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AG turns down plum diplomatic post, keeps his options open



… offer made after Canada rejected ex-Air Force Chief as High Commissioner

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, scheduled to retire later this month, has kept his options open by turning down a government offer of a plum diplomatic post. The Island learns that the government has made the offer in writing.

The offer came in the wake of Canada refusing to accept the appointment of retired Air Force Commander Air Marshal Sumangala Dias as the High Commissioner to Ottawa. Canada, a key member of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) asserted that the retired Air Force Chief couldn’t be accommodated due to war crimes allegations against the Sri Lankan military.

Subsequently, Air Marshal Dias was named as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Italy, a member of the European Union (EU) backing Geneva moves against the war winning military. EU is also represented in the Sri Lanka Core Group led by the UK.

The Canadian High Commission in Colombo declined to comment on the issue saying, “… It is subject to state-to-state confidentiality.”

The AG’s Office told The Island that the President’s Counsel de Livera, having appreciated the offer of high profile diplomatic posting, has informed the Office of the President, in writing, of his intention to serve the people further.

The AG has received the offer before the all-party parliamentary High Posts Committee (HPC) chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena cleared the appointment. However, HPC’s approval is routine with successive governments seeking its consent after having made the announcement.

Authoritative sources said that the Constitution allowed the AG and IGP to serve in same capacity even after reaching the retirement age consequent to the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution last October. The 19th Amendment made it mandatory for the IGP and the AG to retire at 60.

There has been no previous instance of a top public servant giving up an opportunity to serve as head of a top diplomatic mission.

The then Additional Solicitor General and President’s Counsel de Livera captured public attention during the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI/January 2017-Dec 2017)) into Treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2016 before being appointed as the Solicitor General in Feb 2018. A week after April 21, 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, de Livera, received the appointment as Acting AG before being cleared by the Constitutional Council on May 7.

Livera succeeded Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, who was elevated to the post of Chief Justice.

Following the change of government in Nov 2019, SLPP administration recalled heads of missions to pave the way for new appointments. In addition to the offer made to the incumbent AG, the only other person from legal fraternity to receive diplomatic posting was one-time Chief Justice Mohan Pieris, PC, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in New York.

The change in the Office of the AG takes place amidst two high profile cases-Treasury bond scams and Easter Sunday carnage, both perpetrated during the previous administration.

Sources said that the Easter Sunday case had taken a new turn with the unprecedented stand taken by Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera that anyone detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) shouldn’t be allowed to participate in parliamentary proceedings. The Minister’s position contradicted the incumbent AG’s recent instructions issued to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya Vanni District MP Rishad Bathiudeen could attend parliament without any hindrance.

In spite of the consensus among the Speaker’s Office, AG and the CID as regards MP Bathiudeen’s participation in the parliamentary proceedings on May 4 and 5, Minister Weerasekera intervened. The Minister on Wednesday appealed to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to reconsider his request to prohibit PTA suspects attending parliament.




Police failure to contain May 2022 violence explained



Police inaction to prevent arson attacks against SLPP politicians in the Western province on May 9 may have been due to orders not to carry weapons to deal with protesters, a new investigation has revealed.A review of the role of the police at the time showed Senior Deputy Inspector General Deshabandu Tennakoon had ordered all officers under him to ensure that no personnel were issued with arms and ammunition in the run up to the May 9 violence.

In his two-page instructions to DIGs, SSPs, SPs, ASPs and officers in charge of all stations in the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha, Tennakoon had said no weapons or ammunition should be issued under any circumstances to officers deployed to deal with the protesters.

This order dated May 5 had not come to the attention of a three-member investigation panel headed by former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda appointed to look into the security lapses. However, the panel had uncovered an order similar to that of Tennakoon issued by the then army chief Shavendra Silva.

Deploying police without even their own personal protection is seen as a violation of departmental orders and an internal investigation had begun, a top official source said.Meanwhile, the private residence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe was torched despite 400 air force men being deployed to protect it. The airmen did not open fire to deter a handful of attackers who scaled walls to enter the premises and set it on fire.

Instead of dealing with the arsonists, a police Special Task Force (STF) unit outside the Fifth Lane residence of Wickremesinghe attacked a television crew angering the protesters and encouraging more people to congregate there.

Several people identified through CCTV footage have already been arrested in connection with the arson at Wickremesinghe’s residence.However, action is yet to be taken against police and security personnel who failed to ensure law and order.

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SL will engage major T-bond holders for voluntary optimization: Governor



ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka will not re-structure Treasury bills outside of central bank holdings and will engage with major T-bond holders for voluntary ‘optimization’ Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

“There will be some treatment on central bank held Treasury bills,” Governor Nandal Weeasinghe told a creditor presentation Thursday.

“Other Treasury bill holdings will not be treated. Treasury bonds we envisage voluntary optimization.”

Sri Lanka has to at least extend the maturities of bonds to reach a gross financing need target averaging 13 percent of GDP in 2027-2032 based on projections in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. Of that foreign debt service has be below 4.5 percent of GDP on average.

“Local currency creditors participation in a debt optimization will help reaching the DSA targets,” Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena said.

“Authorities are exploring options for domestic debt operations aimed at liquidity relief while preserving financial stability to avoid further eroding Sri Lanka’s repayment capacity.”

The government and advisors will “invite consultations with major T-bond holders to gauge options and constraints”, he said.Governor Weerasinghe and Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardene said Sri Lanka is likely to outperform the growth targets in the IMF debt sustainability analysis given past history. The IMF DSA is projecting 3.1 percent growth in the next few years.

Sri Lanka grew at rates around 4 to 5 percent during a 30 year war, but growth started to fall after serial currency crises hit the country under flexible inflation targeting with output gap targeting (monetary stimulus) during peacetime. In 2020 taxes were also cut for stimulus, going beyond open market operations and outright purchases of bonds seen earlier.

Meanwhile state spending went up from 17 to 20 percent of GDP under state expansionist revenue based fiscal consolation after spending based consolidation (cost cutting) was thrown out of the window from 2015 to 2019, critics say.

Sri Lanka is now trying to cut spending and excessive growth of the public sector, based on normal economic principles, to limit the burden of the unaffordable state on productive sectors and the poor, while preserving essential spending.According to the latest IMF program, fiscal consolidation will be “primarily” revenue based.

Sri Lanka’s Treasury bill and bond yields were higher than required due to uncertainty over whether they will be re-structured and the so-called ‘gilt’ status will no longer apply.

The lack of an early cut off date for domestic debt is a key problem in the IMF’s current debt resolution framework as domestic bond buyers are the last resort lenders after most foreign creditors stop lending, when the IMF says a country’s debt is no longer sustainable.

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Sri Lanka and debt advisors will engage with major Treasury bond holders, Weerasinghe said.

Key T-bond holders are Employment Provident Fund, Employment Trust Fund, insurance companies and banks.

Sri Lanka is also conducting an asset quality of review of banks.

Based on its results a debt optimization options will be offered paying attention to asset liability mis-matches, Weerasinghe said.

By preserving banking sector stability foreign investors are more likely to get repaid.

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BASL slams attempts to hinder Saliya Pieris, PC, appearing for a client



The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has issued a statement on the recent string of protests launched against former BASL President Saliya Pieris’s decision to represent a client who had retained him. In the statement signed by BASL President Kaushalya Nawaratne and Secretary Isuru Balapatabendi, the BASL noted that the protests in question not only hinders the senior lawyer’s right to represent a client, but also acts as an attack on the profession at large.

Further, they noted that Article 13(3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka specifically guarantees every person the right to a fair trial and the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice.

The BASL also cited the 2019 Supreme Court judgment delivered in a landmark case together with the Judicature Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Civil Procedure Code in favour of their argument. The Bar Association strongly demanded that the relevant authorities ensure that Pieris’s professional duties and safety remain unhindered.

Excerpts from text of the statement:

“The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) observes that there has been a series of organized protests in Colombo, in relation to Mr. Saliya Pieris PC, the Former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view that the said protest, not only seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law, but also an attack on the profession at large.

“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.’

“Our constitution specifically guarantees the right to legal representation in Article 13(3) and

the Civil Procedure Code also provides for the right to legal representation in civil cases. Specifically, Section 24 of the Code allows parties to be represented by lawyers or other authorized representatives in court.

“Overall, Sri Lankan law recognizes and protects the right to legal representation, both in criminal as well as civil cases.

“Therefore, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka strongly demands that the authorities ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and, ensure his safety.”

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