Monthly Archives: September 2015
NEW YORK: Microsoft founder Bill Gates retained his title as wealthiest American, while three founders of online companies joined the top 10, according to the Forbes 400 list released today.
Gates held onto the number-one spot in the annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans for the 22nd straight year, with net worth of USD 76 billion, down USD 5 billion from 2014.
Warren Buffett, the head of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, ranked second with USD 62 billion, while former Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison is third with USD 47.5 billion.
Forbes said the average net worth of the 400 members on the list stands at a record USD 5.8 billion, above the USD 5.7 billion last year. Total wealth is USD 2.34 trillion, up from USD 2.29 trillion in 2014.
Entering the top 10 richest rank this year were three founders of e-businesses. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos boltedf rom 15th to fourth place at USD 47 billion, thanks to the surging value of Amazon stock.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who jumped from 11th to seventh place, had net worth of USD 40.3 billion. And Larry Page, CEO of Google, moved from number 13 in 2014 to land the 10th spot, with USD 33.3 billion.
The business magazine also spotlighted Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, who has claimed wealth of at least USD 10 billion. Forbes came up with a lower figure, rating the billionaire in 121st place.
“After interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune, we’re going with a figure less than half that — USD 4.5 billion, albeit still the highest figure we’ve ever had for him,” Forbes said.
SAN JOSE: Lamenting that the UN has been unable to define terrorism in 70 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said if it takes so long in doing so, then how many years will be required to deal with the menace.
“We put pressure on the UN. The UN is celebrating its 70th anniversary but till now it has not been able to arrive at a definition for terrorism. If defining it takes so much time, then how many years will it take to to tackle terrorism,” Modi said in his speech at the SAP Centre here.
It is the UN’s responsibility to spell out clearly who it considers a terrorist so that the international community can chart out its path to usher in peace, he said.
“At a time when we are observing the 70th anniversary of the UN, it is the world body’s responsibility to come out in clear terms who it considers a terrorist and who is on the side of humanity. Once it has to be made clear so that the world can decide which path it should follow and only then peace will prevail,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister said he was hopeful that the UN will not be able to further delay a decision on such a serious issue.
“Humanist forces in the world will have to put pressure so that it is decided in black and white what is terrorism. Since there is no definition, talk about good terrorism and bad terrorism is going on. We cannot protect humanity with this good and bad terrorism,” Modi said, adding, “terrorism is terrorism”.
Observing that India has been a victim of terrorism for the past 40 years, Modi said the West and many other countries woke up to the menace of terrorism only after they faced bomb blasts or terror attacks.
“We cannot let 21st century to be stained with terrorism,” Modi said, adding, “the world has to stand united in tackling terrorism.”
Noting that India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Gautam Buddha who preached peace and non-violence to the world, he said, “the world has to realise that terrorism can hit anyone at anyplace, and it is the world’s responsibility to recognise it and unite against terrorism.”
Indian diaspora and several top American lawmakers were present on the occasion.
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism to probe the alleged rights abuses during the military conflict with the LTTE cannot have foreign judges due to constitutional impediments, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said today.
Wickremesinghe said his government could only act within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution, which does not allow foreign judges to operate in the country.
He, however, said that international expertise would be welcomed but the country’s judiciary would have to approve the extent of their involvement.
The Sri Lankan Premier’s assertions came in the backdrop of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein call for a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators to probe the alleged rights abuses during the civil war that ended in 2009.
But a US-sponsored draft resolution has called for a domestic judicial mechanism that includes foreign judges to probe the war crimes — in contrast to Al Hussein’s report.
Sri Lanka has been consistently insisting on a domestic mechanism to investigate the matter.
Rights groups claim that the Sri Lankan military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the three decade-long brutal ethnic conflict.
Addressing reporters, Wickremesinghe said his Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera would be having talks with the UNHRC to apprise them of the local constitutional impediments.
Sri Lanka is averse to an international probe as it tends to cause displeasure among the Sinhala majority, who are opposed to military officials being tried for war crimes in combating the separatists Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The foremost among those who could be tried will be former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya – then powerful defence secretary who spearheaded the crushing of the LTTE’s mighty military machinery.
Wickremesinghe said he and his government had saved both the Rajapaksas from facing an international war crimes inquiry by “properly handling” the issue since January.
It was Rajapaksa’s blunder that forced Sri Lanka to subject it to an international inquiry, said Wickremesinghe.
A day before he meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a call to world leaders at the UN to ensure universal internet access by 2020 to “give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.”
Zuckerberg, who will host a town-hall meeting with Modi at his company’s sprawling campus in Menlo Park in California today, participated in several engagements at the world body’s headquarters on the sidelines of the ongoing UN Sustainable Development Summit.
He called for greater global internet access during a speech at the United Nations Private Sector Forum yesterday.
He said that when communities are connected, they can be lifted out of poverty.
“Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation,” Zuckerberg said adding that wide Internet access “needs to be at the heart of the global development strategy” to address new challenges and needs of the new generation.
Just prior to his speech, Zuckerberg posted on Facebook that internet access is essential for achieving humanity’s Global Goals.
“By giving people access to the tools, knowledge and opportunities of the internet, we can give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.
“We also know that the internet is a vital enabler of jobs, growth and opportunity. And research tells us that for every 10 people connected to the internet, about 1 is lifted out of poverty,” he said.
“By connecting more people in developing countries, we have an opportunity to create more than 140 million new jobs, lift 160 million people out of poverty, and give more than 600 million children access to affordable learning tools,” he said.
Zuckerberg also kicked off a global campaign demand internet access for all. Joining Zuckerberg in this global campaign is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, singer Bono, business tycoon Richard Branson and pop star Shakira.
A declaration signed by Zuckerberg, Gates and others for the global campaign states that Internet access is essential for achieving humanity’s global goals.
The declaration calls on leaders and innovators from all countries, industries and communities to work together to make universal internet access a reality by 2020, as promised in the new Global Goals adopted by world leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, last week.
PMK MP Anbumani Ramadoss on Saturday urged the Centre to move a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) seeking an international inquiry into the war crimes in Sri Lanka.
“If allowed, the U.S. resolution for an internal inquiry would prove fatal for the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils. There is not much time left. India should immediately take steps to move a resolution for an international inquiry,” he said.
Dr. Anbumani, who is slated to address the UNHRC on September 30 on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, said judges from Commonwealth countries could not get justice for the Tamils. “Judges from Bangladesh or Pakistan will never be able to conduct a fair probe. That is why we also opposed the hybrid inquiry,” he said.
Though agreed that the U.S. had played a major role in the past in favour of the Sri Lankan Tamils in the United Nations, its stand on the issue now was unacceptable. Dr. Anbumani said it was unbecoming of Electricity and Excise Minister Natham R. Viswanathan to speak against prohibition citing revenue loss.
The government said the country achieved a “path-breaking success” in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at the current 30th Session avoiding an international inquiry into the alleged rights violations.
“We have succeeded in winning over the once divided Human Rights Council to work with the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to achieve meaningful reconciliation through truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence to ensure peace and prosperity for all our people,” Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in a statement yesterday.
The Minister noted that for the last several years, Sri Lanka was repeatedly humiliated by the international community with Resolutions that censured the conduct of the country.
“Today, as a result of the determined efforts of the Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe since January 2015, Sri Lanka has once again succeeded in joining the international community as a responsible, confident and peaceful nation that respects the universal values of freedom, equality and justice,” he said.
Stressing that defeating terrorism was a necessity and Sri Lanka now has far greater freedom to deal with the causes of terrorism and engage in nation building and peacebuilding the Minister commended the contribution of the armed forces which were once recognized internationally for their professionalism and discipline.
He pointed out that however, that the reputation of the vast majority of the armed forces was tainted in the recent past because of the system and culture created by a few in positions of responsibility.
“The Resolution is in fact an endorsement by the international community of this view and that a credible accountability process will safeguard the reputation and honor of those who conducted themselves in an appropriate manner with professionalism,” the Minister emphasized.
“We are confident that Sri Lanka has the capacity, expertise and the commitment to implement the provisions of the resolution over a period of time, step by step, taking appropriate action that will ultimately vindicate that our nation and her people are at peace, assuming its rightful place among the community of nations,” Samaraweera said.
“In tandem, we hope to march towards economic prosperity and social development, with benefits trickling down to all,” he added.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka appears set to avoid an international inquiry into atrocities committed during its lengthy civil war if a new UN resolution is adopted next week.
Colombo has lobbied successfully for a watering-down of an earlier motion demanding foreign involvement in any probe into human rights abuses during the 37-year conflict.
The draft resolution, which is likely to pass unanimously next week, refers to the importance of having foreign experts involved in a potential investigation, but does not make the condition mandatory.
The initiative was tabled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva late Thursday, a week after the publication of a long-awaited UN report that laid bare the horrific barbarity committed by both the army and the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in the bitter 37-year war.
The report said Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system was “not yet ready or equipped” to conduct an independent and credible investigation and called for a hybrid special court to include international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.
But Sri Lanka has resisted a foreign inquiry, which many members of the island’s Sinhalese majority consider an infringement of sovereignty.
The main minority Tamil party the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said the resolution, initiated by the US and co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, was the “product of a difficult consensus”.
“We are acutely aware that some of the language used in the interests of a consensus will not satisfy all victims of the conflict whom we represent and who have reposed their trust in the TNA.
“However, we are of the view that the draft provides a constructive starting point for what will inevitably be a long road to reconciliation,” the TNA said in a statement.
The resolution allows Sri Lanka to draw on foreign funding and expertise for a credible domestic investigative mechanism.
Washington dropped its opposition to a domestic-only probe last month, and US Secretary of State John Kerry described the draft resolution as an important step towards a “credible transitional justice process” after the decades-log civil war.
“The United States will remain steadfast in our commitment to walk with Sri Lanka as it takes these important but challenging steps,” he said in a statement issued by the US embassy in Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapakse had been at loggerheads with the US, other Western nations and India, which had censured Colombo over its rights record and failure to ensure accountability for the killings of tens of thousands of civilians.
However, the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena has vowed to ensure ethnic reconciliation and promised to prosecute war criminals.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe earlier this week rejected UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s call for a “hybrid inquiry” involving both foreign and local judges and prosectors.
Former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Prof.G.L.Peiris has said that the report of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights on “war crimes” in Lanka has soft pedaled the LTTE’s using civilians as a human shield, when it is a war crime under international humanitarian law.
He charged that the Lankan government has not forcefully presented to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the existing prohibitions against the use of civilians as shields in civil wars. The findings of the Maxwell Paranagama Commission on civilian deaths in Eelam War IV was also not conveyed, Peiris told Express.
The UN report pilloried the government forces which had rescued 300,000 Tamil civilians held hostage by the LTTE. But it let the LTTE, the hostage taker, off the hook.
The report does chide the LTTE for using human shields, but its final word is that the government cannot blame the LTTE for the loss of civilian lives.
“The duty to respect international humanitarian law does not depend on the conduct of the opposing party, and is not conditioned on reciprocity,” the report says.
Law On Human Shields
The Geneva Convention of 1949 described the use of human shields as “cruel and barbaric”. In his paper on the human shield, Michael N.Schmitt, Professor of International Law at the US Naval War College, says that violation of the human shield prohibition constitutes a war crime.
The Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention say that warring parties shall not direct the movement of the civilian population in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or shield military operations. The presence or movement of the civilian population shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune to military operations, they say.
Art 58 of the Additional Protocol I, says that parties to a conflict are obliged to remove the civilian population and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military operations. It also prohibits locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas. The LTTE brazenly violated these provisions in the final phase of the war.
ශ්රී ලංකා නිදහස් පක්ෂයේ හා සන්ධානයේ හවුල්කාර පක්ෂවල මන්ත්රීවරු 46 ක් අද පාර්ලිමේන්තුවේදී විපක්ෂයේ අසුන් ගැනීමට නියමිතව තිබෙනවා. සන්ධානයේ මන්ත්රීවරු 31 ක් වත්මන් රජයේ අමාත්ය ධූර ලබා ගැනීම හා තවත් පිරිසක් අමාත්ය ධූර නොගෙන රජයට සහය දැක්වීම හේතුවෙන් මෙම පිරිස පමණක් අද විපක්ෂයට එක්වන බවයි දේශපාලන ආරංචි මාර්ග පවසන්නේ. ඔවුන් තවදුරටත් හිටපු ජනපතිට සහය දක්වන්නන් වන අතර හිටපු ජනපතිවරයාද අද විපක්ෂයේ අසුන්ගැනීමට නියමිතයි. ඒ අතරට අයත්වන මන්ත්රී ලයිස්තුව පහතින්.
එස් සී මුතුකුමාරණ
පියල් නිශාන්ත සිල්වා
මහින්ද යාපා අබේවර්ධන
එස් එම් චන්ද්රෙස්න
මීට අමතරව නිදහස් පක්ෂයේ නොවන සන්ධානයේ මන්ත්රීවරු කිහිප දෙනකුද අද 22 වනදා විපක්ෂයට එක්වීමට නියමිතයි.
COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has asked the Lankan government to reject the UN and US demand for the involvement of foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators in the Special Court which is to be set up to try the accused in war crimes cases.
“If there are allegations of wrongdoing against any member of the armed forces, I strongly believe that those should be tried under the existing Sri Lankan law, under our present courts system and by our judges and our Attorney-General’s department,” Rajapaksa said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The recommendation that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) be allowed to establish a permanent presence in this country to monitor the human rights situation makes no sense since the country has been at peace for over 6 years with no allegations of on-going human rights violations,” he added.
“The OHCHR has also recommended that the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka should retract its refusal to accept the competence of the UN Human Rights Committee to consider individual complaints from Sri Lanka. In my view, such an arrangement would not be of any benefit to Sri Lanka,” Rajapaksa said.
“It has also been recommended by the OHCHR report that the Sri Lankan government develop a vetting process to ‘remove from office’ security force personnel who are believed to have been involved in human rights violations. Nobody can, or should be removed from office on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations or on mere suspicions. The government should be mindful of the fact that these recommendations are being made by forces that tried their best to stop the final offensive against the LTTE but failed,” the former President said.
“ The OHCHR has also recommended the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Public Security Ordinance and the formulation of a new national security framework. But Sri Lanka would not have survived as a state if not for these laws,” he pointed out.