Indian museum security for relics after Colombo museum fiasco The sacred Kapilavastu relics are in Sri Lanka after more than 30 years, but the exposition is shrouded in some controversy as most things done in Sri Lanka these days seem to be. For starters, the relics are being taken to only certain temples around the [...]


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Indian museum security for relics after Colombo museum fiasco

The sacred Kapilavastu relics are in Sri Lanka after more than 30 years, but the exposition is shrouded in some controversy as most things done in Sri Lanka these days seem to be.

For starters, the relics are being taken to only certain temples around the country. A significant omission is the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, one of the historic places the Buddha himself visited as legend has it. Instead, it was taken to another Viharaya in Kelaniya. But the relics have found their way to Pelmadulla Raja Maha Viharaya from where readers will recall, some so-called relics were sent as Buddha relics to Japan some time ago on a government initiative.

The Kapilawastu relics being moved from the airport amidst tight security

Amidst all this, the National Museum of India has sent its own security personnel to guard the sacred relics of the Buddha. No doubt they are invaluable assets of the Government of India, and clearly, the Indian authorities are not taking any chances with these relics.

These holy relics may be housed in some corner of the National Museum in New Delhi without a special section earmarked for them. That is not how it ought to be for relics that are venerated by millions of Buddhists worldwide.

That is something, hopefully, the Indian Government and its museum authorities might well consider. But the theft of historic artifacts at the Colombo Museum recently doesn’t seem to have infused any confidence in the Indian authorities to have these holy relics solely in the custody of the Sri Lankan authorities. That is the price we have to pay for the absurdity of having our historic artifacts stolen from our own museum.

That the Police made what they called a smashing breakthrough on the break-in at the Colombo Museum and cracked the case, almost, on the eve of the Kapilavastu relics coming was not good enough. That the pro-government Jathika Hela urumaya (JHU) also cast doubts on the Police arrests of the culprits, did not help the cause.

No doubt the Sri Lankan security agencies are also providing protection, but the Indian Museum guards are not leaving anything to chance.

Ties with Britain up the creek again

The British travel advisory against Britons visiting Sri Lanka because of an upsurge in anti-west nationalism and increasing cases of sex crimes came as a shock to the Ministry of External Affairs in Colombo.

This had happened “after all we did,” said a close aide of the Minister. Asked by a scribe what he meant, he said, “why, the President went for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lunch, our High Commissioner had an orchid named after the Queen, he got down some Lords here….”.

So, it seems none of that has worked. The British advisory was a cruel blow bordering on an insult. By Gad Sir, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s (MPs from the Commonwealth) annual sessions are due to be held next month in Sri Lanka and the rather exaggerated and excessive travel advisory from the Head of the Commonwealth to the next Chairman of the Commonwealth summit is not cricket, what.

The External Affairs Ministry in Colombo has appealed, but the appeal has fallen on deaf ears in London where the British educated Sri Lankan High Commissioner has made little impact despite all the media statements issued about the great doings of his mission.

There has to be a fall guy for all these setbacks. The deputy, a career diplomat who is normally sent trouble shooting to various other hot-spots has been sent packing — to Berlin while the numero uno remains firmly in the saddle in Old Blighty.
A disappointed wag at the Foreign Office was to say, “even the recent Diyatalawa coaching camp for our Heads of Mission seems to have taught no lessons on effective diplomacy”. One was not sure if he was serious or making a crack.
The ministry and the mission have got it terribly wrong with the Brits again. They probably need a dedicated monitor for Britain, it seems.

Hands off policy, but not in Rishad’s case

Supporters of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who is facing charges of contempt of court have launched a movement called the ‘Mannar Crisis Group’. They have started their campaign by sending to the media a letter sent by the Minister to the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) requesting that an IPU team should be present at the court proceedings against him in Colombo and Mannar.

In the letter to the IPU, the Minister said he feared these proceedings would take place in a hostile environment with the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) making strong allegations and implying that he was guilty of contempt of court even before an investigation was initiated and the case was heard.

“The resulting position is that I am presently called upon to answer charges of a criminal nature in two courts whilst the CID investigations are still pending. The vindictive role of the Bar Association and the hostility generated by the partisan presentation in (some) media have caused me grave concern which is aggravated by the fact that there are political and communal undertones,” Minister Bathiudeen said

He said he was convinced that the appearance of observers from the IPU would be a significant contribution towards ensuring that justice prevailed.

It is ironic that the Minister, whose government keeps asking for foreign agencies to keep off Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs, is now seeking help from overseas to save his skin.

Sino-India balance: Maldives learns from Lanka

Visiting Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed was asked by a local scribe at a news conference he held in Colombo on Friday how his nation proposes to balance relations between the two Asian giants China and India.

An Indian journalist was quick to quip that he could learn how to do this from Sri Lanka. “We have many things to learn from Sri Lanka,” President Waheed replied, and diplomatically avoided the question.

Polls chief reminds UNP of 1981 fraud

A UNP delegation met Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya to discuss election malpractices that may take place on September 8 election day. The delegation comprised General Secretary Tissa Attanayaka, chairman Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and senior vice president Lakshman Kiriella.

The UNP delegation expressed concern that ballot boxes might be changed at some point when they were being transported from the polling booths to the counting centres.

The Elections Commissioner assured there would be no room for such malpractice.”It has happened only once and that was during the District Development Council (DDC) election in Jaffna in 1981,” he said turning to Mr. Jayawickrema Perera who was a Cabinet minister in the then UNP government. The UNP delegation was taken aback and was less vocal till the meeting ended.

Actor or no actor, act independently

Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya who met with a select group of media personnel at his office last Tuesday requested that they refrain from publishing his photograph.

“One paper published many photographs of mine, they were really good. But please don’t publish too many photographs. My friends call me and teasingly ask whether I’m an actor,” he said.

Actor or no actor, the people would expect him to act independently and decisively come the provincial elections next month. His predecessor left with the once exemplary Department’s image and credibility tarnished. There is much repair work for the new Commissioner to do.

Order reserved in Rajapaksa immunity case in US

The issue of Head of State Immunity for Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaska, in the case of Vathsala Devi Vs Mahinda Rajapaksa was argued in the US District Court, Southern District of New York on August 23, EIN news, a press wire service said.
Vathsala Devi, the widow of Thurairajasingham alias ‘Colonel’ Ramesh brought an action against Mahinda Rajapaksa and the agents under his control. She is asking for compensatory and punitive damages for torture, inhumane treatment and war crimes inflicted by the defendant in violation of the laws of the United States and International Law.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald presided over the case argued by Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran. The State Department was represented by Amy A. Barcelo, Assistant US Attorney. Ali Abed Beydoun argued on behalf of Speak Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, which filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Vathsala Devi.

The issue in the case is whether it should be dismissed pursuant to the Suggestion of Immunity submitted by the US State Department.

Pursuant to the request by the Sri Lankan President the US Department of State filed the Suggestion of Immunity stating, “The Department of State recognises and allows the immunity of President Rajapaksa as a sitting head of state from the jurisdiction of the United States District Court.”

Vathsala Devi’s counsel argued that the Department of State lacked a legal basis, namely the law making authority, to file the Suggestion of Immunity and under emerging customary international law violations of jus cogens norms, namely torture, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, pierced the veil of immunity.

The Department of State argues that for the past 160 years courts have accepted the State Department’s determination of Head of State Immunity. The amici argued the State Department’s determination violated the separation of powers.
The judge made an observation that the fact Congress has not amended the law to eliminate the State Department’s role suggested that it acquiesced in the State Department’s position. The Judge reserved the decision.

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