Sri Lanka's ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka Tuesday said he had been denied a visa to attend the UN general assembly because of unresolved war crime allegations against the military. The war-time general, who is now minister of regional development, said he was due to travel to New York this week, but he was the only one in the Sri Lankan delegation not issued a visa. Fonseka said he could not accompany President Maithripala Sirisena who left Colombo on Sunday to address the United Nations General Assembly. "I was not given a visa because of the war crimes allegations against the military," Fonseka told reporters. "That is why I say they must be investigated." He said the excesses by a "few" during the final stages of the island's Tamil separatist war should not tarnish the image of the Sri Lankan armed forces. The military crushed separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 following a no-holds-barred offensive that also triggered allegations against the forces of killing at least 40,000 Tamil civilians. The government at the time insisted that no civilians were killed by its troops and faced international censure over its dismal human rights record. Fonseka, who led the military, has maintained that he did not order troops to target civilians, but has acknowledged that there may have been excesses that should be investigated. The new government, which came to power in January 2015, promised investigations but those are yet to begin. Earlier this month Fonseka accused his successor Jagath Jayasuriya of committing crimes against Tamil rebel suspects during and after the island's ethnic war and said he was ready to testify against the former military commander. A human rights group filed two complaints in Colombia and Brazil against Jayasuriya, who was Sri Lanka's ambassador to several South American countries until recently. The group alleged that Jayasuriya oversaw torture camps and was responsible for hundreds of disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the final stages of the conflict when he was a senior officer. The UN has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed between 1972 and 2009. Tiger rebels have been accused of using human shields and killing civilians in their guerrilla war for a separate homeland for the minority ethnic Tamil community in the Sinhala-majority nation.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said the proposed ratification of a bill that criminalises enforced disappearance in the country will have no retrospective effect, a local media report said. Wickremesinghe was responding to opposition’s accusations that the real aim of the Office of Missing Person (OMP) was to target the security forces personnel who defeated the LTTE after a three-decade-long civil war. He said the proposed ratification in Sri Lankan parliament of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPAPED) will have no retrospective effect. “It will be in effect only for the future. We can’t pass laws to have retrospective effect,” Wickremesinghe said. He said under the Sri Lankan constitution it was not possible to do so. However, joint opposition spokesperson G L Peiris said the government is attempting to ratify the ICPAPED as soon as possible and its background has been created with the approval of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP). International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPAPED) is a human rights instrument of the UN that intends to prevent forced disappearance. The joint opposition had claimed that they would not permit the debating of ICPAPED in parliament on September 21. He also said that under the OMP Act, its officials were empowered to investigate any place and inquire any person anywhere and added that they had the sole authority to take any document to their custody. He said that accordingly the people were abided by the Act to answer them and otherwise legal actions could be taken against them by considering it as a contempt of court. “The legal protection given to the people by the law governing in the country will be nullified as a result of this law,” he added. Peiris said that President Maithripala Sirisena had delayed approving this Act for the past seven months, and he had recently approved it due to claims made by the UN representatives condemning the court procedure in Sri Lanka. A disappearance panel appointed by the then president Mahinda Rajapakse in 2013 has reported that around 19,000 have disappeared since the 1990s The International Committee of the Red Cross has put the figure over 24,000 since the late 1980s. Sri Lanka faced criticism at the UN Human Rights Council for its rights record under Rajapakse regime. Three resolutions since 2013 have resulted in a demand to have an international probe on alleged war crimes committed by both government troops and the LTTE. The Rajapakse-led opposition has dubbed the bill as a betrayal to the government troops which defeated the LTTE, ending their separatist campaign in 2009.
Sri Lankan police Friday found the body of a 24-year-old British journalist, Paul McClean, who is suspected to have been killed by a crocodile. Divers found McClean's corpse in the mud of a lagoon in the coastal village of Panama, 360 kilometres east of the capital Colombo by road, a police spokesman said. "There were six or seven wounds on his right leg," a police official told AFP by telephone. "The body was stuck in mud at about the same place where he was seen last by some others who were with him." A crocodile is believed to have dragged McClean away on Thursday afternoon, the officer said, but a post-mortem examination later Friday would formally establish the cause of death. British media reports said McClean, who worked for the Financial Times, was holidaying in Sri Lanka with friends. He was on a beach and had wandered away to find a toilet when he stumbled into an area known to be infested with crocodiles. Other holidaymakers in the area alerted police after McClean disappeared and a search was mounted with the help of navy divers. Crocodile attacks are rare in Sri Lanka. However, earlier this month, wildlife authorities reported that a crocodile had seriously injured a wild elephant in the south of the island. During monsoon floods in May, authorities warned people in inundated areas to beware of stray crocodiles.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday sacked a minister who had threatened to split his coalition government, three weeks after another was fired for publicly criticising a government decision. Sirisena’s office said Arundika Fernando, (pictured) junior minister for tourism and Christian affairs, was expelled from the government under the executive powers of the president. The brief statement did not give a reason for his dismissal, but official sources said the move prevented Fernando from engineering defections to a breakaway faction of Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party. “With this sacking the president has asserted his authority and sent a signal he won’t hesitate to expel more,” a source close to the presidency said, citing Fernando’s previous assertion that around a dozen ministers were planning to leave the government. Fernando was not immediately available for comment, but he told the Lankadeepa daily website that his sacking was unlikely to discourage other dissidents in the government. Sirisena’s party, the junior partner in Sri Lanka’s coalition since August 2015, is already split between him and former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse, who is an MP and has considerable support within the party. It is not yet clear whether the potential new faction was trying to join the side of the former president or remain as a third faction within the party. Three weeks ago Sirisena sacked justice minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who publicly denounced the government’s $1.1bn sale in July of a 70% stake in a port to state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings. Sirisena and his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have vowed to continue their power-sharing arrangement until 2020 when the next general election is due. However, there are reports of squabbles within the coalition and many fiscal policy measures have been either toned down or completely withdrawn in recent months due to infighting.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday accused a group of retired army officers politically linked to former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse of causing friction between disabled soldiers and authorities, a media report said. In an unusual move, the president made references to statements by Major General (retired) Kamal Gunaratne regarding the November clash between disabled soldiers and police outside the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, online daily Economynext reported. “Those who criticise the government today are the very same people who brought outsiders to a demonstration by disabled soldiers, created a tense situation that led to clashes and then blame the government,” the president said. He recalled Gunaratne’s criticism of the government following reports that police attacked disabled soldiers. Police clashed with able bodied men who had been brought to take part in the protest. He accused the retired officer and his group of creating tension between disabled troops and the authorities. Several members among genuine protesters also suffered collateral damage when police tried to prevent the marchers storming the President’s office, according to police. President Sirisena reiterated his commitment to protect war heroes. Major General (retired) Gunaratne is a key member of a group promoting Gotabhaya Rajapakse as a potential opposition presidential candidate although constitutionally he cannot run for office while retaining his US citizenship. Gunaratne was a key speaker at Rajapakse’s latest venture known as “Eliya” (light) which is agitating against proposed constitutional reforms. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that Gunaratne’s book published a day after he retired from the army last year provided “evidence” of war crimes committed by Sri Lankan forces while battling separatist Tamil Tigers. The 741-page “Road to Nandikadal” was a catalogue of atrocities committed by government forces since early 1980s, Samaraweera had said. Setting fire to homes of Tamil civilians, killing innocent civilians and plundering valuables of homes under the guise of cordon-and-search operations have been listed by Gunaratne in minute detail. The minister said the language used by Gunaratne also indicated that he derived pleasure by seeing the death and destruction around him and in his own words he had admitted that as an officer he did nothing to discipline soldiers under his command. Gunaratne’s original army unit, the Rajarata Rifles, was disbanded for indiscipline and excesses but Gunaratne himself escapes punishment according to his book and the unit emerges as the “mighty Gajaba Regiment.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday reiterated the importance India attached to its ties with Sri Lanka as the island nation’s new Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana called on him in the capital New Delhi. “The prime minister reaffirmed the high importance that India attaches to its relations with Sri Lanka,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement. “Both countries enjoy deep and broad-based ties,” it added. Modi conveyed to Marapana that he looked forward to continuing to work closely with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to further strengthen and expand bilateral co-operation. He also congratulated Marapana on assuming his new responsibility as foreign minister. Marapana, who assumed office on August 15, arrived In New Delhi on Friday on a three-day trip to India in what is his first official visit abroad. “The prime minister referred to his fruitful visit to Sri Lanka in May this year for the International Vesak Day,” the PMO statement said. Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Susham Swaraj held delegation-level talks with Marapana. “The two sides discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and ways to further deepen the historically close and friendly relations between the two countries,” the external affairs ministry said in a separate statement. Sushma Swaraj and Marapana had earlier met this month when she went to Colombo to attend the Second Indian Ocean Conference. Patrol vessel handed over: The Indian Coast Guard has handed over offshore patrol vessel ICGS Varuna to the Sri Lankan Coast Guard, an official statement said. The patrol vessel was handed over to Rear Admiral Samantha Wimalathunge, the director general of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, by Rajendra Singh, director general of the Indian Coast Guard, at a ceremony on Tuesday. Rear Admiral S S Ranasinghe, Chief of Staff, Sri Lanka Navy, was also present during the ceremony. “The handing over of the Indian Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel to Government of Sri Lanka for training and surveillance purposes is part of India’s continuing efforts for cementing the historical and cultural ties between the two countries,” the Indian Coast Guard said. India has earlier handed over two offshore patrol vessels of the Indian Coast Guard - Varaha in April 2006 and Vigraha in August 2008. ICGS Varuna, named after sea god Varuna, was commissioned in the Indian Coast Guard in February 1988. The ship was decommissioned with traditional honours on August 23 this year to facilitate the handing over. The ship has been allocated pennant number SLCG-60 by the Sri Lanka Coast Guard and will be commanded by Captain (ASW) Neville Amara Ubayasiri. Prior to the ship’s departure, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard crew will be imparted familiarisation and on-job training by the Indian Coast Guard workup team on ship handling, bridge navigation, engine room controls and machinery. Coast Guard D-G Rajendra Singh, in his remarks at the transfer ceremony, highlighted the significance of mutually beneficial relations shared between both the countries. He also fondly remembered the contributions of the erstwhile training ship and wished good luck to the Sri Lankan crew in all future endeavours. The Sri Lanka Coast Guard D-G conveyed the gratitude of the Sri Lanka government for the transfer.
Higher debt repayments next year will reduce Sri Lanka government’s ability to increase economic growth, the government said as it unveiled an eight-year economic policy plan on Monday. It pledged to implement fiscal reforms to achieve medium to long-term targets for macroeconomic stability and an improved investor climate. Unproductive spending will also be eliminated from the budget and state-owned enterprises restructured to let them operate as commercially viable and accountable enterprises. But debt is the immediate problem. Sri Lanka is facing a debt crunch as most of its expensive commercial loans start to come due next year. Foreign debt repayments will grow to a record $4bn in 2019 from this year’s $2.42bn, finance ministry officials have said. “The bunching of external debt repayments from 2018 requires tight budgetary control,” the government said in the policy statement. “Due to this lack of fiscal space, economic growth can no longer be driven by government spending. Growth will instead require expansion of tradable activities, driven by private investment to service external debt.” The external debt rose to 79.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) last year from a 71.3% in 2014. However the government has planned to cut it to 70% by 2020. The government has blamed “colossal borrowing” by the previous government for the spike in the debt services. But former president Mahinda Rajapakse has defended large-scale borrowing, saying it was needed to rebuild infrastructure after a 26-year civil war ended in 2009, investing in things such as ports, railways, highways and power plants, mostly through financed by Chinese loans. President Maithripala Sirisena, who unseated Rajapakse in an election two years ago, has already converted the debts of a loss-making $1.5bn Chinese-built port into equity to reduce the debt burden. Moody’s Investors Service in July said Sri Lanka’s credit profile will remain constrained by its large debt burden and very low debt affordability, combined with contingent liability risks from state-owned enterprises.
Sri Lanka’s president yesterday defended his ambassador to Latin America who faces war crimes allegations over his role as a senior army officer during and after the island’s ethnic war. Maithripala Sirisena told a convention of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) that he would not allow retired general Jagath Jayasuriya or any war veteran to be tried by any foreign entity. A human rights group last week filed two cases in Colombia and Brazil against Jayasuriya, who until recently was Sri Lanka’s ambassador to several South American countries. The group alleged that Jayasuriya oversaw torture camps and was responsible for disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the final stages of the civil war in 2009 and thereafter. “The charges against Jagath Jayasuriya is problem beyond our shores,” Sirisena said. “I will not allow anyone in the world to touch Jagath Jayasuriya or any army commander or any war hero.” The previous Sri Lankan government faced international censure for refusing to acknowledge that civilians were killed while battling Tamil separatists. However, Sirisena, who came to power in January 2015, has said he was willing to investigate specific allegations of wrongdoing, but maintains he will allow only a domestic inquiry and oppose any foreign investigation. After taking office, Sirisena appointed Jayasuriya as an ambassador on his retirement from the military. He was promoted to army chief by the previous government barely three months after the war ended in May 2009. His predecessor in the army, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, told reporters in Colombo on Friday that he had received complaints against Jayasuriya, who was placed in charge of arrested rebel suspects during the final phase of the war. Fonseka added that he was ready to testify against Jayasuriya who had told the local media on Sunday that he had no direct role in combat operations during the final phase of the conflict. Two days after the South African-based rights group the International Truth and Justice Project filed the cases against Jayasuriya, he left Brazil completing a two-year posting. International rights groups have said that at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by security forces while crushing the rebels in the final months of the 37-year civil war. The UN has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed between 1972 and 2009. Tiger rebels have also been accused of using human shields and killing civilians in their guerrilla war for a separate homeland for the minority ethnic Tamil community in the Sinhala majority nation. Many Sri Lankan military personnel had been accused by rights groups of ordering indiscriminate shelling of hospitals and bombarding civilians.
Sri Lanka's president Sunday defended his ambassador to Latin America who faces war crimes allegations over his role as a senior army officer during and after the island's ethnic war. Maithripala Sirisena told a convention of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) that he would not allow retired general Jagath Jayasuriya or any war veteran to be tried by any foreign entity. A human rights group last week filed two cases in Colombia and Brazil against Jayasuriya, who until recently was Sri Lanka's ambassador to several South American countries. The group alleged that Jayasuriya oversaw torture camps and was responsible for disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the final stages of the civil war in 2009 and thereafter. ‘The charges against Jagath Jayasuriya is problem beyond our shores,’ Sirisena said. ‘I will not allow anyone in the world to touch Jagath Jayasuriya or any army commander or any war hero.’ The previous Sri Lankan government faced international censure for refusing to acknowledge that civilians were killed while battling Tamil separatists. However, Sirisena, who came to power in January 2015, has said he was willing to investigate specific allegations of wrongdoing, but maintains he will allow only a domestic inquiry and oppose any foreign investigation. After taking office, Sirisena appointed Jayasuriya as an ambassador on his retirement from the military. He was promoted to army chief by the previous government barely three months after the war ended in May 2009. His predecessor in the army, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, told reporters in Colombo Friday that he had received complaints against Jayasuriya, who was placed in charge of arrested rebel suspects during the final phase of the war. Fonseka added that he was ready to testify against Jayasuriya who had told the local media Sunday that he had no direct role in combat operations during the final phase of the conflict. Two days after the South African-based rights group the International Truth and Justice Project filed the cases against Jayasuriya, he left Brazil completing a two-year posting. International rights groups have said that at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by security forces while crushing the rebels in the final months of the 37-year civil war. The UN has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed between 1972 and 2009. Tiger rebels have also been accused of using human shields and killing civilians in their guerrilla war for a separate homeland for the minority ethnic Tamil community in the Sinhala majority nation. Many Sri Lankan military personnel had been accused by rights groups of ordering indiscriminate shelling of hospitals and bombarding civilians.
Sri Lanka has played down India’s concerns regarding Hambantota port, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe saying Colombo won’t enter into a military alliance with any country or make its bases available to foreign countries. Sri Lanka signed a $1.1bn deal with China in July to lease the Hambantota port to Beijing. A state-run Chinese company will have a 99-year lease on the port. The deal will help Sri Lanka repay billions of dollars borrowed from Beijing. This had led to concerns by India that the port will be used by the Chinese for military purposes. However, Wickremesinghe, at the opening ceremony of the Indian Ocean Conference in Colombo on Thursday, told the delegates that the port will not be used as a base by any foreign military, the Sri Lankan media reported. Addressing the delegates, including Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, he said: “Let me refer to Sri Lanka’s decision to develop its major sea ports, especially the Hambantota port which some claim to be a military base. I state clearly that (our) government does not enter into military alliances with any country or make our bases available to foreign countries.” The Sri Lankan prime minister said his country will continue military co-operation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries. He said the Indian Ocean Conference was taking place at a time when global and financial economic power shifts point towards Asia. “Only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the responsibility for military activities in our ports and airports. We are also working with foreign private investors on the commercial development of our ports,” he added. He said that in the absence of an effective multilateral trade agreements for the Indian Ocean region, Sri Lanka had decided to enter into bilateral agreements with neighbouring littoral states. “This is the only option available. We already have Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan. We are in the process of deepening FTA with India to enable greater economic cooperation. We will finalize a FTA with Singapore and then conclude similar agreements with other countries in the Bay of Bengal region. We are also negotiating an FTA with China,” he said.
Sri Lanka banned plastic bags and other disposable products on Friday after the collapse of the island's biggest dump led to a rubbish disposal crisis. Rotting garbage piled up in many parts of the capital after the giant rubbish tip collapsed in April, crushing dozens of homes and killing 32 people. Many blamed the haphazard use of plastic, which was also cited in flash flooding in the capital after storm water drains became clogged. In response, President Maithripala Sirisena banned the sale of plastic bags, cups and plates, as well as the burning of refuse containing plastic. "Any person who fails to comply with the regulations... shall be liable to an offence and punishable under the National Environmental Act," the president said. Offenders could be fined 10,000 rupees ($66) and jailed for up to two years.
President Maitripala Sirisena while expressing “confidence” that the government would remain in office till 2020, said whoever who wants could leave but he would carry on with the government that is there. “It is not me but the SLFP parliamentary group that is in the government. Although some say their party would form a government on their own soon; under the current composition of parliament no single party can form a government on its own. Even if there is another coalition, I will fulfil my responsibilities towards the people as president of the country until the end of my term,” he said. He told Media Heads and Newspaper Editors at the President’s House that the SLFP Central Committee had resolved to take a decision on the future of the agreement between the SLFP and the UNP in December and therefore it was improper to talk about it beforehand. Answering a question, the president said the SLFP had not proposed him as the next presidential candidate and he too had not said anything of the sort. He said there were some such views expressed by various people but no final party decision yet. Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake said he would make a statement in Parliament next week regarding the statement made by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) that it will take legal action against him. He told Daily Mirror he would request the speaker to summon BASL officials to parliament. “I will also raise a privilege issue in the house and will request the speaker to summon officials of BASL,” he said. The deputy minister said he had received plenty of information on various malpractices by judicial officers and lawyers and would produce them in the courts in the event BASL took legal action against him. He said he was ready for a legal battle with the BASL. –Courtesty dailymirror.lk
Military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne yesterday rejected the war crime charges levelled against former General Jagath Jayasuriya who served as the ambassador to Brazil. Responding to a journalist at the Cabinet news briefing, the Brigadier said baseless allegations had been made against military personnel since the end of the war in 2009. “The recent lawsuit filed against the former general validates that the LTTE ideology still prevails though it was defeated in the field,” he said. Meanwhile, Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Rajitha Senaratne said they would continue to take legal action against specific allegations levelled against military personnel based on the evidence. “However, not all killings and everything that happened during the war are violations of human rights,” he said. – Courtesy dailymirror.lk
Australian Major General Roger Noble, assigned as deputy commander of US Army Pacific, addresses a defence seminar in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo yesterday. The two-day seminar brought together 800 military top brass and experts to focus on global trends in dealing with all forms of extremism undermining global security.
Sri Lanka will appeal for global assistance in cracking down on drug cartels increasingly using the island as a transit hub for smuggling cocaine and heroin, a minister said yesterday. Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said an unprecedented spike in cocaine seizures, a drug relatively uncommon to Sri Lanka, suggested it was emerging as a key transit point for smugglers. “Sri Lanka is a transit point for mass scale drug dealers,” he told reporters in Colombo. “We have a responsibility to prevent and stop this.” Sri Lanka’s strategic position between Europe and Southeast Asia had made it an attractive location to offload drugs, Ratnayaka said, adding that he would ask foreign delegates at an upcoming India Ocean summit in Colombo for assistance in smashing the trade. Sri Lankan authorities found more than 200km of cocaine in a consignment of sugar that came through Colombo’s main port last month in just the latest high-value seizure in recent times. Police found another 800kg of cocaine concealed in a timber shipment in December last year, and a separate 90kg stash six months earlier. Heroin seizures have also been rising, including a bust in May where police found 200kg of heroin in a car north of Colombo.
The former general secretary of Sri Lanka’s United National Party’s Tissa Attanayake said yesterday that he would return to national politics as a UNP member in the upcoming elections. Addressing a rally in Geli Oya, Kandy Attanayake said though he supported former President Rajapaksa during the last Presidential Elections he always remained a UNP man at heart and did not move to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). “I feel that this is the correct time to get back into politics. I will always stand with the people’s hopes and represent the general public,” he said. He said he was away from the politics for certain period as it was a transition time in politics and was not the right time to take a political decision. He said that he wasn’t satisfied with the current political situation in the country.-Courtesy dailymirror.lk