Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera addresses the 34th UNHRC sessions in Geneva yesterday 

logoWednesday, 1 March 2017
  • Amid setbacks and realpolitik considerations, the Government remains determined to follow through on its reconciliation and justice commitments, Foreign Minister tells UN in Geneva
  • Mangala tells UNHRC Govt. resolve on transitional justice undiminished
  • Truth-seeking Commission before Cabinet in two months 
  • ‘Even one incident of torture is one too many,’ says Foreign Minister
  • Mangala tells UN: New constitution will ‘unite a people who have been  divided too long

By Dharisha Bastians in Geneva

In the face of mounting criticism about the pace of reform and setbacks in the transitional justice process, Sri Lanka told the United Nations yesterday about dilemmas the Government was confronting as it attempted to lead a war-torn and divided country on a journey of reckoning with a violent past.

The  Government of Sri Lanka was facing fire from extremists on both sides of the ethnic divide as it grapples with delivering on its reconciliation and justice pledges, but its resolve to see the transitional justice process through remains undiminished Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told the UN Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva yesterday.

Delivering Sri Lanka’s national statement before the 47-member UN body on human rights, the Foreign Minister laid out the Government’s dilemma, as it faced accusations of doing too much or too little by different actors who stubbornly refused to acknowledge gains made in the past two years.

“In the face of roadblocks in the day-to-day world of realpolitik, there may be detours from time to time, but the destination and our resolve to walk the distance remain unchanged,” the Minister vowed.

The Government was still being criticised and accused of “treachery and betrayal” for co-sponsoring the UNHRC resolution in October 2015, Minister Samaraweera told the UN.

“As we move forward on this journey, the forces of extremism and regression on both sides of the divide are creating roadblocks for narrow, short-term gain,” the Minister told the Council during an eight-minute speech.

But the Foreign Minister said the country must have the courage to acknowledge that Sri Lanka’s first experiment in nation building after independence in 1948 had failed. “As a result for 69 long years, we journeyed through pain, violence, loss of life and precious human resources, ruining chances of socio-economic progress.”

The Government was seeking to build a different country, the Foreign Minister said, where justice reigns, human rights are valued and individual dignity is upheld. The National Unity Government seeks to engage wholeheartedly in the process to draft a new constitution that it believes is central to democratisation and preventing a recurrence of conflict, he explained.

The constitution building exercise would “unite our people who have been divided far too long,” the Foreign Minister told the council.

Outlining the Government’s steps toward reconciliation and justice, Minister Samaraweera also announced that the Truth-seeking Commission would be proposed to Cabinet for approval in two months. The truth-seeking commission, to be modelled on South Africa’s post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, would be the second formal mechanism to be proposed by the Government since the permanent Office of Missing Persons was enacted into law late last year.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister also told the UN Human Rights body that his Government believed that “even one incident of torture is one too many”, and took recent allegations of continuing incidence of torture “seriously”. “The Government maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards torture,” he claimed.

“Yet another splendid speech. We believe you, but unfortunately, your leaders President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sometimes let you down,” tweeted Suren Surendiran, Spokeperson for the Tamil Diaspora umbrella group, Global Tamil Forum (GTF) moments after the Minister’s speech.

Other Sri Lanka watchers, milling around the Palaisdes Nations after Minister Samaraweera’s speech observed that member states of the Human Rights Council would be happy with statement, since they still badly want Sri Lanka to be a “success story”.

The Foreign Minister’s speech had contained sufficient reaffirmation of the Government’s commitments to reconciliation and accountability for Sri Lanka to remain a focal point at the council, one international activist told Daily FT speaking on confidentially. “But nothing he said today indicates that the Human Rights Council should give Sri Lanka a blank cheque,” the activist warned.

During his speech, the Foreign Minister noted that since he last addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2016, the Government had drafted legislation to outlaw enforced disappearances, formulated counter-terrorism legislative framework in keeping with international practices, enacted law to set up the OMP and given effect to Right to Information legislation.

The Human Rights Council, Minister Samaraweera was familiar with Sri Lanka’s story. “After years of denial, disengagement and self-isolation, the National Unity Government proceeded to set our country on a transformative trajectory in terms of human rights, good governance, rule of law, justice, reconciliation and economic development.” 

“We have much to lose” — UNHCHR

( February 28, 2017, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) Without commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare.

Opening ceremony of the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

Statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Just a few hundred yards from where we are today, the League of Nations was dissolved, finally and formally on 8 April 1946. Aside from some successes, it was stymied by military aggressions, the absence of the United States and the withdrawals of Germany, Italy, Japan and the USSR. Its treatment of colonialism was undermined from the outset by rejection of the principle of non-discrimination.
In reaction, the authors of the United Nations Charter placed this principle of non-discrimination in the second paragraph of the preamble.
We, the peoples of the United Nations vowed “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” This commitment was made immediately after the determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” – before all other language devoted to peace and security; before all language devoted to development.
This is, I believe, an important point for us to grasp. Human rights was placed in the preamble of the UN Charter not as the last or a third pillar or as some literary flourish. It was there, it came first, human rights was viewed as the necessary starting condition, because on 26 June 1945, the day of the Charter’s signing, killing on a scale hitherto unknown to humans had only just come to an end, with cities across the world pulverized and still smoking, monuments to immense human malevolence and stupidity.
The delegations understood that only by first accepting fundamental human rights could all else – durable peace, and success in development – become possible. It is a point, which even today – perhaps especially today – needs to be absorbed, by many political actors who only see human rights as tiresome constraints – or indeed, by people who have enjoyed many of their rights since birth, and simply do not realise how much they mean.
When a State accedes to a human rights treaty, enshrines those obligations in constitutional and domestic law, and implements them, then with the passage of time the average citizen ­– the individual holder of those rights – may take them for granted. It is like breathing air. One does not think several thousand times a day about the need to inhale oxygen – even though one’s very existence depends on it happening, each time. Only when the air supply is cut off does its significance become shockingly acute.
Similarly, it is only when rights are no longer upheld, the individual concerned understands with sharp clarity just how critical they were to a meaningful, dignified existence.
For political leaders who today wage campaigns against universal human rights, or threaten withdrawal from international or regional treaties and the institutions which uphold them, it is worth recalling what the world has achieved over seven decades – and what we all stand to lose if their threats succeed in choking off universal human rights.
After the creation of the UN, ground-breaking multilateral rights-based treaties were negotiated and adopted: the fourth Geneva Convention, the Refugee Convention, and the two great international Covenants which, alongside the Universal Declaration, form the universal bill of human rights.
The two Covenants, together with other core international human rights treaties and their treaty bodies, were constructed to protect a broad range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. To strengthen prohibitions against torture, enforced disappearance, racial discrimination, discrimination against women. They upheld child rights, the rights of migrant workers, and persons with disabilities.
Today they are reinforced by this Council, with its independent experts and Universal Periodic Review.
My Office, working with regional and national institutions and civil society at all levels, ties it together as one system – a singular point of reference, which we commonly refer to as the normative framework of international human rights law, for the promotion and protection of human rights for all people, everywhere.
But what has this actually meant to people around the world? How consequential will it be? After all, even before World War II notable progress had been achieved in a number of countries: ending slavery; expanding universal suffrage and worker’s rights; ending use of the death penalty, and placing limits on the cruelty of war.
And yet World War II destroyed all – almost. Because the flicker of progress could not be extinguished, and in the seven decades after the War it grew again, and its momentum was even stronger. Colonialism was ended, segregation and apartheid were removed. Pervasive dictatorial rule was rolled back, and the rights of an independent and free press re-asserted. Social protections were strengthened. Women’s rights came to the fore, and so too children’s rights, the rights of indigenous people and the LGBTi community, and many others – all of them determined to be free from discrimination and injustice.
As transportation compressed distances and travel, and people moved and mixed on a scale never seen before, it also became clear: humanity is indivisible.
Without a commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare.
Of all the great post-war achievements, it is this assertion of the universality of rights in human rights law that may be the most noteworthy.
Ever-growing numbers of people now know that torture is prohibited in all circumstances. That arbitrary arrest and detention, the denial of due process, repression of peaceful protests and free speech – including the role of the press – are violations of rights. They know they have a right to development, to decent food, water, health, housing, education and more.
The people know. They know the “dignity and worth of every human being.”
The unprecedented marches of 21 January this year were not, I believe, about a particular individual or government – although many saw them as such. I believe the marches were for the rights of women, the human rights of women, for all of us, for a fair and inclusive humanity. I was proud members of my staff took part. We must stand up for human rights. When humans understand fully they have rights, it is next to impossible to make them un-know it.
To those political actors who, as in the days of the League, threaten the multilateral system or intend to withdraw from parts of it, the sirens of historical experience ought to ring clear. We will not sit idly by. For we have much to lose, so much to protect. And our rights, the rights of others, the very future of our planet cannot, must not be thrown aside by these reckless political profiteers.
I ask you to uphold the rights of all, and to stand with us.

India’s Vicarious Involvement In Sri Lanka’s ‘Tamil Question’ – Merger Of North & East Or Not

Colombo Telegraph
By Vishwamithra1984 –March 1, 2017
Man is like a rope: both break at a definite strain…the solution is not splicing the rope; it’s lessening the tension.” ~Jack Vance
We may need India’s backing in the international arena in time to come. We may need India’s help to persuade the more extreme elements in the Tamil leadership community to adhere to this and reject that. We may need India’s support to sustain a more enduring peace, not as it is today- a mere absence of war and militancy- we might even need India’s whole-hearted patronage to convince the world leaders not to interfere with our internal political matters at all. Yet when, as per Indian Express of February 20, 2017, India’s Foreign Secretary states that ‘India will not be pressing Sri Lanka to merge the Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a single Tamil-majority, Tamil-speaking province as envisaged by the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987’, India has willy-nilly assured Sri Lanka and its Muslim community some lasting respite- that the ‘merger issue’, as it is called now, would be in the back burner, at least for some time.
The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed in Colombo on 29 July 1987 between Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene. The primary purpose of the Accord was to resolve the Sri Lankan Civil War by enabling the thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the Provincial Councils Act of 1987. While its opponents condemned the Accord as a sell-out to the Indian-backed Tamils and their militant leaders, its supporters promulgated that it was the bedrock on which the whole socio-ethnic relations rested. Among the significant points of the agreement, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included, among others, devolution of power from Colombo to the provinces, merger (subject to later referendum) of the northern and eastern provinces and official status for the Tamil language.
What irked most of the Sinhala chauvinists was the merger, not proposed but which became a fait accompli after the signatures of Gandhi and Jayewardene were placed, between the Northern and Eastern provinces into one. Although it was worded as subject to a referendum to be held later only in the Eastern Province, the pronouncement of the merger held stood between these two provinces as from the date the Accord was signed.
R. Hariharan writing a column to The Hindu in July 2010, almost exactly after one year after the crushing blow dealt to the Tamil militants led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and Prabhakaran, opines thus: ‘The Rajiv-Jayewardene Accord was perhaps too ambitious in its scope as it sought to collectively address all the three contentious issues between India and Sri Lanka: strategic interests, people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka and Tamil minority rights in Sri Lanka. Its success depended on sustained political support from both the countries. So the Accord got sidelined when political leaders who were unhappy with the Accord came to power in both countries almost at the same time. As a result, the Tamil minorities, who had put their faith in it, were in limbo. These unsavory developments have clouded the understanding of the positive aspects of the Accord. After all, it was the Accord that enabled Sri Lankan Tamils to gain recognition for some of their demands in Sri Lankan politics and in the Sri Lankan Constitution.

VNEED demands international investigation on disappeared people and war crimes.

VNEED demands international investigation on disappeared people and war crimes.

Feb 28, 2017
After handed over a petition to UN Office in Colombo and Embassies of UK, US and India Voice for North-East Enforced Disappeared (VNEED) called for a press conference held at CSR in Colombo yesterday (27)said that they demand international investigation and end to the practice of expediting time and space to the Sri Lankan State at UN Human rights Council in Geneva.

During the press conference relatives of disappeared people expressed their stories about loved ones such as husband, daughter, son, sister and brother.
“My kids are asking about their father, but I do not have a response for them,” said Nadani , a villager of Kilinochchi in tearful eyes.
“I need my husband.”
Talking to Lanka News Web North provincial Council member and President of VNEED Anandi Shasidaran said that they cannot wait for another two years for investigation on disappeared people.
“Sri Lankan government has been requested from UHCHR to give another two years for investigation. We urge UNCHR to pressure the Sri Lankan government to expedite investigation on disappeared people and war crimes.
According to the president of VNEED over 40,000 people went missing.
“We do not know the exact number of disappeared people. But ICRC reports mentioned that over 50,000 people have been disappeared
“We, the families of enforced disappeared in North and East of the island of Sri Lanka, have not seen any meaningful action on the part of the Sri Lankan State in tracing the whereabouts of our family members who handed themselves over to Sri Lankan military in front of our own eyes and those who were taken away from us on our way to Vavuniya from Mullativu at the end of Vanni war in 2009.” Petition says.


Sri Lanka Brief
Statement by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council.

Mr. President
High Commissioner for Human Rights/ Madam Deputy High Commissioner
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour for me to be here today at the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council which I believe has the highest number of dignitaries in attendance.

I stand here today at a time when the very basis and fundamentals of human rights are being questioned around the world. Many of the universal values that we subscribe to are being challenged in the name of ‘populism’, with populists spinning webs from threads of ignorance. The role of this Organisation, in this context, is becoming more important than ever.

Mr. President,

This Council is familiar with Sri Lanka’s story. After years of denial, disengagement, and self-isolation, the National Unity Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, proceeded to set our country on a transformative trajectory in terms of human rights, good governance, rule of law, justice, reconciliation and economic development.

The people of our country voted in large numbers granting a resounding victory to President Sirisena at the election in January 2015. The voter turnout was the highest recorded for any Presidential candidate, and in the North and the East, President Sirisena’s share of the vote was also the highest ever as people placed their trust in President Sirisena who they believe will not short change them as in the past. Therefore, we not only owe the people who voted for us 2 years ago, but also to history to uphold that trust, and we are committed to do so.

Mr. President,

It is with this firm conviction, that soon after the August 2015 Parliamentary Election, we co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 titled ‘Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka’, which was adopted unanimously by this Council, on the 1st of October 2015.

I speak today, just over a year, or 15 months since Sri Lanka took the historic step of co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1. Many in our country criticised and continue to criticise us for this step. Some even see this as an act of treachery and betrayal of the nation. We have a simple message for them, as we journey towards 2018, our 70th year as an Independent Nation:

The Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, the Burghers, those of different faiths and beliefs, across gender, caste and creed, that constitute our country, worked together to gain Independence for our nation in 1948. That achieved, we failed to forge the perfect nation of individuals who all hold equal rights, working as one to achieve the heights our nation could attain. As a result, for 69 long years, we journeyed through pain, violence, loss of life and precious human resources, ruining chances of socio economic progress. This was clearly an experiment in nation building that failed, which is certainly not worth pursuing further. We must have the courage to acknowledge that truth, and that era must now end. The Sri Lanka that we seek to build here onwards, should be one where justice reigns; where human rights are valued; where every individual’s dignity is upheld; and where civil society and the media play their due role; a society that believes in the importance of the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law; and where everyone has equal rights.

Mr. President,

As we move forward in this journey, the forces of extremism and regression on both sides of the divide are creating road blocks for narrow, short-term political gain. While stubbornly refusing to acknowledge any of the far-reaching gains we have made in the last 2 years, they argue that we have either done too much or too little. I would, in this backdrop, like to say that the recommendation of the GSP+ concessions from Brussels, and MCC compact assistance from USA were announced recently, in recognition of the progress made in Sri Lanka in the last two years, and we await their formal approval in the coming months.

Mr. President,

Since I last addressed this Council, on the 29th of June 2016,

– legislation to give effect to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, and published in the Government Gazette, and is expected to be tabled in Parliament shortly;

– the formulation of the Policy and Legal Framework of the proposed Counter Terrorism Act has progressed in keeping with accepted international practices;

– Sri Lanka’s Parliament has enacted legislation to establish a Permanent Office on Missing Persons. The Act that has been certified by the Speaker of Parliament, is now the law of the land, and awaits the assignment of the subject, for its operationalisation. The budget for the year 2017 has, in the interim, allocated over a billion Rupees for this

-National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-affected Displacement was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers;

– the Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act No 19 of 2010 was amended by Parliament, and the issuance of Certificates of Absence was enabled;

-the UN Secretary-General at the time, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues visited the country, at the invitation of the Government;

-the List of Designated Persons under Regulation 4(7) of the UN Regulation No. 1 of 2012 was further amended;

-Sri Lanka’s periodic reports were considered by the Committee on Migrant Workers, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee Against Torture, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women;

– the Reports of the 6 Sub Committees of the Steering Committee tasked with deliberating and submitting reports on fundamental rights; judiciary; law and order; public finance; public service; and centre-periphery relations; have been completed, and handed over to the Constitutional Assembly;

– the National Human Rights Action Plan for the period 2017-2021, evolved through a wide consultative process, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers;

– 11,253 houses were handed over during 2016 to the internally displaced; and Rs. 4,785 million has been allocated for 5,732 houses for the internally displaced for 2017;

– the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA) payments for beneficiaries in 2016 amounted to Rs. 605,809,359.00; and Rs. 574,000,000.00 has been allocated for 2017;

– 5,515.98 acres of state land and 2,090.03 acres of private land were released in 2016; and 1,383.51 acres of state land and 30.54 acres of private land were released last month, in January 2017;

– the first ever National Integration and Reconciliation Week was observed from 8th to 14th January 2017, with all public officials as well as school children taking a pledge, resolving to work together, hand in hand, respecting the richness of our diversity, to foster peace, understanding, and mutual trust, for a new Sri Lanka that is united in its diversity;

Mr. President,

Another important undertaking that was successfully concluded during this period, is public consultations carried out by the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms, the first of this nature carried out in the country. Over 7000 written submissions were received from persons from all walks of life, many of them victims of human rights violations who came forward to give their views. The Report of the Task Force is presently being studied in the context of designing the relevant Mechanisms for Truth-seeking, Reparations, Justice, and other reconciliation processes.

We expect the draft legislation on the Truth-Seeking Commission to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next two months. Our resolve to bring justice to the victims of human rights violations remains firm.

While taking the allegations of continuing incidence of torture seriously, it is reiterated that the Government maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards torture as also demonstrated by the President’s participation against torture last year. Although the National Human Rights Commission has recently indicated to us that there is a downward spiral of incidents, even one incident of torture is one too many. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Police Commission, the Ministry of Law & Order and other relevant agencies are working together to prevent and combat torture. As in many other areas, this too is an area in which we require technical assistance, and I hope that countries with experience in this area will come to our assistance.

Mr. President,

The Constitution drafting process is for us both central and essential not only for democratisation, but also for ensuring non-recurrence of conflict. As this Council is aware, the Parliament of Sri Lanka, in April 2016, unanimously adopted a Resolution to prepare a draft Constitutional Bill for the consideration of Parliament. As we approach the 70th year of our nation’s Independence, we seek, for the first time in our country’s modern history, to engage in this process wholeheartedly as an exercise that would unite our people who have been divided for far too long. The Parliamentary process and referendum are for us, imperative. We want to ensure that this Constitution, the 3rd Republican Constitution, unlike those before, that did not involve consensual and consultative processes, would reflect the true aspirations of our people. An exercise where, after years of conflict, the executive, legislature and sovereign – that is the people of our country – will unite to define and chart our nation’s future, guaranteeing equal rights, justice, and dignity for all citizens, honouring the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual character of our nation, upholding the right of citizens to participate more fully in decisions that impact their lives, and guaranteeing non-recurrence of conflict.

Mr. President,

The journey we have undertaken, arising from our commitments to our people and the mandates received at elections, is challenging. This may be a journey strewn with both success as well as some setbacks. In the face of roadblocks and other obstacles in the day to day world of realpolitik, there may have to be detours from time to time, but the destination and our resolve to walk the distance will remain unchanged. Our resolve to see the transitional justice process through, has not diminished. With the help of all our citizens in all walks of life, our friends and partners in the international community, and Sri Lankans overseas; with patience, understanding, and constant and consistent effort and perseverance; we strongly believe that we can make the reconciliation process a success, and establish a progressive and united society, working in harmony to take our nation towards new heights of socio-economic development. We believe that we can make Sri Lanka a shining example of a country that is prosperous, united in its diversity, upholding human rights, justice, and the rule of law.

Thank you.

UPDATED: Road to OMP Timeline

Featured image courtesy Amantha Perera/IPS
GROUNDVIEWS on 02/28/2017
With contributions from Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
The 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) commenced on February 27 in Geneva. It was widely reported that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera would most likely push for a ‘technical rollover’ giving Sri Lanka more time to implement the resolution it co-sponsored in 2015. Sri Lanka made commitments towards reconciliation and the set up of transitional justice mechanisms. The country’s progress on this score has faced a barrage of criticism, from activists who raised serious concerns about the rushed nature of some of the processes, and lack of consultation of victims. TNA MP Sampanthan has already told France that “very little has been achieved” on the 2015 resolution. In the meantime, members of the Joint Opposition and the Government have pushed back on the process – when the Consultation Task Force for Reconciliation Mechanisms report was handed over on January 3, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Minister Champika Ranawaka spoke out against the contents of the report, with the latter saying the report only represented minority rights, despite the fact that Sinhalese families, including families from the military, were in fact consulted and their testimony included in the report. President Maithripala Sirisena said he wrote to US President Donald Trump asking him to clear Sri Lanka from war crimes allegations so that the country could “start afresh”.
In light of these developments, Groundviews has updated its timeline on the road to passing the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) Act in Parliament, to give fuller context to the proceedings in Geneva.
Click here to access the timeline, or view it below:
If you enjoyed this article, you might find, “Searching for Answers: The Road to the OMP” and “On Keppapulavu” enlightening reads. 

February 1917 & January 2015: Fake Similarities – Reply To Prof. Kumar David

Colombo Telegraph
By Neil Wijethilaka –February 28, 2017 
Neil Wijethilaka
Prof. Romila Tharper once said that a serious historian should have the sharp eye of a detective gathering even minute details related to the phenomenon that she studies. Hence, she advises her research students start with reading Agatha Christie. Of course no historian can collect every necessary markers as she may miss many due to multiple reasons that are beyond her control. Hence lacunas may exist, but the next generation of historians may build on that collecting newly unearthed materials thus filling the gaps in the writings of their predecessors. Leon Trotsky writes the following on the task of the historians. “[H]istory ought first of all to tell what happened and how. That, however, is little enough. From the very telling it ought to become clear why it happened thus and not otherwise. Events can neither be regarded as a series of adventures, nor strung on the thread of a preconceived moral. They must obey their own laws. The discovery of these laws is the author’s task” (History of Russian Revolution). The presence of gaps may be understandable and such defects should be clearly separated from distortions, made wittingly or unwittingly, in history-writings. Distortions may happen due to total disregards of the facts that were intentionally placed under the carpet or in the back-burner. The historians subjective bias may creep in in their work generating partial histories. Hence, Trotsky warned that “the subjective tone .. is not permissible in a work of history”. It is interesting to note that the second kind of distortions may happen when reading history. We more often read history not to understand what had actually happened in the past but to legitimize and to understand the present. It is in itself not a crime. Nonetheless, in the process, we may see in many instances people tend to read the past in order to justify the present thus very often distorting the history. The classical example for this second kind of distortion is Prof. Kumar David’s article on the Russian Revolution in Colombo Telegraph (February 26). The argument put forward by Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, the General Secretary, NSSP is basically similar. Both are trying to show that what happened in Sri Lanka on January 8, 2015 was similar to what happened in February 1917 in Russia. Hence Russian event is reinterpreted. Prof. David writes: “If you scale down from the world-historical to the national, then January 8 is our February. Two things are common; a despised autocracy was dismantled and secondly huge aspirations for a better future were unfurled”. Just accept for the moment the absurd idea that the Rajapaksa regime was similar to the rule of Tsar Nicholas 2. Then Prof David laments: “They reached their October; but we are still stuck in the mud sans a bourgeois democratic yahapalanaya.” What does it imply? January 8, 2015 had the potential and the capacity that would produce Sri Lankan October, placing the state political power in the hands of the Sri Lankan version of Bolshevik Party. Destroying all the hopes of Prof. David and the renegades associated with him, the proverbial pigs of the well-known English adage stubbornly refuse to grow wings, to look like giant bumblebees in order to fly towards Prof. David’s projected optimistic future.
The Professor of Electrical Engineering has misinterpreted history by telling us similar events took place in February 1917 and in January 2015. Why? The existing regimes fell and new regimes were formed. For his formal logic A = A. Does it mean that cheese and chalks are similar because the color of the both is white? In his own words this is what had happened in February 1917; “A Provincial Government of grandees and liberals was formed with Prince Gregory Lvov as prime minister. Far more important for posterity was that on the 27 February the popular councils of the city united to form the Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers deputies. A state of Dual Power (two parallel state powers in one country) came into being”. Ha ha! February 1917 not only force Tsar Nicholas 2 to abdicate but also led workers to form their own power structure, Soviets. Here, I have no intention to engage in a discussion on Lenin’s astonishment to see this “unexpected” developments.

Whither laws ? president cannot appoint a Vice Chancellor lawfully ! good governance stranded or strangled ?

LEN logo(Lanka-e-News -28.Feb.2017, 11.30PM)  It is an unequivocal fact that  scoundrels and rascals of  the last nefarious decade who cannot understand the true meaning or purpose of good governance are   abusing good governance . This was best  illustrated when the villains of the corrupt nefarious decade, and some faceless  fawning judges who were thrusting their tails between their legs during the last regime opposed the appointment of Ramanathan Kannan as the high court judge by the    president lawfully and duly by virtue of the powers vested in him .
Now, there are widespread reports the ex Vice chancellor Sunanda Madduma Bandara , a henchman of Basil Rajapakse (by now  a byword for monumental corruption and was incarcerated several times ) without resigning his post is  protesting against the appointment of Professor D. M. Semasinghe as the Vice chancellor of the Kelaniya University 
Under the University Act, three names shall be forwarded to the president by the University administrative board , and the president is fully empowered to  select the most suitable candidate for the post of Vice Chancellor. It is stipulated  that the  candidate to be selected must have highest educational attainments ,and  advanced academic research skills.
Sunanda Madduma Bandara on the contrary had only one qualification favoring  his appointment  as Vice Chancellor during the notorious nefarious decade.  That only weird and vicious    qualification was , he is a most bootlicking stooge of most infamous Basil Rajapakse. He did not possess a doctorate (Ph.D.) or even  an M. Phil. qualification .  He only had  B.A. and M.A. degrees. Hence ,having  a Vice chancellor who has  no Ph.D. is something the whole University sphere should frown upon and  feel ashamed of .
One of the many crooked and sordid activities of unscrupulous stooges  like Sunanda engaged in during the notorious nefarious decade on behalf of the Rajapkses was , producing  falsified records and statistics to justify the rigged and  computer manipulated fraudulent election results when Rajapakses held elections and  referendums.
Semasinghe the Dean of the Commerce and management faculty who  possessed a B. Com. , M.Com., and Ph.D. qualification  was therefore  rightly selected by the president as the Vice chancellor of Kelaniya University. He secured his  Ph. D. from Queensland University , Australia . Besides he has written many  research messages to magazines , and submitted about 17 research papers at various international conferences .
In the circumstances , Sunanda the so called intellectual gathering together  some  idlers and vagabonds of his  around him and trying to  devil dance while refusing to step down is most repugnant and abhorrent. The worst part ? Sunanda is being supported by underworld criminals. Are  students behaving like criminals a matter for surprise when a University Vice Chancellor conducts himself  in this hooligan manner?
This is clearly a methodology that is being adopted by Rajapakse lackeys  and henchmen not only to hold the good governance government to ransom but also to strangulate  it.

Hence, it will be in his own best interest if Sunanda understands the circumstances in right perspective,  his own handicaps and peacefully steps down as an intellectual  decently and silently retaining at least that bit of honor remaining in him before the public are provoked to the point of revolt.
Meanwhile ten non partisan University Dons are to hold a media briefing on the 1 st of March and explain the situation  to the public. 
by     (2017-02-28 19:53:12)

Sri Lanka's RTI puts the corrupt in its crosshairs!

Sri Lanka's RTI puts the corrupt in its crosshairs!

Feb 28, 2017

Since November 2012, the students of St. Joseph's College, an all-male secondary school in Colombo, have watched a landmark tower rising over their backyard. The construction work rattled some of the classrooms closest to the Lotus Tower, as the 350 meter freestanding structure is called, and put paid to the students' former habits of scampering across the grounds behind the school to fish in a nearby lake with improvised rods.

Some of the school's alumni scoffed at the $104 million tower, funded largely by the Export-Import Bank of China and commissioned by the autocratic former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. They dismissed it as "another Rajapaksa vanity project," adding to widespread skepticism that the communications tower, once complete, with lotus petals and antenna, will be the tallest building in South Asia.
A stronger voice has delivered a harsher rebuke on this "prestige project", as officials describe it. In early February, Sunil Handunnetti, chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises, an influential parliamentary body that investigates financial losses in state institutions, said the tower was a waste of money and a drain on the economy. It is among 15 state-sponsored projects that have depleted government coffers by 110 billion rupees ($733 million), through excess spending and financial irregularities, the committee's latest report revealed.
'Game changer'
But now, Sri Lanka's Right to Information Act (RTI), a new law that came into effect on Feb. 3, holds out a promise that the public can intervene and query investments in state-backed projects while they are still on the drawing board. It is an unprecedented weapon that analysts describe as a "game changer" for transparency and accountability in Sri Lanka's political life.
This law, approved unanimously in the 225-member parliament, spares no government leader, senior bureaucrat or public institution from public scrutiny. The strength of its 43 clauses means that private companies, if they have dealings with a state body, and even non-governmental organisations can be targeted.
An independent RTI Commission, formed in the wake of the law's passage, has the teeth to go after recalcitrant public officials who stonewall information queries from the public, journalists or anti-corruption activists. The law compels officials to respond within a month, or face a two-year jail term or a fine of 50,000 rupees. "That is the stick," remarked one anti-corruption campaigner.
“The public can petition the commission to inquire if the information they wanted is not forthcoming, and the commission can take the matter to court if necessary,” Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, a member of the RTI Commission, told the Nikkei Asian Review. “The RTI in Sri Lanka has now become a right that prevails over other rights and also prevails over every other law to the extent it is inconsistent with the RTI law.”
The law made it to parliament after a nearly 20-year struggle, led by the Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka, the leading body of the country's newspaper editors. It was first conceived in 1998 as a Freedom of Information Act, and drafts were presented to government in 2003. But political turmoil and subsequent opposition from the Rajapaksa regime stymied its progress until Rajapaksa's shock defeat by Maithripala Sirisena, now president, at the January 2015 presidential polls.
Sirisena's election campaign had included a promise to pass the RTI law, which was on his government's to-do list for its first 100 days in office. "We got 90% of what we wanted in this law," said Sinha Ratnatunga, former president of the Editors' Guild. “Now we need to raise awareness and encourage the media and the public to use it.” Responses have been prompt in urban pockets across the country. A flurry of RTI requests were filed within less than a month after the law came in to force. These ranged from requests for information about missing victims of Sri Lanka's nearly 30-year civil war, which ended in 2009, to enquiries about state-backed projects -- a fertile ground for scrutiny, since any dollar-denominated project above $100,000 and local currency project above 500,000 rupees are open to an RTI petition.
Bureaucracy shake-up
The law also opens the way for the public to finally learn about the assets of the president, prime minister, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians -- which hitherto were known to select officials but could not be made public due to secrecy provisions. This has already ruffled the feathers of some government leaders.
The Sri Lanka branch of Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog, expects a shake-up of the bureaucracy in a country where officials have become infamous for asking: “Who are you?” when confronted with public requests for information.
“The bureaucracy functioned in a system that encouraged opacity and [in which] you had to establish your authority to request information," said Asoka Obeyesekere, executive director of Transparency International Sri Lanka. “The barriers to information have been very high, but people now have the right to get through them.”
Information offices in government departments are getting an early taste of an emboldened public. “It has hit us on the head,” admitted one information officer at a leading government agency, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I got a telephone call out of the blue with a request for information, and the caller said he was exerting his RTI rights."
The enforcement of this law in Sri Lanka, now among 110 countries globally with RTI statutes, brings into sharp relief the challenge of battling rampant corruption. The country continues on a downward slide in global corruption rankings, with Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index placing Sri Lanka 95th out of 176 countries surveyed in 2016, down from 83rd in 2015 -- a setback for the first two years of a coalition government under Sirisena, who defeated Rajapaksa by campaigning for "good governance".
But the scale of corruption under the almost 10-year Rajapaksa regime has been good political fodder for Sirisena. The Financial Crimes Investigation Division, a new arm of the police set up by the current president's administration, targeted Rajapksa's family and his cronies in their corruption investigations. In its crosshairs have been a former central bank governor, senior civil servants, Rajapaksa's brothers and sons, owners of a sports television network and a former ambassador. Wimal Weerawansa, a firebrand minister of the Rajapaksa regime, is languishing in Colombo's remand prison following an FCID investigation of misusing 40 state vehicles under his authority.
However, the RTI law is set to face an early trial of the extent of its reach: Will the incumbent administration open itself to embarrassing information queries? That will be a tough test, warned parliamentarian Handunnetti at an RTI seminar in Colombo. He fears political interference.
At the seminar, however, attendees were resolute, sniffing a rare opportunity for democratic accountability between election cycles. One participant pronounced confidently, “Now we won't have to wait until after the elections to learn who got rich with black money.”
- Nikkei Asian Review -

MR can’t be implicated in bond scam by issuing gazette in his name-top lawyer-DEW showers praise on two female public officials for exemplary conduct

by Shamindra Ferdinando-February 28, 2017, 10:50 pm

Senior lawyer Chrishmal Warnasuriya, on Monday (Feb 27), said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had been the minister of finance and policy planning of the previous administration, couldn’t be implicated in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) bond scam currently under investigation.

The issue in question is the CBSL decision to accept Rs. 10 bn worth of bonds as against the advertised amount of Rs.1 bn.

Warnasuriya was referring to the inclusion of the former President’s name in the controversial gazette No 1859/19 pertaining to the Feb 27, 2015 transaction.

Warnasuriya said that those who had perpetrated the massive fraud were obviously acting on wrong advice and foolishly believed that the Rajapaksas could be implicated. Whatever was in that gazette, those who had carried out the Feb 27, 2015 transaction were responsible for the situation, Warnasuriya stressed.

Warnasuriya was among the guest speakers at the launch of Rusiripala Tennekone’s Bedumkara Andaraya (The tale of the bond scam) at Mihikatha Medura, BMICH. Former Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and The General Secretary of the Communist Party D.E.W. Gunasekera, former Senior Deputy Governor of the CBSL Dr. W.A. Wijewardena and National Coordinator Sri Lanka Human Rights Foundation Dr. Chandima Wijegunawardane addressed the gathering.

Dr Wijewardena explained how the CBSL had offered Rs. 1 bn worth of 30-year treasury bonds carrying a fixed interest rate of 12.5% to the market but ended up selling bonds to a value of Rs. 10 billion. This was 10 times the original offer.

Warnasuriya said that the guilty party could have even issued the gazette even under the name of Donald Trump. They couldn’t absolve themselves of the blame for the fraud by issuing a gazette under the name of former President Rajapaksa or some other person, Warnasuriya stressed.

Former Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera pointed out that Acting Government Printer Gangani Kalpana Liyanage had put the record straight before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) earlier in the day. The veteran politician paid a glowing tribute to the Acting Government Printer for her courageous stance before the CoI. The lady had thwarted a diabolical bid to mislead the CoI, he said.

The CoI comprises serving Supreme Court judges K.T. Chithrasiri and P.S. Jayawardena and Rtd. Deputy Auditor General K. Velupillai.

The Acting Government Printer told the CoI that the institution had received the controversial gazette from the CBSL on Nov. 17, 2016 over 20 months after the original transaction. At the time, the gazette had been sent to the Government Printer, Finance Minister of the country was Ravi Karunanayke, she said.

Gunasekera pointed out that the then Superintendent of the Public Debt Department Deepa Seneviratne had had the courage to oppose Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s move to issue treasury bonds in contravention of a decision taken by the Monetary Board. The Monetary Board had decided on the basis of a paper submitted by the Public Debt Department to issue Treasury bonds in a combination of both auctions and direct sales.

Gunasekera said that the lady official had fearlessly written a note regarding the controversial directive given by Mahendran. "There are such ladies in our public service."

Although, Gunasekera didn’t make any reference to Dr. M.Z.M. Aazim, additional Superintendent of the Public Debt Department, it was he who had solidly stood by the lady officer. The CBSL moved both out of the section where they had faithfully served the institution.

At a recent event at the Colombo Municipal Council, Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe asserted that the lady official’s note had facilitated the investigations.

Gunasekera stressed that the government could have easily cancelled the transaction immediately afterwards as within hours after the issuance of treasury bonds the relevant people knew what had actually taken place. Having turned a blind eye to an unprecedented fraud, the yahapalana administration paved the way for even bigger CBSL fraud on March 29, 2016. After declaring that treasury bonds would be issued to the tune of Rs. 40 bn, the CBSL had issued treasury bonds to the tune of Rs. 77 bn, he said.

Former Minister Gunasekera later told The Island that the CBSL had sent the gazette in respect of the Feb 27, 2015 to the Government’s Printer months after the second fraudulent issuance of treasury bonds.

The gathering was told how primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries had immensely benefited due to Mahendran contravening Monetary Board directive.

Recalling the special investigation undertaken by a 13-member team of 31-member COPE during the 100-day government, Gunasekera said that Mahendran had been questioned on his taking the Singaporean oath of renunciation, allegiance and loyalty by which he had renounced loyalty to any foreign state or country. "How could a foreigner who has no allegiance to Sri Lanka, hold the governorship of the Central Bank?" former COPE Chairman Gunasekera asked.