In the absence of Prez
PM directs police to use ICCPR against troublemakers

SLPP points out lack of contingency plans 3 weeks after Easter Sunday carnage



By Shamindra Ferdinando

In the absence of President Maithripala Sirisena, who holds the law and order portfolio, in addition to defence, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed the police to move court against those suspected of being involved in the recent violence in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Emergency Regulations.

President Sirisena left for Beijing on Monday (May 13) for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Those produced in court in terms of the ICCPR, can obtain bail only from the High Court.

Attorney-at-law Sudarshana Gunawardena, in a statement issued in his capacity as advisor to the Prime Minister and the Economic Affairs Minister explained how Premier Wickremesinghe in consultation with the cabinet of ministers on the night of May 13 directed the police to impose a countrywide curfew.Gunawardena described the imposition of a countrywide curfew as a precautionary measure.

Acting IGP C.D. Wickremaratne has dispatched two police teams headed by DIGs to inquire into incidents reported from the provinces.

According to the statement received from the Premier’s Office, on the instructions of Wickremesinghe, the IGP imposed countrywide curfew for second consecutive day, Tuesday, May 14. Gunawardena, a former Director General, Information Department is head of the Development Communications Unit.

Having visited Kurunegala District on Tuesday morning to inquire into the welfare of those affected, PM Wickremesinghe again chaired a meeting of the Cabinet of ministers to discuss security arrangements.

Gunawardena said that the police and the armed forces had brough the situation under control in Kurunegala, Puttalam and Gampaha districts following a spate of incidents on May 12 and 13.

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris, yesterday, said that the statement issued by the PM’s Office didn’t reflect the actual ground situation. The Government Information Department on May 13 issued a statement in respect of State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene receiving the defence portfolio before President Sirisena’s departure to Beijing, Prof. Peiris pointed out. The former External Affairs Minister said: "Following PM’s Office statement as regards instructions issued by Wickremesinghe to law enforcement authorities following serious incidents in three districts, we would like to know about the failure to thwart organised attacks."

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the government owed an explanation as to why the police and the armed forces had failed to contain the situation in spite of having sizable strength. He pointed out that trouble began in the Chilaw police area on May 12––almost three weeks after the Easter Sunday carnage.

Prof. Peiris alleged that contrary to highly publicised claims that the armed forces had been given full authority to deal with any eventuality, the military was yet to receive authorization to question suspects.

The vast majority of the population had their faith in the armed forces. Therefore, it would be sensible to allow a bigger role to the armed forces without further delay, Prof. Peiris said.

The former External Affairs Minister faulted the government for not having a spokesperson capable of addressing current contentious issues. "The government can name a senior minister or an official to respond to media queries," Prof. Peiris said, pointing out that the government was yet to appoint a cabinet spokesperson.

Prof. Peiris said that the critical issue here was why the government lacked a contingency plan nearly 20 days after the Easter Sunday carnage. Had there been a contingency plan, the dispute over a Facebook post involving Sinhalese and Muslims in Chilaw last Sunday wouldn’t have spread to several other areas, he said.

Prof. Peiris pointed out that no less a person than Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had bitterly complained about the failure on the part of the government to ensure proper cordon and search operations.

"We’ll not play politics with this issue. But we certainly cannot remain silent over the government incompetence," Prof. Peiris said. The former minister also referred to ongoing UNP efforts, in the wake of April 21 bombings, to secure the law and order portfolio for the party.

President Sirisena has repeatedly rejected UNP request to accommodate Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka as the law and order minister.

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