16th September 2001
TORKHAM PAKISTAN : An Afghan man
By Shelani de SilvaPressure on President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to enlarge the Cabinet beyond 20 ministers portends to cause a serious strain in the PA-JVP memorandum of understanding.
Though she swore in a Cabinet of 19 Ministers on Friday, President Kumaratunga is now faced with the task of accommodating three more — Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Arumugam Thondaman and Wijeyapala Mendis. That would make the Cabinet 22 Members — two above the number stipulated in the deal with the JVP.
JVP Parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa told The Sunday Times the government had not officially announced that the Cabinet had exceeded 20 members.
He said the JVP would take necessary action if the gazette notification showed more than 20.
He said the PA-JVP deal clearly laid down a limit of 20 and the party would take appropriate action if the deal was broken.
On Friday, a 19-member cabinet was sworn in by President Kumaratunga, leaving the last slot apparently for CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman who is now in India. But on Thursday night the President reportedly held extensive talks with Jeyaraj Fernandopulle who had on Wednesday resigned from the cabinet along with three other dissident ministers — S. B. Dissanayake, G. L. Peiris and Mahinda Wijesekera.
After Mr. Fernandopulle's talks with the President, his supporters reportedly held a demonstration outside his Kochchikade residence, demanding that he should stay on in the cabinet. Mr. Fernandopulle said later he must bow to the wishes of the people amidst reports that he might be sworn in today as Minister of Tourism, Aviation and Airport Development.
In the meantime, problems arose over the exclusion of Mr. Fernandopulle's Negombo rival, Wijeyapala Mendis. The Sunday Times learns the President came under pressure to include the UNP Alternative Group leader in the Cabinet. It is learnt that Mr. Mendis was sworn in on Friday night as Minister of Cultural Affairs and Science and Technology, though it was not officially announced.
Meanwhile, dissension has arisen among ministers who were dropped from the cabinet.
Health Minister John Seneviratne who was demoted as deputy minister of health did not pose for the photograph after the swearing in and said he felt humiliated by what had happened.
"I know the President had a daunting task in slashing the cabinet, but I am unhappy. I find it difficult to accept it since I do not know on what criteria this was done. Judging by the selection I am at a loss for words," Minister Seneviratne told The Sunday Times. He said he had protested to the President but would carry out his work as deputy minister.
By Shelani de SilvaPrime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake who gave an assurance that power cuts would be relaxed or removed in two weeks time, now claims he cannot keep his promise because of the terrorist assault on the United States.
The Prime Minister held talks with officials of the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Power Ministry on Monday, a day before the catastrophe in the US. A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office said that when they met again on Thursday, Mr. Wickremanayake had explained he would not be able to keep his promise as some US-based companies which they hoped to link up with would not be able to come in.
The premier said he was now negotiating with German and Indian companies to obtain emergency alternative sources of power.
At a meeting in Horana last Sunday, the premier proclaimed that with or without rain, he would see that the power cuts were removed or relaxed within two weeks.
Power and Energy Ministry Secretary Jaliya Medagama, CEB Chairman K. Ariyananda, CEB Vice Chairman Dr. Ranjith Cabraal, Public Enterprises Reforms Commission (PERC) and People's Bank Chairman Mano Tittawella and Water Board Chairman M.L.A.M Hisbullah were present at the discussion with the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile power cuts have been extended periods ranging from six and a half hours to eight hours daily.
The incident occurred when the Dvora was escorting a ship load of wheat for the Prima Flour Milling complex. Officials at the Eastern Naval Area Headquarters in Trincomalee said the Dvora was close to a cluster of fishing boats just then, a boat with a white flag had come close to the Dvora and exploded.
Officials said they managed to retrieve the badly damaged Dvora.
The Meteorological Department said yesterday thunder showers were likely to develop at several places during the afternoon and would spread to coastal areas in the south west and east by evening or night . During the 24 hours ending yesterday morning Badulla had the highest rainfall of 43.3 mm, Katugastota 18.5, Mihintale 28.6, Castlereigh 17.9 and Matale 12. But except for Castlereigh other hydropower catchment areas received little rain as the CEB extended the power cuts countrywide.
By Our Diplomatic EditorThe United Nations, the European Union and the Commonwealth Secretary General, now howling about the scourge of global terrorism, were disinterested in prioritizing the subject at this month's UN General Assembly sessions or at CHOGM – the Commonwealth Summit scheduled for early October, The Sunday Times learns.
Since the orchestrated September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and a host of other European leaders have demanded that the civilized and free world unite to crush international terrorism.
They have said that those who harbour terrorists are as guilty of terrorism as the terrorists – but ironically, this very subject was not on their priority list for discussion at the apex international fora – the United Nations.
So much so that the European Union which includes Britain, France, Germany etc. had not included the subject in their 'priority list' when they consulted non-EU governments, including Sri Lanka.
It was the Sri Lanka Permanent Mission to the UN in New York that had asked the EU to include the subject as a "priority", but todate The Sunday Times learns the EU has yet to upgrade its priorities, which it is now expected to do, given the gung-ho speeches coming out of European Parliaments.
Prior to the terrorist attacks on the US, the EU's priority list at the UN included mostly human rights issues.
In one of the most blatant turnarounds, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don Mckinnon who was in Sri Lanka at the time of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America condemned what he called "this cowardly attack on ordinary citizens doing ordinary things".
Mr. Mckinnon said, "I am speaking here in Sri Lanka, where the President and people of this country have known far too much terrorism. It was only six weeks ago that we were reminded of that by the attack at the airport, a very saddening reminder of just how callous these acts of terrorism can be.
"We in the Commonwealth have always condemned and opposed terrorism and will continue to do so. When Commonwealth leaders meet in Brisbane in three weeks time, I am sure they will repeat once again that condemnation, that opposition, that determination to do something about it".
That was on Wednesday, September 12. Barely 24 hours earlier, just hours before the attacks in New York and Washington, the same Mr. Mckinnon, a former Foreign Minister of New Zealand, had asked senior Foreign Ministry officials, including Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar whether Sri Lanka insisted on having a reference to international terrorism in the final declaration of the Commonwealth Summit scheduled for Brisbane in October.
When Foreign Minister Kadirgamar had emphatically said "yes" to Sri Lanka's insistence, Mr. Mckinnon is reported to have made a face and nodded.
Renuka Sadanandan adds:
Chairman of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism, Dr. Rohan Perera expressed cautious optimism that last Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the U.S, would create an impetus for an international consensus in fighting terrorism.
The Committee which had its last sessions in February this year, is due to meet again on October 15 in New York and Dr. Perera is hopeful that member states can reach agreement on a 'comprehensive convention on international terrorism'. The proposal put forward by India seeks to strengthen the international legal framework by plugging the loopholes in the anti-terrorism conventions currently in force.
The Committee will also be deliberating on the creation of a new international convention against nuclear terrorism, which too assumes greater significance in the light of last week's attacks. " Lots of people thought that nuclear terrorism would be something in the future, but after last week's events, nuclear terrorism will be the final sort of Doomsday scenario. I hope this will create a momentum towards finalising the nuclear terrorism convention because no one can take it for granted any longer," Dr Perera told The Sunday Times.
Contentious issues before the Ad Hoc Committee have long been the definition of terrorism, the thin line between terrorism and the legitimate right to self-determination or simply who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter. State-sponsored terrorism was another thorny issue.
The Committee has sought to overcome these problems by adopting specific sectoral conventions that focus on particular crimes such as hijacking, hostage talking and obliging member states to deal with them under their domestic laws.
The Committee has in the recent past been able to accomplish two sectoral conventions, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing for Terrorism. The 'Bombings Convention' came into force after several attacks worldwide that year including the Central Bank blast in Colombo.
There are now 12 international conventions on terrorism and the 'comprehensive convention' if it is adopted would serve as an umbrella covering them all.
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