in this building in an optimum and dignified manner from 28 January 1930, when it was declared open, up until the time it was shifted to the new parliamentary complex at Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte on 24 March 1982.
The new Parliament complex, despite being equipped with modern amenities and having an artistic look, lacked the majestic appearance that a Parliament should have. Presumably, this difference can be said to have symbolically signified the decline of Parliament. A similar transition of symbolic significance occurred to the Judiciary as well.
From an architectural standpoint, Sri Lanka had an equally imposing judicial complex with an aura appropriate for an institution which metes out justice. But in the eighties, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal were shifted to a new court complex built in Hulftsdorp. Although it is equipped with modern facilities, its exterior can be said to resemble a beautiful Chinese lantern.
Japan cannot be regarded as a country which bears a strong record of democracy over its distant past; it was quite recently that it became a democratic country. Similarly, China does not possess a good history as far as the subject of the Judiciary is concerned. The shifting of buildings can be said to have served as symbolically depicting the subsequent decline of the two institutions.
What is more important in Parliament is the authority it exercises as the supreme institute of State rule, legislation and policy formulation, and above all to what extent it has discharged its responsibilities, rather than the buildings of the Parliament and the facilities and amenities available.
Chinese officials have unofficially raised concerns with the Sri Lankan government over some incidents of discrimination faced by Chinese nationals in Sri Lanka, stating that they were being turned away from public areas such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, spas and supermarkets by locals who were worried that they may be carrying the novel coronavirus, the Daily Mirror learns.
Informed sources in the government said that China had unofficially updated Sri Lankan authorities over some such incidents and it is learnt that the matter will be discussed when the government’s special task force meet today afternoon.
Sources said that the matter had been unofficially brought to the notice of the Presidential Secretariat as well and it was being looked into.
Ten years after the end of the communal war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse has admitted that more than 20,000 missing persons during and after the war are “actually dead.” He was speaking to the UN Resident Coordinator Hanna Singer for Sri Lanka at the Presidential Secretariat on January 17.
It is an extraordinary admission. For years calls by family members for information about their missing relatives have been all but ignored. No Sri Lanka official has previously acknowledged that the government and the military have known all along that the “missing” were dead. To do so would raise too many awkward questions about their deaths. Up until now, Rajapakse has denied that anyone was missing at all.
The obvious question is: How does Rajapakse know about the deaths of these persons? The answer is simple. He was defence secretary—the top post in the defence department—during the final brutal stages of the war against the LTTE. His brother was the executive president as well as defense minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe reaffirmed his position in the party as its leader today and refrained from reappointing some key figures such as MPs Sarath Fonseka, Ajith P. Perera and Rosy Senanayake to the working committee.
In the annual reconstitution of the working committee for 2020, the UNP reappointed only 59 members this time. In the outgoing working committee, there were 68 members. The working committee membership can be increased up to 91. The party leader has the discretion to nominate 20 members.
After the reconstitution of the working committee for this year, it met today with Mr. Wickremesinghe in the chair.
MP Ranajana Ramanayake yesterday said that he had not telephoned judges and it was the latter who had called him.
MP Ramanayake speaking from the dock and said that he had around 124,000 records of phone conversations he had had with many powerful persons including judges. A media organisation had published a distorted versions of his conversation records, he said.
MP Ramanayake said that he had parliamentary privileges so that he could speak to anyone and that he was ready to go to the Attorney General’s office and stay there supporting their investigations if he was given bail.
The United National Party Working Committee unanimously decided this afternoon to offer Sajith Premadasa the post of Prime Ministerial Candidate for the upcoming Parliamentary General elections, former Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella told EconomyNext.
This would make him automatically the leader of the UNP-led New Democratic Front Alliance that will take on the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led group at the hustings.
The offer was proposed by MP Ravi Karunanayake but was not seconded as Premadasa did not attend the meeting.
Premadasa has to accept the nomination next Thursday when the committee is due to meet again.
State Minister for International Cooperation Susil Premjayantha, yesterday, turned down UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa’s offer to serve as Prime Minister, in a government headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Premjayantha said that there was nothing common in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision and that of Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.
Addressing the media at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Colombo District MP said that Premadasa heading for a heavy defeat at the forthcoming parliamentary poll was talking nonsense.
The National Peace Council (NPC) yesterday urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to decide whether the national anthem will be sung in Tamil on Independence Day as soon as possible.
“An issue that has surfaced and which is causing heartburn among Tamil-speaking citizens is the likelihood that the national anthem will not be sung in Tamil at the forthcoming National Independence Day celebrations. Government members have been making contradictory statements on this issue. Some of them have openly declared that the national anthem will not be sung in Tamil on this occasion whereas Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that no final decision has been taken on this matter,” the NPC said in a statement.
I have had the privilege of reading many letters published in The Island newspaper on the prevalent controversy in regard to the National Anthem, during the last few months. As far as I can remember, most of the writers had favored the conservative view that the National Anthem should be sung only in Sinhala while a few had held the liberal and conciliatory view that it should be sung in both the official languages, i.e. Sinhala and Tamil.
In the meantme I had the opportunity of reading in the ‘island’ newspaper dated 11th January, 2020, a letter written by Dr.Upul Wijayawardhana, which is a very interesting piece of masterly writing, who had taken the view that the Tamil version of the National Anthem should be sung only in the Tamil speaking areas.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Hathe Ape Potha, the supplementary reader on sexual and reproductive health.
On Tuesday, January 21st, interested stakeholders, Buddhist clergy, officials of the Education and Health Ministries, Psychiatrists, representatives of the Child Protection Authority and Academics met for the second time to discuss whether or not the Hathe Ape Potha is appropriate reading material for Grade 7 students.
The meeting was jointly called by the Sectoral Oversight Committees on Women and Gender and Education and Human Resources Development at the Parliament complex. The book, a supplementary reader for students of Grade Seven is meant to explain sexual and reproductive health in an age-appropriate and simple manner. It is the outcome of nearly 4 years of discussions initiated by the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender on the subject “Teaching Reproductive Health to School Children.”
The Government yesterday imposed restrictions on Chinese nationals visiting Sri Lanka and sent Lankan students returning from Wuhan Province in China to the Diyatalawa Army Camp to be kept under observation for two weeks after the first positive case of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified by health authorities in the country.
The restrictions on the issue of visas to Chinese nationals was put in place upon the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi revealed.
She said Chinese nationals who apply for a visa online would no longer be eligible to automatically gain a visa on arrival. Instead, their visa applications, submitted online, will be scrutinised to see which part of China they were travelling from and those coming from high risk areas will not be allowed entry, Wanniarachchi said at a press briefing yesterday.
The Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka has been kept informed of the visa restrictions, she said.
Along with the visa restrictions, the Government will also monitor all Chinese nationals who are provided entry into the country.
Attorney General Dappula de Livera has informed the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, investigating the allegations of political victimization, that the commission has no statutory or legal authority to order the Attorney General to refrain from performing his statutory functions.
On 24 December, the Daily Mirror reported that, according to the Public Administration Ministry, the 72nd Independence Day celebrations will be held on 4 February at Independence Square in Colombo on a grand scale and the national anthem would be sung only in Sinhala.
This is a deviation from the practice followed by the previous government from 2016 that the National Anthem should be sung in Sinhala and Tamil at the Independence Day celebrations.
I was studying in grade seven when I joined the Scout Association at my school. Scouts have a list of tasks to complete. When you complete them successively, you get various badges and promotions. One of the very first tasks was to sing the national anthem by yourself. The seniors told us we could do it on the first day itself.
Before I cover them with brown paper every year, I had read the national anthem printed on the back cover of right-off-the-press smelling textbooks. I had also sung it many times loudly with fellow schoolmates to the music played by our school band. “How hard can it be?”, I thought. So I signed up to perform it along with a few other novices.
Standing at attention inside an empty after-school classroom, I had to sing the anthem in front of two senior scouts. I had not sung any song alone in front of outsiders, let alone the national anthem. It was my turn. “Sri Lanka Matha… Apa Sri… Lanka…” I quickly realised that it was difficult to keep to the tune. You don’t have the same confidence when singing with a group and with music.
“Sundara Siri Barini…” I managed to complete the first verse. More than singing, my mind is now desperately trying to recall the next words. So you forget the words you actually remember. “This song is way too long”, I thought.
“Oba Ve Apa Vidya…” Halfway through the second verse, like an unplanned power cut on a midsummer night, my mind just stopped. Everything went silent. I felt all the blood from my lower body gushing to my face. “Oba… Oba.. Apa… Apa…” words weren’t coming. I could see the sarcastic faces of the seniors through my hazy eyes. “Try again next week.” My head turned down in shame.
(Text if a Statement Issued by the Women’s Action Network – a collective of nine women’s groups working in the North and East)
Last week, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had told UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer that those reported missing from the war are “actually dead” and that the government would soon issue death certificates. Although the President has since clarified that death certificates will follow proper investigations, his remarks are an affront to mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the disappeared who have for years been demanding answers in monthly street protests, before the Office on Missing Persons, and in cases pending in our courts.
Maybe the President realized his comments amounted to an admission of guilt. Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made a similar remark in 2016 that those missing were in fact dead. WAN condemned those remarks then, as it does now. But Mr. Wickremesinghe was not in power during the last part of the war or in the years that followed. As Defence Secretary, the Current President Gotabaya was. On May 18, 2009, thousands surrendered with Rev. Fr. Francis Joseph to present Army Commander Shavendra Silva’s 58th Division. Families watched as their loved ones surrendered and boarded buses, never to be seen again. If those missing are dead, how did they die or who killed them? When, where, why, and how were they killed? Where are their remains? How long has the truth been silenced?
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) appointed to probe the alleged political victimization of Public Servants under the previous administration has ordered the Attorney General (AG) not to proceed with the case against former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy Spokesman Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake until it reached a conclusion on the matter.
(Excerpted from Compilation of Viewpoints Presented by Kamanthi Wickramasinghe in the “Daily Mirror” under the Heading “Singing National Anthem in Sinhala only Tug of war continues over ‘Matha’ and ‘Thaaye’)
“I am strongly in favour of the national anthem being sung in both languages whenever and wherever appropriate, certainly at national Independence Day celebrations,” said Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, a retired civil servant who has served the country since 1959.
“There are 3 million Tamils, all Tamil speaking, and 3 million Muslims, mostly Tamil speaking, whose patriotism is intimately tied up with the use of their mother tongue, as much as the patriotism of the Sinhalese is tied up with the use of their mother tongue.
(Excerpted from Compilation of Viewpoints Presented by Kamanthi Wickramasinghe in the “Daily Mirror” under the Heading “Singing National Anthem in Sinhala only Tug of war continues over ‘Matha’ and ‘Thaaye’)
“When Sri Lanka became an independent state in 1948 there was a competition to select a national anthem,” recalled veteran lyricist Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne . “Hence the first national anthem was titled ‘Sri Lanka Matha Pala Yasa Mahima’ which was selected by the Lanka Gandharva Sabha. However by then Ananda Samarakoon’s ‘Namo Namo Matha’ was sung in school choirs and gained much popularity. But it wasn’t even shortlisted for the competition. Therefore, the Cabinet approved it to be the official national anthem on November 22, 1951.
Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa, yesterday promised a party where everybody would have a say and its leader could be expelled if he or she was at fault.
Premadasa, speaking at a meeting consisting of parliamentarians, local council members, provincial council members and supporters, at the Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre, Colombo, said he was a seasoned politician and would contest the parliamentary election under a new alliance and ensure its victory, in April.
The Cabinet decision to approve the construction of a coal power plant and two LNG plants ran counter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s promise to meet 80% of Sri Lanka’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2030, Secretary of Solar Industries Association (SIA), Lakmal Fernando told The Island yesterday.
Last week, the Cabinet approved the construction of a 600 megawatt extension of Norochcholai Coal Power complex, an LNG plant with a capacity of 300 Megawatt as a joint venture with Ceylon Electricity Board and India / Japan at Kerawalapitiya and a 300 megawatt LNG plant at Kerawalapitiya to be constructed with funds from the Asian Development Bank.
Politically affiliated criminals would not be punished by governments formed by the main political parties because leaders of both parties have close links to each other, MP Hirunika Premachandra said yesterday addressing a press conference at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Colombo 07.
“Leaders of both parties are good friends, they cut deals and don’t punish anyone,” she said.
January 24, 2020, was 10 years since the disappearance of journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda. It also marked 10 years of struggle for truth and justice by his wife, Sandhya Ekneligoda and two young sons.
Investigative reports by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to the Homagama Magistrate Courts indicated that Ekneligoda was abducted from Rajagiriya in the Colombo district by Army Intelligence personnel, and taken to Giritale Army Intelligence camp in Polonnaruwa district.
There he had been questioned about a book related to the Rajapaksa family – which includes present President Gotabhaya and former President Mahinda.
Army Intelligence personnel have been arrested as suspects and released on bail. Both the CID and State Counsel leading the case on behalf of the Attorney General’s (AG) department, had repeatedly told courts of the Army providing false information, denying possession of evidence, delaying production of evidence and misleading investigations and courts. They had also reported a lack of cooperation and obstructions towards investigations from the Army, and intimidation of witnesses.
A key witness, who had seen and questioned Ekneligoda in the Giritale camp on 25th January 2010, has complained to the Police about a conspiracy to harm his life from the Giritale camp.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has informed the UN that necessary investigations would be conducted to find out the fate of those who had disappeared during the island’s civil conflict as most of the families had attested that those disappeared had been recruited or forcibly conscripted by the LTTE.
The Presidential Secretariat said the recent media reports quoting President Gotabaya as claiming that the 20,000 who were listed as missing were dead was taken out of context as he had clearly stated that necessary investigations would be conducted before issuing a death certificate.
The Government of India has decided to confer Padma Shri Awards on Deshabandu Dr. Vajira Chitrasena and Late Prof. Indra Dassanayake for their pioneering contributions in their individual fields of work and for strengthening India-Sri Lanka ties, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.
Padma Shri Awards are one of the highest civilian awards in India, and are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister of India every year. The awards seek to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.
The UNP, while pledging support to the Rajapaksa government’s fresh investigations into the Easter Sunday bomb explosions at three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21 last year, says that former President Maithripala Sirisena, who was also the then Defence Minister, is answerable for ignoring intelligence warnings and leaving for Singapore on a holiday.
Accusing Sirisena of shirking his duty, with the objective of destabilising the then Ranil Wickremesinghe government and the country in the run- up to the last presidential election, UNP MP Range Bandara told a news conference in Colombo late last week, that the Rajapaksa government, if seriously interested in ensuring justice for victims of the Easter Sunday blasts triggered by the Zaharan Faction of the National Thowheed Jamath, should immediately arrest Sirisena, who has no presidential immunity post 19th Amendment to the Constitution, and produce him in Courts.
Picking the most valuable player in a cricket tournament may be a tad easier than picking the most effective talent in a political entity, particularly a relatively new one. Or a new governing coalition.
But if we put the idea to a test, would there be general agreement on the most valuable player on the side of the new SLPP led political forces?
This writer remembers penning an opinion piece around the beginning of the second Mahinda Rajapaksa tenure as President, which claimed that Dr. P. B. Jayasundera was the most valuable player (MVP)of the then coalition. Some agreed, others didn’t, but there was no vehement criticism overall. Today, Dr. PBJ heads up operations at the Presidential Secretariat, as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Secretary, a job that would make an immense contribution to defining the tone and tenor of the GR Presidency.
Expectations are high as the newly elected President lays down policy and governs with a new agglomeration of forces, but there must be an MVP in the current SLPP + coalition as well.
I’d say that the Most Valuable Player today, is Basil Rajapaksa. Why is Basil Rajapaksa (BR for short, and the former Minister of Economic Affairs) the current MVP? Those who don’t quite agree with my pick, may say that BR is hardly heard of — or heard from — in these times.
That will be like saying a gale force storm is non-existent, because nobody sees the breeze.
Notwithstanding understandable wrath that Sri Lankans may feel over political betrayals of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition during 2015-2019, the way forward does not lie in giving sweeping majorities to any political force in the upcoming General Elections.
A despicable political culture
True, the scorching fury of ‘good governance’ being replaced by ‘no-governance’ to the extent that Islamist jihadists were emboldened to strike at hotels and churches on Easter Sunday leaving death and destruction in their wake, is still fresh in the electorate’s mind. But If Sri Lanka’s history is any indication, even the slim victories won in the name of the people was when political power was not centralised in one individual or in one party. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution is a clear example. The fact that politicians could not properly implement its contents speaks to the despicable political culture in this country rather than anything else.
And if atrocious minds playing to the tune of political grandmasters had not muddled the 19th Amendment, its impact on constitutional governance would have been far sharper and more clean cut. As it is and even with its most evident flaws, its reversal of the obnoxious 18th Amendment brought in by a steamroller Rajapaksa (the First) dispensation was only to the good. So Government politicians salivating at the prospect of a decisive victory in the forthcoming General Elections over a Opposition in utter disarray, must not be given their heart’s delight.
Government Spokesman State Power Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said on Wednesday, January 22, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to increase the daily wage of an estate worker to Rs. 1,000 from March 01, 2020, had not been seriously opposed by the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon.
Addressing the media at the Prime Minister’s Office, lawmaker Aluthgamage said those who had been fighting for Rs 1,000 daily wage now question the government over the feasibility of the President’s decision.
One-time Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Nanda Mallawarachchi has been appointed Director General, Multi Development Task Force responsible for high profile project to recruit and train 100,000 members of low income families.
The project implemented in line with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential poll pledge aimed to uplift the living standards of the poorest of poor, Government Spokesman State Power Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said.