By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), yesterday, acknowledged that contrary to expectations, the UNP could comfortably ensure the passage of budget 2019 at its final reading on April 05.
Matara District MP Dullas Alahapperuma told an SLPP briefing at Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla, the UNP could overcome the UPFA challenge with the support of the four-party Tamil National alliance (TNA) and a section of SLFP MPs elected on the UPFA ticket.
Alahapperuma described those SLFPers as UNP’s slaves.
The second reading of budget 2019 was approved with a majority of 43 votes.
Alahapperuma, a member of the SLPP team currently engaged in talks meant to work out a common programme with the SLFP, admitted the split in the UPFA group in the wake of the conclusion of the second round of talks.
The first and the second round of SLPP-SLFP were held on March 14 and March 21. The third round of talks is scheduled for April 10 less than a week after the final vote on the budget.
SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, head of the SLPP delegation for talks with the SLFP, who chaired the meeting, refrained from commenting on the split.
Alahapperuma attributed the TNA’s support to the UNP government over the latter giving into the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi-led grouping’s demands pertaining to accountability issues.
TNA Jaffna District MP and party spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran last Friday (March 22) warned the government that his party would haul Sri Lanka before the International Criminal Court (ICC) unless it established a hybrid war crimes court in terms of Oct 2015 Geneva Resolution.
Referring to a recent report in a Sinhala weekly, MP Alahapperuma explained the plight of senior military officers, both serving and retired, unable to secure visas from Western governments over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. The SLFP said that some of them couldn’t even visit their children studying overseas.
MP Alahapperuma named the officers affected as Major General (Retd) Jagath Dias, Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, Maj.Gen. (Retd) Prasanna de Silva, Maj. Gen. (Retd) Nandana Udawatta and Army Chief of Staff Shavendra Silva.
Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris explained the crisis the country was facing due to the current dispensation co-sponsoring the latest Geneva Resolution that provided for two more years to fulfill promises made in Oct 2015.
Prof. Peiris discussed how the current head of the United Nations Human Rights Council Michelle Bachelet in her latest report warned Sri Lanka of dire consequences unless the government implemented the Oct 2015 Resolution.
Prof. Peiris said that recent Foreign Ministry claim that Bachelet on March 20 received Marapana’s delegation warmly, appreciated the progress made by Sri Lanka in some of the key human rights commitments arising from HRC resolution 30/1, and reaffirmed her readiness and willingness to continue to work with Sri Lanka closely in further strengthening implementation and achieving progress through technical assistance and support in areas where such assistance was required by Sri Lanka, should be examined against the backdrop of her punitive report on Sri Lanka.
The meeting took place on the side-lines of the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Prof. Peiris questioned the Bachelet’s right to condemn the Sri Lankan judiciary.
Pointing out that Minister Marapana, PC, a former Attorney General had found fault with Bachelet’s report, Prof. Peiris sought an explanation as to why the latest resolution based on that disputed dossier was co-sponsored.
Since the change of government in January 2015, Sri Lanka thrice agreed for foreign judges -in Oct 2015, March 2017 and March 2019, the former foreign minister pointed out.
Prof. Peiris alleged that a TNA delegation led by Sumanthiran had been on a destructive mission in Geneva at the taxpayers’ expense.
Prof. Peiris also questioned the rationale in Mano Tittawela of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanism directing Sri Lanka Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Azeez to approve the latest resolution whereas that responsibility should have been exercised by the Foreign Ministry.
Prof. Peiris recalled the circumstances under which Sri Lanka secured a better result at the March 2014 Geneva session. The former External Affairs Minister pointed out that 12 countries voted against the US led resolution and another 12 abstained whereas 23 voted for. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka meekly succumbed to Western pressure and in the process betrayed the interests of the war winning armed forces.