Daily Archives: September 15, 2015
Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils rejected government plans for a truth commission to promote reconciliation, insisting on an international inquiry.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera unveiled a range of reconciliation measures yesterday at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, two days before the release of a long-awaited report on alleged war crimes during the battle against Tamil terrorism.
(Pictured, the head of the Tamil terrorist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Vellupillai Prabhakaran, was slain in May 2009, ending the 30-year terrorist scourge in Sri Lanka)
But Tamil leaders said the incumbent unity government’s plans for a truth commission and an office for war reparations were not enough.
“The minister tells us to have confidence and trust them. But he himself acknowledges that their track record is not good,” said Suresh Premachandran from the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front.
“That is why we say: have an internationally independent inquiry.”
Tamil legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan also rejected the commission in favor of an international inquiry.
“You can’t just pay compensation and forget about it. We need a credible political solution,” said Sithadthan, leader of the Democratic People’s Liberation Front.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who presides over an unprecedented 43-member cabinet, said today the plans aimed to resolve reconciliation issues so that “all Sri Lankans are treated equally” and ”together we look at the future.’’
Wickremesinghe briefed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the developments during an official visit to New Delhi.
A former Norwegian peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Eric Solheim, also welcomed the plans, saying on Twitter that they would be a “sea change for Sri Lanka” if implemented.—AFP
CANBERRA: Multi-millionaire former banker Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as prime minister of Australia on Tuesday, just hours after masterminding a coup against conservative leader Tony Abbott, and pledging a new style of leadership.
Turnbull is the country’s fourth prime minister in just over two years, a recent Australian political tradition the deposed Abbott slammed as a “revolving door” that was not good for the country.
“This is the most exciting time to be an Australian,” Turnbull told reporters in the capital before taking the oath.
“This is a turn of events I did not expect, I have to tell you, but it’s one that I’m privileged to undertake, and one that I’m certainly up to.”
Turnbull, a suave former lawyer, has pledged to run a consultative government, in contrast to Abbott’s divisive rule.
“My firm belief is that to be a successful leader in 2015, perhaps at any time, you have to be able to bring people with you by respecting their intelligence in the manner you explain things,” he said Monday. “We need advocacy, not slogans.”
Abbott lashed out at the savage nature of modern politics after his sudden toppling by his long-time Liberal Party colleague and rival — who served as communications minister before making the challenge.
“The nature of politics has changed in the past decade. We have more polls and more commentary than ever before, mostly sour, bitter character assassination,” Abbott told a farewell press conference.
He won power in a general election victory in September 2013 but his first budget, with its harsh cuts to health and education, proved highly unpopular.
Abbott survived a leadership challenge in February after poor polling and a series of gaffes ignited a backbench revolt.
But he failed to turn around the polls, bolster the economy or stop damaging internal leaks, and lost the support of his party.
The new leader, with strong support from influential foreign minister Julie Bishop who the party re-elected as deputy leader with a 70-30 vote in her favour, is expected to shake up the cabinet later this week.
He is thought likely to sweep out traditional conservatives and bring in younger blood and more women.
Turnbull, whose successful career has included stints as a barrister and an entrepreneur, ruled out an early national election to cement his leadership.
He said over the coming weeks and months he would set out his economic policy, but gave no details.
“Opportunities that are there in the global economy, built on the foundations in no small measure of the free trade deals, are enormous,” he said.
Australia’s economy has slowed over the past year as the nation struggles to transition away from the mining-led growth that has helped avoid recession for 24 years.
Unemployment is hovering around a decade-high, wages growth is subdued, while government revenue has been hit by slowing commodities demand from China, Australia’s largest trading partner.
Nick Economou, senior lecturer in politics at Monash University in Melbourne, said it was too early to say whether Turnbull would be able to charm the electorate and turn around the government’s fortunes.
“A lot depends on the economic argument he intends to make,” he said.
“I think there is a real danger for Turnbull here because… the problem in the Australian economy is the mining boom is over, government expenditure is outstripping revenue raising and he will face the same problem that Tony Abbott faced.”
Turnbull — who was ousted by Abbott as Liberal Party leader in 2009 over his support of the previous Labor government’s carbon emissions trading scheme — also said there would be no change to Australia’s climate policy.
With its heavy use of coal-fired power and relatively small population of 23 million, Australia is considered one of the world’s worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters.
Canberra’s targets for reducing emissions over the next 15 years by 2030 have been criticised as well below the level required by the government’s own advisory body, the Climate Change Authority.
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Monday revealed to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva the various domestic mechanisms it intends to put in place to address charges of war crimes and human rights violations, bring about ethnic reconciliation, and prevent recurrence of the ugly events of the past.
In a marked change from the earlier Lankan stand, these domestic mechanisms will avail of international and United Nations assistance, both financial and technical.Addressing the opening day of the September session of the council, Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera announced mechanisms to seek the truth; secure justice and reparations; ensure non-recurrence of the tragic events; and arrive at a political settlement of the basic ethnic question.
The minister said that a Constituent Assembly will be established soon, to draft a new constitution which will “address the grievances of the Tamil people.”
Earlier in the day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said the report of his office on the rights violations in Sri Lanka during the final phase of the 2006-2009 Eelam War IV, has “findings of the most serious nature.”
The UN body’s report would be made public on Wednesday.
“This council owes it to Sri Lankans – and to its own credibility – to ensure an accountability process that produces results, decisively moves beyond the failures of the past, and brings the deep institutional changes needed to guarantee non-recurrence,” Prince Zeid said.
Call For Patience
Calling for trust and patience, Samaraweera said, “This journey may not be as fast as some may want it to be. And for some, we may have already gone too far. But the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe has the political will to ensure that we take the country forward, breaking the barriers of ignorance, fear, prejudice and hate.
“My plea is to trust us and join us to work together ….and take progressive formative steps to create a new Sri Lanka,” he added.