Connect with us


AG’s coordinating officer pleads for legal representation



… given time till Monday

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Shavindra Fernando, PC, who represented Deputy Solicitor General Azard Navavi, on Thursday night, urged the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks to name State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, the coordinating officer to the Attorney General, guilty of contempt of the commission.

Fernando made this request expressing his displeasure at the way Jayaratne had responded to his questions. Earlier, the PCoI too had advised Jayaratne to mind the manner in which she responded to Fernando’s questions.

AG Dappula de Livera’s Coordinating Officer, State Counsel, Nishara Jayaratne, was ordered to appear before the PCoI following a request made by Shavindra Fernando, PC, on 15 December 2020. On that day, it was revealed that the Attorney General had recommended disciplinary action against Deputy Solicitor General Azard Navavi and State Counsel Malik Azeez, who had been entrusted with a file on National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim, for lapses on their part in handling the case. A preliminary inquiry by a three- member committee has also been concluded and its report including the charge sheets had been sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Additional Solicitor General, Sumathi Dharmawardena, yesterday, told the PCoI.

The report had been sent on 27 November 2020, through the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, but there had not been a response so far, he said.

On 05 December, Deputy Solicitor General Navavi said that the Attorney General’s Department had paid attention to the file on NTJ leader Zahran Hashim, sent by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) seeking their advice, only three weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks. Chairman of the PCoI asked Navavi what the AG’s Department had done about the file on Zahran, sent by the TID for legal advice. Navavi said that he had received the file on 07 June 2017 and tasked State Counsel Malik Azeez, who was under him, with the handling of the file. Both men insisted that the TID had not furnished the information they had about NTJ and Zahran until 2019.

Additional Solicitor General Sumathi Dharmawardena was called before the PCoI to shed more light into the matter. Dharmawardena is also in charge of administration at the AG’s Department.

Dharmawardena said that in 2019, he had testified before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the Easter Sunday attacks on the file TID had sent.

Dharmawardena added that he had brought Attorney General Dappula de Livera’s attention to the final report of the PSC on or around 24 February 2020. The following day, de Livera had recommended that an inquiry be conducted in respect of Navavi and Azeez. Initially, the investigation was to be conducted by Deputy Solicitor General, Susantha Balapatabendi.

However, on 13 March 2020, a three-member committee consisting of Senior Additional Solicitor General, Sarath Jayamanne, Balapatabendi and Senior Deputy Solicitor General, Mayadunne Corea was appointed. Jayamanne had resigned from the committee on 29 May 2020 and on 01 June 2020, Additional Solicitor General, Priyantha Nawana had been appointed the head of the Committee, Dharmawardena said.The committee had finalised the investigation in July 2020 and sent it to him, Dharmawardena said. The report also contained draft charge sheets. It had been given to Acting Solicitor General, Sanjay Rajaratnam for further recommendations. On 27 July 2020, Rajaratnam also recommended disciplinary action, Dharmawardena said.

Shavindra Fernando, PC, who appeared for Navavi then brought Dharmawardena’s attention to a letter the AG sent to acting IGP on 18 June 2020. In the letter de Livera has said law officers of the AG’s Department had done nothing wrong.

Fernando: “On 10 June 2019, the Coordinating Officer to the AG repeated the claim in a press release. It is obvious that AG didn’t think Navavi and Azeez did anything wrong.”

Fernando then asked the PCoI to summon State Counsel, Nishara Jayaratne as she was responsible for issuing press releases.

Jayaratne appeared before the PCoI on Thursday and told the Commission that the press release on 10 June 2019 had been issued in response to a statement given by Ven. Magalkande Sudantha Thera on a file sent to the AG’s Department by the TID on Hashim and the NTJ.

Jayaratne said: “We issued the statement in response to false allegations the Thera made. He arrived near our office and said that the TID had handed over a 300-page file on Zahran and the NTJ to our department on 07 July 2018. However, we had only received the full set of documents, on 06 May 2019, after the terrorist attacks. Based on that allegation, the AG sent a letter to the acting IGP on 18 June 2018. He asked me to issue the press release prior to sending the letter.”

Chairman of the PCoI:

“Does this press release say that law officers of the AG’s Department had done nothing wrong with regard to the file sent by the TID?”

Jayaratne said: “It says so. When the AG sent a letter to the Acting IGP, the internal investigation on Azeez and Navavi had not commenced. We also didn’t issue this statement to explain whether we had done things right or not. This was only a response to allegations levelled by the Thera.”

Chairman of the PCoI:

“If the AG’s Department has recommended the Public Services Commission (PSC,) on 27 November 2020, to take disciplinary action against Azeez and Navavi, doesn’t that contradict the press release you sent?”

Jayaratne said: “The press release was issued before a three-member committee carried out an internal investigation.”

Fernando, PC appearing for Navavi, then commenced cross examination. He asked Jayaratne whether the opinion of the AG in June 2019 was that Azeez and Navavi had done nothing wrong about the files sent by the TID.

Jayaratne said that the letter the AG sent to the acting IGP was a letter offering advice and that it did not reflect his opinion. “If you are trying to make me say these two officers have done nothing wrong, I won’t say that.”

Fernando asked: “Who is in charge of your discipline?”

Jayaratne said: “I came to give evidence about a press release. I am not sure that these questions are within the mandate of this Commission. Do I have to answer these questions?”

Chairman of the PCoI:

One of the objectives of the commission is to find out if the irresponsibility or negligence of state officials contributed to the terror attacks. The AG’s Department first issues a letter and a press release saying that the two law officers had done nothing wrong about the TID file. Later, your department urged the PSC to take disciplinary action against the two men. So, you must answer these questions. You are a witness. You can’t argue the questions posed by lawyers. If you want to you can have legal representation.”

Jayaratne said:

“I came alone. I don’t need legal representation.”

Fernando, PC asked the witness again whether the press release she sent reflected the AG’s opinion that the two law officers had done nothing wrong.

Jayaratne said that the letter had been prepared by the AG and that she was in no position to make a statement on his opinion. “If had I prepared the letter, I could have commented on it.”

Chairman of the PCoI then stated that although Jayaratne had said she had come alone, the attendance registry of the PCoI stated that a lawyer had come with her.

Chairman of the PCoI:

“I am giving you a final warning. Answer the questions posed by the lawyer. You have come with a lawyer, you can get his assistance.”

Attorney Tenny Fernando, who was present there rose and stated that he did not represent the witness and that he had only arrived as a friend.

Fernando, PC, then said Jayaratne was not answering his questions and that she had arrived to ensure that Azeez and Navavi would be further inconvenienced. Therefore, he urged the commission to declare the witness guilty of contempt.

Jayaratne said she had never intended to cause an affront to the PCoI. “I also have no intention of inconveniencing Azeez or Navavi. They are my colleagues. It is not fair to allege that I am guilty of contempt of the PCoI because he is not getting the answers he wants. I now feel that I need legal assistance and for this I need to request the AG. So please give me another appointment?”

Chairman of the PCoI:

“The witness initially said that she didn’t need legal representation. But now she says she needs to. So, I order her to appear at the PCoI again on Monday at 10 am with legal representation.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


An alleged bid to replace SLFP leader Sirisena thwarted



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The SLFP parliamentary group has been divided over an abortive bid to replace the Chairman of the party, Maithripala Sirisena, MP, and its General Secretary State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, MP.

Sources said that several lawmakers had been involved in the alleged conspiracy, apparently taking into consideration the fact that the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks was likely to affect the political future of Sirisena.

The SLFP parliamentary group consists of 14 members.

The SLFP is on a collision course with the SLPP over the PCoI report on the Easter Sunday carnage. Sources said that the party had swiftly responded to the threat posed by conspirators by having the Executive Committee re-electing the incumbent Chairman and the General Secretary. However, those seeking to oust Sirisena and Dayasiri were still active, they added.

The SLFP, the second largest party in the ruling coalition, is determined to retain its identity though its offshoot, the SLPP emerged as the leading party with its impressive performance at the 2018 local government election, the 2019 presidential and the 2020 parliamentary polls.

Contacted for comment, one of the SLFP rebels said Sirisena had himself brought about the virtual downfall of the SLFP, whilst being its long serving General Secretary, by joining forces with the UNP to contest the presidential election in January 2015 and reclaiming the party leadership after securing the presidency.

Continue Reading


Electricity for all: Rambukwella urges all officials, politicians not to slap roadblocks




 KANDY – Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said last Friday (5) at a meeting of the Thumpane Pradeshiya Sabha at Galagedara, that every Sri Lankan household will have electricity come next Sinhala and Tamil New Year, 

 Minister Rambukwella said that everyone in Galagedara would also have electricity for the Sinahala and Tamil New Year celebrations.

The government hoped that the relevant public sector officials would do their best to supply power connections to every house in the Galagedara Pradeshiya Sabha Division without any delay, the Minister said.

At the meeting held to discuss the implementation of the development plans of the Pradeshiya Sabha for the year, Rambukwella stressed that the people’s representatives and the public servants should not try to prevent implementation of the development plans under the policies of the government.

The people’s representatives and the government servants should work together when development programmes were being implemented. If not, the people would not benefit from the plans for development drawn up by the government.

 Chairman of the Galagedara Pradeshiya Sabha S.M.R.B. Sanarakoon also spoke.

Continue Reading


Rescue plan will enable US to outcompete rest of the world, especially China – Biden



US President Joe Biden, on Saturday, said he was happy about the Senate passage of his American Rescue Plan (1.9 trillion dollars). He said it would reinvigorate the US economy and put it in a potion to outcompete the rest of the world, especially China. “This plan puts us on the path to beating the virus.  This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment.  This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive.”

Excerpts of President Biden’s speech:

For over a year, the American people were told they were on their own.  They were seeing — we’ve seen how hard that has been on so many Americans.  As of last night, 519,064 lives lost to the virus.  That many empty chairs this morning — the breakfast table — gone.  More than four hundred [thousand] small businesses closed unnecessarily.  Millions of people out of work through no fault of their own.  I want to emphasize that: through no fault of their own.  Food bank lines stretching for miles.  Did any of you ever you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country?  Families facing the threat of eviction.

This nation has suffered too much for much too long.  And everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail, starting with beating this virus and vaccinating the country. 

The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines so we can get every single American vaccinated sooner than later.  I believe by — we’ll have enough by the end of — by the middle of May to vaccinate.  It’s going to take longer to take longer to get it in their arm, but that’s how much vaccine we’ll have.

Because of all the funding, we’ll be able to hire more vaccinators, set up more vaccination sites to get the country in a place to get back to normal.  This plan will get checks out the door, starting this month, to the American people who so desperately need the help, many of whom are lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “Will I lose my job, if I haven’t already?  Will I lose my insurance?  Will I lose my home?”

Over 85 percent of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.  For a typical middle-class family of four — husband and wife working, making $100,000 a year total, with three kids — they’ll get $5,600 — I mean, with two kids — will get $5,600, and it’ll be on the way soon.

That means the mortgage can get paid.  That means the child can stay in community college.  That means maintaining the health insurance you have.  It’s going to make a big difference in so many of lives in this country.

     Unemployment benefits will be extended for 11 million Americans who have lost their jobs and who, last night, again were lying in bed, just thinking, “My lord, I’m going to lose my unemployment insurance in a week or so.”  It was about to expire.

     Schools are going to have the resources they need to open safely.  States and local governments that have lost tens of thousands of essential workers will be — have the resources they need available to them, to those laid-off police officers, firefighters, teachers, and nurses they can rehire.  These are essential personnel.

Look, the American Rescue Plan lowers healthcare premiums.  Food and nutrition assistance.  It’s hard to believe that 24 million adults and 11 million children, as I speak, in the United States suffer from food insecurity.  That means, simply, they don’t have enough food to eat.  Did you ever imagine in the United States of America, you’d see lines, literally miles long — kids — folks in their automobiles, waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk.  I stood in line, handing out food.  The people coming up never, ever, ever thought they’d be in that position. 

This helps families who are behind on their rent and their mortgage payments so they aren’t thrown out of their homes. 

Look, the bottom line is this:  This plan puts us on the path to beating the virus.  This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment.  This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive.

And one more thing: This plan is historic.  Taken altogether, this plan is going to make it possible to cut child poverty in half.  Let me say that again — it’s significant, historic: It will cut child poverty in half.

There’s much more to this bill, but, for now, let me make one final point.  When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people, of making a difference in their lives, giving everyone a chance — a fighting chance, of showing the American people that their government can work for them.  And passing the American Rescue Plan will do that.

And, you know, it may sound strange, but a lot of senators and congressmen I want to thank, but I really want to thank the American people for making all of this possible.  You say, “Well, how do they make it possible?”  Well, quite frankly, without the overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened.  Your elected officials heard you.  Overwhelming public support — every public opinion poll shows overwhelming support for this plan.  And for the last weeks, it’s shown that.  Every public opinion poll shows the people want this, they believe it’s needed, and they believe it’s urgent. 

And now this bill returns to the House of Representatives, which has done a great job from the beginning, where I hope it will find quick passage so it can be sent to my desk to be signed into law.

By passing the American Rescue Plan, we’ll have heeded the voice of the American people, not ignored their voices.  By passing this plan, we will have delivered real, tangible results for the American people and their families, and they’ll be able to see and know and feel the change in their own lives.  And by passing this plan, we’ll have proved that this government, this democracy can still work.  What has to be done — it’ll improve people’s lives.  

And one more thing: The vast majority of economists — left, right, and center — from Wall Street to the — to the private — private economic polling initiatives — the economists — as I’ve said, left, right, and center — say, “In addition to the needs the people have, we need this to grow the economy.”  That if we haven’t spent this money and recreated the kind of incentive for people to be able to make a good living, that we’d be in real trouble. 

This will create millions of new jobs — it’s estimated over 6 million new jobs by itself; increase the Gross Domestic Product by a trillion dollars; put our nation in a position to out-compete the rest of the world — because the rest of the world is moving, particularly China; and to know that as tough as this moment is, there are brighter days ahead.  There really are. 

As I’ve said before, it’s never a good bet to bet against America.  It’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people.  We are America.  We’re going to get there.  We’re going to remain the leading economy in the world and going to be the most successful economy in the world because of you, the American people.

Thank you, and God bless you all.  May God protect our troops. 

Continue Reading