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In the thick of Kansas' contentious debate over abortion rights, the anonymous text messages arriving on the eve of the big referendum this week seemed clear enough. “Voting YES on the Amendment will deliver women a choice.”

The only problem: It was a lie, transmitted by text message Monday, a day before voters were to decide a ballot amendment seen as the first test of voter sentiment after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Voters in the conservative state with deep ties to the anti-abortion movement ended up rejecting the measure.

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“We’ve certainly seen dirty tricks, but never this level of deception aimed to make people vote the opposite way than they intend to,” said Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, a youth voter registration and engagement organization in Kansas.

The misleading texts sent to Kansas Democrats highlights the growing problem of political disinformation sent by automated text message, a ubiquitous communication system that presents new opportunities for those who would attempt to deceive voters.

To be sure, ballot initiatives are often confounding — sometimes by design, so voters will support a measure they actually oppose.

But text messages are emerging as an increasingly popular means of spreading disinformation about voting and elections. That reflects a broader embrace of texting by political campaigns and organizations, a trend that accelerated when the pandemic forced campaigns to find new ways to engage with voters.

People in the United States received nearly 6 billion political texts in 2021, according to an analysis by RoboKiller, a mobile phone app that lets users block text and voice spam. That's after a steady rise throughout the 2020 election that saw political spam texts increase by 20% a month.

“There's been an explosion of political text messages since 2020 and since then the political messages have stuck around," said RoboKiller's vice president, Giulia Porter.

Two days after the 2020 election, thousands of anonymous texts were sent to supporters of then-President Donald Trump, stating that election officials in Philadelphia were rigging the vote. The text urged the recipients to show up where ballots were being counted to “show their support” for Trump.

The same year, someone used text messages to spread false rumors of a national COVID-19 lockdown. Federal officials later blamed a foreign government for trying to stoke fear and division.

Text messages can offer specific advantages over social media when it comes to disseminating misinformation without leaving tracks, according to Darren Linvill, a Clemson University professor who researches disinformation techniques.

People also view text messages in a different way than social media, Linvill said. Social media is designed to reach the widest audience possible, but text messages are sent to particular phone numbers. That suggests the sender knows the recipient in some way and is specifically targeting that person.

“People aren’t as used to distrusting information on a text message,” Linvill said. “It’s more personal. Someone out there has your phone number and they’re reaching out to touch you with this information.”

While large social media companies have had varying success in curbing misinformation on their platforms, text messages are unmoderated. Because they aim for maximum exposure, disinformation campaigns using social media are easier to spot, study and expose, while text messages are private, one-to-one communications.

Software allowing groups to send hundreds or thousands of texts using fake numbers makes it even more difficult to find out the identity of the sender.

The texts sent in Kansas used a messaging platform made by Twilio, a San Francisco-based communications company. Twilio would not identify the customer who sent the texts, but a spokesman said the sender had been suspended from its service for violating its rules on disinformation.

The ballot amendment asked Kansans to decide on a proposed change to the state constitution that would clear the way for its Republican-controlled Legislature to more strictly regulate or ban abortion. A “yes” vote would have supported amending the constitution to remove the right to abortion. A “no” vote opposed amending the state constitution, maintaining a right to abortion.

Lindsay Ford, the associate director of a Kansas nonprofit voter engagement group called The Voter Network, noted that the texts came at a critical time, when someone looking to manipulate voters might have the best chance of succeeding.

“This is when voters who aren’t super engaged start to pay attention, in the last couple of days before the election," Ford said. “So if they’re looking for something and haven’t seen information anywhere else and that was the first or only text they received, I can see how that could lead people down the wrong path.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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President makes major effort to form all-party Govt.

View(s):

  •  Shows signs of veering away from Rajapaksas and not desparate to see early return of Gotabaya
  • Ranil holds extensive talks with TNA, but argument over whether any TNA MPs voted for new President
  • About turn by Sajith; SJB meets Ranil for talks which bring about positive mindset towards APG
  • Human Rights Council delegation coming here from Geneva; new violations and crackdown on protesters likely to be included in resolution

By Our Political Editor

President Ranil Wickremesinghe is spending most of his time sitting against the backdrop of two national flags mounted on poles on either side of his shoulder, in a room in the Presidential Secretariat that has been the scene of many historic moments in latest months.

It is from here that his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, presided over the bankruptcy of Sri Lanka. That showered misery on the people and brought ignominy to the country. For three long months, protests kept him away from this office and forced him to work from a secluded room in the President’s House. That was until protestors stormed there and forced him to flee the country in fear.

He is now stuck in Singapore. No country is willing to grant him asylum, not even Saudi Arabia. He approached the oil-rich kingdom through a small country’s former president of who has won several favours, but the de facto ruler Mohamed bin Salman was not in favour. A family member said the former President had not altogether abandoned plans to return to Sri Lanka and live at his private residence in Mirihana with support from a close protection group. Though he is entitled to a house as a former President, he does not want to lay claim to it. He only wants to seek the help of a close protection group. However, President Wickremesinghe is not in favour of his early return.  Personally, that would draw accusations against him that it was all part of a plan to save the Rajapaksas, something which is already being said over some measures he already adopted. In a broader sense, he fears that an early return would re-ignite protests since most Sri Lankans were still bitter about the travails Gotabaya Rajapaksa had subjected them to.

True, it was ex-President Rajapaksa who appointed him Prime Minister. That move paved the way for Wickremesinghe to eventually become President through a vote in Parliament in accordance with the constitution. Yet, he did direct some criticism against Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mismanagement and the economic calamity he brought about. That he is becoming increasingly critical about his predecessor, coupled with other steps he is taking, suggests that Wickremesinghe is trying to slowly veer away from the Rajapaksas. Naturally, with no parliamentarians from his United National Party (UNP) except one now, the moves are measured since he must depend on those from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) for his stability to govern. Even here, the choice of the posts of Prime Minister and other positions in Parliament not being from the SLPP are revealing. For these reasons ex-Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa continues to wield clout behind the scenes and has been cunningly manipulating events.

In last Wednesday’s policy statement, after the ceremonial opening of the eighth Parliament, there was finger pointing at ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa though he was not mentioned by name. President Wickremesinghe noted: “To strengthen our journey towards a developmental economy, we should examine the past. Why did our economy fall into such a low level? Why did we inherit negative results? Was it due to mistakes by individuals? Or due to policy deficiencies? How were individuals allowed to manipulate the economy as they wished? Can the economic policy of a country vary from person to person? Is it favourable for the country or else harmful to change policies from time to time?”

Some of the ground realities that he has raised in the form of questions do come as answers to the chaotic mess left behind by ex-President Rajapaksa. Should they not become the subject of a deeper probe, say through a Presidential Commission of Inquiry?  It would help expose the deceitful conduct of a handful.  More importantly, the detailed findings would come as a strong deterrent for the future and lay bare the avenues where new legislation is required to curb repetitions.

President Wickremesinghe also declared, “I would like to make special reference on the foreign policy of our country. Due to the instability of the foreign policy, we faced many disadvantages and setbacks in the international arena. I will change this situation. All countries of the world are our friends. We have no enemies. We do not belong to any group. I will ensure the adoption of a cordial and friendly foreign policy with all countries.”

It is no secret that ex-President Rajapaksa packed Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions abroad with members of his Viyath Maga, a so-called professional group, children of local politicians and friends. Career diplomats were not given their due role. The appointment of a retired Navy officer as Foreign Secretary saw the advent of hostile relations with many countries and a marked deterioration in the conduct of foreign policy, if indeed there was one. In one European capital where consular offices were shut down, Sri Lankans had to travel over 600 kilometres to the Embassy. In the absence of the envoy whose term has ended, a Viyath Maga  backer functioned literally as “the head of mission” and the complaints over his conduct are many. It will be no easy task for President Wickremesinghe to clean the rot in diplomatic missions overseas unless he makes drastic changes. This is an area where even the then Foreign Minister, G.L. Peiris, failed. He confined himself to issuing media statements where his own heroic role and not that of the country was projected.

President Wickremesinghe has also embarked on removing retired military officers from holding office in several civilian jobs. The Customs and the Consumer Affairs Authority are among them. The need for changes in the Police Department has now become imperative in the wake of rising number of killings. It has been further highlighted by the shooting incident at the Mount Lavinia Courts where a gun-wielding assailant made good his escape. Punishment so far has been meted out only to two constables. It must also be said in fairness to the Police Department that they have been overburdened with tasks other than maintaining law and order. A case in point is the fuel shortage and the long winding queues outside fuel stations. In almost every Police station, a substantial strength has been posted outside fuel stations. The rest have also been busy registering three-wheeler scooter taxis. Their tasks to maintain law and order have diminished.

For President Wickremesinghe, ensuring that the Police carry out their primary responsibility of maintaining law and order becomes imperative. In his policy statement, he noted that “the struggle that started all over Colombo expecting system change was later centralised in Galle Face. This was expanded to several other major cities in the island. This struggle was conducted on a non-violent basis and in a creative manner. These activists did not commit any acts of violence. Therefore, families joined the struggle to express their protests. Parents were not afraid to even bring children to the places of protest. Protestors once digitally illuminated the walls of the Presidential Secretariat, without causing any harm. Although later this non-violence was suppressed and violence emerged, with certain politicized groups becoming stakeholders. By indulging in violence, the protests turned towards terrorism.”

These remarks do raise a series of questions. It is true that politicized groups infiltrated the protestors. However, the protests had gone on peacefully until May 9 when goon squads of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) (the main governing party) went on a mad spree assaulting protestors both outside Temple Trees and at the Galle Face Green. The investigations into these incidents and the conduct of senior Police officials have turned out to be highly controversial. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID), once a coveted organization, came in for bitter criticism for the tardy way it handled the investigations. It seemed some were above the law. Some key aspects were also ignored. They caused international outrage. There is a critical question that has remained unanswered. Why was it not possible for the Ministry of Defence, the overall authority of the armed forces, to prevent the protests, which President Wickremesinghe claims turned towards “terrorism?” Similarly, irrespective of whoever occupied the President’s House on July 13, why was it not possible for the Ministry of Defence to ensure security measures to prevent the place from being overrun? Is it not the Ministry’s responsibility to ensure public property is protected?

There was prior information about the push and yet no preventive measures were in place. This is not to suggest by any means that they should have used firepower. Could they not have done it without that? The fact that they did not, showed that similar incidents in the future could also become security nightmares due to someone’s lapse somewhere. If the argument, that is highly unlikely, is that ex-President Rajapaksa did not want any action taken, did those responsible fail in their duty by heeding such a request? Answers to this will solve many issues that are now clouded in mystery.

Moves to form all-party Government

This week, from the Presidential Secretariat, President Wickremesinghe has been directing a major effort to form an All-Party Government (APG). One of his aides said that he wants to urge the parties to join in instead of “pinching MPs from different groups.”  Last Wednesday afternoon, just as he had finished his policy statement, President Wickremesinghe met a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Their leader, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan was indisposed. It was led by spokesperson Abraham Sumanthiran and the meeting lasted over an hour.

The main Topic was for the President to convince the TNA that it should participate in the APG that he was putting together. Discussions on the current predicament of the people of north and the east and other related matters were progressing well until Sumanthiran declared that although his party did not vote for Wickremesinghe, the TNA was willing to work with the government from outside supporting progressive steps that may be taken.

This prompted a spontaneous response from the President, who politely said with a grin that it may be wrong to say that all members of the TNA voted for his opponent. He said he knew for a fact that a few of them voted for him. Sumanthiran contested the claim saying, “how can that be even possible, when as a party, we made a decision to support Dullas Alahapperuma?” While some of the TNA members sat uncomfortably, Dharmalingam Siddharthan, Leader of People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), asked the President how could he or anybody for that matter, know who voted for whom because it was a secret ballot? President Wickremesinghe laughed and remarked, “I even have the list of names of MPs who voted for me from the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).” Until then it had only been Minister Harin Fernando who claimed publicly that a few TNA and SJB MPs who voted in support of Wickremesighe. “What we have told him is that we will support the formation of an All-Party Government.  Once it is done and depending on its formation, we will decide on further matters,” Sumanthrian told the Sunday Times.

On Thursday, it was the turn of 14 SLFP breakaway group parliamentarians to meet the President. It was Dullas Alahapperuma who led the group that included G.L. Peiris, Nalaka Godahewa, Dilan Perera, Vasantha Yapa, Charitha Herath and Gunapala Ratnasekera. Besides President Wickremesinghe, also present was Prime Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena.

President Wickremesinghe is sounding out political parties represented in Parliament for an APG to obtain their viewpoints on two different aspects. One is an APG with a cabinet of ministers made up of those nominated by the partner parties. The other is to convert the entire Parliament into governing committees tasked with different responsibilities. The latter is to be granted authority to take decisions.

The Dullas group as it has now come to be known submitted their own standpoint. Firstly, they said that the entire country should be encompassed in a quick political and economic recovery programme. Secondly, the number of ministers in the Cabinet should be restricted to the existing figure of 18 and no increases should be made. There should be no State Ministers. Thirdly, the group will extend help within Parliament and will not involve itself in any matter relating to executive functions. Fourthly, the group is in favour of Parliamentary Oversight Committees. Fifthly, there should be a time frame during which the demands they were placing are fulfilled. A member of the Alahapperuma group said such a time frame was being sought to pave the way for early elections. President Wickremesinghe declared that there should be another meeting with the Dullas group. This was after he had met other political parties and sounded out their viewpoints.

Alahapperuma also raised issue over the crackdown on “innocent and peaceful” protestors. He complained that they were being arbitrarily arrested. President Wickremesinghe was to deny the accusation and assert that “we are not arresting innocent protestors.” He said the Municipal Councils of both Colombo and Kandy were setting apart separate areas for the public to carry out protests. In Colombo, he said, it would be the Vihara Maha Devi Park. Those wanting to stage protests should go there, he said.

Ahead of their meeting, the Dullas group held a meeting at the residence of their de facto leader, G. L. Peiris. The group is examining legal formalities for the formation of a new political party, the first indication that a formal split in the SLPP-led coalition would occur soon. Another group comprising eleven parties, also a constituent and now sitting in the opposition benches, is staunchly backing President Wickremesinghe. Their efforts are spearheaded by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa who will become a cabinet minister. He has remained an active behind-the-scenes campaigner for the APG in a paradoxical blend with the machinations of his archenemy Basil Rajapaksa. Both are on the same page but for different reasons.

President Wickremesinghe wants a new cabinet of ministers in place as early as possible.  That alone, however, is not going to ease off the issues the government is facing vis-a-vis the people. The main issue for them is the speedy restoration of fuel supplies. That again hinges on the availability of more foreign exchange.

SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, had to do an about turn when his party chose to engage President Wickremesinghe in a dialogue on Friday evening. He had refused earlier allowing opposition to build within SJB ranks. Led by Premadasa, a group went by bus to the Presidential Secretariat. They included Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Lakshman Kiriella, Kabir Hashim, Dr Harsha De Silva, Gayantha Karunathilake, Tissa Attanayake, Thalatha Athukorala, Rajitha Senaratne, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Nalin Bandara. Also in attendance were leaders of the SJB’s coalition partners including Mano Ganesan (Tamil Progressive Alliance), Rishad Bathiudeen (All Ceylon Makkal Congress) and Nizam Kariapper (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress). Premadasa was forced to change his mind after partner parties raised issue over the non-participation and threatened to go it alone.

A onetime minister and Galle District parliamentarian Gayantha Karunathilake summed up how the talks went. He told the Sunday Times, “Opposition Leader Premadasa told the President Wickremesinghe that the party had no issue working with him. They would look at the APG’s programme of work with a positive mindset. The President also said he will submit to us the proposals forwarded by other parties on an all-party programme by next Monday. We have no issue working on an all-party programme but the modalities of the arrangement will have to be discussed further in the coming days.” Karunathilake said that the delegation also discussed the declaration of a state of emergency and the arrest of protestors. “We told the President that we were in agreement that wrongdoers needed to be punished but stressed that it should not translate into a witch-hunt against activists involved in the struggle.” The SJB, he added, also called for the release of activists involved in the struggle and the lifting of the state of emergency.

The meeting notwithstanding, Premadasa remains firm that the SJB members should not hold portfolios in an APG. This position may see a split in the alliance with some top rungers backing President Wickremesinghe. In addition, some minority parties within the fold too are supportive of the APG.

The last to meet President Wickremesinghe on Friday at the Presidential Secretariat was a Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) delegation led by Patali Champika Ranawaka. He placed before the President a set of demands which the JHU had formulated. They appeared in these columns last week. Onetime minister Ranawaka also urged that heads to all vital state sector institutions should be picked on merit. Ranawaka told the Sunday Times, “We will watch how things are unfolding. We will also see how President Wickremesinghe is going to implement the pledges he made during his policy statement.” Ranawaka also raised issue over the visit to Hambantota of a Chinese vessel with capability to intercept communications in a wider area. He said that such visits should not affect Sri Lanka’s relations with other countries. The Foreign Ministry has asked the Chinese Embassy in Colombo in a Third Person Note on Friday that the arrival date of the vessel YUAN WANG 5 in Hambantota “be deferred until further consultations are made on the matter.” The move is known to be the result of strong displeasure expressed by India.

Ranawaka also raised issue with President Wickremesinghe over what he said were moves by the Japanese aid agency JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) to pull out of Sri Lanka. This is a Tokyo government body that delivers the bulk of official development assistance for the Government of Japan and is tasked with assisting economic, social growth in developing countries, and the promotion of international cooperation. He also alleged that for some projects, assistance was being halted. It is not immediately clear whether the move is linked to the re-induction of Nimal Siripala de Silva as the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation. It was Japan’s Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki, who alleged in a complaint to former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that minister de Silva sought a bribe from Taisei, a Japanese company engaged in development work at the Bandaranaike International Airport. Minister de Silva denies the accusations. A government appointed committee of inquiry declared he was not guilty of the accusations – a move which came as a bad reflection on the Japanese envoy’s complaint.

The only certainties for the APG at present are those from the SLPP, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), whose General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera, is strongly backing and the eleven-party group spearheaded by Wimal Weerawansa.

If forming an APG and thus delivering a message to the international community that there is stability is critically important, it is equally essential for the government to ensure that the staff level agreement is concluded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the earliest. Bridging finance from other countries hinges on this agreement. According to official sources, US$ 1.35 billion from India and a further US$ one billion from Japan are on the pipeline. There are also the prospects of other assistance being discussed when President Wickremesinghe visits Japan for the official funeral of former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. This is likely to be his first visit abroad later to be followed by a visit to China.

Early in the week, President Ranil Wickremesinghe in an interview to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said, “I think we’ve already hit the bottom. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; it’s how fast we can get to it.” He further said that “it will be some months before most Sri Lankans begin to see their economic situation noticeably improve”. A local economist sarcastically remarked four years could be said as 48 months (some months).

President Wickremesinghe also told the WSJ that he expects an IMF staff-level agreement to be reached by the end of August. “We are down to the nitty-gritty,” he said. “We would have had it this month [July] if it were not for the unstable political condition.” Just three days later, in his policy statement in parliament the President was more measured in his expectations. He said, “As a preliminary step, we initiated negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a four-year programme. We would continue those discussions from this month. It is our expectation to conclude the staff level negotiations expeditiously and successfully.”

The outstanding issues, has learned, include policy framework on restructuring of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), details on fiscal policies, public sector cost revision and a few other related matters. Their expectation is that a staff-level agreement could only be possible in September at the earliest, unless a few key decisions could be made bypassing the cabinet and, in some instances, the Central Bank. In that event, it may become possible to sign a deal by the end of this month. Effectively, will the President as Finance Minister make these decisions using executive powers? Or in the alternative, would there be further delays?

Once the staff-level agreement is reached Sri Lanka would be able to hold further talks with bilateral creditors and sovereign bondholders. The President also told WSJ, “It’s an issue between the different approaches to debt relief between India and Japan on one side, supported by the U.S., and China on the other side, It’s a question of getting them to agree on one plan. It’s a question of how do you deal with the haircut? How do you deal with having new money given to pay off the old loans?” He is also keeping an eye on the process that unfolded in Zambia, he added.

Only a day earlier on Saturday, July 30 it was reported that Zambia’s creditors pledged to negotiate a restructuring of the country’s debts. Zambia reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF on a $1.4 billion three-year extended credit facility in December, conditional upon its ability to reduce debt to levels the Fund deems sustainable. Zambia still will need the IMF Board approval before seeing this $1.4bn, which could take a few more weeks. Zambia’s external debt is reported as $17 bn compared to Sri Lanka’s external debt of $ 51 bn. It has taken a good 8 months plus for Zambia to reach this position post staff level agreement in December 2021.

So even if Sri Lanka achieves staff-level agreement by end of this month or early next month to achieve debt sustainability it could take a few months. That this could be achieved during the first quarter of 2023, looks more and more realistic, said a monetary expert familiar with Sri Lanka’s case. As Lazard Frères SAS–Paris has been advising the Zambian Government and are considered as the market leading Chinese debt specialists, it is likely that the tricks it has learnt from that experience will be deployed in favour of Sri Lanka. For example, unlike in the Zambian experience, Lazard has advised Sri Lanka to agree to debt restructure terms with China first before reaching out to other bilateral creditors. This could expedite the process as the Paris Club member states collectively will be less aggressive and be more willing to match the same terms as agreed with China.

On Friday, at the Advocata Institute organised Sri Lanka’s first ever reset economic conference prioritising economic recovery and growth, the President Wickremesinghe remarked that the financial advisors Lazard are not just looking at external debt restructure plans to achieve debt sustainability, but also reviewing the local debt as well. Latest estimates of local debt to be just over Rs 12 bn. Whether this review is requested by the government or is it an IMF condition is unclear. If the latter is true, then achieving a board-level agreement will certainly be challenging in the short to medium term.

Geneva process

There is also bad news amidst all this. A top-level team from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is due in Colombo in the first week of next month on a fact-finding mission. Leading the team will be Rory Mungoven, head of the Asia Pacific Section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The team is due to meet President Wickremesinghe, relevant stakeholders including the Sri Lanka Human Rights Council and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry. They will also meet Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, who has been actively encouraging a UNHRC team to visit Sri Lanka.

The report of this team will be presented on day one at the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) by the new High Commissioner or an Interim High Commissioner as the current High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, for personal reasons, has decided to end her term early by the end of this month.

Diplomatic sources in Geneva say that Rory Mungoven who will be the architect of the report on Sri Lanka and will discuss some of the details with President Wickremesinghe. The Core Group (United States, United Kingdom, Germany,  Canada, Malawi, Montenegro, and North Macedonia) has already met several times in Geneva and in Colombo informally and via Zoom discussing the prospects of a new resolution on Sri Lanka in September during the 51st session of the Human Rights Council. The sessions begin on September 12 and runs till October 7, 2022. Until May, this year, the Core Group was planning for a roll-over of the resolution (46/1) with a time extension of two years from September 2022 to September 2024. However, latest developments including attacks on protestors at the Galle Face Green and outside Temple Trees and the “brutal suppression” of a by and large peaceful protest has changed their mind and made them prepare for a new tough resolution highlighting latest events of alleged human rights breaches and what they call a worrying trend. Bulk of the language from 46/1 will be included in the resolution, diplomatic sources said.

President Wickremesinghe is aware of the developments. He has asked the Foreign Ministry to organize a small group of experts to devise a counter but a more conciliatory plan which will enable Foreign Minister Sabry to travel to Geneva seeking for deferment on passing any resolutions or making any adverse recommendations by the High Commissioner. It will be seen as de ja vu when Late Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera spoke so eloquently in February 2015 and successfully gained deferment of release of the OISL (the OHCHR investigation) report.

President Wickremesinghe has been in office for the past 19 days. In his policy statement, he admits that the expectations of the people on the political system and politicians had broken. Hence, his statement, like his previous statements, both during his days of sway in the yahapalana government and his presidential rule now, cannot be mere rhetoric or only pledges. He must fulfil what he has assured. Even his fiercest critics are looking forward to that.

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