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

Exclusive: Let us Work as Partners – Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister to UK

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Commenting on the scheduled debate on the human rights situation and economy in Sri Lanka to be held tomorrow in the UK parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka asked the UK to work as partners.

“My message ( to the UK) is very clear, let us work as partners and not be misled by a few who have ulterior motives and hidden agendas for their political gains. Let’s work together,” Minister Ali Sabry PC told the Sri Lanka Guardian in an exclusive interview at his residence in Colombo.

“Sri Lanka’s relationship with the UK is longstanding. We have a lot of similarities among us. We are requesting the new Prime Minister look at the larger picture of Sri Lankan democracy. Sri Lanka has thrived in democracy since 1931. Our elections are free and fair. None of the government leaders stays beyond their mandate,” he added. 

The full interview with the Minister is to be published soon.

UK to debate on human rights in Sri Lanka Tomorrow

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The parliament of the United Kingdom will hold a debate on Wednesday 9th November on the UK’s response to the human rights and economic situation in Sri Lanka.

The UK Parliament said the Backbench Business Committee which consider requests for debates from any backbench Members of Parliament has organized the debate.

MPs Elliot Colburn, Sarah Olney, Sir Stephen Timms and Theresa Villiers have put forward this debate.

A full transcript of the debate will be available three hours after the debate on Commons Hansard, UK parliament said.

UN HR Boss writes to Musk on Twitter

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Saturday issued an open letter to Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer at Twitter, urging him to “ensure human rights are central to the management of Twitter” under Musk’s leadership. The letter follows reports of the sacking of Twitter’s entire human rights team and all but two of the ethical AI team – not “an encouraging start,” said Türk.

“Twitter is part of a global revolution that has transformed how we communicate. But I write with concern and apprehension about our digital public square and Twitter’s role in it,” Türk stated in the letter.

“Like all companies, Twitter needs to understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them. Respect for our shared human rights should set the guardrails for the platform’s use and evolution.”

“In short, I urge you to ensure human rights are central to the management of Twitter under your leadership,” the High Commissioner said.

The UN Human Rights Chief set out six fundamental principles from a human rights perspective that need to be front and centre in the management of Twitter:

  1. Protect free speech across the globe: Türk urged Twitter to stand up for the rights to privacy and free expression to the fullest extent possible, under relevant laws, and to transparently report on Government requests that would infringe those rights.
  2. Free speech is not a free pass: Viral spread of harmful disinformation, like that seen during the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to vaccines, results in real world harms. Twitter has a responsibility to avoid amplifying content that results in harm to other people’s rights.
  3. There is no place for hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence on Twitter: Spread of hate speech on social media has had horrific consequences for thousands. Twitter’s content moderation policies should continue to bar such hatred on the platform. Every effort needs to be made to remove such content promptly. Human rights law is clear: freedom of expression stops at hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence.
  4. Transparency is key: Research is essential to understand better the impact of social media on our societies. Maintain access to Twitter’s data through its open application programming interfaces (APIs).
  5. Protect privacy: Free speech depends on effective protection of privacy. It is vital that Twitter refrain from invasive user tracking and amassing related data and that it resist, to the fullest extent possible under applicable laws, unjustified requests from governments for user data.
  6. Languages and contextual expertise are not optional: Twitter’s responsibilities to maintain a rights-respecting and safe platform apply not just to English-language content, but globally.

Exclusive: The Booker laureate admits he keeps Rajpal’s manuscript

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Sri Lanka Guardian has sent a media query to Shehan Karunathilake but he is yet to respond. However, on behalf of the Sri Lankan origins booker prize winner, someone named “SK” has shared a message on social media stating that, “a claim has been made by a journalist in Colombo that the plot of my novel, ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ was ‘stolen’ from a 56-page untitled ‘novella’ that he sent to me in 2011 seeking an author’s endorsement. His claim is both baseless and insulting.” This statement clearly accepted that the accused has received a manuscript from the author, Rajpal Abeynayake, and he has kept it for years.

“I have shared his email and the ‘novella’ manuscript with my lawyers who confirm that the claim of plagiarism is entirely unfounded and that the allegations made are libellous. I have also shared the ‘novella’ with my publishers – who confirm the texts bear no comparison whatsoever with my novel – there are no shared plots, characters nor text – and with the Booker Prize Foundation, so that they may be assured the claims are unfounded,” SK defended the case against Booker Prize Winner.

“We are glad to know that SK still keeps the original manuscript safe and he has given copies of the manuscript not only to his lawyers and publisher but also to Booker Prize Foundation,” said one of the senior lawyers in Colombo. Thus, Sri Lanka Guardian‘s inquiry to the Booker Prize Foundation a few days ago has yet to receive a response.  

“It is sad and disappointing that this statement has to be made. This should be a celebratory moment for Sri Lanka and its writers,” SK in his post attempted to earn sympathy.

Meanwhile, responding to the SK’s reaction, Rajpal Abeynayake says that personal insults unfounded in reality are ‘beneath this process’ and that he will not stoop so low as to respond to vicious and obnoxious third parties forwarding statements for some sort of vicarious titillation.

About the statement issued by SK so-called, presumably Shehan Karunatilaka, he says ‘let’s wait and see about the veracity of that, now that he has admitted receiving my manuscript’. Not only does he have my manuscript, but he also has it close at hand and handy to send to others too, says Rajpal.

Exclusive:  Booker Prize Winner Robs My Manuscript – Rajpal

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“The recent Booker prize-winning book Seven Moons of Mali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilleke of Sri Lanka was blatantly plagiarized from a manuscript I sent the author in 2009. I sent it for review purposes only and I have the necessary documentation in this regard,” Rajpal Abeynayake, Attorney at Law, former Editor in Chief of Daily News and former Deputy Editor of Sunday Times, both are national newspapers in Colombo, told the Sri Lanka Guardian.

This is a very serious matter,” he pointed out. “Copyright law is in existence for a reason. Nobody can profit off the labours or the creativity of another person,” a lawyer by profession who is one of the most senior journalists in Sri Lanka, Mr Abeynayake added.

“In the West institutions such as the Booker Prize Committee would understand that rectitude and propriety in these matters are vital. Imagine if writers and other persons in the arts are given the lisence to crib from anyone as they please,” he observed.

“About this specific matter, yes, Shehan Karunatillaka stole my manuscript and based his novel on my work making cosmetic changes. It’s unconscionable. He should be held to account,” he demanded.

Sri Lanka: Oh boy, Who Really Tyrant Is?

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Editorial

A self-claimed political analyst had written a hollow rant on the Aljazeera website describing President Ranil Wickremesinghe as a tyrant. This is not just about enjoying the privilege of “freedom of expression”. Eventually, the channel will not care to publish the other side of this bleak blabbering though most of the journalists working for Al Jazeera based in Qatar is an exceptional group of journalists who have a quantitative understanding of the real tyrants and their behaviours. But this person of Sri Lankan origin has tried to mislead the target audience by distorting the ground reality in Sri Lanka in a repulsive manner to appease his narrow political desires.

The Sri Lankan people are struggling to recover from the hell they fell into. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the only one who accepted the unprecedented challenge faced by the country and the people despite the callousness of serious political opponents. We have politicians who talked and walked but hardly find anyone who will take the national responsibility on their shoulders. But Wickremesinghe proved the opposite. His intervention averted the worst social consequences we were about to face. The situation has been significantly managed by him. But within a few days, the severe penalty he had to pay was the loss of his house, which was razed to the ground by a mob. Many rhetoricians, including this so-called political analyst, do not say a word against the murderous behaviour of those violent groups.

There is a reason for that. This person, among others, has made great efforts to stand out as an active person in the political gang called “Aragalaya” against the state, which was launched by some organized group a few months ago.  We don’t care how successful it is because it is his personal ambition. But what matters to us is the gambling that such crooks are doing with the national interests of the country and the sentiments of ordinary folks. Such immature minds have no choice but to present dreadful narrow political views to ensure their existence in the face of intense competition in a decaying western market.  This is nothing but a malicious attempt to harass the Sri Lankan leadership at the international level by hijacking public sentiments.

Go on boy! Not only you but also many other opportunists should hammer this nation even harder. It was what we called “seizing the opportunity” in the midst of a national calamity. Ideological charlatanism of reckless immature “political analysts” is not a new experience but common behaviour in politics and elsewhere. Hyperbolism is their impetus. When we encounter such rotten minds, our humble suggestion is loud and clear. My boy; instead of barking up the wrong tree, try to learn something substantive and original. Don’t you think this is a good time to try to define the real tyrant and their putrid behaviour? You heard us, right?

UN Women and Japan support Sri Lankan women entrepreneurs

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“My husband’s income has drastically reduced because of the country’s situation. Our entire family now depends on me”, says K. Vanitha, who runs a tailoring business in Ampara, Sri Lanka. As cost of living increases and purchasing power declines rapidly, like Vanitha, many women entrepreneurs are shouldering heavy burdens and struggling with the continuity of their businesses.

UN Women with support from the Government of Japan, provided equipment and productive assets worth LKR 50.4million (approx. USD 140,000) to help women entrepreneurs hit hardest by Sri Lanka’s economic downturn. On 26th October 2022, Ambassador MIZUKOSHI of Japan handed over some of the equipment, such as sewing machines and flour grinding machines to the women entrepreneurs supported at the distribution ceremony held in Colombo. Besides them, 384 women from the Districts of Ampara, Monaragala and Vavuniya received assistance.

The in-kind assistance provided is part of UN Women’s 3-year project on ‘Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka’ funded by the Government of Japan.

Speaking at the event in Colombo, Hon. Geetha Samanmalee Kumarasinghe, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs said: “This project has also developed the skills of more than 100 officers at the Divisional Secretariat level, who will in turn work to empower and build resilience of other women and ensure gender equality is integrated within Sri Lankan society”. 

Speaking on the need to place women and girls at the centre of relief and recovery efforts, H.E. MIZUKOSHI Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka noted that; “It is imperative to involve women and girls who comprise more than half of the country’s population in order to achieve inclusive development. Through our longstanding partnership with UN Women and Sri Lanka, Japan is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in-line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development”.

As part of the project, close to 800 women have received capacity building trainings on business and entrepreneurship conducted by UN Women and Chrysalis.

“Investing in women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of UN Women’s mandate. The entrepreneurs supported through this project are receiving one-to-one business coaching and mentoring from other established enterprises to help implement their business strategies and ensure continuity, growth and diversification of their ventures”, said Esther Hoole, Officer in Charge at UN Women Sri Lanka.

The participants, including Vanitha, that qualified for in-kind assistance, “developed business plans that were reviewed by an independent panel including local government officials, sectoral technical officers and external stakeholders to assess feasibility and awarding of the requested assistance”, said Ashika Gunasena, CEO of Chrysalis. The enterprises range across several sectors including crop cultivation, agri-business, garments, livestock rearing, food manufacturing, spice grinding, small groceries, value addition to coconut and palmyrah value chains amongst others.

Vanitha who received a sewing machine for her tailoring business said; “Since prices of ready-made garments have gone up, more people are beginning to buy fabric for stitching. This will help me expand my business and future investments”.

Esther Hoole, OIC, UN Women Sri Lanka and Ashika Gunasena, CEO, Chrysalis handing over certificates to entrepreneurs receiving in-kind assistance. [ Photo: UN Women]

Sri Lanka: China gifts 10 houses to low-income families in East

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The handing over of ten houses built under Chinese aid for low-income families living in Batticaloa took place yesterday in Batticaloa in conjunction with Diwali. The newly constructed houses were handed over to the ten Tamil families under the initiative of the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

According to the statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, “On the eve of Deepavali and before the rainy season, 10 most underprivileged families in Kaluvankerny, Batticaloa moved into their new houses gifted by Chinese Embassy. Amb Qi Zhenhong today cut the ribbon, handed over keys, food and daily equipment, and wished them Happy Diwali”

Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong and his spouse with family members who received the most precious gift of their lives [ Photo: Chinese Embassy in Colombo ]

Sri Lanka: 22 Amendment Passes

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The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed in Parliament with 174 votes in favour and one against while 49 were absent.

The second reading of the 22nd Amendment was passed with 179 MPs voted in favour while only one MP voting against. Sri Lanka Podhujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Sarath Weerasekara voted against the amendment that proposed to trim Executive powers of the Presidency.

There were notable absentees as well including former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chief Whip of the House Prasanna Ranathunga.

An apology to Our Readers

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Regarding Bangladesh and its current government, it has been confirmed that there were many flaws in the two reports, first India’s Top Spy Agency Forms New Brigade to Protect Sheikh Hasina and second Bangladesh: True Architects of Brigade75, published by Sri Lanka Guardian a few days ago. Accordingly, as a media organization that respects people’s right to information and truth-based journalism, we have decided to remove them. We express our deep regret if any party has to face any inconvenience due to the contents of those two reports. Responsibility is not our choice but habit.

– Editorial Team

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