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‘Wele Suda’, ‘Podi Lassi’ seek court protection following deaths of fellow criminals in police custody



Justice Minister endorses BASL’s concerns over ‘extra-judicial killings’


by Shamindra Ferdinando


The Court of Appeal will take up the high profile case of convicted prisoner Gampola Vicarage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda’s legal bid to prevent him being handed over to the police on Monday (24). ‘Wele Suda’ recently moved the court, successfully, through his mother, Rajagalgoda Gamage Malani, in the wake of two killings in police custody.

Referring to the killing of Dineth Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ and Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekera alias Kosgoda Tharaka, on May 11 and 13, respectively, Saliya Pieris, recently elected President of the Bar Association (BASL) said: “These deaths have all the hallmarks of extra-judicial killings and we call upon the State to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody.”

The BASL issued a comprehensive statement in this regard.

The Court of Appeal directive, in respect of a writ petition filed on behalf of the convicted person (Wele Suda) was issued on May 17.

‘Wele Suda’ is held at the maximum security Boossa prison, one-time detention facility used to detain those apprehended in connection with the second JVP-led insurrection. The Court of Appeal issued an interim directive to prevent the police from taking custody of ‘Wele Suda’ effective till May 24. The bench consisted of Justice Arjuna Obeysekara and Justice Priyantha Fernando.

Romesh de Silva, PC, who appeared for Wele Suda’s mother told court that his client feared for the life of her son that he, too, would be killed the way several others were dealt with. The top lawyer sought an interim order as his client was deeply concerned over the imminent handing over of her son to the police.

The head of a 9-member committee tasked with formulating a new draft Constitution, de Silva explained how the continuing deaths of persons handed over to the police troubled his client who believed her convicted son sentenced to death couldn’t be handed over to the police.

The petitioner has named Inspector General of Police, Commissioner General of Prisons, Superintendent Boossa Prison and the Attorney General as respondents.

In response to The Island query Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, said that he endorsed the views expressed by the President of the BASL. The Minister said; “No one should take the law into their own hands and everyone should be answerable.”

The late Kosgoda Tharaka’s alleged links transpired in investigations into the recovery of the largest weapons cache ever from the underworld in late June 2020. Police commandos recovered 11 T-56 assault rifles and one T-81 hidden in a building at Pitipana, Homagama. The police subsequently recovered some more weapons and ammunition though the inquiry remains stalled.

Attorney-at-law and civil society activist Senaka Perera told The Island that Kosgoda Tharaka had been the second prominent suspect killed after being handed over to some other police unit by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Lawyer Perera said that Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshman aka Makandure Madush, who had been in the custody of the CID since early May 2019, was killed soon after he was handed over to the Colombo Crime Division (CCD). Kosgoda Tharaka, too, had been held by the CID and was recently handed over to the Peliyagoda Special Crimes too died in custody. The latter was also involved in killing of a policeman during a botched jewellery shop robbery at Matara.

Perera charged that the National Police Commission (NPC) chaired by retired IGP Chandra Fernando seemed to be in deep slumber. He said that in his capacity as the President, Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, he took up the issue at hand with the NPC.

Lawyer Perera said that Police headquarters owed an explanation on how suspects died after being transferred from the custody of one police unit to another. Responding to another query, Perera underscored the danger in exposing a convicted person to a life threatening environment. He cited the writ application filed in respect of ‘Wele Suda’ as a bid to prevent another death in custody.

The Court of Appeal on April 05, 2019 rejected an appeal filed by ‘Wele Suda’ over the death sentence imposed on him by the Colombo High Court in 2015 for the possession of heroin.

In the backdrop of effort to prevent the police taking the custody of ‘Wele Suda,’, President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris appeared in the Court of Appeal on Thursday (20) on behalf of Janith Madushankar alias Podi Lassi. Pieris brought to the notice of justices, Sobitha Rajakaruna and Dhammika Ranepola the most recent killings in police custody of ‘Uru Juwa’ and ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’.

Pieris sought judicial intervention to ensure safety and security of his client against the backdrop of high profile killing in police custody. The lawyer requested that the court directed the IGP to transfer his client from the Custody of the CID to another unit.

Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris who appeared on behalf of the outgoing Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, assured the court the matter would be taken up with the IGP. The case will be taken up on June 16.

The Island sought the opinion of Nalin Ladduwahetty, PC, regarding the death in police/judicial custody and legal representations for underworld figures and those involved in narcotics –related offenses. Condemning deaths in custody, PC Ladduwahetty emphasized that every suspect or accused in a case had a right for legal representation. The presumption of innocence operated at all times until a competent court found one guilty.

Chrishmal Warnasuriya explained that no one should die in police custody or otherwise except by the due process followed in terms of the law- a sentence issued by a court of law. Warnasuriya also underscored the responsibility on the part of the lawyers to appear before those who sought their advice. Dismissing what he called the widespread assertion the lawyers were supposed to lie for their clients, Warnasuriya said their responsibility was to present their clients version of events before a court of law. “The decisions are taken by court,” the lawyer who appears for W.U.C. Premasiri, Sub Inspector of Police held by the CID in connection with the controversial Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) dealing in heroin case said. The SI has been held in terms of Detention Orders issued in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Warnasuriya emphasized that a lawyer as an officer of court couldn’t turn away cases and refusal only subjected to some professional limitations, which do not apply in the present instance. The basic principle is that all should be afforded legal representation regardless of the offense and circumstances, Warnasuriya said.

Meanwhile, during parliamentary proceedings on Thursday (20), Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka faulted Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Fonseka for deaths in police custody. The former Army Commander said that those who had been arrested by the police during the yahapalana administration were killed under controversial circumstances.

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Lanka to lend US$2.5bn to US and top-rated borrowers in 2023 under IMF deal: analysis



ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is projected to lend 2,533 million US dollars mainly to the US and Euro areas during an International Monetary Fund deal in 2023 including a mandatory 1.4 billion US dollars collected from exports and remittances, according to official documents.

Sri Lanka is expected to get two tranches of 331.2 million dollar (254 million special drawing rights each) in March and September 2023 from the IMF.In 2023 Sri Lanka has to repay 256.4 million dollars from an earlier IMF loan taken during an earlier currency crisis.

Net inflows from the IMF would be 406.12 million US dollars in 2023 if the first review is completed in September 2023.Sri Lanka has committed to collect at least 1.4 billion US dollars from remittances and exports and lend to the US and other developed nations during 2023 under the IMF deal.

A large volume has already been collected. An ad hoc peg is now operated under the IMF deal to buy dollars and export to the West, as ‘below-the-line outflows. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are usually loaned to highly rated sovereign or sovereign linked borrowers, mainly in the US.

But there have been amounts of Euro assets in Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves at times, triggering forex losses when the dollar to Euro parity changed.Under the IMF program there is a performance criterion to increase net international reserves by 1,948 million dollars during 2023.

Sri Lanka is also expected to repay a 200 million US dollar swap to Bangladesh during 2023, which will also raise the NIR.At the moment Sri Lanka’s central bank is in debt after borrowing from India, Bangladesh, India including on Asian Clearing Union dues as well as the IMF. Year end net international reserves would still be negative.

Sri Lanka’s gross reserves are expected to rise by 2.5 billion US dollars to 4.4 billion US dollars in 2023 indicating that the country will lend 2.5 billion US dollars to the US and other highly rated borrowers. It may include re-invested interest coupons.

Sri Lanka is also expected to get 650 million dollars from the Asian Development Bank and 250 million dollars from the World Bank as part of partner support for the IMF deal. Outside of core monetary reserves linked to reserve money, balances in Treasury accounts are also counted as forex reserves.

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BASL writes to IGP over protest against Saliya Peiris



The BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned a protest staged outside the Law of Chamber of BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC on Friday.The protest was staged against the representation of Saliya Pieris, PC for notorious Sri Lankan drug kingpin Nadun Chinthaka alias “Harak Kata”.

Condemning the protest, BASL said in a statement that Saliya Pieris, PC was only conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law,” it pointed out.

The BASL called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take action to ensure that Saliya Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.

Full text of the letter: ” We write with reference to an organized protest outside the chamber of Mr Saliya Pieris, President of the \Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

We have been made aware the said protest relates to Mr. Pieris conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client. We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law.In the case of Wijesundara Mudiyanselage Naveen Nayantha Bandara Wijesundara v Sirwardena and Others (SCFR 13/2019), the Supreme Court observed that:

“The first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament soon after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution was the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978. As the administration of justice in any civilized society cannot be effectively implemented without lawyers, the legislature in its wisdom, through the Judicature Act, established the legal profession.

Thus, there is no dispute that the legal profession is a sine qua non for the due administration of justice in this country and for that matter in any civilized society. The said profession is essential for the maintenance of the Rule of Law and maintenance of law and order and its due existence is of paramount importance to the organized functioning of the society which is primarily the basis for the smooth functioning of the country as a whole.”

Further, Section 41 of the Judicature Act which has clearly set out the right of representation, and, has further shed light on the above mechanism established for implementing the administration of justice in the country.

It is as follows; Section 41 of the Judicature Act (Right of Representation)

(1) Every attorney-at-law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice and every person who is a party to or has or claims to have the right to be heard in any proceeding in any such court or other such institution shall be entitled to be represented by an attorney-at-law.

(2) Every person who is a party to any proceeding before any person or tribunal exercising quasi-judicial powers and every person who has or claims to have the right to be heard before any such person or tribunal shall unless otherwise”

Therefore, we strongly demand that you take action to ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.”

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State need not do business, says Ranil, seven SOEs to be divested



ECONOMYNEXT – The State need not engage in business as its mandate is to provide services such as education and maintain law and order, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday defending plans to divest government-held shares of seven state owned enterprises (SOEs).

At a discussion at the presidential secretariat on Thursday morning, Wickremesinghe responding to a question about the decision said that Sri Lanka must no longer hold on to corporations and enterprises owned by the government.

Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than it has on education, he said.The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shares: Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd,

Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel), Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo), Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing), and Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC

The State Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said.

“Not all of them are loss making. But we do have to repay debt. You can’t keep these and pay back loans.

“If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” said Wickremesnghe.

Asked why Sri Lanka should sell SOEs that aren’t making losses, he responded: “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business.”

“In what country is there a law that these (businesses) should be (held by the state)?” he added.

Noting that the crisis-hit nation is trying to embark on a path of recovery and rapid development, the president said Sri Lanka must follow India’s example.

“India is selling their airports, profit making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too.”

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