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Akashi’s international concerns and govt’s concern for imported dog food

11 December 2013 06:36 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Yasushi Akashi, Japan’s special envoy for Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka, is in town again, and this is his 23rd visit to the country since he assumed his role in 2002.

Mr. Akashi’s visit is resonant with a greater meaning to Sri Lanka this time. On the one hand, it takes place, barely behind three months for the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March, next year. On the other hand, this is his first visit after the conclusion of the Northern Provincial Council election, a key demand by the international forces. Japan also welcomed this election as a step forward in the national reconciliation process.  Japan and Sri Lanka are time-tested friends, and it still remains the largest bilateral donor to the country.

Mr. Akashi met with External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris first on Monday and discussed the entire gamut of issues. Next, he accompanied by   Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Nobuhito Hobo and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Japan Wasantha Karannagoda, met with Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, and in particular inquired about the steps taken to address the accountability issues as mentioned in the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka adopted in March, this year. Already, Britain, a key ally of the United States which sponsored the resolution, has vowed to push for an international inquiry during the March session unless the government acts on satisfactorily.






Japan wants something tangible done
Japan plays the role of an interlocutor in this case. It is apparently trying to ease pressure being mounted on Sri Lanka by the western world.  Japan is a country opposed in principle to any country- specific resolutions by the UNHRC. When the resolutions on Sri Lanka were moved both in 2012 and 2013, Japan abstained from voting, probably because it was a herculean task for them to take a stand.   The US, the sponsor of the resolution, is a prime ally of Japan in defence and economic cooperation whereas Sri Lanka is a country with friendly relations right from the beginning.

Mr. Akashi is keen to get the government to do something tangible before the March session so that international pressure on the country can be warded off.  
Mr. Akashi, at his interaction with the Justice Minister at his Colombo residence, asked about the progress into investigations into the killings of five students in Trincomalee and 17 aid workers in Muttur in 2006.  Mr. Hakeem reportedly briefed about legal action taken against the perpetrators of the killing of the five students.   Nonetheless, investigations are still in progress into the killings of the 17 aid workers who worked for the French organisation called Action against Hunger.
Earlier, Attorney General Palitha Fernando even briefed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethen  Pillay  that investigations into it hit a snag due to lack of evidence. The incident happened in August, 2006 when the fighting was raging between the armed forces and the LTTE in Muttur. People in Muttur fled the fighting turning the entire area to a ghost town for a few days. After people deserted the area, fighting escalated and lasted for a few days till the military smoked out the Tiger terrorists finally.

“It is unclear these workers got killed. There is no sound evidence. But, we have not given up. We continue with investigations further,” Mr. Fernando told Daily Mirror.  
Against this backdrop, Japan’s envoy has reportedly tried to drive home the point that the government should do enough to address some of these allegations of rights violations, as otherwise things would not be rosy for them in Geneva in March. The UN High Commissioner, based on her visit to Sri Lanka, will submit her report to the UNHRC in March. According to diplomatic analysts, Japan is trying to moderate between the US-led western front and Sri Lanka. Probably with that in mind, it is learnt that Mr. Akashi even met India’s High Commissioner in Colombo Y.K. Sinha. India, which pushes for power devolution to the minority Tamils, voted for the resolution along with the US, against Sri Lanka.

" You justified the reduction of tax on dog food imports.  Dogs reared at places like the Prime Minister’s house feast on special imported food.  Ordinary people only give a portion of what they eat to dogs "





Removal of tax on dog food imports
The implication of Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne’s name in the largest ever heroin smuggling case became a talking point in Parliament on Tuesday. The Prime Minister, in his speech, did not respond to such allegations. Instead, he talked about agriculture, the removal of tax on dog food imports etc.  At one point, he said dog is the friendliest animal of humans, and therefore it would be a meritorious task to give them quality imported food. Also, he said parents should encourage their children to work at paddy fields after school and to reduce imports.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake responded to the Prime Minister, “You asked for the reduction of imports of some items.  Likewise, it is better to stop importing heroin. You asked children of farmers to work in paddy fields after school. Where have you sent your son? You have sent him to the   Provincial Council. You justified the reduction of tax on dog food imports.  Dogs reared at places like the Prime Minister’s house feast on special imported food.  Ordinary people only give a portion of what they eat to dogs.”   






A bear, rabbit and the SL police
The police service received flak from the opposition during the budget debate at the committee stage on Saturday. United National Party (UNP) MP Palitha Thewarapperumma compared Sri Lanka police to the police services in Britain and the United States, with the example of an expedition to capture a rabbit released to the wild.

Much to the amusement of those across the political divide of the House, he said the British police would end up the mission by saying that the presence of a rabbit in the wild would not pose any threat to anyone, and therefore there was no need to capture it. The US police, he said, would wreak havoc by cordoning off the wild with the deployment of its sophisticated military apparatus and elite forces, but would fail in the mission.

However, he said Sri Lanka police would do a marvelous things by torturing a bear and extracting a confession from it to be a rabbit.  

The rabbit is still in the wild, but a bear is captured and tortured leaving it writhing in pain,” he said.

The Justice Minister drew the attention of Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa who is a former police officer. He said Sri Lanka had ratified the international convention against torture. “The Attorney General will not appear in court for police officers accused of torture,” he said.  






Jayawickrama educates House on ‘living’ water
During the budget debate, the time constrain appeared to be a major concern for both the ministers and MPs to speak.    On Monday, UNP MP Gamini Jayawickrama Perera started making his remarks during the debate on the expenditure head of the Water Supply Ministry.  He started eulogizing late President Ranasinghe Premadasa for his work for the well-being of the people. Mr. Perera referred to the tube well concept of the late President to provide drinking water to the people in the dry zone. He did not feel the passage of time allotted to him until the Speaker notified him.

“Oh, I have so many things to say. The time is over. You did not inform me in advance,” he told the Speaker in lighter vein.

In the similar fashion, the Speaker replied, “I was moved by your speech. I did not feel the time passing.”

In his remarks, MP Perera compared water to a living-being that can respond to human actions. He quoted from the Buddhist and Pali scriptures to describe the importance of water for the survival of every living creature. Also, quoting from a research done by a Japanese professor, he said water responds differently to human actions.

“When decent and loving words are uttered, water in a pot starts moving happily. Such movements     can be observed with the microscope.  Water also responds with a sad note when obscene language is used. This professor has discovered it. He gave me a copy of his research findings when I went to Japan once,” he said.  
Apart from activities associated with the budget debate and Akashi’s visit, the UPFA was baffled by the series of budget defeats at several local authorities under the control of it and the UNP. As per the newly enacted election laws governing local bodies, the head of a local authority has to resign in the event of his or her budget being defeated  at a second  shy.

Medawachchiya, Wattala, Imbulpe, Alawwa, Mirigama, Embilipitiya, Kesbewa, Seethawakapura, Rajangane and Peliyagoda are of the local authorities where the annual budgets were defeated. Of them, the heads of Peliyagoda Urban Council, Rajangane Pradeshiya Sabha and Mirigama Pradeshiya Sabha relinquished their offices since their budgets did not muster the majority support even at the second shy.  






Gammanpila in negotiating mood
The budget of the UNP controlled Seethawakapura Urban Council was also defeated this time since two of its members sided with the UPFA. It will be put to a vote again on December 16. If it is voted out, Mayor Lal Pinto will lose his post.  The UNP has retained power at this council for 37 years at a stretch.  Head priests of major Buddhist temples in the area requested Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Gammanpila to help retain the mayoral post of Mr. Pinto on the ground that he had done a lot of work for the people. This request was made when Mr. Gammanpila visited these temples.

Mr. Pinto has sought assistance from Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) organiser Sumith Zoysa in this regard. Mr. Gammanpila has a close rapport with the mayor as he had helped Mr. Gammanpila to implement his garage recycling programme when he was the chairman of the Central Environment Authority.  The mayor, through Jathika Hela Urumaya member of the Urban Council Mahendra Jayasinghe, conveyed his desire to meet with Mr. Gammanpila at this hour to secure his help to ensure the easy passage of the budget.






Mahinda Chinatanaya deal for Seethawakapura UC
Mr. Gammanpila had talks with the UPFA stalwarts at the local level, and studied the legal situation. Instead of taking the mayor into the government’s fold, he opined that it would be better to ensure his (mayor) support only to the government in running the council.  Mr. Gammanpila contacted President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was with his preparations to depart for South Africa to attend the funeral of the Late President Nelson Mandela.  Yet, the President appointed a time to meet with Mr. Pinto. Accordingly, Mr. Gammanpila accompanied the mayor to the President where he assured his fullest support to carry forward Mahinda Chintanaya policies when running the affairs of the council.  The President instructed all the members of the councils who were present to support the mayor in this respect.

The President rushed to South Africa to attend the funeral of Mr. Mandela. His entourage included Deputy Minister of Aviation Geethanjana Gunawardane.  






Dinesh grieves over Mandela demise
Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardane, who was busy with his duties related to the budget debate, meanwhile sent a note of condolence on the demise of Mr. Mandela to his friend Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu, the Minister of Public Administration of South Africa.

The letter said, “It is with extreme feelings of grief that we received the news of the demise of great leader of the South African people, Hon. Nelson Mandela.  He was indeed much loved and admired world over for his lifetime of dedication to the freedom of the people of South Africa and Africa and across the world and ushering them as the President of the Republic of South Africa in to a new world of peace and progress.  He remains in our hearts as an icon of struggle against oppression, freedom, peace and humility”.

“As this moment when millions of people world over are with the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa in bidding the final farewell to the late and beloved leader, being aware of your tremendous admiration to the late leader and father of the Nation, particularly considering the close friendship and association he had with your illustrious parents during times of their historic struggles, I convey my personal condolences and to also please convey the  condolences  of  my  party, the  Mahajana Eksath  Peramuna (MEP)  to the Leadership and Members of  the African National Congress (ANC) on the demise of the great leader  Hon. Nelson Mandela”.
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