Somawansa to form new alliance for LG polls

Somawansa AmarasingheFormer Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Somawansa Amarasinghe is to register a new alliance to contest the next Local Government (LG) elections.

He said that the new alliance will be formed by including civil society and trade union representatives.

Amarasinghe said that talks will begin early next month to form the new alliance.

The former JVP leader said that the name of the new alliance and its policies will be decided once the new alliance is formed.

Amarasinghe, who was replaced as JVP leader by Anura Kumara Dissanayake, had resigned from the party and later accused the JVP of drifting away from its ideologies. (Colombo Gazette)

Thondaman, Douglas back National Government

Thondaman_CICeylon Worker’s Congress (CWC) leader Arumugam Thondaman and Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Douglas Devananda have extended support to the National Government.

This was announced by Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake at a media conference at the SLFP headquarters today.

He said that talks are being held with other political parties as well to secure their support for the National Government.

Dissanayake said that during the Parliamentary election the public had clearly stated that they support the concept of a National Government.

He said that neither the SLFP nor the UNP could get majority support at the election and this showed that the public wanted what began on January 8 with the election of Maithripala Sirisena as President, to continue.

Dissanayake said that accordingly the SLFP and the UNP had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently to work together in a National Government.

Meanwhile, Dissanayake said that the SLFP will celebrate its 64th anniversary on September 2 in Polonnaruwa.

He said that the SLFP continues to be a strong party and the public had shown faith on the SLFP in January by electing common candidate and then SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena as the President.

Dissanayake also said that the SLFP Central Committee will meet tomorrow and the current political developments will be discussed at that meeting. (Colombo Gazette)

Zeid expected in Sri Lanka before Geneva session

ZeidThe UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, is expected to visit Sri Lanka ahead of the September session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Government sources said that Al Hussein was expected in Sri Lanka before September 14 but the dates have not been finalized. The 30th session of the UNHRC will be held from 14 September – 2 October 2015.

Sources said that Al Hussein is expected to present to the Government the report based on the investigations conducted by his office on the war in Sri Lanka.

The report was compiled based on evidence and statements submitted by witnesses and others on incidents related to the war.

Sources said that the report will make several recommendations on steps which need to be taken to hold those responsible for alleged human rights abuses during the war.

However the report will ensure the identity of those who submitted evidence is protected even if it raises concerns over transparency.

The UN Human Rights Council will discuss the much anticipated report on the war in Sri Lanka on September 30, during the 30th session of the UNHRC.

The draft agenda of the 30th session of the UNHRC notes that the report on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights will be submitted by him on September 30, followed by a discussion. (Colombo Gazette)

US to submit resolution backing Sri Lanka

NishaThe United States today said that it will be submitting a resolution in support of Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva even as the Council looks to discuss a highly critical report on alleged war crimes committed in the country.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia, Nisha Biswal told reporters today that the matter had already been discussed with the international community as there is a need to give the new Sri Lankan government time to address the human rights concerns.

The report by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council during its 30th session in Geneva next month.

Biswal who just concluded a visit to Sri Lanka said that the resolution will be consensual and will be drafted following discussions with the Sri Lankan government once the contents of the report is known.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been calling for an international independent investigation on alleged war crimes said to have been committed during the final stages of the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military.

The US had supported such calls earlier but Biswal said that the new Government has shown promise of addressing the concerns through a domestic mechanism.

Biswal said that during her visit to Sri Lanka she had discussed the matter with the TNA and impressed on the need to work with the new government to address the issues.

Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said that the international community will continue to keep the spotlight on Sri Lanka, no matter what happens in Geneva.

He said the US recognizes the efforts being taken by the Sri Lankan Government to address the human rights issue and will not set a deadline to see results.

However, he said that at the same time there are some immediate issues which the Government can address including returning land and releasing political prisoners.

He also said that in the past, the failure to meet commitments on the human rights issue had undermined confidence in a domestic process.

While the new Government is expected to face a challenge to secure confidence in the domestic process, Malinowski said the US will not judge based on promises but on results. (Colombo Gazette)

Report by Easwaran Rutnam

New cabinet to take oaths on September 2

MalikA consensus has been reached on the portfolios to be given to the members of the National Government and the new cabinet will take oaths on September 2, United National Party (UNP) Chairman Malik Samarawickrema said today.

Samarawickrema said that the UNP has maintained that it wants to create a new political culture and make the entire Parliament the Government.

As part of this move the UNP was keen to create a National Government for at least two years, the UNP chairman said.

He said that following several rounds of talks with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) an agreement has been reached on the Ministerial portfolios.

Samarawickrema said that the UNP and SLFP will need to make several sacrifices when forming the new Government but both sides have agreed to do so and will now work towards a new country in 60 months. (Colombo Gazette)

Ramaphosa did not have talks in Lanka

RamposhaThe South African President’s office has denied reports that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had talks in Sri Lanka while on his way to Japan over the weekend.

A statement by the President’s office said that Deputy President Ramaphosa did not visit Sri Lanka over the weekend as alleged in the media reports but merely refuelled in Colombo en route to Japan.

The President’s office said it also noted media reports regarding the involvement of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa with the International Crisis Group which is doing work in Lesotho, Sri Lanka and South Sudan.

Deputy President Ramaphosa was previously involved with the organisation before he was appointed in government. Since his assumption of a role in government, Deputy President Ramaphosa resigned from the International Crises Group and was replaced in his role by Ms. Cheryl Carolus. Accordingly, Deputy President Ramaphosa is no longer involved with the organisation.

Deputy President Ramaphosa is currently the Special Envoy of President Jacob Zuma to assist the people of Sri Lanka with regard the truth and reconciliation as well as constitution-making process. (Colombo Gazette)

Karzai to attend Defence Seminar in Colombo

Hamid-KarzaiFormer President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai will attend the annual defence seminar which will be held next month.

The Ministry of Defence said that final touches are now underway in preparation for ‘Defence Seminar – 2015’ which will be held on September  1-2 at the Colombo Galadari Hotel with the participation of more than 350 participants, including 62 foreign delegates and distinguished statesmen.

This year’s sessions, themed on ‘National Security in the Context of Emerging Global Threats’ are segmented into nine sessions under sub themes such as ‘Nature of Threats Affecting the National Security of a Nation’, ‘Emerging World Order’, ‘Terrorism and Challenges to National Security’ and ‘Non-military Threats to National Security’.

Karzai, B.M.U.D Basnayake, Secretary Defence and Lieutenant General Chrishanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army are scheduled to deliver the keynote address and introductory remarks respectively during the opening sessions on the first day.

Christoper Coker, Professor of International Relations at London School of Economics, Dr. Matteo Legrenzi, Associate Professor of International Relations School of International Relations, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice,  Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Dr. W. Lawrence S. Prabhakar, Professor of Strategic Studies and International Relations, Department of Political Science, Madras University, India,  Maj Gen (Retd) Syed Shakeel Hussain High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Lady Olga Maitland, Former President of the Defence and Security Forum (UK), Dr. Uttam Sinha, Former Indian representative, Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, Prof Rashed Uz Zaman, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka,  Yi Xianliang Ambassador of China to Sri Lanka and  Dr. Chris Nonis, Former High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to UK are among speakers at the sessions.

‘Defence Seminar’, now a leading annual event in the Army calendar was initiated in 2011 as an intellectual interactive session to discuss geo-strategic security matters with 160 delegates from 60 nations. (Colombo Gazette)

Resolution at NPC by Sivaji blocked by chair

Sivajilingam-01A resolution which was submitted at the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) today by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member M K Shivajilingam was blocked by the chairman of the council CVK Sivagnanam.

Shivajilingam said that the resolution calls for an independent international investigation into the war in Sri Lanka.

Sivagnanam had told the TNA member that the resolution cannot be debated today as it did not have the support of the council.

However Sivagnanam had then wanted to have the debate on another date but the chairman had not responded positively.

Shivajilingam told the Colombo Gazette that the stand of the TNA is that the investigation on the war should not be a domestic process.

He said that he and the TNA will continue to push for an international investigation to ensure the Tamils get justice. (Colombo Gazette)

Court summons Mervyn Silva over abductions

MervynThe Colombo Chief Magistrate’s court today issued summons on former Parliamentarian Mervyn Silva to give evidence on alleged abductions and disappearances.

The Chief Magistrate has ordered the former Minister to appear in court on November 11.

Silva had in January claimed that an official of the former Government was responsible for abductions and extra-judicial killings, including that of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga.

The former Minister had also filed a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) against the former regime. (Colombo Gazette)

Susil resigns from UPFA General Secretary post

Susil PremajayanthaUnited People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) member Susil Premajayantha has resigned as the General Secretary of the alliance.

Premajayantha has sent a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena informing him of his decision to resign, the President’s office said.

Professor Vishwa Warnapala is currently the acting General Secretary of the alliance.

Government briefs US on domestic war crimes probe

06The Government today briefed the United States on the domestic process to investigate alleged war crimes, ahead of a critical report set to be released in Geneva.

Sri Lanka and the United States also reaffirmed a commitment to work towards reconciliation after the new Government took office.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met visiting US Secretary of State Nisha Biswal and briefed her on the measures being taken to address concerns regarding alleged human rights violations, including independent domestic mechanisms.

Samaraweera told reporters after the meeting that Sri Lanka and the US continued the dialogue that began following the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January.

“During our previous meeting and following my visit to Washington we agreed to rebuild our multifaceted relationship. Several new areas of cooperation were identified during the very successful visit of Secretary Kerry to Colombo in May this year. We discussed steps taken by the Government to promote reconciliation and strengthen the rule of law. This is part of the government’s overall objective of ensuring good governance, respect for human rights and strengthening our economy,” the Foreign Minister said.

Nisha Biswal said that she was in the country to reaffirm the strong support of the US for Sri Lanka, for the Sri Lankan people and for the commitment of the Sri Lankan Government and the Sri Lankan people towards the path of democracy.

Biswal, who met Justice Minister Wijeydasa Rajapaksha earlier in the day, said that the progress seen in Sri Lanka and the story which is unfolding, stands as a testimony to the rest of the world.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, who also attended the talks today with the Foreign Minister, said the US does not expect miracles from Sri Lanka within a short period of time.

Malinowski said the people of Sri Lanka have clearly stated that they support change and the Sri Lankan Government is working towards meeting the expectations of the people.

He said the US is willing to work with Sri Lanka to keep the process going forward so long as the Government of Sri Lanka keeps making courageous decisions . (Colombo Gazette)

AUDIO:

US official in charge of human rights in Lanka

Tom MalinowskiA top US Government official in charge of human rights is in Sri Lanka ahead of the release of a war crimes report on Sri Lanka in Geneva.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski is in Sri Lanka together with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal.

Biswal arrived in Sri Lanka today and will be in Sri Lanka till tomorrow, She arrived with Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski.

They plan to meet with senior government officials, political party and civil society leaders, and the private sector in the spirit of partnership that Secretary Kerry highlighted during his May visit.

The State Department said that their trip will focus on U.S.-Sri Lanka cooperation to further economic growth, strengthen good governance and democratic institutions, and promote reconciliation and justice.

Assistant Secretary Biswal will continue to New Delhi, India for meetings with government leaders August 26-27 while Assistant Secretary Malinowski will continue with meetings in Sri Lanka until August 27. (Colombo Gazette)

Mangala, Wijeydasa and Swaminathan take oaths

07Three new cabinet Ministers took oaths before President Maithripala Sirisena today, ahead of the formal appointments of the new cabinet.

Mangala Samaraweera took oaths as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wijeydasa Rajapaksha the Minister of Justice and D.M. Swaminathan as the Minister of Rehabilitation.

The remaining cabinet Ministers are scheduled to take oaths tomorrow.

After taking oaths, Samaraweera re-affirmed his commitment to “faithfully perform the duties and discharge the functions of the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in accordance with the Constitution”.

This is the third time Minister Samaraweera will hold the portfolio, having held it for the first time between November 2005 and January 2007, and for the second time between January 2015 and August 2015.

After the ceremony, Minister Samaraweera said that he would “build, with even greater vigour, on the tremendous goodwill the international community extended to Sri Lanka after the January 8 revolution”, adding that, “this intensification of engagement and strengthening of relations will be made possible by the political stability arising from the decisive mandate given by the people in the general election”.

He said that he would “place economic diplomacy at the centre of Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs – focusing on promoting trade, tourism and investment”.

Minister Samaraweera also noted that “restructuring the Foreign Ministry and the rationalization of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions abroad was an urgent priority”. (Colombo Gazette)

Gota makes statement at Presidential Commission

gotabhaya-rajapakseFormer Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa made a statement today before the Presidential Commission investigating allegations of large scale corruption.

He was asked to appear before the commission to make a statement over allegations of fraud and corruption at Rakna Lanka.

The allegations of fraud had reportedly taken place when Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was the Defence Secretary.

Ranil hopeful of political solution to Tamil question

RANIL_WICKRAMASING_2521384fPrime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is confident and hopeful that the political situation in Sri Lanka following the August 17 general election, although complex, is favourable for forging an enduring political solution to the Tamil question.

Noting that the two main national parties, his United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and the Tamil National Alliance were “the three key players” in formulating the proposals for an enduring solution, he said he had “tried to keep the UNP position flexible so that we can bridge the differences.” Responding to a question on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, he confirmed that she would have a significant role to play in this regard.

The Sri Lankan political situation has taken an interesting turn with the narrow victory of the United National Party in the general election, its leader being sworn in as Prime Minister for the fourth time, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two main parties, the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, paving the way for a ‘unity’ or national government.

A day after he assumed office, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe spoke to The Hindu at Temple Trees on a wide range of issues, including the project of working out a new Constitution for Sri Lanka, finding an enduring political solution to the Tamil question, and livelihood, development, and human rights issues.

Asked about time lost after the war with the LTTE ended in 2009 and the prospects of moving towards an enduring political solution now, Mr. Wickremesinghe responded: “There have been a lot of administrative barriers, which have to be removed. Secondly, there has been a request by some of the Provincial Councils that as far as the powers exercised jointly, by both the Centre and the Provinces, concurrent powers, are concerned, some of it could be transferred to the Provinces. Those are the main issues and we have to work this out.”

To a question about how the two sides could avoid getting caught in a terminological dispute over a ‘unitary’ versus ‘federal’ solution, he said: “Substance is what we have to look at. The formula which was accepted by India also, let’s see how we work it out within the 13th Amendment, maximise it. Let’s build on this. That’s what we are talking about now.”

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister also expressed hope that a political consensus could be reached within months on a new Constitution for Sri Lanka, especially because the issues that needed to be resolved were fairly narrow.

Sangakkara signs off with 18 runs

sangakkara-krrB--621x414@LiveMintSri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara was dismissed for 18 in his final international innings, ending a remarkable 15-year career during the second Test against India in Colombo on Sunday.

A full house of around 7,000 was in attendance at the P. Sara Oval to watch the fifth-highest run-getter in Test history play for the last time as Sri Lanka chased a tough victory target of 413.

Sangakkara did not have to wait long in the dressing room after the hosts lost opener Kaushal Silva in the third over, tapping a full toss from Ravichandran Ashwin to the short mid-wicket fielder.

The crowd applauded warmly as Sangakkara was welcomed to the crease by two guards of honour—one formed by young children with raised bats near the boundary and another by Indian fielders.

The left-hander began by flicking the first ball from Ashwin for two runs and then clipped seamer Ishant Sharma off his pads for his first boundary.

Sangakkara hit two more fours, but fell to Ashwin for the fourth time in as many innings in the series when he edged a catch to Murali Vijay off the 18th ball he faced.

The Indian fielders shook hands with Sangakkara as he walked off for one last time to a standing ovation from the crowd.

“Thank you for all the love,” Sangakkara wrote on his twitter feed @KumarSanga2 soon after play ended. “Been my privilege to play for my country and in front of all the fans.”

Sangakkara finished with 12,400 runs from 134 Tests at an average of 57.40. He scored 38 centuries, including a best of 319 against Bangladesh in Chittagong last year.

Sangakkara follows Sachin Tendulkar of India, Ricky Ponting of Australia, Jacques Kallis of South Africa and Rahul Dravid of India in the all-time list of leading Test scorers.

Tendulkar, who retired in 2013, tweeted: “Well played @KumarSanga2. You have been a terrific ambassador for the game and a thorough gentleman. Warm welcome to the club of the retired!”

Former team-mate Mahela Jayawardene, with whom Sangakkara shared a world record partnership of 624 against South Africa in 2006, said he was proud of his close friend’s achievements.

“It wasn’t to be in this match but what he was for Sri Lanka cricket is something that you can’t take away. Very proud of you mate,” Jayawardene wrote. (Courtesy AFP)

President gives SLFP members freedom to choose

Maithripala SirisenaPresident Maithripala Sirisena has decided to allow Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members to choose if they want to join the National Government or sit in the opposition.

SLFP member Namal Rajapaksa said that the SLFP Central Committee had informed the party members that they can choose between sitting in the opposition or being part of the National Government with the United National Party (UNP).

“I choose to sit in the opposition as a part of the SLFP representing Hambantota,” he tweeted.

The SLFP and the United National Party had last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together in a National Government.

It was later reported that disciplinary action will be taken against any SLFP member who sits with the opposition in Parliament.

However now the President has decided to allow SLFP members who want to sit with the opposition the freedom to do so while others sit with the Government. (Colombo Gazette)

Local monitors question move to include losers

Keerthi Tenakoon CaffeLocal election monitors have questioned the decision taken by the main political parties to name candidates who lost the Parliamentary election on the national list.

The Campaign for a Free and Fair Election (CaFFE) said that while the move is not illegal it is unethical.

The Executive Director of CaFFE, Keerthi Tenakoon noted that the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has included seven members who lost the election in the national list.

He also noted that the United National Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna have also included candidates who lost the election to the national list while the Tamil National Alliance is also looking at including two candidates who lost the election, on its national list.

Tenakoon said that the political parties are using the existing election laws to bring to parliament, through the national list, candidates who lost the Parliamentary election.

He said that the decision to bring to parliament, through the back door, candidates who lost the election raises the question if the verdict given by the voter is being disregarded.

Tenakoon said that local election laws must be amended to ensure that candidates who lose an election are unable to return to parliament through the national list. (Colombo Gazette)

South Africa and Japan to hold talks on Sri Lanka

RamposhaSouth Africa and Japan are to hold talks on  peace-building efforts, rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka.

South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa left for Japan yesterday where he will meet Ambassador Yasushi Akashi to have talks on Sri Lanka.

Cyril Ramaphosa is meeting Akashi in his role as South African President Jacob Zuma’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka.

Ramaphosa and his delegation is in Japan to increase collaboration and partnerships in the fields of science and technology to boost economic growth and create jobs.

They would also strengthen their alignment on global issues of mutual concern, the enhancement of multilateral institutions and the reform of global politics and economic governance.

They would also promote increased trade and investment in Africa through the strengthening of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) partnership.

From Monday, Ramaphosa and his ministers will pay courtesy calls to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and hold discussions with the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Sadakazu Tanigaki. (Colombo Gazette)

Ban speaks to PM, assures UN support

BanUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe today and assured the support of the United Nations to Sri Lanka.

The Secretary-General congratulated the Prime Minister on his election and commended his message of good governance and national unity. He noted that the peaceful nature of the polls as well as high voter turn-out were in part a reflection of this message.

The Secretary-General encouraged the Prime Minister and the national unity government to seize this opportunity to advance long-term peace for all Sri Lankans. He wished him success in the important task that lay before him.

The Secretary-General reiterated the United Nations commitment and support to the Sri Lankan people, the President, the Prime Minister and the new Government. (Colombo Gazette)