House of commons debate Sri Lanka
Renewed battle with Nandalal and Finance Ministry
Why opposition mute on govt. patronized media
The budget for the year 2023 is scheduled to be presented to the Parliament next week. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe introduced an interim budget for a few months after assuming the office of President, but since this is the first time a budget is presented for a specific year, there is no mistake in considering this as the first full budget of the President. However, many are in the view because the country is stuck in a severe economic crisis, the government’s income needs to grow, and the conditions of the International Monetary Fund need to be fulfilled, a budget may be presented this time that burdens the people with taxes upon taxes.
Pohottuwa’s on budget
However, last week we reported on this column how Pohottuwa is preparing to take some political decision targeting the budget despite the fact that Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe was chosen as the President with the support of Pohottuwa. There we said that if Pohottuwa does not get the ministerial posts that Pohottuwa requested, they are planning to defeat the budget heads of several selected ministers of the government, and for that S.B. Dissanyaka had several rounds of discussions with party members.
About a month ago, Ranil was informed that Pohottuwa should be given this ministerial post. That was before Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, who is considered the mastermind of Pohottuwa, left for America. Basil sent a letter to Ranil and informed him those 12 names of Pohottua’s seniors who should be given Cabinet ministries but because Ranil didn’t like Basil’s list of names, he was delaying giving ministerial positions.
But with reports that Pohottuwa is planning to launch an operation targeting the budget, Ranil took steps to leave a message to Basil in America before leaving for Egypt for the 27th climate Conference last week. In that message, Ranil informed Basil that he is ready to reshuffle the cabinet after his trip to Egypt, and that he is ready to give the position of minister to a few key people from the list of names that have been sent. Ranil had also taken steps to mention the names of some seniors from Pohottuwa representing districts like Ratnapura and Nuwara Eliya.
However, Basil was not very happy with Ranil’s response. Accordingly, Basil responded to that and informed once again Ranil not to do so, and that if ministerial posts are given to only a section, a crisis may be created in the pohottuwa. But that Ranil has not responded to it so far.
Call from Sagara to Basil
Meanwhile, a conversation was held last week between Pohottuwa’s Secretary General, Mr. Sagara Kariyawasam, and Basil. There Sagara asked Basil about the appointment of ministers in Pohottuwa and the holding of the upcoming local government elections. Here, Basil maintained silence to regarding the appointment of ministers. Sagara informed Basil that the Pohottu councilors were planning to defeat some of the Ministers’ expenditure headings in the budget due to this, but Basil did not mention anything about it.
But regarding the local government election, Basil informed Sagara precisely about the position to be taken. There, Basil said that the Pohottuwa local government election should be strongly advocated, and that the government currently does not have the ability to hold a general election in the country. Also, Basil informed Sagara that he will come to Sri Lanka as soon as the local government elections are announced, and that he will give full leadership to the election campaign. Sagara, in a press conference last week, stated that pohottuwa is ready to face any election after this discussion with Basil
The government is playing their old game
In the meantime, with the reports that Pohottu MPs are preparing to defeat certain budget headings, it was observed that the government started a massive media campaign once again to spread the word that many MPs from the opposition are ready to join the government. This is not the first time that the government has ‘planted’ media reports that a large number of MPs from the opposition will join the government.
Even when the cabinet was appointed after Ranil was sworn in as the president, the government took steps to plant news through the collaboration of many media channels that a large number of MPs from the opposition would join the cabinet. The government took steps to carry out this campaign by using the media like ‘Derana’ and ‘Lankadeepa’ and once on the front page of the ‘Aruna’ newspaper belonging to the ‘Derana’ media network, the name of Samagi Jana Balawegaye General Secretary Mr. Ranjith Maddumabandara was mentioned along with 20 SJB MPs are joining the government.
But the very next day, Ranjith Maddumabandara held a press conference and informed that the news is completely false and that neither he nor any of the SJB MPs will join the government or the cabinet. According to that, the government’s media operation by seizing several media saying that 10 SJB are coming turned out to be in shambles. In the end, the media, which along with the government, had to take off their clothes and stand naked.
Thirteen opposition members to join the government?
In the same way, at the moment when the budget is ready to be presented, it was observed last week government backed aforementioned media once again launched the campaign that the opposition MPs are ready to join the government. According to that, last week not only those media houses but also many pro-government websites had reported news like ‘9 people from the opposition are coming to the government’ and ’13 people are coming to the government’ during the budget. The most significant here is that there is no responsible person’s name was in this news. The news has no confirmed source. All the media, including Derana, had reported the news in an unconfirmed and irresponsible manner such as ‘Government sources mention’.
Will Rajitha join the government?
However, after the publication of this news, when many inquired about it, it was noted that there is information that Mr. Rajitha Senaratne is preparing to join the government. The reason for this is that Rajitha and his son Chatura Senaratne have expressed their opinion that they should join the government in some discussions that have been held in the past. It was confirmed again last week when Rajitha commented appreciating Ranil and his program. There, Rajitha had said that Ranil is doing a great service to the country, and that he too has been invited to accept a ministerial post, and that he can get a ministerial post at any time.
However, despite Rajitha’s statement in this manner, it was said that two opinions have arisen within the government regarding Rajitha’s appointment as a minister. There, many have questioned Ranil whether the government will gain an advantage by taking Rajitha at this moment.
They have pointed out to Ranil that taking Rajitha will be disadvantageous to the government and through that SJB will be purified and SJB will become a party with new faces. Those MPs have informed Ranil that if Rajitha is taken, he should not be taken alone, if Rajitha can be taken along with six or seven other SJB MPs, it will be beneficial to the government. If not, it is said that their position is that taking Rajitha into the government will be disadvantageous for the government.
The stories related to Sajith about Rajitha
While the majority of people were saying this to Ranil about Rajitha, only a very few people have informed Ranil to bring anyone from the opposition, not Rajitha, as a minister at this time to join the government. Regardless of any accusations against Rajitha or any displeasure within the country, their position was that it would be an advantage for the government to bring one person from the opposition to the government at this time. But it was seen that the number of people who said this was very low.
In this way, when there were rumors about Rajitha within the government, there was some uproar among the SJB youth MPs. Reason for this is that, they came to know that Sajith is trying to keep Rajitha in the party. Accordingly, these young MPs who met Sajith last week have informed that if Rajitha takes a ministerial position and goes to the government, let him go and not to try to keep him in the party any longer.
These young MPs pointed out to Sajith that Rajitha’s joining the government is an advantage for SJB. Accordingly, Sajith later discussed this with several senior members of the party and they also informed Sajith that there is no disadvantage for the party if Rajitha joined the government. Accordingly, it is known that Rajitha is likely to join the government based on the current situation.
Does the opposition have no backbone to attack the media?
However, a question that has arisen for many people is whether 13 or 9 will join the government as stated by Derana or Lankadeepa or other websites. Even when Ranil became the president and appointed the cabinet, some media started reporting false news with names saying that 15 to 20 members of the opposition would join the government.
But because of the belief in the media, the people of the country also thought that 20 people from the opposition would join the government by believing what the media said. But not a single person from the opposition went to the government. What happened was that the government’s dirty contracts were fulfilled and the credibility of the media among the people was broken. Or is it just a further confirmation of the lie made to the people during the last presidential election by showing that he came from the world of snakes.
Also, the members of the opposition must have a backbone to expose the country’s lies that several media are working together to deceive the people of the country. The opposition should have the ability to expose the destruction not only to the media but also to the country through the media’s lies.
If the opposition does not fulfill that responsibility, we are ready to fulfill that responsibility as a responsible media. We are ready to take any risk for that. Accordingly, we are ready to expose the lies told to the country by the media who claim to be telling the truth to this country in the past with one example after another. It is not because of anything else, but because the people of this country need to reestablish trust in the media, and the people of this country need to know about the media that lie among the real media.
Gota goes to Mahinda’s house
Last week, we made a special disclosure on the ‘State Secrets’ channel about a serious explosion in the Rajapaksa family. There we said that serious divisions in the Rajapaksa family had arisen due to the 22nd amendment, and Chamal, Shashindra and Namal voted in favor of it while Basil and Pohottuwe’s group protested. We mentioned that it had the blessing of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Accordingly, a few days after the 22nd amendment was passed, former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa went to his official residence to meet his brother, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda used to reside in an official house located at Wijerama Mawatha, but now Mahinda and his family are staying in another official house located at Buller’s Road due to the renovation work being done there.
Although Gota’s time, Mahinda submitted a cabinet paper requesting more than 400 million rupees for the renovation of the official house located in Wijerama Mawatha, but Gota had not given his consent. But after Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe became the president, this cabinet paper was presented again and it was a special event that Ranil took steps to pass it.
According to that, the official residence in Wijerama Mawatha is currently being repaired and it is known that separate buildings are being constructed so that Mahinda’s children and grandchildren can also live there. Although more than 400 million was allocated for the construction of these buildings at that time, many people believe that due to the current price increase, the amount will exceed 800 million.
What Mahinda ask from Gota
However, after Gota went to meet Mahinda, a friendly discussion was seen between the two. Moments after this discussion started, Gota took steps to reveal the reason why he came to meet Mahinda. That is to request that Mahinda’s official residence be given to him. Currently, Gota lives in a large official residence on the edge of the Malalasekara Mawatha highway, but it has become a great disturbance for Gota because he always hears the sound of vehicles and the sound of loudspeakers in the Bandaranaike conference hall located next to it.
Accordingly, all the time Gota had informed Mahinda and Ranil to give them another official residence. The purpose of Gota’s trip was to request that Mahinda’s house on Buller’s Road be vacant when Mahinda moved there after the renovation of the official residence at Wijerama Mawatha.
When Gota talked to Mahinda about this question, it was first seen how Mahinda listened to it without giving any answer. Finally, after Gota finished talking, Mahinda asked Gota only one question. He said, ‘When are you going to America now?’ Through this, Mahinda had told Gota without telling him to put aside the work of looking for new houses and arrange to go to America. It is not clear whether Gota understood it or not, but Gota replied that some problems had arisen in that regard, and that he would leave for America as soon as they were resolved.
How Gota is trying to go to America
In addition to this, this time we are ready to make another strange revelation from the ‘Rajya Rahas’ column regarding Gota. It is about a new trump card that Gota has played to go to America. Earlier, in a special disclosure to the country for the first time in this column, we said that a human rights case has been filed by the State Attorney General of the Los Angeles Court.
Because of that, we also mentioned that there may be a problematic situation for Gotha to enter America. In addition, Gota has already submitted applications to the Green Card facility to enter the United States, and according to the information we have, it is also uncertain . Under this situation, there are only a few opportunities left for Gota to enter America. One of those opportunities is to enter America as an ambassador representing Sri Lanka. Then Gota will be able to escape from most of the legal obligations.
Accordingly, it has been learned that Gota has already made a request to the government to grant him the position of Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in the United States. Currently, the position is held by a former Chief Justice, Mr. Mohan Peiris. Although Gota had submitted this request to the government, it has been learned that there has been no good response from the President’s side so far. However, there is currently a serious problem regarding whether Gota’s hanging can be accomplished in practice.
The Ranil Nandalal clash
On several occasions, we have revealed through this channel that there has been some kind of political rivalry between the current Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe and Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. Former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who thought that the economy had reached a state of chaos during the tenure of former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabral, handed it over to Nandalal Weerasinghe to restore it. At that time, Nandalal was in Australia working with the International Monetary Fund. After receiving Gota’s invitation, Nandalal accepted it and immediately came from Australia and took steps to take over the position of Governor of the Central Bank.
However, with Ranil Wickramasinghe assuming the post of Prime Minister of the government after the riots of July 09, Ranil’s opposition to Nandalal could be seen slowly coming out. Once Ranil had sent a message to the President to remove Nandalal through a third party, and Gota sent a message to the same party saying that he would not remove Nandalal at all and that Ranil could leave if needed. Ranil later met Gota and expressed this protest, but even there Gota took Nandalal’s side. Finally, the conflict escalated when going to give Nandalal a service extension. In giving the extension of service, the President had to get the permission of Ranil, who was the Minister of Finance, and it was seen that Ranil did not give that recommendation. But in the end, due to strong influence from Gota, Ranil decided to give his recommendation for Nandalal’s service extension.
However, after Ranil became president, Nandalal got the opportunity to continue in that position, so many people thought that the conflict between Ranil and Nandalal was over by now. But the information reported to the Rajya Rahas column says that this conflict is not over yet, it is emerging like sparks under the ashes.
Is Arjun Mahendran coming back?
Citing unofficial sources, we said a few weeks ago on the ‘Rajya Rahas’ column that Ranil went to Singapore during his visit to Japan and attended a dinner with former Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran. After this revelation we made, SJB Member of Parliament S.M. Marikkar asked Ranil about this in Parliament. Although Ranil replied to Marikkar there, it was not seen that he tried to deny the statement.
As we know, it was Arjun Mahendran who worked very closely with Ranil as the Governor of the Central Bank. Arjun was also a close confidant of Ranil. Accordingly, it is said that in the informal discussion held in Singapore, Ranil has been assured that Arjun can help build the economy from Singapore without coming to Sri Lanka. Although this has not yet been confirmed by any party, it has been seen that more attention has been paid to it in the talks in the political field.
Ranil Nandalal clashes once again
On the other hand, the ‘State Secrets’ belt has heard that a conflict has arisen between Ranil and Nandalal once again. The reason for this is that allegations have been made that the central bank under Nandalal does not get any support for the policy decisions taken by the Ministry of Finance under the President. Many have informed the President that the Central Bank will not implement the proposals forwarded by the Ministry of Finance and reject them.
It is also news that the officials have informed the President that it will adversely affect the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Also, several UNP stalwarts have pointed out to the President that the Governor of the Central Bank has not carried out several of the instructions he had previously given, and as a result, many serious crises have arisen. According to this, it seems that many accusations against the Governor of the Central Bank have been presented to the President.
Pressure to quit
According to the information we have, it is said that several operations have already been launched by the government to force the governor of the central bank to leave his position. It has also been seen that this operation has been implemented by accusing the central bank governor of disrupting the government’s affairs. In addition to this, the ‘Rajya Rahas’ column has informed that there is a plan to launch an operation against the Governor of the Central Bank through the media and to launch attacks in and outside the Parliament through third parties. However, it is news that the Governor of the Central Bank has not yet responded to these pressures.
Ranil’s challenge to Basil then
These days, debates have arisen again and again about the International Monetary Fund and the agreement the government has made with that institution, both in Parliament and outside. Earlier, during the time of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a similar debate emerged. It is related to the failure of the then Minister of Finance Mr. Basil Rajapaksa to submit the agreement reached with the Financial Fund to the Parliament.
At that time, in an all-party meeting chaired by the President, the then Member of Parliament Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe questioned Basil at length and asked when this agreement would be submitted to the Parliament. There was a heated exchange of words between Ranil and Basil and at that time media had also taken steps to give a lot of publicity. Ranil strongly said that the parliamentarians have the right to know about this agreement and it is the government’s responsibility to provide it to the parliament.
Even though Ranil said that as a Member of Parliament then, even though Ranil is currently acting as the President, the President has not yet taken steps to submit this agreement to the Parliament. Although the opposition has protested for it on several occasions, neither the president nor the government has yet taken steps to respond to it.
The agreement has reached Harsha
In spite of that, last week, Dr. Harsha de Silva worked to bring this agreement, which was hidden by the government, to the Parliament. While showing the agreement, Harsha said some facts, Mr. Ranjith Siambalapitiya, the acting Finance Minister of the government, got very upset and told Harsha not to disclose its details to the country, as it could cause some disturbance in the country. Harsha also said that as a responsible opposition, he will not submit the agreement to the Parliament. The most special thing that came to be seen through this was that there are serious matters in the terms of the relevant agreement, and the government is thinking that if they are revealed, a crisis situation may arise in the country.
The next session is in March
However, although there is a preliminary agreement between the financial fund and the government regarding the provision of the loan amount, no agreement has yet been signed regarding the provision of the loan amount. Mr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank, once said that the agreement could be signed in December, and according to that, it would be possible to get the money by December. But under the current situation, it has been seen that the receipt of money from the financial fund will drag on until March next year. This is due to the fact that the next meeting of the financial fund is scheduled for next March. Accordingly, the decision on granting the relevant loan amount will be available after next March.
House of Commons debate Sri Lanka
Sanctions, demilitarization, and ICC referral – British MPs demand action on Sri Lanka.In a wide-ranging debate focused on Sri Lanka, British MPS from across the political aisle unified in their demand for the UK government to act on Sri Lanka in the form of Magnitsky-style sanctions; refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court; urge Sri Lanka to meet its GSP+ commitments; and, dramatically reduce its bloated military spending.
Opening the debate, Elliot Colburn, Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington and Chair of the All-Parliamentary Group for Tamils, stressed the need to go beyond to the latest UN Human Rights Council resolution.
“The new resolution certainly is a step in the right direction to achieving justice and accountability, but—with respect— we have had resolutions before. International action at the Human Rights Council on its own is not enough. The resolution falls short of providing a mechanism to truly investigate war crimes and pursue criminal accountability”.
Colburn further emphasised the need for Sri Lankan war criminals to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
“Specific resources need to be raised to build cases against those who are accused of war crimes and to prosecute them. Criminal accountability should be pursued by referral to the International Criminal Court. Those who commit war crimes should not enjoy immunity because the state in question is unwilling or unable to prosecute them”.
His statement was supported by Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, who asked why the latest UN resolution failed to include a referral to the ICC.
“In the most recent UN resolution, to which the UK was a penholder, why was there no recommendation to pursue criminal accountability by referral to the International Criminal Court?”
She went on to state;
“I could barely believe my eyes when reading the Government’s reasoning, which cited ‘insufficient…Security Council support’. Who are we to cast a veto for China or Russia before they have done so themselves? Our role on the international stage must be to send the loudest message that impunity will not be tolerated, not to pre-empt the inaction of other nations”.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, also questioned why the latest resolution was “so weak” and urged for action.
“We must move beyond words, and instead campaign to use the International Criminal Court proactively against war criminals such as the Rajapaksa brothers”.
She further questioned, “why has Britain failed to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on any Sri Lankan official implicated in human rights abuses or corruption?”
Colburn’s statement also stressed the need for target sanctions on war criminals such as Shavendra Silva, Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff and Kamal Gunaratne, Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary.
James Murray, MP for Ealing North and Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, echoed calls for sanctions on Sri Lankan individuals who are credibly accused of war crimes, including Silva.
“Silva was the head of Sri Lanka’s notorious 58 Division: an army unit that committed grave violations of international law and oversaw a military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils. I urge the Minister to commit the Government to sanctioning General Silva under the terms of the British Government’s global human rights sanctions regime.”
In his intervention, Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford, asked the Minister:
“Does he agree that it is important to do everything to catch those soldiers as well? The generals can be caught, because they are big names, but the soldiers need to know that they cannot get away with it either.”
Atrocities Sri Lanka’s military
During his statement, Colburn further highlighted the atrocities Sri Lanka’s military engaged in, which included the indiscriminate shelling of hospitals, civilian no-fire zones, and sexual violence. He notes one woman’s account as documented by Human Rights Watch;
“The army made us strip completely in front of the children. All the women were made to walk around the soldiers in a circle. The soldiers were laughing at us. All the women were then raped in front of everyone. My daughter and I were raped in front of her children. I was raped in front of my grandchildren. After about two hours, the soldiers asked a naked boy and girl, who didn’t know each other, to hug each other at gunpoint. As they hugged due to fear, they were shot in front of our eyes.”
“These atrocities did not take place during a medieval skirmish hundreds of years ago; they took place in a Commonwealth country in 2009”, Colburn states.
describing Sri Lanka’s economic demise, former Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell noted that the country’s poverty was not a natural result but due to the political and military framework of the island.
Sri Lanka “has natural resources on a scale any other country would wish for and dream of, including natural mineral resources, and agriculture resources. The problem is that a political and military complex now controls the economy for its own interests. As a result, we have extremes of wealth and poverty through not just mismanagement but calculated management by the military who dominate the economy”.
This point was also raised by Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, who stressed that the British government must “find a way to ensure that any bailout from international institutions be accompanied by rigorous efforts to root out cronyism and corruption in Sri Lanka, and cut the irrationally large military spending budget”.
“The failure to include Tamils in economic activity, a large defence budget that supports a disproportionately large military corruption and, of course, poor fiscal policies has led Sri Lanka’s economy to the brink of bankruptcy. For Sri Lanka to be rescued, it needs to reduce its military spending, which stands at $1.86 billion per annum. That makes it one of the largest militaries in the world and costs more than its health and education budgets combined,” noted Elliot Colburn.
He further highlighted the corrosive effects of militarisation, stating:
“The militarisation of the country is also firmly linked to the deteriorating human rights situation on the island. The Prevention of Terrorism Act has been used to target predominately Muslim and Tamil communities, resulting in arbitrary detention, sexual torture and enforced disappearances.
In fact, Sri Lanka has the second highest number of UN-registered enforced disappearances in the world, most of whom are Tamils. Furthermore, the Sri Lankan military is engaged in commercial activities in the north-east, including tourism, farming and fishing, which stifles the local economy and prevents Tamils from contributing to economic activity in any meaningful way.
That needs to be stopped to allow for regional economic regeneration. Sri Lanka also needs to conduct a strategic defence and security review, similar to the one that the UK completed in 2021, to ensure that its military size reflects its security requirements”.
Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, also detailed the issue of militarisation in her statement and stressed the need for the UK to use its position with the UN, Commonwealth, and IMF to support peaceful political reform in Sri Lanka.
“For the Tamil community, this period has also been marked by ongoing oppression and violation of their human rights. The homeland of the minority Tamil population in north-east Sri Lanka has seen a dramatic increase in military presence.
According to the British Tamils Forum, there is now one soldier for every six civilians in the region. That is an intimidatingly high concentration of military personnel. Defence spending has also soared way above and beyond previous levels, contributing towards the economic crisis” she told parliament.
Claudia Webbe, also highlighted issues of corruption in her statement noting:
“We must never forget the large-scale corruption of the Rajapaksa regime, including the stealing of funds from the bilateral private credit lines the country procured. As we know, information has come to light that there could be $10 billion of foreign reserves hiding in overseas accounts, including in tax havens in UK territories such as the Cayman Islands.
Along with other nations in the global south that suffer at the hands of a global economy that favours the global north, we must call on multilateral institutions to cancel debt collection at this critical time, as we did for Ukraine.”
GSP+ trade privileges
Ed Davey, spoke on the need to repeal Sri Lanka’s EU trade privileges under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences +.
“I have heard officials say that the argument for giving Sri Lanka those benefits is that it enables the EU and the UK to exercise some influence—that, due to the existence of the trade benefits, they can monitor whether the Sri Lankan Government are abiding by the conditions or making progress towards meeting them. I have never found that argument terribly convincing, but it is very convenient” Davey told parliament.
“People say, ‘We know they’re in breach, but they’re going to make some progress, so we’ll forget the conditions existed’. That is not good enough” he added.
Davey further questioned;
“Is there any evidence that that influence has resulted in any change in the Sri Lankan Government’s performance in respect of those conditions? I am afraid that, once again, the overwhelming evidence is that it has not”.
The Liberal Democrat leader further noted the continued use of Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and warned against Sri Lanka’s proposed rehabilitation bill.
“The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act that the Sri Lankan Government have implemented, and enforced primarily against Tamils and Muslim Sri Lankans, must be repealed. The Minister might not have heard this or been briefed on it, but I hear reports that the Sri Lankan Government are thinking of repealing the Act but of replacing it with a system based on the Chinese system of managing these issues. That would be a backward step as the Chinese influence in Colombo increases, and it would not help the Tamils whatever”.
Families of the Disappeared
In her statement, Theresa Villiers raised the plight of the Tamil Families of the Disappeared, noting that whilst; “the establishment of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) looked like such a positive step forward—tangible progress following UNHRC resolutions—but the depressing reality is the OMP has not been able to trace a single person on its list of over 6,000 cases, nor has it clarified the fate of the disappeared in any meaningful way”.
Her statements reflect a growing disillusionment with the government’s domestic institutions, which for over a decade have failed to deliver answers for survivor communities. Families of the Disappeared have instead called for an independent international investigation into the fate of their loved ones.
In his speech, James Murray expressed his concern over Sri Lanka’s attempt to crackdown on this year’s Maaveerar Naal commemorations in the North-East.
“Over the last week, Tamils in the North-East have begun preparations for Maaveerar Naal—Great Heroes’ Day—which falls on 27 November. I have been concerned to hear that the preparations have been disrupted by plain-clothed officers in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate Tamils organising any memorial activities.”
In an addressing parliament, John McDonnell highlighted the vital role journalists have played in being able to “expose and tackle corruption” as well as the continued harassment journalists’ face. Elliot Colburn expanded on this, noting that it is also an issue beyond the island.
“A prominent Tamil news outlet, the Tamil Guardian, has been repeatedly engaged in battles with social media companies about its content. Because of the investigations that have been taking place, the Sri Lankan Government are actively trying to force action by social media companies worldwide. In the UK, the Tamil Guardian has had its content taken offline because of complaints from the Sri Lankan state. That cannot be right”.
Responding to the comments by Members on IMF conditions, Leo Docherty, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs said:
“Within its governance structure, the IMF only has the ability to impose conditionality linked to economic policy, not political or human rights-linked conditionality. But of course we want human rights progress to advance in tandem with economic progress, and we will use other mechanisms to hold the Sri Lankans to account and progress human rights in that regard.”
When questioned further by Theresa Villiers on imposing conditionalities relating to “military spending, cronyism and corruption”, Leo Docherty replied that the UK government seeks to “interlink conditionality with our approach in multilateral forums with regard to human rights. Essentially, we are using the UN to push forward human rights.”
Docherty added that the government will be replacing the GSP+ scheme with the UK’s new developing countries trading scheme early next year which will allow the UK to “retain the power to suspend a country on the grounds of human rights violations.”
Commenting on the recent resolution passed at the UNHRC last month, Docherty said:
“This international framework ensures that Sri Lanka remains on the international human rights agenda, and we believe that this diplomatic approach is the best way to encourage progress. However, we recognise that sincere and sustainable progress on human rights and accountability must be led by the people of Sri Lanka.”
He also noted the comments made by Members regarding sanctions on perpetrators of human rights abuses and stated that the government would not speculate on poddible designations but would “keep all evidence and potential listings under close review.”
by special correspondent