President Maithripala Sirisena had not given his consent for co-sponsoring the UNHRC Resolution to extend 2015 Resolution by two more years, UNP MP Dr Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said in Parliament, yesterday.The MP, who recently crossed over to the Opposition, declared that the President had the power to decide whether the country should co-sponsor an international agreement or not.

The MP taking the floor during the budget debate described the co-sponsoring of 2015 resolution as an ‘unwise act’, adding that he told Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the US, the UK and the EU delegations that it was not in line with Sri Lanka’s Constitution.

Under the previous Rajapaksa administration, the Foreign Ministry had been supervised by MP Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, who was above Prof G L Peiris. Gunawardena was allowed to do as he pleased, the former Justice Minister said. That was how the previous government had handled the foreign policy. “The situation remains the same. Foreign Affairs Minister Thilak Marapana, PC or Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinghe were not aware of most of the decisions. The decisions related to the foreign affairs were taken at the Finance Ministry. Some of those meetings were held at the Official Residence of the Finance Minister with the participation of his close associates and NGO-men. Today, Senior Advisor Mano Tittawella is the one who gives instructions to our Permanent Representative in Geneva Azeez. What authority he has to decide the country’s foreign policy?”

MP Rajapakshe alleged that Singapore hadn’t responded to Sri Lanka’s call for locating Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran, who was taking refuge there because of the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore from which that country reaped a host of benefits. He said that the some government ministers were making statements detrimental to the national interest. “For example, City Planning and Water Supply Minister Rauff Hakim, during a recent meeting with Swiss Ambassador, lamented that there were no laws in our country to curtail hate speech. Hakim was my predecessor as the Minister of Justice and senior lawyer. He was also my batchmate. But he has conveniently forgotten that there are laws against hate speech. Our Penal Code, which came into being during the colonial times in 1883, has provisions against hate speech against religions. Sections 290 and 290A have prescribed two-year imprisonment for anyone making speeches downgrading religions. Now when a minister complains to an ambassador that we do not have laws to that effect it is a serious issue. Whether the mistake was committed by a member of the government or opposition, the damage and loss would be to the entire nation.”

Saman Indrajith

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