Maithri Blames His Cabinet for Making Him a Culprit

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Mar 27 2021
Ceylon Politics Maithri Blames His Cabinet for Making Him a Culprit

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) country specific resolution 'Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka' (A/HRC/46/L1./Rev.1) was adopted with 22 countries voting in favour, 11 voting against while 14 abstained. The Government rejected the resolution saying the whole exercise by the UNHRC was uncalled for.  

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, following the vote, said the resolution that was adopted was “only an advisory resolution which they drafted by themselves” against Sri Lanka which was unreasonable as well as based on unsubstantiated facts. 

Minister Gunawardena said if we listen to the voices of the countries that spoke on behalf of Sri Lanka, they wanted to defeat the coronavirus pandemic first and give vaccination to over 100 countries that are waiting for it. It is not a time to bring a country specific resolution, he said. 

To the question, “Isn’t it serious to  dismiss the UNHRC’s mandate now to collect and preserve information and evidence of crimes related to Sri Lanka's war against terrorism,” the Minister said all that is adopted cannot be followed as it is, as there are several matters involved  which would be informed to the Media later on. 

“We have rejected the resolution. And, the countries also expressed their views saying that Sri Lanka has seen tremendous progress. We have set up a Presidential Commission of Inquiry and have the judicial body to look into all allegations against anyone in relation to conflict areas. Other countries can work with Sri Lanka to follow the domestic procedure within the constitutional framework,” he said. 

India abstained

India, which abstained from voting on the resolution on Sri Lanka at the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council yesterday (23), maintained that they support the call by the international community for the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, including through the early holding of elections for Provincial Councils and to ensure that all Provincial Councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

India said they believe that the work of the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner should be in conformity with the mandate given by the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly. India believes in the primary responsibility of States for the promotion and protection of human rights and constructive international dialogue and cooperation guided by the principles and purposes of the UN Charter in support of such efforts. 

As an immediate neighbour, India has contributed to the relief, resettlement, rehabilitation, and reconstruction process in Sri Lanka after 2009, it was noted.

India's approach to the question of human rights in Sri Lanka is guided by two fundamental considerations, India’s UN representative said. “One is our support to the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, dignity, and peace. The other is in ensuring the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. We have always believed that these two goals are mutually supportive and Sri Lanka’s progress is best assured by simultaneously addressing both objectives and urge the GoSL to carry forward the process of reconciliation, address the aspirations of the Tamil community, and continue to engage constructively with the international community to ensure that the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all its citizens are fully protected.”

On the other hand, China, that rejected the resolution on Sri Lanka totally, said all parties should promote and protect human rights through genuine dialogue and cooperation, and refrain from double standards and politicisation of human rights.

Chinese Permanent Representative to the UN, Chen Xu commended the GoSL for its commitment to promote and protect human rights, advancing sustainable economic and social development, improving people’s living standards, safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups, advancing national reconciliation and combating terrorism, and congratulated the Government of Sri Lanka on its achievements in the above-mentioned areas.

Sajith’s spat 

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa locked horns in Parliament on Thursday (25) over a statement made by Gunawardena that the majority of UNHRC members did not support the resolution on Sri Lanka adopted by a vote on Tuesday (23). 

In a statement on the resolution, Gunawardena said: “Out of the 47 Members of the Council, 22 countries voted in favour, 11 voted against and 14 abstained. It is implicit from the voting result that the majority of the Council did not support this resolution.”

Premadasa who spoke after Gunawardena stressed that he should be the winner of Presidential Election in 2019 according to the logic presented by the latter. 

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received 6.9 million of votes in the election while I received 5.5 million. Also, 2.5 million of people did not vote in the election. So, I should be the President according to Gunawardena’s calculations. Is this the level of intellect of this Government?” he asked. 

“I thank him for saying this and suggest calculating the results of the Presidential Election in the method presented by Gunawardena,” Premadasa said, sarcastically amidst jeers of Government MPs. 

At this juncture, Gunawardena raised a Point of Order and asked, “I would like to remind the Opposition Leader that there is a Law regarding the results of Presidential Elections.”

Gunawardena’s microphone was taken away as the Chairman said the remark was not a Point of Order. 

Premadasa: “Is this the Viyathmaga of this Government? I also saw another one in the Government saying that we won the UNHRC resolution because the collective population of the countries which voted against the resolution is bigger than those who voted in favour of it. What kind of a joke is this?”

Gunawardena, who raised a Point of Order asked, “Which side are you on? Is your side our country or foreign powers?”

His microphone was taken away again and Premadasa continued his speech. The Government MPs continued protesting against his remarks. 

Premadasa: “Our foreign policy is weak. The countries which supported us in the past either stood against us or abstained from voting this time. Why is that? The Sri Lankan representative in Geneva has pleaded for a Government Minister to remain tight-lipped to secure votes at the UNHRC. This defeat is a result of this Government’s double standards. You say one thing inside the country. But when you go foreign countries, you say completely different things. Gunawardena should look into these matters instead of blaming us. We never try to topple Governments by meeting foreign forces secretly. We are agitated because of this defeat too.”

Maithri blames ministers

Former President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday (26) blamed his own Cabinet for portraying him as the main responsible party for the Easter Sunday terror attack on 21 April 2019. 

Participating in the Parliamentary debate on the report of Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into Easter Sunday terror attacks on Friday (26), Sirisena stressed,

“A day after the attack, one Cabinet Minister who was appointed by me, held a press conference and said I was fully aware of the attack before 21 April 2019 and therefore, I was the most responsible party for the attack. Through this remark, few members of my Government tried to popularise the opinion that I neglected my duty as the President and I did not do anything to prevent the attack even though I was fully aware of an attack beforehand.”

According to the Goebbels’ theory, when the same lie is repeated in the society for a long time, the people take it as the truth. It is the same thing that happened to me because of the conduct of a few of my own Cabinet. They want to take revenge on me politically. That was why they acted like that, he asserted. 

Sirisena also blamed the Media alleging that they drew a completely different picture of him regarding the testimony he gave to the PCoI on the Easter Sunday bombings. 

“The Media which covered the PCoI gave a wrong impression about the testimony I gave to the Commission. It is sad that they behaved in that way,” he added. 

Birthday boy 

UNP Leader Ranil Wickeremsinghe who is never interested in celebrating his birthday turned 72 on 24 March. However, his wife Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe had prepared milk rice for him. 

Even though Wickremesinghe wanted to spend the day as nothing special, he could not do it as his staff had arranged a list of names which Wickeremsinghe should reply for their birthday wishes. 

Wickeremsinghe’s mobile phone was flooded with birthday wishes. Many foreign diplomats, local and foreign friends, politicians and common people called him to extend their well wishes. 

The staff was very busy responding to the calls. They informed the callers that they would do their best to connect them to Wickremesinghe within the day. 

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the beloved friend in politics also did not forget to wish Wickrmesinghe on his birthday. 

While extending birthday wishes, Rajapaksa told him: “I informed my colleagues to wish you in the morning. These people said that they could not contact you as the line was busy. Can’t you see that a very visible change is taking place?” 

Wickeremsinghe smiled slightly but did not say anything. 

A staff member said: “We are receiving many phone calls than at the time the UNP was in the Government.”

Wickeremsinghe advised the staff to thank everyone who sent birthday wishes and sent SMSs to everyone who called him via mobile phones. 

Many flower bouquets were arriving at his residence too. 

The UNP Leader then visited Sirikotha to meet the district managers and organisers of the party.  

The meeting was organised by UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara and Chairman Vajira Abeywardena. UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, Assistant Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and several others party officials were also present at the meeting.

As Wickremesinghe stepped into the venue of the meeting, Abeywardena rushed to him and said that those who left the party during the elections have come to attend the meeting. 

“They have realised that there is no point in joining the other parties and that we are a strong political party. They want to join us now,” Range Bandara added.

Wickeremesinghe did not say anything to that. He only emphasised as to how to win the next election. He said that more than 7 million votes should be cast in favour of the UNP and the party should work at grassroots level to win the election.

Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake’s 69th commemoration was held in Mirigama and the floral tribute was paid at the statue that is erected opposite Bothale Walawwa by Wijewardene by Range Bandara and several other party members. 

The Buddhist monks who attended the ceremony stated that the UNP cannot be knocked down no matter how much the opponents tried. 

They advised to create an environment to reconstruct the party in a striking way. Wijewardene and Range Bandara nodded and expressed their gratitude for the advice given by the clergy.

A large number of party activists visited Wickremesinghe’s residence last Thursday (25). Activists and members who were aware that Wickrmesinghe did not have any parties on his birthday, queried him about the secret behind the increase in the number of birthday wishes this year. But Wickrmesinghe replied to them all with a slight smile.   

“We are a country defeated at the UNHRC and it is debatable what is happening next,” Sandith Samarasinghe said.

“The UNHRC has given us a period of one year. During this time, we can make changes in our administration and show that we are a country that protects human rights. This is exactly what we did after 2015. This problematic situation was created by Mahinda Rajapaksa. If he did not bring the UN Secretary General and pledged that we would look into alleged war crimes within a local structure this problem would not have arisen. But when we were ruling the country we had to work according to the pledge that was made during the Rajapaksa tenure. What we did was strengthening the judicial system in Sri Lanka. The ones who were against us changed the resolution and that did not affect us in a bad way,” Wickrmesinghe reminded.

“The most unfortunate thing is that Ukraine voting against us. Ukrainians were brought to Sri Lanka and treated to the fullest amidst the quarantine laws this year. However, they betrayed us and voted against us. In the end, it is our citizens who would get into trouble,” Range Bandara stressed.

“The Foreign Minister says 14 countries abstained and did not vote in favour of the resolution, and therefore, the majority of the council had not agreed with the resolution on Sri Lanka,” Prof. Ashu Marasinghe said. 

“This is one of the strangest calculations that we have ever seen. Meaning of abstaining is that they are not in favour of anything. A Foreign Minister should not utter such jokes at any point, because the Foreign Minister and his statements represent the country internationally. According to this so called logic, no one would be defeated in anything. Everyone would use this as an excuse in the future,” Ruwan Wijewardene said anxiously. 

 “Even the State of Fiji voted against us. Most of our lawyers and others are working in Fiji. If we lose the relationship with the State of Fiji it could lead to losing employment opportunities in Fiji for our citizens,” Vajira Abeywardena said. 

“There are strong concerns regarding deforestation taking place islandwide. We have to focus on this issue as well,” Sandith Samarasinghe changed the topic. 

“Environmental organisations have done a good job. Political interference in environmental organisations can make these organisations weak. We have to strengthen the organisations if we want to protect the environment. The politicians should stand against those political interferences instead of backing them. If politicians back those who cut trees and clear lands, it will be a disaster,” the UNP leader pointed out.

 “UNP was the first party which purchased 10-15 acres at grassroots level and planted saplings. But we could not continue the process due to the toppling of our Government,” Abeywardena said. 

The meeting was then dispersed after agreeing to add a proposal to strengthen the protection of flora and fauna, to the party manifesto.   

By Gagani Weerakoon | Published: 2:00 AM Mar 27 2021

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