A little known fact is that the Government does not discuss with constituent parties in the alliance led by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) critical issues or seek their opinions before making a decision. For many, some of the Government’s decisions come as surprises either from interlocutors or the media. The latest is the [...]


Prorogation: LSSP laments it was not consulted


A little known fact is that the Government does not discuss with constituent parties in the alliance led by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) critical issues or seek their opinions before making a decision.

For many, some of the Government’s decisions come as surprises either from interlocutors or the media. The latest is the prorogation of Parliament by the President from midnight of December 12 to reconvene on January 18 – not the earlier scheduled date of January 11 that was fixed by the Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.

Even some of the senior Cabinet Ministers were not aware of that decision until they came to know about it through other sources. One of the constituent party’s front line members was to say that if Cabinet affairs were to go to this level, it is time for constituent parties which are occasionally up in arms against the Government to express their reservations in public.

During a meeting held in Talawakelle this week, Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) Leader Prof. Tissa Vitharana openly expressed concern over decisions being taken without consulting constituent parties. Any flaws in those unilateral decisions could not be pointed out as a result, he said.

Recalling a period during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Administration, in which he was a Cabinet Minister, he pointed out that vital matters were discussed in detail with alliance parties. No such discussions take place nowadays, he added.

North and East journalists tell TID, ‘‘if you want to question us do it in our areas’’

Harassment of journalists, particularly those reporting in the North or East, is not new but summoning them to appear in Colombo is a tiresome process and too expensive these days.

In recent weeks, at least half a dozen journalists were summoned to appear before Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) Headquarters in Colombo from the North and Eastern provinces while undergoing tremendous difficulties from transport to securing lodging facilities.

One Northern journalist who was summoned to Colombo lamented that the travelling cost him was around Rs 4000, in addition to other expenses during his one day stay in Colombo.

An Eastern journalist also reported to the same department but only to respond to questions about why his phone number was on the call list of a colleague who happened to be currently under probe over the Easter Sunday attacks.

Given the random questioning of Northern journalists in recent times, they request the authorities to take steps to record statements in regional offices or respective Police stations.

The latest to be summoned by the TID is Pararajasingam Sujeevan, a student at the University of Jaffna and journalist attached to local media. He was summoned following a complaint lodged by a monk alleging he is attempting to revive the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Bilingual policy: Latest victim is former Minister of national languages

Implementation of the Government’s bilingual policy took a back seat despite criticisms from various quarters. The latest victim is none other than Mano Ganesan, former Minister of National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages.

When the Kohuwela police tried to hand over a summons issued by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in Sinhala, he refused to accept it saying he would only accept it if it is in Tamil.

Issuing a response in Tamil to the Commission by e-mail, he explained why he could not accept the summons by indicating Constitutional clauses with regard to language and finally stressed that if he is to appear before the Commission, his testimony should also be recorded in Tamil.

The situation in the North is no better. Early this week, TNA parliamentarian S. Shritharan had to walk out of a District Development Committee meeting presided by Northern Governor Jeevan Thiyagarajah complaining there was no Tamil translation
of discussion between officials in English.

During the meeting, Treasury officials had to be connected through Zoom technology and the discussion went ahead for some time between the Governor and officials, in English. The Governor assured that a brief summary of the discussion will be provided in Tamil but after a short time, the agitated MP walked out of the meeting saying “there is no
place here for Tamil therefore I’m leaving”.

You risk severe burns if you smoke in the kitchen

These days, it is not only womenfolk who are terrified to go to the household kitchen due to exploding gas cylinders but also smokers. The reason – disposable lighters which are often used by smokers have raised concerns of possible explosions due to the gas composition of these mini cylinders.

At least two incidents were reported this week where lighters exploded in the face of smokers. One of them was reported at Chavakachcheri in Jaffna where a regular smoker tried to have a quick smoke but the explosion caused severe burn injuries to his face.

World body degrades HRCSL

Since the Government took office, appointments to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) came under severe criticism including questions relating to the independence of the commissioners who were said to be close to the Government.

The latest blow to the national human rights agency is the downgrade to ‘B’ status by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a United Nations Institute of National Human Rights Organisation. This is not the first time HRCSL was downgraded. In 2007 during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Administration too, the agency was downgraded.

The current reasons stated by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the GANHRI are pretty similar to the reasons it gave in 2007. It states;

“In view of the information before it, the SCA is concerned that the institution’s independence and effectiveness have not been sufficiently maintained in line with the requirements of the Paris Principles,” the SCA report said.

“The SCA is of the view that the HRCSL has not effectively engaged in and publicly addressed all human rights issues including allegations of deaths in custody and torture, nor has it spoken out in a manner that promotes and protects all human rights.”

The public report came in the wake of fresh appointments to the Commission this week by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe has been appointed as the new chairperson of HRCSL while Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera will serve as one of its members.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released the final SCA recommendations with regard to HRCSL on December 6.

Chinese envoy nets in northern fisherfolk

A high-level Chinese embassy delegation led by Ambassador Qi Zhenhong undertook a three-day visit to the Northern Province this week.

Security was beefed up in view of the visit which began on Wednesday. The Northern Province Governors’ Secretariat directly coordinated with the embassy on the visit and other arrangements while other relevant government institutions and senior officials were informed of the visit and requested to extend their support. A police motorcade along with military personnel accompanied the delegation.

The delegation visited Sakkottai Cape in the village of Munai at the northern-most notch of Point Pedro. The local fishermen in the area have repeatedly alleged that Indian fishermen enter into Sri Lankan territorial waters — sometimes even closer to the coast at the expense of destroying their nets and livelihood.   The Chinese envoy donated fishing nets to the northern fishermen and food packs to local residents.

As the delegation was busy taking photographs with the plaque, a drone was up in the air recording footage of the northern coastal land, Ambassador Zhenhong asked a military officer “How far is India located from here?” The military officer responded saying “30 kilometres” while pointing his hand at the northern sea.

Shadow boxing by MPs; live debate on TV

A heated argument during the 2022 Budget debate between Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Shanakiyan Rasamanickam and Naseer Ahamed of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) has resulted in a live debate on a TV channel.

During the Budget debate, the TNA Parliamentarian accused the SLMC Parliamentarian of making “deals” with the Government that were favourable to them personally – not to their community as they occasionally claimed. He asked how they voted with the Government each time when their party leaders were voting against the Government.

Both, the SLMC led by Rauff Hakeem and the Rishard Bathiudeen led All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) are said to have taken legal action against those Parliamentarians, but it turned out to be mere warning letters and nothing more – a farcical exercise.

By attacking the SLMC Parliamentarians who are voting with the Government, Parliamentarian Rasamanickam was winning the support of Muslim youth in his Eastern constituency. Feeling the pressure, the SLMC Parliamentarians have openly claimed in Parliament that Mr Shanakiyan has no moral right to voice concerns of the Muslim community and it should be the role of the Muslim representatives alone.

Earlier this week, Parliamentarian Ahamed issued a statement challenging Parliamentarian Rasamanickam to come for a live debate on the matter. The TNA Parliamentarian has accepted the challenge and the date is to be fixed shortly. Others however felt this was all shadow boxing, like two village thugs who challenge each other for a duel which does not take place.

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