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Nagarkovil school remembers victims of 1995 bombing by Sri Lankan Air Force

Nagarkovil school remembers victims of 1995 bombing by Sri Lankan Air Force

Photographs: Shalin for Tamil Guardian

Home23Sep 2017

The victims of the Nagarkovil school massacre were remembered by students and staff at the school on Friday.

On September 22 1995, the Sri Lankan Air Force dropped bombs on the Nagarkovil Maha Vidyalayam while children were crammed in the playground for their lunch break.
40 were killed in the attack including 26 students.

A memorial event on the 7th anniversary of LTTE political wing leader Thileepan’s hunger strike was taking place in the village at the time.

Friday’s memorial event was attended by staff and students as well as parents of the massacred students.
Fifty disadvantaged children from the school were also selected for bursaries provided by an Australian Tamil business, in the victims’ memory.
Sri Lankan military intelligence personnel were present in the school premises during the memorial and were seen photographing guests at the event.
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How Should The Work On The Asian Charter For Human Rights Be Carried Forward?

How Should The Work On The Asian Charter For Human Rights Be Carried Forward?

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by   September 22, 2017
The following is a presentation made at a workshop organized by the Asian Human Rights Commission and the May 18th Foundation (14-16th September 2017) on the preparations for the 20th Anniversary of the Asian Human Rights Charter 1998. This paper addresses the direction the Asian human rights movement should take in order to contribute to the improved enjoyment of rights in Asian countries.
The Asian Human Rights Charter (hereinafter ‘the Charter’) was aimed at changing how human rights work was conducted in developing countries. This remains relevant to the context of most Asian countries, particularly because of the lack of developed systems for the administration of justice. The aim was to improve the actual realisation of human rights by the people. The institutions and systems required for the administration of justice are primarily the policing system, which plays the vital role of investigating into human rights violations; the prosecutions department, which is meant to call out violations of the law; and the judiciary, which is meant to adjudicate competently and impartially. All of these institutions and systems had to undergo significant improvements;
How were we to do that? That was what the Charter was meant to address.
The general human rights movement engages in calling for inquiries into massacres and other gross human rights abuses, and demands the prosecution of the perpetrators.
The Charter introduced the approach of investigating into the actual capacities of the institutions required for the administration of justice, in order to discover the defects that prevent people from accessing their rights. After establishing what was wrong with the system, the goal was to then engage in work that could help to overcome these defects and improve the enforcement of human rights.
For example, women in most Asian countries are denied their rights to liberty, education and equal opportunities for employment, and many suffer sexual abuse and associated forms of violence. Why is it that the police, prosecutions department and judicial system in their countries are unable to protect the rights of women? Why can’t women travel in the evenings and at night like men? Why are the police, prosecutions department and the judiciary unable to ensure the rights of women to move about in the way that men are able to move about? If the rights of women are to be enforced, it is necessary to find out why the institutions responsible for enforcing these rights have failed. In the same manner, we can discuss other examples like the rights of minorities, such as Dalits in South Asia. To discuss the rights of women or other groups without discussing why the institutions of justice fail them is to leave human rights purely as a dream or a pie in the sky.
What the AHRC wanted to suggest is that, in the same way that human rights groups advocate fact-finding missions into massacres and other crimes, there must also be fact-finding missions to discover the defects of the systems of justice that deny people redress for crimes and deprive them of their rights. Unfortunately while the human rights movement advocates fact-finding missions into massacres, it is not a mainstream practice to engage in fact-finding missions into problems of the justice system. This may be because the issues about defects of justice systems do not arise in developed countries under normal circumstances. Therefore, human rights investigations are confined to especially horrifying events and humanitarian catastrophes. This piecemeal approach is not suitable for countries that do not have the kind of institutional development that developed countries have because the day-to-day practices that lead to such catastrophes inevitably involve the administration of justice.
To be practical, let us ask the following questions:
a) Can the human rights movement engage in fact-finding missions with the view to make a proper assessment of, for example, the state of judicial independence in their countries? Can they look into the reasons why impunity prevails while the judiciary claims that it is independent? Is it because judicial officers are ill-educated or politically influenced, or because they do not really appreciate the idea of equality before the law? Or are there other reasons? If we know the reasons, then we can address the issue of impunity and take corrective actions to end it. Without this step, we will only be forever complaining about impunity. Impunity will continue despite such complaints. Ultimately, without the ability to understand the changes that need to be made and then taking steps to change things, the human rights movement could be seen as unable to show people what it can really offer to improve lives.
b) We can also undertake fact-finding missions into ineffective police investigation systems, with the view to finding out why such incompetence, which often leads to corruption, remains unchallenged. What are the causes of this situation and what is the way to change it?
c) The same questions could be raised about prosecutions, by undertaking similar fact-finding work.
The fact-finding methodologies may vary. It could be similar to the fact-finding missions into massacres. It could also be by way of extensive documentation work into the attempts taken by victims to seek justice and to find out why they have failed. It could also involve academic forms of fact-finding. Whatever be the method, the ultimate aim is to find the real causes of the defects in the system, with the view to work towards overcoming these problems.
This whole approach calls for a different type of activism. In assessing whether human rights defenders are sufficiently equipped to do their expected tasks, we must ask the questions that are raised above. There is no other way for human rights defenders to be well equipped to do their work.
Can this last year before the 20th anniversary of the Charter be the year in which we could experiment with new approaches to fact-finding and other human rights work, including advocacy and monitoring, which are directed towards the improved knowledge, and thereby increase the capacity of human rights defenders to improve their justice systems? This would increase the practical usefulness of human rights work for the people of their countries.
How can the advances that have come about in modern technology be used for the above purpose of fact-finding about justice system problems? And how could it further improve methods of advocacy so that more people could be influenced to undertake various types of functions as change makers? Additionally, how can we learn about the negative uses of modern technology, through which repressive states could use technology to repress work for the advancement of human rights? And how could we learn to counteract such methods?
Freedom of expression being the key to the improvement of human rights, how could this freedom be used for gaining and spreading a critical understanding of the defects of justice systems? These defects obstruct the enforcement of human rights, and it is important to develop ways to give expression to these problems so that whole nations and the international community could have a better understanding of the local situations, and thereby be in a position to take effective actions to overcome these problems.
Can we recondition activists to expand their work beyond the limited methods that they have gotten used to in accordance with earlier practices, and thereby learn to develop more efficient ways of showing people that their frustrations about human rights can in fact be explained, and that, with a proper understanding of defective systems of justice, actual improvements and even great changes could be brought about?
In short, can we envisage a new form of activism and dynamism and create a new type of human rights defender, one who does not merely talk about defending rights but can really protect the rights of the people they are working with?
Basil Fernando is a Sri Lankan born jurist, author, poet, human rights activist, editor of Article 2 and Ethics in Action, and a prolific writer.  He became a legal adviser to Vietnamese refugees in a UNHCR-sponsored project in Hong Kong. He joined the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) in 1992 as a senior human rights officer and later also served as the Chief of Legal Assistance to Cambodia of the UN Centre of Human Rights ( now the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights office). He is associated with Asian Human Rights Commission and Asian Legal Resource centre, based in Hong Kong since 1994
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Response from New York to Geneva

Response from New York to Geneva


By Manekshaw-2017-09-23

President Maithripala Sirisena’s speech, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly sessions, in New York on Tuesday (20), could be considered more as a response to the comments made by the UNHRC High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein on Sri Lanka at the beginning of the 36th UNHRC session in Geneva last week.

Unlike his predecessor Navanethem Pillay, facing a bad experience when she arrived in the Sri Lanka during the previous regime, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was given a warm welcome when he arrived with the formation of the National Unity Government in 2015.

In his lengthy speech in Geneva, this year, the UNHRC High Commissioner had covered several countries on their human rights situation which still remains in a very pathetic state.
However, pointing out the UNHRC Resolution of 2015 co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner has emphasized on the necessity of expediting the process to implement the Resolution by Sri Lanka without further delays or excuses.

The present National Unity Government’s approach towards the international community is commendable and it is important even to note that several countries including India realize the constraints faced by Sri Lanka towards implementing the UNHRC Resolution of 2015.

Therefore, at the beginning of the 36th UNHRC session in Geneva last week, UNHRC High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s comments on Sri Lanka had sounded more a wakeup call, to alert the nation, to prevent further delays in improving the human rights conditions by implementing what had been agreed upon with the UNHRC in Geneva in 2015.

The UNHRC High Commissioner in his address in Geneva, last week, urged the Government of Sri Lanka to swiftly make effective the Office of Missing Persons and to move faster on other confidence-building measures, such as the release of land in the possession of the military, and also resolving long-pending cases registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the High Commissioner also appealed to draft a new law in line with international human rights standards.
The High Commissioner has also expressed concern over protests carried out by families of victims and pointed out the growing frustration over the slow pace in resolving issues.

As far as the families of the involuntarily disappeared persons are concerned it was soon after President Maithripala Sirisena left the island to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly session a few days ago, the family members of the involuntarily disappeared persons warned that they would embark on a fast unto death if the Government delayed further in addressing their plight.
The UNHRC High Commissioner has also urged the Government to act on its commitment, in Resolution 30/1 to establish a transnational justice mechanism and to set up a clear timeline and benchmark to implement the commitments.

‘This should not be viewed by the Government as a box-ticking exercise to placate the Council, but as an essential undertaking to address the rights of all its people. The absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary”, the UNHRC High Commissioner said.

The 36th session of the UNHRC takes place in the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s military leader Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka even agreeing on carrying out investigations against those who had committed the alleged war crimes during the final phase of the separatist war.

The Field Marshal had also mentioned that he was even prepared to give evidence against those who committed war crimes.

In the meantime President Maithripala Sirisena in his carefully worded address to the UN General Assembly urging the international community to be patient pointed out that Sri Lanka needed more time to establish lasting peace and reconciliation in the country.

As a country which had faced a ruthless separatist war for three decades, addressing the post-war humanitarian issue as well as focusing on the peace building process remains an arduous task.
However, since the present Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena is a creation of the people directly affected by the separatist war in the North and East, addressing their grievances should be prioritized in a manner where justice is meted out them.

President Maithripala Sirisena even addressing a public rally a few months ago in the Eastern Province categorically said that if it was not for the people of the North and East he would have perished after the Presidential poll of 2015.

In the past two years significant developments could be witnessed as far as the resettlement of the internally displaced persons as well as releasing of lands are concerned.

However, the reduction of military presence in the North and East as well as releasing more lands from the possession of the Armed Forces still remain problematic issues, in the back drop of the families of the involuntarily disappeared persons threatening to stage a fast unto death.

On the other hand, the need of releasing the Tamil political prisoners by expediting the legal process has also been emphasized by the families of the Tamil political prisoners.

President Maithripala Sirisena’s address to the UN General Assembly remains a response, from New York, to the views expressed by the UNHRC High Commissioner in Geneva, last week, on Sri Lanka. In reality the High Commissioner’s observation has clearly indicated that the international community could be patient, however, Sri Lanka cannot escape from the commitments it had made to implement the UNHRC resolutions it co-sponsored in 2015.

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Piecemeal shut down of representative government

Piecemeal shut down of representative government

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by C.A.Chandraprema-
The scenes in Parliament on Wednesday last week made Parliamentary history. Never before have we seen anything like the horse trading that went on at the last moment to get the amendments to the PC Elections Bill passed. When the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress wanted the proportion of provincial councilors elected on the proportional representation system increased to 50% from the 40% that had been decided on earlier, the government agreed in order to get the two thirds majority needed to pass the amendments to the PC elections law that enables the government to postpone PC elections. For the government, these amendments to the PC elections law were literally a matter of life or death. If the elections to the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provincial Councils could not be postponed, the government was staring defeat in the face.
At the presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2015, even though they were contesting against everyone else, the Mahinda Rajapaksa led UPFA won both the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provinces. So the result of an election in these provinces was a foregone conclusion. This upped the ante for the government and made them agree to anything to avoid what they had deemed to be certain defeat – an eventuality that would have had fatal consequences on their already tenuous hold on power. Hence the last minute horse trading that went on the floor of parliament to increase the percentage of the provincial councilors elected on the proportional representation system with no consideration given to what effect this will have on the stability of the provincial councils as institutions. This is a government that is engaged in a headlong quest for political survival and such considerations no longer matter.
 Local government elections have been due for over two and a half years but have not been held and there is no sign that they will be held anytime soon. When it seemed likely that the government would not be able to prevent the provincial council elections from being held, hasty attempts were made to prepare for LG elections because they would cause less damage to the government than the PC elections. As a part of these preparations, the government changed the system of elections to the LG institutions on August 25 this year. That in fact was the first time they made use of committee stage amendments to introduce changes to the law through the back door. A Bill to make certain minor technical corrections to the local government elections law had been gazetted earlier and the government in blind panic at the prospect of the provincial council elections being held, took this bill up for debate in Parliament and at the committee stage introduced over 50 new clauses completely changing the system of election to the local government institutions.
 Headlong quest to dodge elections
The idea was to head off the PC elections by holding the local government elections first, if having an election becomes inevitable. Having got away with introducing sweeping changes to a Bill at the committee stage, they adopted the same strategy to rush in changes to the PC elections law as well. Given the fact that many people in the government think they are not just looking at defeat in the face but death itself, they are obviously not concerned about how these desperate machinations look to a public that is already looking askance at the antics of this government. This mindless fear in fact could be the main cause of their undoing. The yahapalana coalition working together did manage to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015. In August that year, they were able to win the Parliamentary elections after the President upset the UPFA election campaign by stating publicly and in writing that Mahinda Rajapaksa would not be made Prime Minister even if he won the election and then following up by sacking the general secretaries of the SLFP and UPFA on the eve of the poll.
After emerging panting and palpitating from that election with a slim majority in Parliament, the yahapalana coalition developed an election phobia and are now in a state of mind where they will do anything to avoid an electoral showdown with the Joint Opposition led by Mahinda Rajapaksa. While it is certainly true that after the experience of the last Parliamentary election, the Joint Opposition will field their own list at any subsequent election and there will be no room for President Sirisena to repeat the antics of August 2015, still the fact was that the UNP and its allies had won 106 seats and over 40 MPs who had been elected to Parliament under Mahinda Rajapaksa’s leadership had defected to the government and a government with a two thirds majority had been formed. Under such circumstances, they could easily have held the local government elections.
Even if the Joint Opposition had fielded a separate list at that local government election and they had won a lot of local government institutions, still the yahapalana government could also have given good account of themselves – at least they would have been better placed then than they are now. But what has prevented the yahapalana government from having any election after August 2015 is because of the fear of not doing well or being defeated. Even if they were to be defeated, the margin of defeat would have been much slimmer if the LG elections had been held immediately after the Parliamentary election. The longer they delay, both the certainty and the margin of defeat increases. The government has been saying that they will be holding the postponed LG elections in January and the postponed PC elections in March 2018. But one can bet one’s last rupee that they will not hold any elections between now and the next Presidential or parliamentary election.
 The logic of blind panic
 When one postpones elections for the fear of defeat, one operates on a different logic. You first put off the election because the situation is not propitious. With the passage of time, the situation invariably becomes even less propitious and the election gets pushed further away. The yahapalana coalition is now caught up in this vicious cycle and there is no escape. There are enough complications in the amendments to the LG elections law and the PC elections law that were made recently to ensure that no elections are held in foreseeable future and that is what is inevitably going to happen. The logic of dodging elections in this manner is that if the government loses an election it will lose its legitimacy and its ability to govern even though they have been elected for a fixed term in office. They think that by somehow dodging a mid-term test they would be able to retain their legitimacy and ability to govern at least until the term they were elected for runs out.
 However, the point that the government has to consider is whether this headlong quest to dodge elections which the voting public is only too well aware of, is doing anything to enhance their legitimacy in the eyes of the people. It’s true that the dodging of elections even in the desperate and blatant way the yahapalana coalition has been doing it, does not result in a loss of legitimacy as dramatic as that caused by an election defeat; but still, it does result in an irreversible loss of face which will prove enormously costly in the medium to long term. Still, not having elections helps. The example one can give is that when the elections to cooperative societies were being held last year, they were all going against the government. Usually cooperative societies are won by the government in power and the cooperative societies and the small businesses run by them are an important source of patronage for local politicians.
But in the recent past, when elections to cooperative societies were held they were all going against the government by huge margins. Given the fact that the cooperative societies have something like eight million members which forms a good part of the voting population, the message that the government got was that they were looking at resounding defeat come an election which is why they are doing things that nobody has ever done before in their headlong quest to avoid a test. If they went to the lengths we saw last Wednesday in parliament to avoid holding elections to three provincial councils, one can be certain that despite anything this government may say, they are under no circumstances going to hold the local government elections which have to be held countrywide which would therefore show the loss of the government’s legitimacy countrywide instead of in just two or three provinces.
 So we are now faced with a situation where no elections will be held in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, not a single local government institution is functioning countrywide. From midnight on Tuesday, the provincial councils will also be dissolved one by one. Ultimately the only institutions of government left operational will be the presidency and the parliament. This situation will not be disliked by those who felt that there was too much devolution of power. Once all the provincial councils stand dissolved, Sri Lanka will be more centralized than it was even during British Colonial times when there was the British government which administered the whole country through the Government Agents. Today even venerable old local government bodies like the Colombo Municipal Council are being administered by a Commissioner.
Indian intervention undone by RAW
 The biggest irony is that the system of devolution that was forced upon this country by India is now being suspended for the rest of their tenure by a government that is widely believed to have been brought into power by RAW. Even though the provincial councils system was introduced to ‘solve the problems’ of the minorities living the north and east, one of the first PCs to stand dissolved will be the Eastern Provincial Council. The Northern Provincial Council will stand dissolved a year later. These are the people who were deemed to be in need of the provincial councils system – not the people of the South. The PC system was created for the people of the north and east and now they will be among the first to lose whatever benefits they had through this intermediate tier of government. Someone may point out that even though the PCs may stand dissolved in this manner for the time being, that the Constitution that the government was planning to bring would give vastly enhanced powers to the PCs and therefore, allowing these councils to lapse to ensure the political survival of this government was worth it and that this was why even the TNA helped in a process which would see the Northen and Eastern PCs dissolved without elections being held.
 This would have been a valid argument if a new constitution had been on the drawing boards. Even though the interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly was presented to Parliament last Thursday, the two main parties, the SLFP and the UNP have not been able to agree on the fundamentals even though a consensus seems to have been by and large achieved between the UNP, TNA, SLMC, ACMC and the JVP. There is no agreement between the UNP and the SLFP even on whether the system of government is going to be a presidential or a parliamentary executive based form of government. There is no agreement on the powers to be vested in the Governors and on many other fronts. This constitution is never going to see the light of day unless the executive presidency is abolished – that was the principle demand that united the yahapalana coalition of January 8, 2015.
 Just looking at the interim report of the Constitutional Assembly, it becomes plain that this is still a work in progress. Even though consensus seems to have been achieved between some political parties, that is only because the interim report presents several alternatives. There is no agreement between the political parties even on selecting one of the alternatives proposed. This is obviously not a constitution that is going to see the light of day in a hurry. So the postponement of elections to the local government institutions and the provincial councils will last till the next presidential election becomes due. Some were of the opinion that the LG and PC elections were being postponed in order to have the referendum for the constitution first, on the argument that a referendum will be the least unfavourable form of plebiscite for the government at this moment. At any election, the yahapalana vote will be split with some of the key partners like the TNA, SLMC, ACMC and JVP contesting separately.
 A referendum however provides an opportunity for all the yahapalana coalition partners to come together once again and the calculation was that with the UNP, the Sirisena faction of the SLFP, the TNA, SLMC, ACMC, JVP backed by state power and money from their patrons overseas would be able to prevail once again over the Joint Opposition which would be battling it out against a whole host of enemies on its own.  However for such a referendum to be held on the constitution, a draft constitution to which all the yahapalana partners are agreed should be on the table. But there is nothing of the sort and very little likelihood of any such thing materializing until the next presidential election is upon us. When it was announced that the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly was going to table their interim report in Parliament, what this writer expected was a draft constitution, but what was tabled was just a statement of intent giving various alternatives.
 Referendum for a new constitution?
 So we can forget about a new constitution under this present government. Since we were on the topic of referendums, we have also to understand that it is the President who calls for referendums. This President stated in his presidential election manifesto that he will amend the constitution only to the extent that a referendum would not be necessary and he has since steadfastly opposed the holding of a referendum for any purpose. Many of his key backers also have expressed the view that a referendum cannot be won. Given that situation, what is the likelihood of a referendum being held on the constitution? Sirisena’s main reason for wanting to avoid holding a referendum is to hang on to his present job. The interim report has in fact proposed that the executive presidency be scrapped. There is very little likelihood of Sirisena supporting any such move. For all these reasons, the likelihood is that the constitution will be a non-starter. Hence all these theories to the effect that the government is postponing elections with a major ‘referendum offensive’ in view may not materialize in the manner expected.
 Thus, what we have now in practice is a situation where the elected institutions of government from the bottom up are going into abeyance stage by stage due to the fear this government has of testing the public mood at elections. The local government institutions were also dissolved in stages with the pradesheeya sabhas standing dissolved first and the Municipal Councils following some months later. Now the provincial councils will stand dissolved one by one. By next Sunday, the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern provincial councils would have ceased to exist. One must not underestimate the backlash that this will cause against the government. Even though the Uva province is where the yahapalana government is strongest with virtually all UNP and SLFP parliamentarians in the Badulla district in particular supporting the government, still this was where the aborted 20th Amendment was defeated first. The Uva PC voted with a two thirds majority against the 20A and those who voted against it included several UNP provincial councilors and the SLFP chief minister as well.
 The reason why the Uva PC voted so overwhelmingly is not because 20A sought to reduce their tenure in power in any way. 20A was in fact designed to see that all the other PCs also stood dissolved on the day that the Uva PC was to stand dissolved in October 2019. The Uva PC voted against 20A because the wording of the 20A said ‘not later than’ which means that the PCs ‘could’ stand dissolved on an earlier date if parliament so decided. The three words that sent the Uva PC to the other side was ‘not later than’ due to the ever so slight possibility that the government could decided to hold the elections a little earlier. This is now a case of every yahapalanite for himself and may the devil take the hindmost. The Uva PC members knew that all these maneuvers were due to the politicians holding power at the centre trying to ensure their own survival and they took steps to secure their own tenure regardless of party loyalties or their obligations to obey the boss.
When these provincial politicians lose their elected positions, they become nobodies overnight. Prasanna Solangaarachchi the former chairman of the Kotikawatte-Mulleriyawa was once a key figure in the Maithripala Sirisena camp ranking alongside Hirunika Premachandra. But after the local government institutions were dissolved and he lost his position as PS Chairman, Solangarachchi is not heard of any more. He has been given the position of SLFP organiser for Avissawella, but that means very little after you cease to hold elected office while your political party is wielding power. Unless he manages to shout and scream his way into a government position that will keep him in the limelight, the same fate is going to befall Peshala Jayaratne, the Chief Minister of the North Central Province.
 The yahapalana government managed to contain a rebellion that took place in the North Central Province by giving ministerial portfolios to several of the rebels with the promise that the terms of the PCs would be extended giving them the opportunity to enjoy the portfolios for at least two years.  This has now fallen by the wayside and the rebels who switched sides have been left high and dry. The provincial councils have greater relevance for the north and east than they have for the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see what the reaction of the north and the east would be to this situation of the PCs standing dissolved and elections being postponed indefinitely. The North got its first Tamil chief minister and the East got its first Muslim chief minister under Mahinda Rajapaksa. Under MR, the north and the east had functioning local government institutions and functioning provincial councils.
 Now under the yahapalana government, the very provinces that provided the extra votes needed for the present government to come into power will soon be without any kind of elected representation other than the MPs they have in parliament. It is difficult to imagine that this is what the people of the north and east anticipated when they voted overwhelmingly to bring the yahapalana candidate into power in January 2015.
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Govt. Information Dept In Haphazard Release Of Historic Material

Govt. Information Dept In Haphazard Release Of Historic Material

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The Government information Department has released a large volume of historic photographs, films and documentaries in a manner completely contravening the purpose of digitalization.
The move which was welcomed by many initially, ended up with many users complaining regarding the haphazard manner in which the digital portals could be used. It is unclear if the Government had paid a private entity to conduct the process.

Uploading the historical collection to the internet the director general of the government information department on September 18th on his Facebook said: “Historic pictures of ancient Sri Lanka. We released 1000 such pictures today as the first step to the internet. Please visit http://www.dgi.gov.lk and enjoy historic documentaries and pictures.”
Going through the archives of Government information department website one can find 692 pictures and 120 documentaries without any logical categorisation.
A photograph has much greater historical value if information is available about where and when it was taken and about any people in the photograph. The description of the main contents of the image is key information that can be searched to find photographs about certain subjects. But in government information department archives there is no description – when, where, who, photographer etc. associate with photographs, no logically structured order, bad image quality – most of them are in lossy compression and the selection methodology is not clear. Very few photographs associate with a descriptions like, Swrd. Bnayake with governor Oliver G Tilake, Swrd. Bnayake Harbar, Swrd. Banayke exhibition, Dalrajapakse group1 and all other pictures associate with a image number.
With regard to the films and documentaries, a very limited description is associated with each of them in only Sinhala language, while both Sinhala and Tamil languages recognise as official language.
“It seems they have not developed a selection policy for digitization,” an expert of archiving photographs and documents told Colombo Telegraph.
“For instance they don’t know even simple guidelines. They should have asked simple questions such as: Is the material in a coherent, logically structured order? Is it paginated or is the arrangement suggested by some other means? Is it complete? Is there adequate descriptive, navigational, or structural information about the material, such as bibliographic records or a detailed finding aid? What kinds, level, and frequency of use are envisioned? Is there a clear understanding of user requirements? Can digitization support these uses? Will access to the material be significantly enhanced by digitization? Can our institution support a range of uses, e.g., printing, browsing, detailed review?, Access restricted to certain people or use under certain conditions?,” he said.

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Govt. Information Dept In Haphazard Release Of Historic Material

Govt. Information Dept In Haphazard Release Of Historic Material

LEN logo (Lanka-e-News – 23.Sep.2017, 7.20AM)  The interim report of the Constitutional Council steering committee –the  first official document based on the new constitution was tabled in Parliament on last Thursday 21st .
For the benefit of  our valuable readers , Lanka e news has included that document (can even be downloaded) hereinafter . That report can  be read in all three languages , Sinhala , English and Tamil by clicking on the appropriate links below…..
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by     (2017-09-23 02:01:50)
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Maithri’s Political lesson to Zeid

Maithri’s Political lesson to Zeid


BY GAGANI WEERAKOON-2017-09-24
The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members. To overcome the perils of the present, and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past. Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity and peace, for themselves and for the world. We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government, but we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation, President of the United States of America Donald Trump said in his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly moments before he called North Korean leader Kim Jung Un “rocket man,” and described him as being on “a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” He also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US finds itself “forced to defend itself or its allies.”

The tone and the language used by Trump in a place like the United Nations, where peace and tolerance were supposedly upheld, came under criticism by many. However, Trump’s emphasis on independent nations being entitled for their sovereignty came as a blessing for Sri Lanka when President Maithripala Sirisena took the podium to tell international community and especially the UN and its affiliates that Sri Lanka needs its due space in addressing local issues.

Prior to his speech President Sirisena met US President Trump on the corridors to the main auditorium and extended his greetings.

President Sirisena congratulated Trump for his being elected as US President while, Trump expressed what a beautiful country Sri Lanka is.

“I must mention here that, at a moment when Sri Lanka is committed to a course of good governance by strengthening democracy, human rights, and fundamental rights while winning the goodwill of the international community, I look forward to the kind support of the United Nations. We have been a member of United Nations for 62 years. Sri Lanka has always been a country that has respected its treaties and conventions, agreements and rules and regulations while taking action to improve such relations further. As such, in our country’s journey where we protect our independence and sovereignty, we respectfully request the support of the international community for us to go on a moderate but steady path to achieve our targets in order to find sustainable solutions to the allegations levelled against us,” he said.

Some extremist groups are expecting a high speed. Some extremist groups want radical solutions. However, as a country that has faced a three decade long war, where deep divisions have existed, I request the support of all of you to promote peace and fraternity, so that my beloved country and its people can rise from the current situation. That is why I emphasize that it is for a slow and a successful journey that we need support, President Sirisena said while making quite a few wonder whether the High Commissioner of UN Human Rights Council also was involved in the ‘some extremist groups’ he mentioned. It was not long ago that Prince Zeid Al-Hussein said he was frustrated about the delays in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process.

“We all have heard that speedy journey is a dangerous journey. Therefore, I believe that you will understand the complex nature of issues that hinder the instant and radical solutions that some impatient groups are asking for. As such, I reiterate with respect the need of support from the United Nations and its member states for my country to ensure the non-recurrence of war by fostering peace and harmony among all communities in Sri Lanka,” President Sirisena urged.

President Sirisena and First Lady Jayanthi Sirisena were amongst world leaders invited for the reception hosted by US President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump which was held at the New York Palace Hotel.

Bilateral meetings

President Maithripala Sirisena used the opportunity of being in New York to meet two new leaders in the South Asian region – Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Sirisena who met Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his first bilateral discussion alongside the 72nd UN General Assembly session on Tuesday (19), expressed his gratitude to Pakistan for standing by Sri Lanka through thick and thin.

Premier Abbasi assured President Maithripala Sirisena that Pakistan would continue to assist Sri Lanka.

He further said that Pakistan will commit itself to take the economic and trade relationship between the two countries to a stronger level through a new approach.

During this meeting both leaders recalled the long-standing bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and emphasized the need for further consolidating the relationship.

President Sirisena stated that former Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif is a good friend of his and recalled the friendly cooperation of Sharif towards him and Sri Lanka. The President appreciated assistance provided by Pakistan to Sri Lanka as a true friend, during the period of conflict in the country.

He also expressed special thanks for the assistance given by Pakistan to Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The two leaders discussed about the ways to promote economic and commercial relations between the two countries. They focused on the fields of gas and oil.

Sri Lankan President and Pakistani Premier agreed to promote tourism and continue the cooperation in security affairs.

During his meeting with Nepal Prime Minister Deuba, President emphasized the need for strengthening the activities of the SAARC.

The Nepal Premier said that the commitment shown by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena for the activities of the SAARC is significant and the gratitude of all the SAARC countries must go to him in this regard.

The leaders paid their special attention to further developing bilateral relations between the two countries in all the fields, at a time Nepal and Sri Lanka celebrate the 60th anniversary of establishing bilateral relations between them.

It was discussed in detail on taking forward the economic, trade as well as religious and cultural ties between the two nations.

The President recalled the meeting he had with the Nepal President when she visited Sri Lanka to attend the International Buddhist Conference, to further promote the bilateral relations and said that he is expected to visit Nepal next October accepting the invitation extended to him by the Nepal President during her visit to Sri Lanka.

The Nepal Prime Minister emphasized that they are ready to provide their assistance to Sri Lanka when needed and said that Nepal always provides assistance to Sri Lanka in issues of human rights.
During the meeting the President extended his deep concern for the hardships faced by Nepal due to the recent earthquake and said that as a friendly country Sri Lanka took steps to provide every possible assistance to Nepal.

The Nepal Prime Minister also extended his gratitude in this regard and said that he is very pleased about this meeting as two important countries in the SAARC as well as friendly states which have long history.

Maithri on challenges

Ahead of his scheduled meeting with UNHRC High Commissioner Zied Al-Hussein, President Maithripala Sirisena sought continued assistance from the USA in rebuilding Sri Lanka politically, socially and economically in the post-war period, when the US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon called on the President for bilateral talks in New York on Thursday (21).
While commending Sri Lanka for the political, social and economic rebuilding process of Sri Lanka in the post- conflict era said, America is happy about the current ‘friendly’ foreign policy adopted by the government.

Shannon who is planning to visit Sri Lanka in November this year, also appreciated the cooperative approach carried out by Sri Lanka with the countries in the region, as a country which is positioned in a strategic location in the Indian region, and said that President Sirisena is an exemplary leader who is working closely with all the member States.

President Sirisena, responded stating that the challenges Sri Lanka has to face due to its strategic positioning in the Indian Ocean region is much more than its positive outcomes.

It was obvious that President Sirisena was referring to immense pressure the country is under due to political and economic interests of powerful neighbouring nations like India and China and the USA.
Ultimatum issued?

UNHRC High Commissioner Zeid Al-Hussein called on President Sirisena Friday evening for a meeting expected to be extremely crucial for Sri Lanka.

Diplomats were of the view that the outcome of this meeting is going to be crucial for Sri Lanka with High Commissioner Hussein recently expressing his frustration on delayed reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.

During his opening statement at the 36th session of the UNHRC on Monday (11) he added that the absence of credible action in Sri Lanka, to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary.

He urged the Sri Lanka Government to swiftly operationalize the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and to move faster on other essential confidence building measures.

This should not be a “box-ticking exercise to placate the Council”, Hussein said adding that the Government must consider it as an essential undertaking to address the rights of all Sri Lankans.

However, Hussein apparently did not get much opportunity to push his demands as President Sirisena in his introduction itself brushed off any call to expedite the process.

“I do not want Sri Lanka to be another Myanmar,” Sirisena told Hussein while pointing to another set of failed projects of the UNHRC.

Hussein, according to sources has changed his initial tone and had agreed with the President that it failed to ensure the safety of Rohingya people.

President was also expected to meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last morning (23) at the UN Head Quarters.

Asked whether he would once again be put on the spot by the Secretary General as well, President Sirisena said “The meeting mainly would be to exchange pleasantries as the new Secretary General. On the other hand, he was the former Prime Minister of Portugal. I assume he would know what it is like to rule a country and what challenges a government would have to undergo when implementing policies.”

Playing Victim

Much has been said about Minister of Regional Development Sarath Fonseka being denied visa to be a part of the Sri Lankan Delegation to UNGA.

Fonseka on Tuesday (19) said he had been denied a visa because of unresolved war crime allegations against the military. He confidently added that 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. 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.

However, inquiries made by Ceylon Today revealed that Fonseka’s claim is bit too far from the truth.
It is noteworthy that not a single minister was included in the ‘original’ delegation to accompany President Sirisena to the UNGA. This includes Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana and the reason for this decision was the need of all ministers and government parliamentarians to be present on Wednesday in Parliament to vote for the 20th Amendment.

The President, in a bid to give a chance for Junior MPs and Deputy Ministers to be a part of the delegation has included Deputy Ministers Ranjan Ramanayake, Bharathi Dushmantha Mithrapala and MPs Tharanath Basnayaka, Chathura Senrathna and S.M. Marikkar in the delegation. However, they too were directed to get onboard only after casting their vote.

Meanwhile, reliable sources confirmed that top diplomats based in Colombo had advised Fonseka not to apply for visa on the grounds he might be in trouble and thereby lead the entire country into a mess if he entered USA.

“If anyone files a case against him, while in the US, we will have to undergo much trouble to salvage him. Authorities who are well aware of the situation politely asked him not to apply for visa,” highly placed sources confirmed.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Fonseka’s name was not considered to be included in the delegation in the first place for him to lose the chance of accompanying the President to UNGA.

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Japan’s resiliency in overcoming post-war challenges is still a living example: Mangala

Japan’s resiliency in overcoming post-war challenges is still a living example: Mangala

– Sep 23, 2017
 
Japan's resiliency in overcoming post-war challenges is still a living example:  Mangala
 
Japan's resiliency in overcoming post-war challenges is still a living example:  Mangala
Japan’s resiliency in overcoming post-war challenges is still a living example for us: Minister Mangala
 
Minister of Finance and Media Mr. Mangala Samaraweera attended the opening day of the ‘Japanese Film Festival 2017’, yesterday (22), at the National Film Corporation.
The full text of the  speech made by the  Minister  as follows
 
 
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As Anti-SAITM Protests Intensifies, Susil Premajayanth Endorses New Private-Foreign Biotechnology Degree

As Anti-SAITM Protests Intensifies, Susil Premajayanth Endorses New Private-Foreign Biotechnology Degree

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Even as hundreds of students and doctors took to the streets against the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine more commonly known as SAITM, Minister of Science, Technology and Research Susil Premajayanth endorsed a new biotechnology degree offered by a private university.

A press release issued by Northumbria University said that Minister of Science, Technology and Research Susil Premajayanth speaking at the launch of the Northumbria’s BSc Honours Degree in Biotechnology at the Business Management School (BMS) in Colombo had emphasized the need for Sri Lanka to plan their educational goals in terms of future developments in applied sciences, and named Northumbria University’s biotechnology degree as a key part of that growth.
In recent weeks, protests against institutions such as SAITM has intensified with trade unions from the education sector also joining university students and the GMOA claiming that by allowing such institutes to issue medical degrees, it can result in a dwindling of standards of the quality of doctors and other medical practitioners produced in Sri Lanka.
Northumbria University, Newcastle has become Sri Lanka’s first UK University to launch a biotechnology degree. The University of Colombo has its own institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Bio technology, while the University of Sri Jayewardenepura also has a Faculty of Technology which offers Bachelor of Bio-Systems Technology.
St. John Usher, Head of Applied Sciences at Northumbria University, said: “Northumbria’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has enjoyed a hugely successful working relationship with BMS in Sri Lanka over the years and we’re delighted to be able to announce this latest programme in what is a very exciting and emerging science in Sri Lanka.
“The biotechnology sector of India is currently on a strong growth trajectory and Sri Lanka has recognised the importance of this industry in the growth of its own economy. This is the first year that BMS, in collaboration with Northumbria, has recruited students to the biotechnology programme and it’s great to see that some of the teaching on this degree is being provided by our former Masters students,” he said.
In 2015 approval was given to franchise the final year of the BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science programme to BMS. This has involved extensive development of state of the art laboratories at BMS so that students are assured of a high quality learning experience. This development provides students from Sri Lanka with the opportunity to study in their home country, with a considerable reduction in cost when compared to studying abroad, the press release said.
We publish below the press release in full:
As Sri Lanka looks toward emerging sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle has become the island’s first UK University to launch a biotechnology degree.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Science, Technology and Research Susil Premajayantha spoke at the recent launch of Northumbria’s BSc Honours Degree in Biotechnology at the Business Management School (BMS) in Colombo.
Minister Premajayantha emphasised the need for Sri Lanka to plan their educational goals in terms of future developments in applied sciences, and named Northumbria University’s biotechnology degree as a key part of that growth.
The partnership between Northumbria University and BMS has developed over many years with BMS being one of Northumbria’s strategic partners. The School developed a strong partnership with Northumbria University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences after the launch of its BSc Honours Degree in Biomedical Science in 2013.
St. John Usher, Head of Applied Sciences at Northumbria University, said: “Northumbria’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has enjoyed a hugely successful working relationship with BMS in Sri Lanka over the years and we’re delighted to be able to announce this latest programme in what is a very exciting and emerging science in Sri Lanka.
“The biotechnology sector of India is currently on a strong growth trajectory and Sri Lanka has recognised the importance of this industry in the growth of its own economy.
“This is the first year that BMS, in collaboration with Northumbria, has recruited students to the biotechnology programme and it’s great to see that some of the teaching on this degree is being provided by our former Masters students.”
In 2015 approval was given to franchise the final year of the BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science programme to BMS. This has involved extensive development of state of the art laboratories at BMS so that students are assured of a high quality learning experience.
This development provides students from Sri Lanka with the opportunity to study in their home country, with a considerable reduction in cost when compared to studying abroad.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Newcastle Business School, at Northumbria, and BMS is entering its 12th year and has produced more than 1,000 graduate students.
Dr Wijewardena, President of the Business Management School (BMS), was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law by Northumbria University in 2016.
His career at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka lasted 37 years culminating in nine years as the Deputy Governor, responsible for economic research, monetary policy, financial system stability, public debt, rural credit and banking.

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