As international pressure builds on Sri Lanka over allegations of human rights violations, a governmental delegation led by the Leader of the House and Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva headed for South Africa to study the work of the post-apartheid period in that country for reconciliation . The delegation also consisted of monitoring MP of the External Affairs Ministry Sajin Vas Gunawardane, Deputy Minister Faizer Mustapha and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) organiser for Batticaloa Arun Tambimuttu.
The four members were scheduled to arrive in the country on Sunday morning, but there was a delay in their flights. So, they landed in the evening. Minister de Silva who headed the delegation declined to comment on the visit to the media upon arrival in the country.
However, it is learnt that the four members met with Cyril Ramaphosa, the special envoy appointed by South African President Jacob Zuma to cordinate with Sri Lanka on post-war reconciliation efforts. Mr. Ramaphosa’s appointment holds greater significance as he headed the delegation of the African National Congress during talks with the then white government to end apartheid–racial segregation. Beside that meeting, they had met with Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana and Deputy Minister Ibrahim Ibrahim.
It is widely believed that Sri Lanka can learn a lot from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid. Though Sri Lanka’s context is different, the government sees it as a model that can be replicated here in addressing some of the post-war challenges, even highlighted by certain sections of the international community. South Africa’s commission worked for restorative justice instead of punishing those found guilty of wrongdoings.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a key stakeholder to the problem, said it was committed to a reconciliation process here. However, TNA leader R. Sampanthan said South Africa had taken an initiative in this direction two years ago, but the government was not that keen at the moment.
“We visited South Africa earlier. Also, the government’s delegations visited that country. There is nothing new and the government did not show any interest at that time. We wonder why they are in a hurry now,” he told the Daily Mirror.
In the wake of engagements with South Africa, the government is revving up its engine for the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris who heads the delegation, will make his speech on March 5 in Geneva. After that, he will leave for London on March 9 to attend the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
The US -sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka will be put to a vote by the member states on March 28, ironically a day before the day of polling to elect members to the Southern and Western Provincial Councils.
Tea with jaggery in Deniyaya
Political parties are active in campaigning for the elections in the two provinces. Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe attended a meeting in Deniyaya on Sunday. After the meeting, Mr. Wickremesinghe, Galle District MP Gayantha Karunatilake and former MP Vajira Abeywardane met at the residence of party’s Hiniduma organiser Sunil Senanayake. The three UNP leaders discussed the campaign strategies while having plain tea with kitul jaggery.
“It is better to have more and more pocket meetings rather than major rallies,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
Also, the UNP Leadership Council members, MP Karu Jayasuriya, Kabir Hashim and Tissa Attanayake visited Galle to review the progress of their campaign. The trio travelled in Jayasuriya’s nine-seater jeep. On reaching their destination, MP Karunatilake casually remarked, “This jeep appears to be especially manufactured for all the Leadership Council members to travel in.” All those present had a good laugh over his wittism.
National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara was in for a rude shock when he discovered that the common public communication system at the Deyata Kirula Exhibition was not bilingual. During his visit to the exhibition on Monday, he spotted the omission and raised it with the different ministerial representatives maintaining stalls.
“The public communication system functions only in Sinhala. I was perturbed about it. I asked them to make it bilingual. Also, the leaflets have been printed in Sinhala. I asked them to correct them,” he said.
Udaya Gammanpila, the Colombo District main candidate of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), continues to receive responses for his campaign based on a hundred-rupee note. Even Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal donated a hundred-rupee note which officially bears his signature to Gammanpila’s campaign. Before that, Gammanpila was accorded a welcome to an election meeting where participants welcomed him with a garland made of hundred-rupee notes. In his address to the gathering, he light heartedly remarked it was an offence to damage currency notes even with a pin.
At most places, people donated Rs 100 currency notes together with sheaves of betel.
The central bank governor also gave Gammanpila a piece of advice. “I know you received hundred rupee notes in bulk. If you do not spend them forthwith, it is better to deposit them in a bank. Otherwise, there will be shortage of such notes in circulation!”
The 39th anniversary of establishing the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage fell on February 16. A large meal of kiribath (milk rice) was prepared for everyone who attended the celebration of the event. The elephants sheltered at the orphanage, enjoyed the rare feast of milk rice served to them with a variety of fruits and sugarcane.
It was the late tourism minister P.B.G. Kalugalle who set up this orphanage which has today become a tourist attraction. The orphanage has a population of 204 elephants of which number 66 have been born at the orphanage itself. A number of politicians who had attended this event had fed the elephants with the first mouthfuls of kiribath.
Too many chief ministers
It has become hilarious to see several candidates contesting in the same province under the same symbol, clamouring to be the next chief minister. In the Southern Province, ruling party candidates Chandima Rasaputra, actress turned politician Geetha Kumarasinghe and Ajith Prassana present themselves as the next chief minister.
However, former chief minister Shan Wijayalal Silva has decided to opt out from the diatribe involved among the aspirants to the position of the next chief minister. Instead, he is saying only voters can decide on that selection. This novel strategy of the former chief minister makes his case outstanding. Through this exercise, he is trying to position himself apart from the other candidates, hoping it would eventually translate into his electoral success.