While G7 members were meeting in the French city of Biarritz and discussing the current situation in Kashmir on the sidelines with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, here in Colombo, President Maithripala Sirisena seems to have got caught in the crossfire between the warring parties, India and Pakistan. US President Donald Trump had offered his [...]


Sirisena caught in Kashmir crossfire


While G7 members were meeting in the French city of Biarritz and discussing the current situation in Kashmir on the sidelines with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, here in Colombo, President Maithripala Sirisena seems to have got caught in the crossfire between the warring parties, India and Pakistan.

US President Donald Trump had offered his ‘good offices’ to mediate between the superpower’s old ally Pakistan and new ally India in the long standing dispute and French President Emmanuel Macron said third parties should not get involved in what is essentially a bilateral issue between the two South Asian neighbours.

Indian Prime Minister Modi who met these leaders said he got their support to condemn cross border terrorism — a reference to accusations that Pakistan-backed militants were behind terrorist attacks in the Indian-held Kashmir territory and elsewhere in India.

India has long complained that Pakistan and its military have organised these attacks even in the West as sponsors of ‘Jihadi terrorism’ from the 9/11 attack in the US to the Bali bombing; the Madrid and London train bombings; the Mumbai raid and the Buddha Gaya statue destruction among many other similar attacks — all these charges have been vehemently denied by Pakistan.

Now, India is under scrutiny for having revoked the autonomy of the Indian-held state of Kashmir and brought it under the Central government’s control. That took Pakistan High Commissioner Major General Shahid Ahmed Hashmat to see President Sirisena this week.

After the meeting the Pakistan embassy rushed to issue a statement where it said, “President Sirisena acknowledged that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory” and quoted the President as saying that the issue should be resolved according to the wishes of the people of the region – a reference to the UN Resolution about a plebiscite in the state. But the statement drew a quick rebuttal from the Presidential Secretariat.

In a statemen, it said: “The attention of the President’s Media Division has been drawn to a media release issued by the Pakistan High Commission on the High Commissioner’s meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena on August 20, 2019.

“The President’s Media Division wishes to state that the said meeting took place at the request of the High Commissioner of Pakistan and during which he briefed the President about the recent developments with regard to India’s abrogation of Section 370 and annulling of Article 35A of the Constitution of India.

“The President gave a patient hearing to the Pakistan High Commissioner’s views and stated that both India and Pakistan have excellent friendly relations with Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s interest is to see the growth of regional cooperation and friendship. The President did not make any other comment on the issues pertaining to India and Pakistan.”

The Pakistan High Commission opted not to respond to the clarification from the Sri Lankan side. But why it did not get the clearance of the Presidential Secretariat before it issued its statement is the question knowing the possible reaction when it becomes public.

It is true that the South Asian regional grouping SAARC is ‘dead’ due to the Indo-Pak rivalry, largely over the issue of Kashmir and the grouping’s charter debars discussions on bilateral matters. The call for a referendum in the whole of the disputed Kashmir seems something that will never happen. What is certain to happen is more attrition in what is one of the most picturesque parts of the world.

Toronto tourism fair: Lanka’s rogue delegation goes missing in Canada

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of a group of persons who had flown to Canada claiming to be a delegation representing the country at a tourism fair in Toronto.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in Canada had informed the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) about the fair and the High Commission was informed that the Ministry of Tourism would be participating.

However, no one had turned up. High Commission officials had taken over the Sri Lanka booth at the fair and saved the country’s reputation.

When asked for details, the High Commissioner in Ottawa first asked for the questions we posed in writing, and then ducked answering saying we should get the details from the Ministry in Colombo.

A Foreign Ministry official when asked what on earth had happened here, said they were yet to discuss the matter with the Tourism Ministry and as such, were in the dark themselves regarding what exactly happened.

SLTPB Chairman Kishu Gomes said none of their employees had gone “missing” in Canada and that he knew nothing more about the incident.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, meanwhile, said the signature in a letter that had been sent claiming that a team was participating in the fair was not his. “I did not send such a letter. The Canadian High Commission should have checked with us about the credentials of those applying for visas to see if they really were employed by us before issuing visas,” he remarked.

Mr Amaratunga said he had interdicted two members of his staff over a complaint on the matter.

Why he should interdict them if they knew nothing about this, is puzzling.


Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne with UN Secretary General Guterres

Kshenuka surmounts 63-year gender barrier at UN mission

At a time when the United Nations has intensified its global campaign for gender parity as part of its 2030 Development Agenda, Sri Lanka has stepped in with a “first”.

Breaking an insurmountable 63-year-old gender barrier at the Sri Lanka Mission to the United Nations, Kshenuka Dhireni Senewiratne, presented her credentials to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week.  She holds Ambassadorial rank and is the new Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN, succeeding Dr Rohan Perera.

Ms Senewiratne is the first woman to hold that title and follows in the heavy footsteps of 20 male Permanent Representatives led by Sir Senerat Gunewardene back in February 1956. A longstanding career diplomat, she also held the distinction of being the first female Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK—in what Americans call a double-header.Currently, women diplomats also outnumber the men at the Sri Lanka Mission in New York—perhaps for the first time. The three female diplomats are Rekha Gunasekera, Savitri Panabokke and Sonali Samarasinghe. The lone male holdout among diplomats is Satya Rodrigo, the deputy Permanent Representative, plus Brigadier Vijendralal Gunathilleka who is Military Adviser representing the Sri Lankan armed forces and coordinating our UN peacekeepers overseas.

As the UN would say: score one for gender empowerment.

Absenteeism hits  parliament sessions

The appalling levels of apathy among MPs regarding their participation in Parliamentary debates were again exposed this week over several days.

Thursday’s sessions had to be briefly halted just an hour into proceedings after it was pointed out to the Chair that there was no quorum. UNP MP Ananda Aluthgamage, who now sits with the Opposition, pointed it out to Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri, prompting the quorum bell to be rung. It took about 10 minutes for a sufficient number of MPs to turn up.

The incident came shortly after Mr Aluthgamage took issue over the absence of Minister Sajith Premadasa to answer a question he had raised.

On Tuesday, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) moved an adjournment motion on the “Drought prevailing in certain areas of the country.” JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake, who moved the motion, pointed out that there was no member of the Cabinet present to listen or answer questions.

“There are farmers affected by drought in Anuradhapura. They have been fasting for days, seeking water. The Agriculture Minister is from that district. Yet no one is here. Are we to talk to empty chairs?” he queried.

On July 12, Parliament was adjourned due to lack of quorum, in an increasingly embarrassing and all too familiar scenario.

It has been a common occurrence that most members are absent during the afternoon session in Parliament.

No wonder people are sick of their representatives.

Sajith tells councillors he will  be the candidate

It is not only public rallies that UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa is attending these days to promote his presidential candidature.

This week, he addressed a group of former Provincial Council members and those from local councils at an event at a reception hall barely two kilometres away from the Parliament complex.

Here again, he made clear that he would be the presidential candidate.

Lankan officials’ overseas training at staggering cost

Twelve Treasury officials and several others from various Ministries recently embarked on a visit to London for a diploma training course in procurement.  The first part of the training was held in Sri Lanka while the second leg was held in Britain.

The overseas ‘training’ has come at immense cost to the taxpayer with the total cost for an official being Rs.1.6 million.

An official privy to the matter remarked that there was no reason why such training cannot be held entirely in Sri Lanka. “If overseas training is required, it can be done at a country in the neighbourhood. There is no reason to go all the way to Britain,” the source said, adding that such programmes were being designed as a way to send various individuals on foreign junkets based on favouritism.


Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.