Room XIII at the Palais de Naciones in Geneva, home for the UN Human Rights Council, was half packed last Tuesday. It was perhaps the final informal consultation convened by the United States to discuss the improved text of its draft resolution on Sri Lanka. The deadline for amendments was 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Taking [...]



Drama in Room XIII, no one to defend Sri Lanka


At the US convened informal consultations last Tuesday - TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran, Suren Surendiran (GTF) and S. Sritharan.

Room XIII at the Palais de Naciones in Geneva, home for the UN Human Rights Council, was half packed last Tuesday.

It was perhaps the final informal consultation convened by the United States to discuss the improved text of its draft resolution on Sri Lanka. The deadline for amendments was 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Taking the chair was the United States together with Macedonia, Montenegro, Mauritius and the United Kingdom.
As the meeting got under way, a delegate from Singapore rose to a point of order. He said someone with a camera was taking pictures. He wanted those pictures deleted and to urge the cameraman to stop immediately.

The chair, the United States, promptly declared that it had instructed the people not to take photographs of anyone in the room. The only exception, the US said, would be those chairing the meeting because they were happy with it. The meeting proceeded thereafter until Canada raised issue over another matter. Other countries were seeking an amendment to the draft resolution’s final line which said, “Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to co-operate with the Office of the High Commissioner concerning the implementation of this resolution.” Others wanted the word “full co-operation”.

Canada said it was not happy with the use of those two words. Television in Sri Lanka, Canada said, was running dramatised visuals of (EAM) Peiris bitterly attacking High Commissioner Pillay. Hence, Canada said the use of the word “co-operation” was not appropriate.

Other than diplomats from different countries, the Global Tamil Forum’s Suren Surendiran was seated together with TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran and S. Sritharan. Also present was Nimalka Fernando representing the Democratic People’s Movement in Colombo. She told the informal consultation that attacks on minorities were not sporadic but regular. She said it was appropriate to keep references to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in the draft resolution. There was no one to espouse the Government’s cause.


Who’s writing stuff for the EAM?
The statement of the Ministry of External Affairs on the release of rights activists Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan caught international attention this week – for the wrong reasons. To begin with, the first sentence of the 97-word statement was no less than 57 words long and contained at least five clauses.
This is how it went: “Mr. Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan who had been taken into Police custody on 16th March 2014, due to their presence in the crime scene where investigations have been ongoing, into attempts to revive the LTTE in Sri Lanka by certain operatives, were produced before the Colombo Magistrate Court yesterday (18th March) and released on bail.”

If that was not confusing enough, the second sentence went thus: “This action demonstrates the firm resolve of the Government to take all necessary measures to prevent the resurgence of terrorism, and also the fair and transparent manner in which law and order is administered in the country.”

Er, which action? There were already so many actions referred to in the preceding paragraph, including the fact that investigations are continuing! It was also impossible to gauge from the double-barrelled sentence what precisely the Government had done to demonstrate “the fair and transparent manner in which law and order is administered in this country”. The process evidently was not transparent enough for the EAM to know that neither activist was released “on bail” as it claimed.

The statement compounded confusion surrounding the Government’s “fair and transparent” actions in relation to the arrest, detention, questioning and release of the men. People around the world took to twitter to ask whether they had, indeed, being let out on bail when it was already public that the discharge by the magistrate had been unconditional. Seriously, who drafts these things at the EAM these days?

BCC land for Law College

Minister Champika Ranawaka proposed at Thursday’s ministerial meeting that the Law College be placed under the University Grants Commission.
The proposal came after President Mahinda Rajapaksa asked Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem about the issue over admissions to Law College.
Mr. Hakeem responded that the Law College was not a post-graduate institution. He said the Law College was being administered by the Council of Legal Education headed by the Chief Justice.

Expressing views that it should not come under the UGC were Ministers Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Dilan Perera, Susil Premajayantha and John Seneviratne.
Minister Hakeem said the Law College could not increase its intake due to problems of accommodation. President Rajapaksa directed that a six acre plot of land that once belonged to British Ceylon Corporation (BCC) be taken for a new Law College building.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa wanted to know whether question papers could not be set in Sinhala. At present they are set in English. However, students are permitted to answer them in either Sinhala or Tamil, said Minister Hakeem.


MR worried over drug issue

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is concerned over his Government politicians involving themselves in the drugs trade. He noted that the recent arrest of a Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman with cannabis (ganja) inside the boot of his car was the result of a tip-off from inside. The concern, a Government source said, comes particularly in the light of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) moving a vote of no-confidence in the Government. The UNP says Sri Lanka has become a hub in Asia for smuggling drugs.

President Rajapaksa made the remarks at Thursday’s weekly ministerial meeting.It came when ministers discussed a proposal to establish a Lakshman Wasantha Perera Foundation. He is a UPFA Parliamentarian from the Matale District and a Deputy Minister.

Snakes and ladders in UPFA battle

The on-going polls campaign for the Southern and Western Provincial Councils has shown an interesting facet — rivalries and clashes have been between the UPFA candidates instead of rivals from opposition parties.  So much so, they have even been accusing rival claimants for the office of the Chief Minister.
Former Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga held a meeting at the Y Junction in Gampaha. As the crowds built up, two police officers rushed to the area and asked them to give way.

The reason — they said they feared that a poisonous snake was moving around. Soon, jungle talk took over.
Some named two Chief Minister hopefuls and said it is one of them who had introduced the snake. However, no snake was found and the meeting ended on a quieter note.


Protests to mark D-Days in Geneva

On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council will debate the latest United States resolution on Sri Lanka.A UPFA Government backed protest campaign is being planned in Geneva the next day (Thursday) when voting takes place. It is being organised by “The Unity for the United Sri Lanka Organisation in Europe,” says a statement from it.

Also on Wednesday, as the debate takes place in Geneva, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC has organised another event.Ambassador Jaliya Wickremesuriya, who relinquishes office on April 15, has sent out a message to Sri Lankan expatriates to come to Capitol Visitor Centre. He says it is for a “Sri Lankan-American gathering at the US Congress to apprise the Members of the Congress of current economic and political developments, especially the reconciliation efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka.”


CBK’s dislike for her ‘followers’

The talking point among intelligence sleuths this week was the letter former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. She complained that sleuths from the NIB (National Intelligence Bureau) were trailing her. Rajapaksa directed Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga to counter the charges. The latter replied that there was no truth in her “generalised” accusations. He also noted that it had come when the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was discussing Sri Lanka.

However, Weeratunga glossed over a factual reality in his response, perhaps for good reasons.The NIB functioned under the tenure of then President Kumaratunga. She made maximum use of this outfit to spy on her perceived opponents, including journalists. It has since been replaced by the State Intelligence Service (SIS).
So when Kumaratunga claims that when she visited friends and left, NIB sleuths would arrive to question them.

If indeed that happened and such sleuths identified themselves as representatives of the NIB, one intelligence officer said, her complaint should not be directed to President Rajapaksa. She should go to the nearest Police Station because they could be imposters. “We do not call ourselves NIB officers anymore,” noted his colleague.

It is in this backdrop that some opposition political parties have raised questions over Ms. Kumaratunga making news in the recent weeks. It was first over a plan to foster religious unity. To discuss this, she met Opposition and UNP national leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. She has sought appointments with other party leaders also. Is she seeking the backing of those parties to make a foray into politics, asked a left party leader who added “we are not there for her.”

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