COUNTRY GAINED DUE TO PM’s REFUSAL TO SIGN ROME STATUTE

Sri Lanka cannot be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) thanks to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe not signing the Rome Statute in 2002, UPFA MP Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

He made this observation confronting TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran’s claim that Sri Lanka’s case would be referred to the International Criminal Court if it fails to include international judges in the judicial mechanism.

“TNA MP Sumanthiran is making political speeches and doing so he contributes to make the country unstable.

“It is wrong for him to make such speeches while knowing the facts. Sri Lanka is a non-signatory to the Rome Statute which came into force in 2002. The credit for that must go to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. We are not bound by the Clauses of the Rome Statute,” he said.

Samarasinghe stressed that a domestic mechanism must be in place to deal with post-war allegations and urged to proceed with it with earnest political will.

“We face international pressure, because we do not have a domestic mechanism so far to deal with post-war allegations.

If we are to be done with this problem, accountability is important.

Otherwise we won’t be able to get away from these allegations,” he added.

Proposed SOFA with US undermines domestic law – Bimal

The proposed Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US is not reciprocal and it contains clauses which undermines the domestic law, JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake said.

He requested President Maithripala Sirisena not to sign this agreement in his capacity as the Defence Minister.

Referring to the August 28, 2018 document sent by the US which contains the draft Clauses of the SOFA, the MPs said it allegedly allows US military personnel to enter Sri Lanka without a passport by only producing a US ID or Driving License.

Speaking at the Committee Stage debate of ‘Budget 2019’ in Parliament yesterday when the Expenditure Heads of Foreign Affairs Ministry and Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry were taken up, the MP said Sri Lankan authorities cannot inspect the US military personnel when they enter the country as per the agreement.

He said it would also take away Sri Lanka’s right to inspect any US vessels that enter Sri Lanka.

He added that Sri Lanka would not have the authority to inspect what US military personnel bring into the country or take out of the country.

He further said that the agreement also exempts the US security units from tax.

“Most importantly, the US law applies to the US military personnel who come to Sri Lanka. We cannot prosecute them for any wrong doing under Sri Lankan law. The US that proposes to take Sri Lanka to the ICC, wants the US law to apply when US military personnel come to Sri Lanka. Why should the Government agree to it?” he asked.

“When we questioned about it, Foreign Ministry officials replied that other countries had also signed similar agreements and therefore we too do so. This is not a responsible answer. The US often engages in wars. These agreements stand for a long time. The Defence Ministry must not sign it without looking at the strategic approaches,” he said. Commenting on the UNHRC, the MP pointed out that Sri Lanka should champion the human rights of its people, without always approaching the session with a defensive mentality.

He said the setting up of the Truth Commission is a must and that it must not be further delayed.

Three million tourist arrivals expected by year’s end – Minister Amaratunga

Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said in Parliament yesterday that there will be 3 million tourists arrivals and USD 5 million income from tourism by the end of this year.

He added that when he took office in 2015, there was only 1.5 million tourits arriving in the country while in 2018, it increased to 2.3 million and by end of this year it will increase to 3 million. In a matter of four years, the number of tourist arrivals has doubled.

“When I took over office the revenue was USD 2.5 billion. By 2018 it reached to USD 4.3 billion. The target for this year is to see that tourist revenue hit the USD 5 billion mark. This is a 100% growth in a period of four years,” Minister Amaratunga added.

He further said the country has received USD 5 billion as direct investments, in the development of hotels and other tourist attractions. The hotel sector has 90,000 rooms, both formal and informal and is being added to the growing demand. The biggest hotel brands in the world have already invested in the country or shown interest for future investments.

In order to further promote Sri Lanka, a Travel Mart will be held at the end of May with over 200 travel agents and tour operators who have never marketed Sri Lanka invited to this event. The country will launch a programme offering a discounted rate during the off season to attract tourists to the country.

Increase in Govt. foreign debt – Eran

The foreign debt of the Government increased by Rs.626,429 million due to the depreciation of the Rupee during the period from January 9, 2015 to November 30, 2017, Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne said.

The State Minister was responding to a question raised by UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila in Parliament yesterday.

He said that the Sri Lankan Rupee depreciated by 14.6 percent in relation to the US Dollar during the above mentioned period.

Refuting the claim by MP Gammanpila that the investors lost confidence due to the Bond scam, the State Minister said that the country recorded USD 2.34 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2018 according to latest statistics.

“The value of FDI received in 2014 was USD 1.5 billion and the value of FDI received in 2017 was USD 1.7 billion,” he said.

Opposition should stop playing political games – Harsha

Stop discrimination on racial lines for petty political gain and have a backbone that recognises that all Sri Lankans are equal, Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Non-Cabinet Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva appealed from the Opposition MPs yesterday.

Speaking at the Committee Stage debate of ‘Budget 2019’ in Parliament yesterday when the Expenditure Heads of Foreign Affairs Ministry were taken up, Dr. de Silva pointed out that every person who died during the war, irrespective of their ethnicity, were ‘Sri Lankans’ and that he stands for all of them.

“It is high time the Opposition stops playing petty political games. We want to restore peace in the country. Some want to create trouble with elections around the corner. There has to be a limit to politics. It was our Sri Lankans who died. You should have the backbone to treat all Sri Lankans equally. Be more responsible,” he told the Opposition MPs.

“No foreign judges will be here to try Sri Lankans and punish them. Our Government never agreed to establish a hybrid court.

We will follow the Constitution. During the 52-day political coup, you violated the Constitution, but the Judiciary emerged strong and independent and stopped you from proceeding,” he said.

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