Last week Sri Lanka’s longstanding, much-touted UN proposal for an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOPZ) got a much-needed boost as Mauritius’s claims over the decolonisation of the strategically important Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, was upheld by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. The ICJ said Britain must hand over [...]


ICJ ruling on Diego Garcia: Boost for Lanka’s Indian Ocean Peace Zone plan


Last week Sri Lanka’s longstanding, much-touted UN proposal for an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOPZ) got a much-needed boost as Mauritius’s claims over the decolonisation of the strategically important Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, was upheld by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

The ICJ said Britain must hand over to Mauritius the future control of the Chagos Archipelago, where a US military base is located on its Diego Garcia island.

The proposed Zone of Peace rules out any military bases in the Indian Ocean.

The opinion issued in The Hague by the court’s majority that included Judge Dalveer Bhandari of India said that the decolonisation of Mauritius “was not lawfully completed” when it attained independence because Britain carved away the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius and retained control of it.

The opinion handed down by the majority of 13 judges said Britain “is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

The sole dissenter was American Judge Joan E. Donoghue. The court gave the opinion, which is non-binding, following a request by the United Nations General Assembly through a 2017 resolution. Vehemently opposed by the US and Britain, the resolution received the vote of 94 countries while 15 voted against it and 65 abstained, according to an Inter Press Service (IPS) report from the United Nations.

Britain opposed the referral to the court saying it was a bilateral matter with Mauritius and indicated it would reject it.

The people living on Diego Garcia were forcibly removed from there by the colonial administration and it was leased to the US, which set up its strategic Indian Ocean military base on the island. In the 1970s and 1980s India had vehemently opposed the US base in Diego Garcia. India’s then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called the base, 2,000 kilometres from India, a threat to India.

FCID chief quits
Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and Senior DIG Ravi Waidyalankara relinquished office on Wednesday, a month ahead of his extended one-year contract which was due to end on March 30. This follows a decision by President Maithripala Sirisena, under whose purview the Police Department comes. The President has decided not to extend his term and terminate it this week. The decision was conveyed by the Ministry of Defence to the National Police Commission (NPC) which in turn implemented the decision.

The FCID was set up four years ago this week and investigated high profile cases involving those in the previous administration.
Ravi Seneviratne, Senior DIG in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, (CID), is to overlook the FCID until a new appointment is made.
A Police source said that Mr Waidyalankara, a lawyer, will join the private bar.

Top class food outlets like petti kadeys

In some of the oldest and new food outlets, hygiene has turned out to be a public hazard.

An elderly couple, now Canadian citizens, habitually visited Sri Lanka every year to avoid the biting winter there.

They relived the older days. One was to savour lamprais from a known older food outlet. They opened the banana leaf in which the delicacy made from a Dutch recipe and found a wire nail. The management later made good by providing a free service for a party.

In two other instances, videos went viral on mobile phones. In one, men were busy with finger food as a rat was devouring some on top of an aluminum trolley. Talk of quality short eats?

In the other video, there is the photo of a fungus laden éclair. It claims that a pregnant mother fell ill after consuming it. The tea, however, was okay since it was from good leaves.

Health officials do have a lot of work to do cleaning up top class food outlets. Some have turned out to be as bad as the so-called petti kadeys or wooden kiosks.

Light-hearted banter at Mangala bash

The occasion was a ceremony to mark thirty years in politics by Mangala Samaraweera, now Minister of Finance.

There was some light-hearted banter when a few distinguished guests gathered around Samantha Power, the United States’ envoy to the UN during the Barrack Obama presidency and a key player in his administration.

Former Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were present when Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, in humour, introduced publisher Nimal Welgama as the “common (Presidential) candidate”. Realising he had not qualified from which side, he added “from their side” meaning the Opposition.

All this was a bit too much for Ms Power. Unwittingly she declared “I know Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe will take the correct decision.” There were disconnects all round.

Though there was laughter all round, no one really took any of the remarks seriously.

And that brings us  to Mr Samaraweera’s thirty years in politics. There was one occasion when he was at a public rally. Seated on the stage next to him was Mr Wickremesinghe, the then Leader of the Opposition. They would make face contact but avoid speaking to each other. Not that they were angry. There was little to speak.

When he got down from the stage after the event, some of those present turned to Mr Samaraweera and asked “are you angry with the boss.” He broke into laughter and declared “there is no such thing at all.”

Then he told a confidant, who had asked him the same question, “When I used to sit on such occasions with Mahinda Rajapaksa (when he was in his party), if he had nothing to say, he would crack a smutty joke. People would think we are discussing something serious even when we laughed.”

SPC, JEDB shifted from Navin to Kiriella

President Maithripala Sirisena has placed the State Plantation Corporation (SPC) and the Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) under the purview of Lakshman Kiriella, Minister of Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development.

These two state enterprises were earlier under Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake.

SriLankan reacts to our story

SriLankan Airlines has responded to last week’s story headlined “Plain-sailing powers for SriLankan bosses.’  It says it wants to “clarify and place on record the facts.”

The article states that the decision to pay compensation to Aercap as penalty has been made by the then Chief Executive Officer, Kapila Chandrasena, without approval either by the Cabinet of Ministers or the Attorney General.

“SriLankan Airlines clarifies that the termination of A350-900 leases was part of the restructuring plan which was approved by the Cabinet in June 2015, and the cancellation of leases was subsequently approved by the Cabinet, by which time Mr. Chandrasena was no longer with the company.

“The letter quoted in the article sent by the Secretary to Public Enterprise Development Ministry Mr. R. Hewawitharana to Chairman Mr. Ajith Dias states ‘the Cabinet and the CCEM had requested his involvement in the transaction leading to the entering of Agreement and that he was never requested to be a member…’

“This letter was duly replied to by CEO Captain Suren Ratwatte with copies of Cabinet approval on the termination of aircraft leases. In his letter he has elaborated that the final discussions with Aercap were held by the Ministry of Finance with the Concurrence of Ministry of Public Enterprise Development.

As such, inclusion of representatives was at the discretion of the two entities concerned and was beyond the matters of the Airline.

“The article erroneously reports that Mr. Hewawitharana’s letter promoted (sic) four directors of the Airline to write to Chairman Mr. Ajith Dias claiming that the management has unnecessarily risked placing the company to legal claims.”

Jamis Banda adds: Interesting indeed. This order, it has now transpired, cost double the assets owned by SriLankan, according to testimony before the Commission of Inquiry. And the Cabinet of Ministers, too, according to SriLankan Airlines, has been a party.

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