Sri Lankan MP warns ‘foreign nations may fund Tamil separatists’ and submits bill to dilute 13A

Sinhala extremist lawmaker Udaya Gammanpila submitted a Private Members Bill to the Sri Lankan Parliament, which seeks to remove police powers that should be granted to provinces under the 13th Amendment to the constitution, warning that “foreign nations” may end up funding “Tamil separatists” if it was enacted.

Gammanpila, an ultra-nationalist told reporters in Colombo last week that the biggest threat “to national security is the provision of police power to the provinces.”

The 13th Amendment was established in 1987 as part of the Indo-Lanka accord and created the system of Provincial Councils, promising greater devolution of land and police powers to a merged North-East. However, Sri Lanka has failed to implement the accord.

“If there is a separatist war in the future, it will be between the police force in the North and the Sri Lankan army,” Gammanpila who sits in the Opposition said. “Both will be legitimate defense forces.”

Elaborating further Gammanpila stated that during the armed conflict with the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), the movement was supported by various countries financially, through the supply of weapons and recognition of the struggle.

“All of this was done secretly,” he said. “But in future foreign nations that wish to support another armed struggle, can do so openly and publicly without hear of reprisal or hesitation.”

He went on to tell reporters that although this issue had been discussed in the past, no one had come forward with a suggestion of this nature and through this means. The Government Printing Department on Tuesday (13) gazetted the Private Members Bill, accessible here. The Bill will be presented to parliament on February 20 and thereafter two weeks will be devoted to receive objections.

“I am sure there will be members of the Tamil community who will wish to challenge this bill,” he said. “However once we have the approval of the judiciary, we will finalize this bill, which will be a permanent solution to a long-standing issue in this country.”

Reporters asked the MP if this bill would secure a two-thirds majority in parliament, to which he said that it would test the parliament’s resolve to pass such a bill.

“This is something that the whole country has been asking for, except for the Tamil separatists. Through this bill, we will know if we have more patriots or separatists in this country,” he said.

Gammanpila added that there have been calls to remove police powers from provincial councils as provided for by the India-backed 13th Amendment. However, the provision exists only on paper as the 13th Amendment has yet to be implemented in full. “Even President Ranil Wickremesinghe is supportive of an amendment to the constitution.”

 

In August last year, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry speaking on the issue of granting police powers to the provinces said the Sri Lankan president is committed to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, except for police powers.

 

Court prevents removal of Sarath Fonseka from SJB’s positions

he Colombo District Court today issued an enjoining order preventing the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) from removing Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka from the party positions.

The District Court made this order pursuant to a plaint filed by Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka against SJB office bearers.

This order will be effective till March 4.

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Mahanayake Theros concerned over privatization impact

Mahanayake theros of the three sects. have written to President Ranil Wickramasinghe expressing concern that privatizing public resources could jeopardize social stability.

In a letter to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Mahanayake theros advocated for a robust mechanism to safeguard public welfare.

They urge the government to prevent political interference, misuse of resources, corruption, and fraud in public affairs through effective oversight.

However, the letter raises concerns regarding the potential impact of privatizing state enterprises on the Buddhist Sangha’s autonomy.

They question the extent to which such privatization might subject the Sangha to excessive government regulation.

The letter adds that privatizing government institutions like Sri Lanka Telecom and the Ceylon Electricity Board, which are already financially struggling and critical to the national economy, to foreign companies solely focused on profit risks creating significant social, economic, and political instability in the future.

This letter highlights concerns from prominent individuals about the potential consequences of such privatization.

The Mahanayake theros urge the President to consider these matters carefully and refrain from making decisions that could jeopardize public welfare or create national security concerns.

The letter further emphasizes the need to restructure government institutions, arguing that such reforms are crucial for building public trust and securing a positive future for the country.

Sri Lanka the only South Asian nation to not blacklist corrupt contractors – Verite Research

The Verité Research report, titled “Backwards in Blacklisting: Gaps in Sri Lanka’s Procurement Framework Enable Corruption,” exposes two key vulnerabilities in the country’s approach to tackling corruption in this critical area.

The report highlights that Sri Lanka’s procurement guidelines, established in 2006, lack crucial provisions. Unlike other South Asian countries, these guidelines do not recognize “engaging in corrupt and fraudulent activities during procurement” as a valid reason for blacklisting contractors. This significant gap leaves the door open for corrupt practices to go unpunished.

The report finds a lack of compliance with existing regulations, even where provisions exist. Despite having rules in place to blacklist contractors who default on their contractual obligations, Sri Lanka has failed to do so in any instances. The Department of Public Finance’s online database for publishing the names of such contractors remains empty, while neighboring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh maintain well-populated databases.

This concerning situation underlines the high levels of corruption present in Sri Lanka’s public procurement system, a finding echoed by both the civil society governance diagnostic and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) governance diagnostic.

The IMF has even emphasized the need for Sri Lanka to enact a public procurement law by December 2024, aligning it with international best practices.

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Businessman Dilith Jayaweera Vows to End Traditional Politics, Launches Mawbima Janatha Party’s Campaign in Colombo

Businessman Dilith Jayaweera, the leader of the Mawbima Janatha Party (MJP), delivered a call to action at the party’s district conference held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo on Saturday.

In his address, Jayaweera declared that the time had come to break free from the “shackles of traditional politics and usher in a new era of governance” in Sri Lanka.

“I am not someone who expected to get into politics,” Jayaweera said. “But after years of hoping for change from existing political parties and figures, only to be continuously let down, we have decided to take matters into our own hands. We are here to make that change.”

The conference drew notable figures , including former Governor of the Eastern Province Anuradha Yahampath, Deputy Chairman of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka MP Weerasumana Weerasinghe, former MP Piyasiri Wijenayake, diplomat Palitha Kohona, Sri Lankan racing champion Dilantha Malagamuwa, and former sprinter Shehan Ambepitiya.

He emphasized the need to prioritize the interests of the people above partisan politics and special interests, promising to enact meaningful reforms that would address the pressing challenges facing the nation.

“We cannot afford to remain trapped in the cycle of corruption and inefficiency that has plagued our political system for far too long,” Jayaweera declared, eliciting applause from the audience. “Together, we can build a brighter future for Sri Lanka, one that is built on integrity, innovation, and compassion.”

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Human Rights Watch Warns of Backward Progress in Sri Lanka Under President Ranil Wickremesinghe

The Human Rights Watch organization has issued a stark warning, asserting that Sri Lanka is regressing in terms of human rights and social justice standards. Blaming misgovernance and a lack of accountability for the country’s ongoing economic crisis, Human Rights Watch criticizes the government, led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, for prioritizing the suppression of dissent over addressing critical issues.

Meenakshi Ganguly, Deputy Asian Director at Human Rights Watch, expresses deep concern over Sri Lanka’s trajectory under the Wickremesinghe administration, citing a pattern of regressive policies and increasing repression.

As Sri Lanka prepares for a presidential election later this year, the report highlights President Wickremesinghe’s implementation of new laws aimed at curbing criticism and stifling dissent. Human Rights Watch underscores the urgent need for attention to human rights and social justice in Sri Lanka, urging the government to prioritize accountability and transparency to address the country’s challenges effectively.

For further details, refer to the full announcement on Human Rights Watch’s website: https://www.hrw.org/news/2024/02/14/under-ranil-wickremesinghe-sri-lanka-going-fast-reverse

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Gammanpila to present private bill to remove police powers from Sri Lanka’s provinces

Former minister Udaya Gammanpila plans to present a private member’s bill to parliament seeking a ’22nd amendment’ to Sri Lanka’s constitution seeking the removal of police powers devolved to the provinces by the 13th amendment.

Gammanpila told reporters that devolving police powers to the provincial councils could pose a threat to national security.

“If there is a separatist war in the future, that war will be fought between the provincial police of the north and the Sri Lanka Army. Both will be official armies,” the former minister who now sits in the opposition said.

“Countries that work against Sri Lanka could openly, without hesitation, provide aid to that separatist armed movement, or in the other words, the northern police army,” he said.

Asked if his bill could get a two-thirds majority in parliament, Gammanpila said it would test parliament’s resolve.

“Removing police powers is something the whole country is asking for. Only Tamil separatists believe that it should remain. The 22nd amendment will be a test for parliament to see whether there are more patriots or more separatists,” he said.

There have been no widespread calls from the public in recent times on amending the constitution to remove police powers from provincial councils as provided for by the India-backed 13th amendment. The provision exists only on paper as the 13th amendment has yet to be implemented in full.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that he is agreeable to full implementation of the 13th amendment except police powers.

At an all-party conference in July last year, Wickremesinghe said new police legislation would need to be introduced before police powers are dissolved to the provinces.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said in August last year that parliament must discuss the implications of devolving police powers to nine provinces controlled by nine chief ministers.

“We have no issues with the Tamil people on police powers. However, people are already saying that the police force is politicised. Having a separate police force in nine provinces or having nine chief ministers controlling the police while there is a single minister and [what that might mean for] the country is a question.

“Parliament must discuss what the implications of that are for not just the Tamil people but the whole country and arrive at a solution,” said Sabry at the time.

“The president has said he is committed to implementing the 13th amendment in full sans police powers,” he added.

Former Northern Province Chief Minister C V Vigneswaran has said President Wickremesinghe is keen to implement the 13th amendment and is open to discussing devolution of police powers to the provinces.

The law already provides for police officers at the provincial level, but it is not being implemented, said Vigneswaran.He said the president and the group of Tamil MPs had also discussed alternatives such as a provincial police force that does not have the authority to use weapons but can enforce traffic and other laws as well as record complaints.

At the July all-party conference, Wickemesinghe also said Sri Lanka must either retain its provincial councils (PCs) with powers adequately devolved as provided for by the 13th amendment to the constitution or abolish the PC system entirely.

The full implementation of the 13th amendment continues to be a point of debate, with a number of political parties in the south boycotting the July 26 all-party conference.

President Wickremesinghe has indicated his willingness to fully implement the amendment, particularly in light of India stressing on its importance. However, sharing police powers remains an issue, with many national parties in the south arguing against it.

The 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution emerged from the controversial Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a purported solution to the worsening ethnic conflict, four years after war broke out. Provincial councils came in the wake of this amendment, though land and police powers have yet to be devolved to the provinces as originally envisioned. Both Sinhalese and

Tamil nationalists have historically opposed the amendment, the former claiming it devolved too much, the latter complaining it didn’t devolve enough.

A full implementation of the amendment would see land and police powers devolved to the provinces, a development that is not likely to garner support from Sri Lanka’s more hardline parties. In February, sections of the Buddhist clergy took to the streets against the proposed full implementation of the constitutional amendment.

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Top US official in Sri Lanka to discuss safeguarding information space

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Liz Allen arrived in Sri Lanka to discuss safeguarding the information and media space in the country.

This is the first visit from a US Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy to Sri Lanka, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung said.

The US State Department said that while in Sri Lanka, she will reaffirm US support for Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Her agenda includes fostering dialogue on freedom of expression and democratic values with diverse groups of stakeholders, including journalists, civil society members, government officials, and the Embassy’s Youth Forum.

Her engagements with the Sri Lanka Press Institute, U.S. public diplomacy program alumni, and local content creators will emphasize the critical role of preserving diverse voices for a stable and inclusive Sri Lanka.

Additionally, she will meet with representatives from Sri Lanka’s multifaith community to underscore the importance of societal inclusivity.

Another top U.S. State Dept. official to visit Sri Lanka next week

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard R. Verma is slated to travel to Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives from February 18 – 23.

According to a statement from the State Department, Verma’s visits are expected to bolster the United States’ cooperation with each of these key Indo-Pacific partners.

The Deputy Secretary’s meetings with senior officials in Colombo will support U.S.-Sri Lankan defense and maritime security cooperation, the statement read further.

Verma will visit the Colombo Port’s West Container Terminal, where the U.S. is supporting Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic recovery through USD 553 million in financing to transform Colombo into a regional shipping hub.

Subsequently, he will meet with civil society leaders to hear their perspective on democratic governance in Sri Lanka and with government officials to voice U.S. support for the protection of free speech and open discourse.

Prior to his Sri Lanka visit, Verma will travel to India and the Maldives to discuss full range of issues including economic cooperation, security, and technology.

Meanwhile, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Elizabeth M. Allen is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka next week. The State Department said Allen’s visits to India, Sri Lanka and Jordan would underscore the United States’ unwavering commitment to reinforcing and expanding partnerships and alliances.

While in Colombo, she plans to foster dialogue on freedom of expression and democratic values with diverse groups of stakeholders, including journalists, civil society members, government officials, and the Embassy’s Youth Forum.

Her engagements with the Sri Lanka Press Institute, U.S. public diplomacy program alumni, and local content creators will emphasize the critical role of preserving diverse voices for a stable and inclusive Sri Lanka, the statement read further.

Additionally, she will meet with representatives from Sri Lanka’s multifaith community to underscore the importance of societal inclusivity.

Britain’s oldest warship named HMS Trincomalee

The HMS Trincomalee which was constructed in 1817 in Mumbai stands as the Royal Navy’s last ship built in India, boasting over two centuries of history.

According to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, prior to its current mooring in Hartlepool, this illustrious ship sailed more than 100,000 miles worldwide. Remarkably, HMS Trincomalee never engaged in battle but holds a rich narrative of service, ranging from patrol and protection to exploration.

Now anchored in Hartlepool, HMS Trincomalee represents one of the two Leda-Class Frigates commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1812. Its name commemorates the 1782 Battle of Trincomalee off the coast of the Indian subcontinent, the historic clash between British and French fleets during the Anglo-French War (1778-1783).

The choice to build in India was influenced by a scarcity of oak in England, exacerbated by the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, and the strategic location of Bombay.

The ship’s arrival in England, 18 months post-construction, coincided with the end of the wars, making the HMS Trincomalee surplus to the fleet requirement.

Its journey was further delayed when plans aboard the HMS Java were lost after its sinking by the USS Constitution, the oldest still-afloat ship. Consequently, HMS Trincomalee spent 28 years in reserve before being refitted as a 26-gun corvette for patrolling duties in the Atlantic and beyond, including participation in the Crimean War and operations in the Pacific. From 1860, it served as a stationary training and accommodation vessel, continuing in various capacities into the 20th century.

Distinguished from its counterparts by its teak construction, known for durability and resistance to decay, HMS Trincomalee has preserved much of its original framework. Among its notable early passengers was Eliza Bunt, a British resident in India, whose documenting of her journey to London provides invaluable insights into the ship’s history.

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