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2020 GE: Polls monitors get about Rs. 56 mn from donors

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…another Rs. 2.5 mn to ensure peaceful election

by Shamindra Ferdinando

 Two leading polls monitors-PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections) and CMEV (Center for Monitoring Elections) received approximately Rs 50 mn and Rs 6 mn respectively from donors in support of their operations.

 Executive Director of PAFREL Rohana Hettiarachchi and National Coordinator of CMEV Manjula Gajanayake said that they would be issuing detailed reports soon on the operation undertaken at the 2019 general election.

The Island sought explanation regarding their operating expenditure after they revealed the high cost of electing an MP. The PAFFREL estimated the cost of electing an MP at approximately Rs. 55 mn whereas the CMEV estimated the cost at about Rs. 77 mn.

 In terms of the Right to Information Act enacted on Aug 4, 2016, the public could seek information even from civil society organisations that receive foreign funding.

 Asked to explain the vast discrepancy in the amounts mentioned by the two organisations, Hettiarachchi said that his outfit divided the Election Commission (EC) allocation amounting to Rs 10 bn by 196 as the remaining 29 members were appointed through the National List. Responding to another query, Hettiarachchi said that PAFFREL didn’t take expenses borne by political parties, individual contestants as well as the funds received by them in support of their campaigns.

 Gajanayake pointed out that the CMEV, having estimated the EC budget for 2019 parliamentary election at Rs 8.5 bn, also took into consideration funding received by political parties and individual contestants from various sources, both here and overseas. Therefore, the CMEV on the basis of all estimated funds received by those in the fray placed the cost of electing a lawmaker at Rs 77 mn.

 Gajanayake noted that some contestants spent extravagantly on costly television and social media campaigns.

 Both Hettiarachchi and Gajanayake emphasized that corona epidemic caused sharp increase in the EC’s budget. The poll couldn’t be held as originally planned on April 25, 2020 due to the outbreak of epidemic in the second week of March.

 Asked how the CMEV had funded its polls monitoring project, Gajanayake said that the Management Systems International Inc. provided required funds amounting to Rs 6 mn. Gajanayake said that a detailed report would be prepared though he was unable to go into details at the moment. According to Gajanayake, their primary objective was to ascertain the expenditure incurred by political parties for propaganda. “We bought nine television sets, four lap tops, six hand phones and some desks and chairs required by the staff,” Gajanayake said, adding that the monitoring process was carried out over two months by 40 staff and two permanent employees. Gajanayake said that they worked as many as 18 hours a day on some days. The CMEV attributed two day workshop for the staff, other training programmes and facilities to the overall cost of the operation amounting to Rs 6 mn.

 The Management Systems International Inc is a powerful US consulting organisation engaged in a spate of projects in various parts of the world, including Asia.

 Hettiarachchi said that PaFFREL received funding amount to Rs 50 mn from about seven donors, including Norway and Canada. Responding to another query, Hettiarachchi said that a detailed account would be released later. “We provided 550,000 face masks to the EC in support of the operation. Face masks were distributed among polling booths countrywide in case some voters turned up without face masks.”

PaFFREL conducted the largest operation countrywide thanks to sufficient funds provided by donors.

Meanwhile, executive director of CaFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Election) Ahamed Manas Makeen yesterday told The Island that in spite of submitting several proposals seeking donations he couldn’t raise funds for countywide polls monitoring work. However, a foreign mission provided Rs 2.5 mn to undertake an initiative to promote a peaceful election. According to him, promoting a peaceful election differed from conducting a countrywide polls monitoring operation.

Gajayanayake said that CMEV published advertisements in the media requesting information from public regarding campaign finances. However, public response was low, Gajanayake said, adding that much more organized effort on the part of the civil society was needed to further improve the election process.

Police headquarters spokesman and attorney-at-law Jaliya Senaratne said that the general election was peaceful. There hadn’t been serious violence in any part of the country though there were some clashes between supporters of TNA heavyweight M.A. Sumanthiran and Sashikala, wife of slain TNA lawmaker Nadarajah Raviraj.

 



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HRCSL: No prisoners were used in 09 May attacks on protesters

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AG, CJ asked to take action against lawyer for triggering violence

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has declared that a false allegation by President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera that some prisoners were used to attack anti-government protesters outside Temple Trees and at Galle Face on 09 May triggered violence in many parts of the country.

The HRCSL also faulted Sudesh Nadimal Silva also of the same organisation for propagating unsubstantiated allegations.

Justice (ret.) Rohini Marasinghe, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the HRCSL, said that both Senaka Perera and Sudesh Nandimal had failed to substantiate their allegations made at the Galle Face protest site on 10 May.

The HRCSL, in a statement issued yesterday (29) quoted Justice Marasinghe as having said: “False propaganda as well as misinformation of the alleged use of Prisoners to have attacked the innocent protesters is both a diabolical lie and a deceitful action.”

The HRCSL has recommended that Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam conduct a further investigations into allegations made by Senaka Perera and take necessary action

The HRCSL has requested Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, to take note of the detrimental statements made by Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera and take due action.

The HRCSL consists of Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan.

The HRCSL dealt with the issue in a statement titled ‘The HRCSL condemns the false media broadcast made by the President of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners’.

The HRCSL issued the statement after the conclusion of a special investigation by an appointed committee of investigators (Col).

CoI consisted of Sanjeewa Weerawickrama, Attorney -at- Law, Miss. lmasha Senadeera, Attorney-at-Law and Dr. Dilshani Bogollagama.

Referring to allegation that prisoners had been used to attack protesters at protest sites at Galle Face and Temple Trees, the HRCSL said that the CoI determined that no prisoners had been used in perpetrating any attack on the peaceful protesters.

The HRCSL asserted that the unsubstantiated allegations caused an irreversible damage to the country.

The HRCSL said that a group of prisoners had been seriously assaulted and subjected to mental and physical torture by an unidentified group on 09 May.

The HRCSL stated: “The unprecedented ruthless nature of the attack on prisoners and officials resulted in injuries and hospitalization of many inmates.” Since the incidents, eight prisoners hadn’t been accounted for so far, it has said.

The prisoners had been made available to the private sector enterprises in terms of an agreement endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers in Oct 2021. On the day of the incidents, a group of prisoners had been taken to a designated work place and were on their way back when gangs intercepted them.

“Attorney at Law Mr. Senaka Perera, the convener of the conference identified himself as a Human Rights Activist. The COI provided the CPRP president Mr. Senaka Perera with the opportunity to justify his statements that caused an outrage in both Sri Lanka and the World at large. For the purpose of submission of any evidence, in either oral statements or picture documentation in support of his statements, Mr. Perera was extended a justifiable time period. However, he expressly affirmed before the Committee that at the time of the statement or even thereafter he did not have any tangible evidence in favor of his expressed views in regard to the alleged incident. Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva was also summoned to give evidence before the COl. The Committee explaining the paramount importance of the maintenance of professional ethics provided Mr. Sudesh Nadimal Silva with the opportunity to provide a justifiable explanation for his expressed allegations. However, he was unable to provide any acceptable evidence in support of his statements.

The COI observed that the press conference which was chaired by M. Senaka Perera had dispensed totally false statements without any sustantive evidence.

“Following the above-mentioned facts, the COI has identified the grave consequences of the negligent attitude of making unfounded statements. Inciting agitation in the general public against state departments and personnel has inadvertently led to disruptions to the law and order of the Country.

“The COI further observed that these inaccurate declarations conveyed by the above speakers directly contributed to the series of violent activities and right violations, reported island wide. The combined result of the atrocities that occurred within a mere 48 hours resulted in the loss of 12 human lives with several hundred injured casualties. In addition, intentional damage and arson to both public and private properties surmount to the loss of billions of rupees.

“After a thorough and diligent inquiry, the COI has arrived at the following conclusions. The highly irresponsible misconduct by the Attorney-of-Law Senaka Perera, with his speculative allegations with no substantiated evidence, resulted in disastrous consequences.

“Hence, it is of paramount importance that members of professional bodies need to be guided by the code of conduct or the professional ethics as set out by the respective professional bodies for the due conduct of the members. These conditions of misconduct from individuals of representation and influence should be held accountable by the respective professional bodies.

It is the view of the COI that national media institutions must consciously adhere to responsible reporting and promote journalism with integrity, especially during this volatile period of both political and economic instability. This tantamount to avoidance of direct reporting of incidence without due assessment of this veracity and credibility. The Committee further advocates promotion of investigative journalist practices with the objective of strengthening the democratic fabric of the Country.”

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IMF end-of-mission report highlights ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) personnel that remained in Sri Lanka for ten days from 20-30 June to study the exact reasons for the current economic crisis in the country and design a comprehensive economic programme have stressed the need to reduce ‘corruption vulnerabilities’ in Sri Lanka.

The need for tackling corruption has been listed right below the IMF’s concerns about containing rising levels of inflation and addressing severe balance of payments (BOP) pressures of the country.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, Deputy Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, participated in policy discussions. At the end of the mission, Messrs. Breuer and Nozaki issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis.

The economy is expected to contract significantly in 2022, while inflation is high and rising. The critically low-level of foreign reserves has hampered the import of essential goods. During the in-person visit, the team witnessed some of the hardships currently faced by the Sri Lankan people, especially the poor and vulnerable who are affected disproportionately by the crisis. We reaffirm our commitment to support Sri Lanka at this difficult time in line with the IMF’s policies.

“The authorities’ monetary, fiscal policy and other actions since early April were important first steps to address the crisis. The team had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic policies and reforms to be supported by an IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The staff team and the authorities made significant progress on defining a macroeconomic and structural policy package. The discussions will continue virtually with a view to reaching a staff-level agreement on the EFF arrangement in the near term. Because public debt is assessed as unsustainable, Executive Board approval would require adequate financing assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors that debt sustainability will be restored.

“The authorities have made considerable progress in formulating their economic reform programme and we are looking forward to continuing the dialogue with them.”

The IMF team held meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials. It also met with MPs, representatives from the private sector, civil society organisations and development partners.

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JVP Leader talks of final solution with people drawn to the streets

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has accomplished the mission of saving the Rajapaksas.

Speaking at a JVP rally in Matara on Wednesday, Dissanayake said people had thought Wickremesinghe was a man accepted by the international community and he could resolve the crisis in next to no time.

“Nothing of the sort has happened. The crisis has worsened. In the meantime, the Rajapaksas have been enabled to come out from their hiding places. Wickremesinghe brought Mahinda Rajapaksa from Trincomalee to Colombo and then to Parliament. Wickremesinghe saved Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was contemplating his resignation. Namal Rajapaksa was not to be seen at all. There were public protests demanding the confiscation of property belonging to Namal Rajapaksa, but Wickremesinghe after becoming the Prime Minister enabled Namal to come out of hiding and go to parliament. Today, Namal is seen with the Energy Minister at meetings to discuss solutions for the oil shortage. When the crisis was brewing Yoshitha Rajapaksa left the country for Australia. Lankans in Australia started searching for him in hotels there. After Wickremesinghe became the prime minister, Yoshitha came back. Basil Rajapaksa, whose name is now mentioned in a case report as Mr Ten Percent, too, is still active in politics. Wickremesinghe has achieved his mission of saving the Rajapaksas. Did he do anything to save the people from the crisis? No, he only served as the spokesman of the crisis,” Dissanayake said.

People were dying in queues and they suffered that plight without any of their party affiliations, Dissanayake. “Today, all are in queues. There are UNP, SLFP, JVP and Communist Party members in the queues and languish together. It shows that we all have to come out together against the rulers responsible for our plight. We must sink our political differences and come together to get rid of the corrupt rulers. We must take to the streets, but before that we must have a clear understanding of how we are going to take back the stolen wealth of the people. Simple change of power would not ensure their recovery. We must fight with a clear vision. We soon will announce a day and call upon people to suspend whatever they are doing and come to the street to join the final push to send them home,” the JVP leader said.

NPP Matara District Ex Co Member Saroja Savithri Paulraj and former Kalutara District JVP MP Dr Nalinda Jayatissa also addressed the meeting which was the third in a series of the party’s countrywide rallies started from Anuradhapura last Sunday.

 

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