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Allegations against Lankan and Bangladesh peacekeeping troops: UN defends screening process

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Following the release this week of an investigative documentary alleging that Bangladesh and Sri Lanka sent officers implicated in torture and extrajudicial killings on United Nations peacekeeping missions, the world body has been forced to defend its screening process for peacekeepers.

The joint investigation by German broadcaster DW, Sweden-based investigative outlet Netra News, and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung alleges that the UN is seemingly turning a blind eye to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s deployment of officers with serious allegations of human rights violations as peacekeepers.

When questioned about the documentary at its media briefing on Wednesday, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that Secretary-General António Guterres was aware of the allegations and that they had seen the documentary. The spokesperson pointed out that their colleagues in the peacekeeping department had given a statement to the documentary’s producers.

He stressed that the UN is “committed to deploying personnel who meet the highest standards of efficiency and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights, and has established the relevant procedures and mechanisms under the policy on human rights screening of UN personnel.”

There are three parts to the screening of peacekeepers, the spokesperson explained. One involves self-certification; the second involves certification by the sending country. There’s also a procedure by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he noted.

Mr. Dujarric said that over the years, there have been cases where they have been informed of allegations of past human rights violations committed by uniformed personnel from a small number of countries deployed in the UN’s peacekeeping missions. “When such cases occur, our peacekeeping colleagues take appropriate action in accordance with their screening policy and other relevant frameworks, including in consultation with troop-contributing countries. And sometimes it can result in uniformed personnel not being deployed or even being repatriated by the UN if allegations are substantiated,” the spokesperson said.


Like in Sri Lanka, Britain’s two major parties play blame games over debates

It seems Sri Lanka is not the only country where politicians are arguing about political debates with each other.

In Sri Lanka, the question of “Will they or won’t they?” continues to surround the much-anticipated debate between Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake. Both sides have accused the other of fearing to debate their opponent.

Meanwhile, in Britain, which is due to hold its general election on July 4, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer have become embroiled in a spat over debating each other.

Mr. Sunak has claimed Sir Keir does not have the courage to face him in a televised election debate. Premier Sunak’s Conservative Party has challenged the Labour leader to as many as six TV debates. The Labour leader’s camp insists he will take part in the debate but has so far not confirmed how many he will attend. The blame game continues there as well.


No quorum for breakdown of rule of law: MPs missing to discuss the subject

Yet another Parliamentary debate was cut short on Wednesday when the House had to be adjourned early owing to a lack of quorum.

Ironically, this arose as Parliament debated an adjournment motion brought by the Opposition on the “Breakdown of the rule of law in the country.” In the end, this was another example of how discipline certainly has for some time been a question among elected representatives of the people.

It was especially embarrassing for the Opposition, given that it had moved the motion and the onus was on it to ensure that enough MPs were present in the House. Further, the Opposition is clamouring for an election—to be in Parliament once again.


In Wellawaya, residents were organising a Dansala for Vesak but turned it into a memorial event to show their gratitude to Iran’s late President Ebrahim Raisi and the Iranian government for the partially Iranian-funded Uma Oya multipurpose project which has generated job opportunities in the region. Pic by I.R.Indika

 


Political twist in Cabinet minister’s kissing spree at son’s wedding

For parents, the marriage of their children is a truly joyous occasion. This was also the case for a senior Cabinet minister when his son got married this week.

The proud father, who has already signalled his lofty ambitions to reach the highest office of the land, was so overjoyed by the occasion that he reportedly went on a hugging and kissing spree of the attendees. They included a veteran politician whom he succeeded as the head of a political party that is currently split and having a legal tussle between the two factions.

The minister was so taken up by the occasion that he even hugged and kissed people who were complete strangers to him. Or was he practising doing the same with the voters very soon?


Scandal of high tuition fees forces parents to beg in north

If there has been a real boom in any sector in recent times, it would be the ‘tuition class industry’ considering the number of pamphlets and handouts distributed.

But not many people would have known that private tuition has become expensive to such an extent that some poorer parents have had to resort to the begging bowl and take to the streets to finance the studies of their children.

On Friday morning, two mothers arrived in Jaffna town aboard a bus from Vavuniya and started going to the shops in the city with a bowl, requesting funds to support their families and the studies of their children.

When they entered a tea stall, frequented by those coming into the city, the owner offered them plain tea free of charge. A journalist who was in the shop initiated a conversation and tried to extract details about the two middle-aged women, but was taken aback when they shared their stories.

Both women have school-going children in their teenage years in Vavuniya with limited income from breadwinners who make a living by engaging in fishing near a tank. To cover the expenses of the tuition fees of the children who go to Colombo for weekend classes offered by a teacher from a leading school in Colombo, the duo take turns going to each district in the North every week, except Vavuniya, explaining their plight to raise funds.

When asked, they said they would collect around Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 per day without their transport expenses. “We will not eat on most days to save some more and return home.”

One of them said her son, who is doing his Advanced Level, has to pay Rs 1,500 per hour for his Colombo-based tuition teacher for two days on the weekends.

The tea stall owner asked them whether they had received any government assistance. Both said they were beneficiaries of the Samurdhi programme until recently.

The agitated owner was heard telling his customers that he wonders whether tuition-class teachers who make tens of thousands of rupees within hours pay taxes while traders like himself are forced to pay VAT from early this year. Another customer chipped in to point out how these tuition teachers target the young through the self-promoting advertising they indulge in on television during popular cricket matches; sometimes several of them join together in the campaign.


Another road drama at Colombo 7: Gun-toting businessman arrested

A gun-toting man scared off passengers travelling in a private bus this week in the Colombo 7 area.

The bus operating between Mattegoda and Pettah was first given chase by a car. The car overtook the bus close to Thurstan College and blocked its path.

The car driver claimed that his side mirror was damaged by the bus. An argument followed with the conductor and driver.

The car driver suddenly pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the conductor, prompting passengers to hurriedly get off the bus, assuming he was an underworld gang member.

However, the Cinnamon Gardens Police OIC, Aloka Bandara Senanayake, who initiated action, immediately arrested the person.

He has claimed to be a gem businessman residing in Wellawatte.

The suspect has been placed in
remand custody.

Not that these bus drivers are innocent of reckless driving on the main roads due to the size of their vehicles, but it seems that even the slightest altercation these days could result in someone pulling out a gun.

 


30 bridges about to collapse, Highways Minister warns

Transport and Highways Minister Bandula Gunawardana made an alarming revelation in Parliament on Wednesday on how dangerous the country’s infrastructure had become owing to the lack of funds.

Speaking during the day’s adjournment debate, Minister Gunawardana said they had identified 30 main bridges around the country that had fallen into a serious state of disrepair. “They may collapse at any moment, causing a major disaster, but where are the funds to repair them?” he asked.

Minister Gunawardana argued that the only way out of the country’s financial crisis was to adopt wide-ranging economic reforms that were being pushed through by the government.


Shocking report on deployment of CEB’s mobile generators

The Ceylon Electricity Board’s (CEB) performance is closely linked with the lives of the people, and naturally, the losses made also come as a burden on the people.

One such issue has been the permission granted to import mobile generators to be used in the event of a breakdown. The objective was to ensure that power could be restored to the area by deploying the mobile generators.

However, the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) learned last week that more than Rs 600 million had been spent additionally to modify the generators before they were put to use.

COPE has been trying to figure out who was responsible for ordering the generators, as it has been revealed that the imports did not adhere to the approved specifications.

Moreover, as many as 12 visits had been made to India and Dubai by a team of officials before the purchases.

COPE last discussed the issue in June 2022, and a report has now been called for.

It was also revealed that some of the generators are no longer mobile and have been fixed in two locations, thereby losing their original purpose.

Colombo District Parliamentarian Madhura Vithanage last week raised the issue again and was told that a report had been made, containing the names of the officials responsible. COPE is set to take up the matter again shortly.

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