Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit

Chinese Embassy Supports Jaffna University

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The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka has donated LKR 43 lakhs to support the welfare of the students of the University of Jaffna. This financial aid was granted to the University under the Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship Scheme. Prof. S. Srisatkunarajah, Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, received the grant from His Excellency Qi Zhenhong, the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, at the Chinese Embassy in Colombo at 4 p.m. on Sunday, the 2nd of October 2022, a press statement issued by Jaffna University has said.

“Ms Li Qingrui, the First Secretary to the Chinese Ambassador, Dr S. Rajumesh, Director of Student Welfare Services and Dr. M. Thanihaichelvan, Focal point for the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship were present at this event,” it added.

Since 2016, the financial aid granted under the Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship Scheme has been distributed among the different universities in the country. This year (2022), the entire financial is shared between the University of Jaffna and the Eastern University, Sri Lanka. 

The Student Welfare Branch of the University of Jaffna has informed that this financial aid will be utilized for many welfare schemes including the provision of a monthly bursary for the students of the University. 

New Consignment of China’s Medicine Donation to Arrive

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A new consignment of medicine worth 12.5 million RMB (650 million LKR) donated by China under its 500 million RMB emergency humanitarian assistance has departed Chengdu, China and is scheduled to arrive at Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport on Friday (23rd) evening via a charter flight of Sichuan Airlines.

With a total volume of 60.04 cubic meters and weight of 14.62 metric tons, the consignment consists of:

1) 100,800 PF.Syrs of Recombinant Human Erythropoietin Alpha Injection 4000IU

2) 270,000 doses of Rabies Vaccine for Human Use (Vero Cell) Freeze-dried

3) 4,500 bottles of Fat Emulsion Injection (C14-24)

4) 2,400 vials of Pemetrexed Disodium for Injection-100mg

5) 1,520 vials of Pemetrexed Disodium for Injection-500mg

In the coming months, more medicines and medical supplies with a total value of 5 billion rupees will be handed over to Sri Lanka and delivered to hospitals and patients across the island. The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka will continue working closely with the Sri Lankan authorities to provide more assistance to the Sri Lankan people who are affected by the ongoing difficulties.

Sri Lanka: Trinco Port to Export Ilmenite after 30 years

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For the first time after 30 years, Sri Lanka will start exporting ilmenite from Trincomalee port. This ilmenite export to China will start today. Sri Lankan Ports Authority has announced that a ship loaded with Ilmenite will leave for China shortly.

“For the first time after thirty years, Trincomalee Port has worked to directly contribute to the country’s exports. This is a historic moment,” Saman Perera, Regional Manager of Port of Trincomalee which comes under the preview of Sri Lanka Ports Authority told the local media.

The following images were taken during the loading;

China axes Sri Lanka from its Global Development Project

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The ministerial meeting of the China-led global initiative for livelihood development, the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative (GDI) was held under the theme “Deepen GDI Cooperation for Accelerated Implementation of the 2030 Agenda” in New York on 20 September 2022.

The meeting was chaired by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the People’s Republic of China and attended by high-level representatives of 60 countries, including 4 Deputy Prime Ministers and more than 30 Foreign Ministers as well as principals of about ten international organizations and UN entities.

According to the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also joined the meeting on behalf of Sri Lanka, a founding member of the group. During the meeting, the list of the first batch projects in the GDI Project Pool was issued. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka was not selected for any project in the first phase of this global project, whereas Pakistan and Nepal were selected for a few projects to implement.

Click here to see the list of First-batch Projects of the GDI Project Pool

Sri Lanka: Ranil to Release Some of Long-term Prisoners

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While meeting a group of overseas Sri Lankans in London President Ranil Wickremesinghe told that he intends to release some of the long-term prisoners on his return to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Guardian has reliably learnt.

The meeting was initiated by Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Saroja Sirisena and held at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London.

“He wanted Presidency to do things that he could not do as Prime Minister. He got it now without people’s direct mandate. How far he can go under his calamitous holding of office is something we need to wait and see,” a Sri Lankan-born senior financial analyst residing in London who joined the meeting on an invitation told the Sri Lanka Guardian.

Exclusive Interview: Time to Return Our Diamond

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“Returning our Diamond will make us believe that Britain is remorseful for the exploitation of our people and our resources,” Vuyolwethu Zungula who is a Member of Parliament representing the African Transformation Movement (ATM), told Sri Lanka Guardian while joining the “Talk to Sri Lanka Guardian” series.   

Mr Zungula is the President of the African Transformation Movement. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University, and an Honours degree in Business Management from Unisa. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2019.

“All stolen minerals and other artefacts must be returned to the rightful owners,” he said.

Excerpts of the interview;

Question:  Tell us about the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and its political vision to uplift the livelihoods of the country’s people.

Answer: The ATM is grounded by the ideology of Humanism where we subscribe to the concept of One race for everyone, the Human race. The ATM is a values-based organisation and one of our chief values is UBUNTU. We believe that corruption is the absence of UBUNTU. All those who abuse taxpayers’ money lack UBUNTU.

Q: You propose that South Africa withdraw from the Commonwealth while demanding “compensation for all damages done by Britain”. Tell us why your country should leave the Commonwealth.

A: The ATM believes in genuine sovereignty. The fact that a deal breaker to be a member of the Commonwealth is that members must agree that the Head must always be the Crown. This to us means agreeing to be subjects of the British Monarchy. We reject that notion. The continued exportation of our raw minerals to the UK is part of being a quasi colony.

Q: By endorsing the statement of known activist Thanduxolo Sabelo, you have reaffirmed that “the Cullinan Diamond must be returned to South Africa with immediate effect.” Tell us more.

A: We are told that Queen Elizabeth was a champion of Decolonisation. Returning our Diamond will make us believe that Britain is remorseful for the exploitation of our people and our resources. All stolen minerals and other artefacts must be returned to the rightful owners.

Q: What is the next step if the British authorities ignore your request?

A: They shall have declared enmity on the African people and we shall continue with our campaign against the disguised colonisation.

Vuyolwethu Zungula, President of the African Transformation Movement, South Africa [ Photo © Sri Lanka Guardian]

Q:  You are a dynamic and outspoken young politician in the country. Give us some thoughts on the current political situation and your plan to overcome the challenges.

A: The country under Ramaphosa and his administration has become a failed state. As ATM we have initiated an Impeachment or will continue advocating for a No Confidence vote remove Ramaphosa.

The ATM will work with other like-minded parties to Put South Africa 1st and rescue it from the failed state situation. The key to that is transforming the minds of South Africans so we get to work together in service to the country. South Africa must aggressively work on a localisation campaign where raw materials are processed in the country before being shipped to other nations, South Africa must produce what it consumes. The oligopolies dominating our economy must be dismantled to allow for more participation in the economy. With these, we believe poverty and unemployment would be tackled and South Africans would enjoy a better quality of life.

Exclusive: Russia Rebuffs Ukraine’s Claim over 7 Sri Lankans

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently in a video address claimed that seven Sri Lankan citizens who had been held by the Russian forces since March were rescued.

However, when Sri Lanka Guardian contacted a top-ranking officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) in Moscow, has vehemently refused the Ukrainian claim by saying that was a “cooked up story” by the Ukrainian authority.

“Russia did all it could to ensure the safe return of foreign students. In total, hundreds were assisted in returning to their home countries even in absence of Russian visas,” the official told the Sri Lanka Guardian.

“Why on earth would 7 poor students be ‘held in a basement?’ Question to Sri Lanka Embassy and Ukrainian regime which is desperately seeking international attention to keep the war going,” the official questioned.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Guardian tried to get a detailed account of the incident from Mohamed Rizvi Hassen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (Resident) at the Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in Ankara, Turkey, which oversees Ukraine too but was unsuccessful.

USAID signs new five-year agreement with Sri Lanka 

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Building on the USAID Administrator Samantha Powers’s recent visit, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung announced today that the United States, through USAID, will provide an additional estimated $65 million (more than 23 billion Sri Lankan rupees) in assistance to Sri Lanka over a five-year period. The assistance falls under the Development Objectives Assistance Agreement (DOAG) signed by Mr. Gabriel Grau, Mission Director for USAID Sri Lanka and Maldives and Mr. Mahinda Siriwardena, Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies.

This funding is in addition to over $60 million (21 billion Sri Lankan rupees) of new humanitarian and fertilizer assistance that Administrator Power announced last week in response to the current economic and political crises in Sri Lanka

In celebration of the start of this new bilateral agreement, Ambassador Julie Chung remarked, “The United States and the American people are proud of our enduring and robust partnership with the people and government of Sri Lanka. We remain fully committed to supporting locally led initiatives to advance a stable, prosperous, and peaceful Sri Lanka – critical to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all nations are connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure,”

The U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is committed to supporting Sri Lanka to advance market-driven growth, environmental sustainability and resilience, and good governance. All USAID funding for Sri Lanka is provided as gifts or grants and is implemented by local and international organizations that adhere to strict monitoring standards.

The U.S. has provided more than $2 billion (approximately 720 billion Sri Lankan rupees) in development assistance to Sri Lanka since 1956.

Interview: We Are Eelam Tamils

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Sri Lanka will not become an economically viable country without a political resolution to the demands of Eelam Tamils, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran a New York-based Attorney who served as the legal advisor to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, told Sri Lanka Guardian in an exclusive interview.

While recalling the memories of slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, he says that “his vision, his dedication, his determination, his passion, his resilience, are always with us.”

Rudrakumaran is the prime minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam which is a transnational organisation among the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora which aims to establish Tamil Eelam, in the North-East of Sri Lanka. This interview is a part of our series of interviews with noted minds in Tamil Diaspora. The Government of Sri Lanka, recently, renewed its request in which they invited members of the Tamil Diaspora for political and social cohabitation.

Following are the excerpts of the interview;

Question: Rudra, it has been a long time since we last communicated. Thank you for taking the time to sit with us. What latest updates can you offer us on your organization TGTE?

Answer: Our main political program is that the Eelam Tamils, as a distinct Nation, have the right to self-determination and they should decide their political future through a referendum.

Today this vision is gaining acceptance in the international community. As you know, many former presidents, former UN undersecretaries and prominent academics regularly participate in our functions. 

Our viewpoint is also finding resonance amidst the Tamil domestic leadership, despite the oppressive military environment and threat posed by the  Sixth Amendment, which penalizes peaceful advocacy for an independent state. I also would like to highlight the fact that in a letter sent by the Tamil parliamentarians to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights dated August 9th, 2022, have called for the repeal of the Sixth Amendment.

We will be soon filing papers with the registrar of the International Criminal Court acceding to the jurisdiction of the ICC in the state of Tamil Eelam. Our accession is based on the fact that the de jure state of Tamil Eelam exists. As you know, the Tamils did not consent to the 1972 as well as the 1978 constitution- our argument is premised on the international legal concept of reversion to sovereignty. In this connection, I would also like to state that the former UN high commissioner Al Hussain called upon the Sri Lankan state to accede to the Rome statute.

I would like to mention that the continued proscription by the Sri Lankan government of the TGTE, which is committed to establish the state of Tamil Eelam through democratic and diplomatic means, is testimony to our effectiveness in the pursuit of our goal.

Q: We heard that your father was a government servant who worked as the Mayor of Jaffna from 1979 to 1983 and passed away in 2020. What legacy did he leave for you to pursue?

A: My father was not a government servant. He was a successful criminal lawyer. He firmly believed that Tamils can live with security and dignity only in an independent Tamil state. He quit practicing law in 1983, since he refused to take oath expressing allegiance to the Sixth Amendment of the constitution. I would also like to point out, when he was the mayor of Jaffna, he refused to receive the then Prime Minister Mr. R. Premadasa. Honesty, sincerity, hard work, commitment to the cause, and commitment to the people, are the hallmarks of his legacy.

Q: Do you recognize yourself as the successor of slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran?

A: I do not consider myself as the successor of the Tamil national leader. I believe that no one can be a successor to our national leader. However, I feel I have a moral and political obligation to contribute effectively to the struggle. The Tamil national leader has elevated the Tamil struggle to the international plane and made the Tamil national question an international issue. His achievement/contribution and vision in the realization of Tamil aspirations for an independent state will guide us in moving forward to the end. Our national leader once said that the mode of our struggle might change, but not the goal. We will move forward with democratic and diplomatic means to achieve our goal. The fact that Sri Lanka continues to remain a racist, ethnocratic state only strengthens our resolve.

Q: Do you miss him?

A: His vision, his dedication, his determination, his passion, his resilience, are always with us.

Q: Let us consider the preliminary document prepared by the Advisory Committee of TGTE where you have reaffirmed that Mr. S J V Chelvanayagam is “Eelam Gandhi”. Do you believe in non-violence?

A: I strongly believe in Peoples’ Power. As I mentioned in the answer to the earlier question, we have adopted a non-violent path to achieve our goal. I would like to point out the tradition of sacrifice by Thileeban and Annai Poopathi who also adopted a non-violent mode of struggle.

Q: What mistakes did the LTTE make?

A: The LTTE was committed to the Tamil cause that was not well matched with the interest of international powers. It can be described as a geopolitical conflict. Between the thirst of Tamils for an independent and sovereign state and the interest of the existing international powers. The reason for the way the war ended in 2009 was that the big regional and global powers did not want a new power center in the Indian Ocean. The powers did not want to make a change in the power structure and balance of power in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean. Given the present collusion between China and Sri Lanka, as demonstrated by the Hambonthota 99 years lease, the arrival of the Chinese submarine in 2014 and the arrival of Yuan Wang 5 last month, that position will surely change in the days ahead.

Q: The same preliminary report of your Advisory Committee lamented the plight of Muslims in Sri Lanka and advocated a secular state. But we don’t see any Buddhist or Islamic representatives in your top committee of TGTE. Why?

A: prominent Sinhala human rights activist, Dr. Brian Senewiratne who happens to be a relative of the former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, has been a prominent member of the TGTE Senate. In 2016, we recognized his contribution to the human rights of Tamils and gave him a “Lifetime Commitment Award”. In our Freedom Charter, promulgated with the participation of more than 100,000 people, rather than playing with words like in the Sri Lankan constitution, we stated in article 14 of the Freedom Charter that “Tamil, Sinhala, and English shall be the official languages of Tamil Eelam.

In the Freedom Charter, we explicitly recognized the distinct identity of the Muslims. Moreover, unlike Sri Lanka, which places Buddhism as the foremost religion, article 7 of our Freedom Charter states that Tamil Eelam shall be a secular state and no religion shall be given foremost place in Tamil Eelam. I must also say that a Sri Lankan Muslim academic also participated in the conference promulgating the Freedom Charter. We are also contemplating having a seminar with the Muslim community regarding our Tamil Eelam referendum campaign.

Q: You strongly believe that the only way Sri Lankan Tamils can protect their rights is to create a separate Tamil homeland. This position can be understood by assessing Sri Lanka’s past records that you have no real intention to solve the problems of the common men and women in the North East but lag behind the unrealistic goal. Correct us if we are wrong. 

A: I would like to first categorically deny the identity of our people as “Sri Lankan Tamils”. We consider ourselves as Eelam Tamils and People of Tamil Eelam. Sri Lanka is a Sinhala, Buddhist, fundamentalist state that has systematically been engaged in structural genocide of Tamil people. An independent sovereign Tamil state is the only solution for safeguarding Tamil people from the genocidal policies and actions of the Sri Lankan state.

In fact,  Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights , in her report issued 6 September 2022 expressed concerns about “the trend towards majoritarianism… former president Rajapaksha actively promoted a Sinhala Buddhist majoritarian ideology with the support of the military and Buddhist monks.”

As the East Timor president and noble laureate, Dr Jose Ramos Horta at the fifth Mullivaikal Memorial lecture on May 18th 2020, stated “The ruling Sri Lankan state must ask themselves why Tamils are actively seeking a separate state and acknowledge what may be going wrong.”

The scuttling of the P-TOMS by the Sri Lankan judiciary and the utter failure of the provincial council clearly demonstrates that until a political resolution is reached, economic development cannot happen.

I also take issue with your characterization that Tamil Eelam is an unrealistic goal. In fact, the continuation of Sri Lanka as an ethnocratic state, ruled in perpetuity by racist Sinhala elites is an unrealistic goal. The growing recognition of the fact within the international community that the Tamils were subjected to genocide accelerates the process of realising our independence. Law and morality dictate that as a form of remedial justice in order to ensure “Never Again”, the formation of an independent state is the proper form of remedial justice.

I also would like to point out that given the fact that the island of Sri Lanka is situated in a strategically important place in the Indian Ocean, and it is the Tamils who inhabit two-thirds of the coastline, the evolving power dynamics should also be noted in this connection. As you know, since 1990, more than 30 states have been established. We believe that history is moving in the direction of Tamil people achieving their highest political aspiration.

Q: Do you hate Sinhalese? When was the last time you communicated with a Sinhala Buddhist?

A: Neither I nor other Tamil leaders and the Tamil people hate Sinhala people. Our struggle is against the chauvinistic and genocidal Sri Lankan state. I provide legal representation for many Sinhalese here in the US. Some of my Sinhala clients even seek my advice for their family matters. Some of my Sinhala clients have also stated, during the current economic crisis, that the reign over the whole country should have been given to Mr. Velupillai Pirabaharan. In their opinion he would have governed the country with honesty and discipline. I think you should check my reputation among the Sinhala and Muslim working-class diaspora in New York city.

Q: How do you read about the present economic meltdown in Sri Lanka?

A: The present economic meltdown is primarily caused by the atrocity crimes committed against the Tamils and the continued military subjugation of Tamils.  The militarization of the country contributes heavily to the present economic catastrophe.  The UN high commissioner, in her report dated September 6th 2022, stated that “the Defense Ministry was allocated – 354 billion Sri Lankan rupees (US $1.86 billion) which accounted for 15% of the total government expenditure making it the highest allocated sector in 2022″.

Coupled with the above, the disrespect for the rule of law for decades has enabled corruption to go so deep that it has destroyed the Sri Lankan economy. Another related factor in more recent times has been the reliance on China for high interest loans for useless projects. The Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine only tipped over a thoroughly rotten system.

Q: How can you support Sri Lankans to overcome the current challenge?

A: I take this question as how Tamils can support and overcome the current catastrophe. As we have stated earlier there first needs to be a political solution to the Tamil national question by holding a referendum to decide the political future of Eelam Tamils. I must state here that our current referendum campaign does not hinge the consent of the Sri Lankan state. A referendum for independence in Kosovo was held without the approval of Serbia.

Sri Lanka will not become an economically viable country without a political resolution to the demands of Eelam Tamils. Such a solution will bring peace and prosperity for everyone.   It will also motivate the Eelam Tamil Diaspora to invest in Sri Lanka also.

Q:  The President has invited the Tamil Diaspora to be part of rebuilding Sri Lanka. We believe it’s a great opportunity for you to put your feet on the ground and do something substantive. Would you like to communicate with the government?

A: I think the answers given to previous questions are relevant to this question too. When I left Sri Lanka in 1982, my intention was to finish my one-year master’s degree and return to Sri Lanka. After the 1983 racial pogrom I felt that based on my credentials, I could contribute to the liberation of our people more effectively by being outside. Given the fact, there’s no space for Tamils for justice or to articulate their political aspirations fully, it is imperative for me to continue to stay outside the island. I am sure I will return and put ‘my feet on the ground’ and that will be on the soil of an independent Tamil Eelam.

Proliferation of Secondary Sanctions

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A proliferation of secondary sanctions has resulted in a growing fear of sanctions and over-compliance with unilateral sanction regimes, leading to serious adverse effects on the human rights of millions of people around the world, a UN expert said today.

Secondary sanctions are intended to prevent third parties – States, commercial entities and individuals from trading with countries that are subject to sanctions issued by another country.

“Today the world faces a proliferation of secondary sanctions, applied extraterritorially to states, entities or individuals for their presumed cooperation or association with sanctioned parties,” said Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights.

Presenting her thematic report to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council today, Douhan said secondary sanctions, and the threat of such measures were being used to enforce unilateral sanctions against States and key economic sectors. The expert said the impact was exacerbated by over-compliance by different actors, such as States, businesses, financial institutions, civil society organisations and humanitarian actors, who choose to cut ties with sanctioned countries out of fear of repercussions, even for authorised activities.

“Over-compliance has become a widespread practice on a global scale, and needs to be recognised as a significant new threat to international law and human rights,” Douhan said. “It has indiscriminate reach and impacts the human rights of all, not only those living in sanctioned countries, but also nationals of those countries living abroad, and may at times exceed the impact of primary sanctions,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted the impact of secondary sanctions and over-compliance on the delivery of humanitarian aid and operations of humanitarian actors. “They force humanitarian actors to seek less formal methods of financial transfers and procurement, resulting in higher costs, significant operational impediments, higher risks and less transparency,” Douhan said.

She was also concerned about the international legal implications of unilateral sanctions and over-compliance on international responsibility, international criminal law, trade, environmental law and diplomatic convention and immunities. “Secondary sanctions and their ensuing civil and criminal penalties are illegal,” Douhan said.

The expert urged States to eliminate or minimise over-compliance with unilateral sanctions through legislation, regulation, and financial or other incentives. “States must remove or offset risks that lead to such conduct, which leads to human rights violations,” she said.

Douhan urged businesses and financial institutions to adopt a rights-based approach in their application of due diligence procedures and establish mechanisms to monitor the impact of compliance and over-compliance with unilateral sanctions regimes on human rights. She also called on international organisations, including the UN and civil society actors to integrate the assessment of human rights impact of unilateral coercive measures and over-compliance with sanctions in their work.

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