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AG turns down plum diplomatic post, keeps his options open

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… 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.

 

 



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Crisis over fuel price hike: SLPP constituents crank up pressure on party General Secretary

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eight lawmakers representing political parties affiliated to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, for challenging the government decision to increase fuel prices.

The group consists of National List MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana (Our Power of People Party), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (LSSP), A.L.M. Athaulla (National Congress), G. Weerasinghe (Communist Party), Tiran Alles (United People’s Party) and Asanka Nawaratne (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya) in a joint letter, dated June 14, have appealed for the immediate intervention of the President and the Premier in this regard.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana and Alles are among 17 appointed to Parliament on the SLPP National List.

They warned that failure to take tangible measures against such actions would result in the deterioration of public confidence in the government. The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 MPs.

The group of lawmakers was responding to SLPP National List MP Kariyawasam’s controversial call for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the sharp increase of fuel prices at midnight on June 11.

They issued the statement consequent to a hasty  meeting called at Minister Weerawansa’s official residence on Sunday.

Noting that the Presidential Secretariat, too, on Sunday confirmed that the decision to increase fuel prices had been taken on June 09 at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group of MPs accused the SLPP General Secretary of causing a wholly unnecessary problem. The group alleged that MP Kariyawasam’s actions had caused suspicion among the electorate whether a clique was in operation in the SLPP.

Minister Gammanpila, embroiled in simmering controversy has refrained from signing the petition though he called another press conference today (15) to explain the developments.

 The group said that in view of the financial crisis that had been caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic the government was forced to increase fuel prices in spite of it being an unpopular measure.

Political sources pointed out that in February this year MP Sagara Kariyawasam caused a media furore when he asked Minister Weerawansa to apologise for suggesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be accommodated in the SLPP decision-making body. The group that has thrown its weight  behind Minister Gammanpila also clashed with a section of the SLPP lawmakers over the government bid to allow Indian investment at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port.

MP Kariyawasam did not answer his mobile phone.

In addition to MP Kariyawasam, MP Jagath Kumara (Colombo District) too strongly condemned the fuel price hike.

The SLPP MPs demanding action against Kariyawasam assured that they would soon submit a comprehensive proposal to President Rajapaksa to provide support to low income groups.

The Presidential Secretariat said that the price increase was necessitated by the financial crisis caused by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) being heavily indebted  to the Bank of Ceylon  and the People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn. Of that sum, CPC owed Rs 652 bn, the biggest single amount in any of the state sector enterprises.

The Samagi Jana Balavegagaya MP Mujibur Rahman said that Minister Gammanpila owed an explanation why he made the announcement as regards the fuel price hike as the matter came under the purview of the Finance Ministry.  Rahman pointed out that Minister Gammanpila himself subsequently admitted that only the Finance Ministry could decide on this matter. The former UNP MP said that the government’s much touted claim that the decision to increase fuel prices had been finalized on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee was nothing but a joke. “We thought the Cost of Living Committee was meant to provide relief to the people not to increase their burden,” MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesperson ridiculed the statement issued by a group of eight MPs. He alleged that the SLPP was staging a drama to divert the attention of the public. Their parliamentary group should take up responsibility for the current crisis having promised to transform the country overnight. Those who had voted for the 20th Amendment in October last year as well as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill last month were engaged in a futile campaign to save the government, the SJB MP said.

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Basil R wouldn’t have allowed fuel price increase – MP

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Gampaha District SLPP MP Nimal Lanza yesterday said that if Basil Rajapaksa had been in the country, he wouldn’t have allowed the fuel price increase. He said that he strongly opposed the decision as it seriously affected the people, particularly the fishing community.

 

 

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1198 lockdown violators arrested

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By Norman Palihawadane

The Police had arrested 1,198 people countrywide for violating lockdown regulations in the 24 hours that ended yesterday morning, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

A total of 32,593 persons had been arrested on the relevant charges since Oct 30, last year,  he said.

DIG Rohana said that special police teams had been deployed to continue the operations today as well to nab lockdown violators.

During the same period 3,051 persons travelling in 1,757 vehicles were inspected at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province. Of them, 160 persons travelling in 100 vehicles were sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders for non-essential purposes, violating travel restrictions.

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