Editorial/Opinion

Sunny Side Up

SL supports Nicaragua, Belarus and Eritrea

Sri Lanka, at the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) 46th Session in Geneva, had made statements in support of Nicaragua and Belarus despite concerns raised by the UNHRC High Commissioner on the human rights situation in the two countries. 

In its official statement on “Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Report on the Human Rights situation in Nicaragua”, the Sri Lankan mission had noted: “We note the commitment stated by the Government of Nicaragua to respect and promote the human rights of the Nicaraguan people. 

“Sri Lanka is of the view that any action aimed at the protection and promotion of human rights in a country must have the consent of the country concerned and be based on the principles of co-operation and genuine dialogue. This Council should not be politicised and used as a mechanism to attack governments. 

“We reiterate that the discriminatory practice of selective country-specific initiatives breaches the principles of universality, impartiality, and non-selectivity stipulated in GA (General Assembly) Resolution 60/251 and the IB package. 

“In this context, we believe that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is the appropriate mechanism to address the human rights situation of all countries in a uniform, objective, and constructive manner. 

“In conclusion, we call on the members of this Council to recognise the action taken and the public policies implemented over the years and engage in a positive dialogue with the Government of Nicaragua.” 

Meanwhile, in the matter of the “Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the presidential election and its aftermath”, Sri Lanka officially responded saying: “We note the co-operation and engagement by the Government of Belarus with UN human rights mechanisms, including by regular submission of reports to human rights treaty bodies, extending invitations to Special Procedure Mandate Holders and support for the UPR process. 

“We reiterate our concern over the continuing discriminatory practice of selective adoption of country-specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council, which breaches the principles of universality, impartiality, and non-selectivity stipulated in GA Resolution 60/251 and the IB package. 

“Sri Lanka is of the view that country-specific initiatives are confrontational, counterproductive, and violate the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference enshrined in the UN Charter, thereby undermining the spirit co-operation required in promoting and protecting human rights. 

“Sri Lanka reiterates that any action aimed at protection and promotion of human rights in a country must have the consent of the country concerned and be based on the principles of co-operation and genuine dialogue. 

“In this context, we believe that the Universal Periodic Review is the appropriate mechanism to address the human rights situation of all countries in a uniform, objective, and constructive engagement where countries could meaningfully and effectively contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights without discrimination. 

“In conclusion, we encourage this Council to engage in a positive dialogue with the Government of Belarus.”

Speaking during the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, the Sri Lankan envoy expressed concern over continued discrimination by the UNHRC shown through country-specific initiatives.

The envoy noted that such action was counterproductive and confrontational.

The Sri Lankan envoy, after noting that any action to protect human rights in a country should have the consent of the respective country, called on the UNHRC to engage in a positive dialogue with Eritrea. 

Supporting China

Sri Lanka is in the process of further strengthening ties with ally China with a visible increase in bilateral engagements. 

Foreign Ministry Secretary Prof. Jayanath Colombage had recently gone on record in the Chinese media dismissing allegations of genocide committed against the Uighur community in China. 

Colombage had noted that there is no evidence to support claims by some western politicians that “genocide” was committed against the Uighur community in China’s Xinjiang. 

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Colombage, who had visited Xinjiang in 2019, had noted that not a single terrorist attack had been carried out in Xinjiang over the past several years. 

“I think that itself is a great achievement. And also, that talk about genocide, I don’t think I have seen any evidence to suggest this because genocide is a very strong word,” Colombage had said. 

The official recalled visiting several sites in Urumqi and Kashgar and holding chats with the local people. “One thing I have seen in their eyes is that they have hope,” he had said. 

“That is something very important for a country, for a region, not to lose hope, because I was told by some of these young people, that during the time of trouble, they did not have hope,” he had added. 


Flying to Entebbe

SriLankan Airlines last week operated not one, but three chartered flights to Entebbe in Uganda. It was the first time that SriLankan Airlines had flown to Entebbe. 

SriLankan flights bearing numbers UL 1709, UL 1711, and UL 1713 had departed at 0130, 0200, and 0230, respectively, last Tuesday (23). 

“The SriLankan Engineering team at the Entebbe International Airport in Uganda facilitated three simultaneous SriLankan Cargo charter flights which carried more than 100 metric tonnes of general cargo,” SriLankan Airlines tweeted. 

Another tweet by SriLankan Airlines stated: “#SriLankanCargo made history today by operating three consecutive cargo charter flights to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda uplifting over 102 metric tonnes of printed matter.” 

Meanwhile, the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka tweeted: “SriLankan Airlines made history today by operating three consecutive cargo flights to Entebbe in Uganda. They safely carried more than 100 tonnes of cargo to the African nation.”

However, it is learnt that the crew to carry out this mission was handpicked and the entire operation was co-ordinated by the husband of a female parliamentarian of the governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) representing the Gampaha District. The respective parliamentarian, it is also learnt, is closely associated with a VVIP family. 


Raiding the tower

Following last week’s bust of a large haul of drugs in the Wattala area, investigators were engaged in following up all leads, leaving no stone unturned to apprehend others involved in the drug ring.

The investigation had revealed that the group used a luxury apartment at a prominent apartment complex in Colombo 5 as the base for its drug distribution activities.

Accordingly, police personnel had raided an apartment at one of the main luxury apartment complexes in Colombo 5 that consists of several towers.

The raid, carried out on Thursday (25) night at around 7 p.m., had resulted in the sleuths taking into custody another haul of drugs.

It is learnt that neighbours in the respective tower at the apartment complex were caught unaware since they had not expected to be residing in the vicinity of a drug hub.

 


Short session 

Parliament proceedings on Wednesday (24) were limited to only one-and-a-half hours. The reason for the short session was due to the lunch hosted in honour of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was on a two-day official visit in Sri Lanka last week. 

House proceedings that commenced at 10 a.m. concluded by 11.30 a.m. after concluding oral questions. 


Basil vows to protect Govt.

A group of 40 backbench MPs of the governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have on Thursday (25) met SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa. 

The legislators have noted that there were certain members of the governing party who were behaving in a rebellious manner while making critical comments about the Government. 

The group of 40 had then requested Rajapaksa to seriously consider the situation and to take action to rein in the situation before it explodes even further. 

It is learnt that the meeting that took place at Temple Trees had continued for around one-and-a-half hours.

After listening to the concerns raised by the 40 backbenchers, Basil had vowed to take all necessary measures to safeguard the Government.

“This is a government we formed with great difficulty. Like last time, we won’t let anyone breakaway and destroy it. This time, if there’s anyone trying to do that, I will act first and get them out of the Government,” Basil had said. 


The meet cute? 

Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and National Organiser of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Basil Rajapaksa had recently met at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. 

Samaraweera and Rajapaksa had arrived at the hotel to attend two separate functions when they had bumped into in each other near the elevator. 

Both Samaraweera and Rajapaksa had greeted each and after exchanging pleasantries, had made their way to their respective events. 

Although it was a meeting that took place by chance, those who had witnessed the two political masterminds greeting each other were left wondering the mischief the duo could create if they joined forces. 

 


 

The slap 

Social media was last week abuzz with a news report of a state minister of the Government being assaulted by an angry woman in his constituency. 

According to the story that did the rounds, the State Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, was slapped with a slipper by the woman. 

The incident had reportedly taken place during an event attended by the State Minister in the Ja-Ela area. 

However, the security personnel assigned to the State Minister had removed the angry lady from the venue. 

It was later learnt that one of the supporters of the respective State Minister had assaulted the lady’s son, indicating that the assault was carried out with the State Minister’s knowledge. 

Interestingly, the incident also made its way to Parliament, with an Opposition parliamentarian raising the issue during a heated verbal argument with the respective State Minister. 


From coffee to biriyani

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had recently met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa over lunch in Bentota

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had recently met over lunch in Bentota, it is learnt. 

It is further learnt that the meeting had taken place on a request by Wickremesinghe to discuss the current political situation in the country. 

Finally, the meeting had taken place at the official residence of the Prime Minister in Bentota with Rajapaksa inviting Wickremesinghe for a meeting over lunch. Accordingly, the meeting had taken place on 13 February. 

After exchanging pleasantries and discussing the political situation in the country, the Prime Minister had invited Wickremesinghe for a scrumptious biriyani feed. The duo had continued their conversation over lunch as well. 

Interestingly, meetings between the duo in the past had been over a cup of coffee, which now seems to have been replaced by biriyani. 

Both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe, despite representing opposing political camps since their entrance to local politics, have maintained a strong friendship. 

Prime Minister Rajapaksa, during a recent print media interview, said that Wickremesinghe should be in Parliament. 


It’s Ranil again?  

United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who announced his resignation from the party leadership soon after the general elections last year, took only a few months to have a change of heart. 

After retaining the party leadership, Wickremesinghe now seems to be gearing to lead the party at the next key election. 

This was revealed by Wickremesinghe loyalist, former MP Vajira Abeywardena recently, when he said that the UNP would form the next government in 2024 under Wickremesinghe’s leadership. 

Addressing public meetings in Balapitiya and Ambalangoda recently, Abeywardena had said that the party had already initiated a dialogue with members of the Government and Opposition with the aim of securing government power in 2024. 

He had further said that people were once again supportive of the UNP due to the fast-growing dissension against the Government. 

According to Abeywardena, there are many requests from ministers and senior members of the Opposition for Wickremesinghe to return to Parliament. 

The UNP suffered a humiliating defeat at last year’s general election and only managed to secure one slot in Parliament through the National List. 


Welgama gets SJB appointment 

Former stalwart of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and current leader of the New Lanka Freedom Party (NLFP) Kumara Welgama was last week appointed as an office bearer of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). 

Welgama was appointed as a Senior Deputy Chairman of the SJB. 

The letter of appointment was officially handed over to Welgama by Opposition and SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa. 


Harin-Lanza clash: New twist 

The ongoing clash between Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harin Fernando and State Minister Nimal Lanza took a new twist last week. 

The duo have constantly been locking horns publicly as well as in Parliament. 

Last week, Fernando and Lanza clashed over educational qualifications with the duo trading charges over the failure to pass the GCE O/Level examination. 

However, Fernando last week decided to publicise his educational qualifications by publicising the results obtained by him at the GCE A/Level examination, which he had sat for through St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10. 

After releasing his examination results, Fernando has now called on Lanza to follow suit. 


New appointment for Sumedha? 

Current Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Major General Sumedha Perera, it is learnt, is to receive a new appointment shortly. 

It is learnt that he is tipped to be appointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation. 

Perera was recently rumoured to have resigned from the post of Agriculture Ministry Secretary. However, Perera clarified that there was no truth to the story and that he continued to function in the position.