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Appointment of new EC awaited to take up SJB MP’s British citizenship

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Civil society activist Oshala Herath intends to draw the attention of the new Election Commission (EC) to the failure on the part of the outgoing EC to inquire into his complaint regarding British citizen Diana Gamage’s appointment to Parliament through the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) National List.

Defeated UNP Colombo District candidate at the last general election, Herath told The Island that he would write to the new EC immediately after its formulation this week.

The five-year term of the EC headed by Mahinda Deshapriya constituted in mid Nov 2015 in terms of the 19th Amendment enacted earlier the same year would come to an end this week. In addition to Deshapriya, a career Election Department senior official, the EC included Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

Herath made available a copy of a letter written to the Director, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) requesting for an inquiry into the matter. Referring to two British passports (numbers given)  used by Gamage, in addition to an official Sri Lankan passport  in her possession, Herath requested the CID to probe those who had helped her to procure an official passport and also allowed her to participate in the general election process.

Herath has copied the letter to the Office of the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, SJB leader, the IGP, Attorney General, Controller Immigration and Emigration, Chairman EC and Secretary General Parliament.

When The Island pointed out that no less a person than Chairman, EC firmly stated in response to his inquiries all documents submitted by Gamage as an SJB National List nominee was in order, Herath said that the EC never bothered to conduct a proper inquiry before reaching that conclusion. Herath alleged that the new NL lawmaker hadn’t furnished documents pertaining to her British citizenship to Sri Lankan authorities therefore they didn’t know her status quo at the time she entered parliament.

Gamage, who is also the Assistant Secretary of the party, was among seven SJB lawmakers in parliament. The SJB altogether secured 54 seats in the current parliament.

In the run-up to last parliamentary election, breakaway UNP faction led by UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa clinched a deal with Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP) registered by Diana Gamage’s current husband Senaka de Silva formerly of the Army that enabled the UNP rebels to contest the election. They re-registered AJP as the SJB with Sajith Premadasa as its Chairman, NL MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara its General Secretary and Diana Gamage Assistant Secretary.

Contrary to claims AJP no longer existed, Herath said, alleging that the UNP conveniently turned a blind eye to the UNP rebel group brazenly manipulating the process in place to re-register a political party.  The party leaders’ meetings chaired by the EC, too, ignored the matter and in fact cooperated with the clandestine project, Herath, who served former President Maithripala Sirisena’s media unit, said.

Diana Gamage recently dismissed the SJB threat to initiate disciplinary action against her over voting for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Gamage was among half a dozen SJB lawmakers representing various constituent parties who voted for the 20th Amendment.

 Herath said that the parliament couldn’t ignore accusations directed at MP Diana against the backdrop of Geetha Kumarasinghe losing her seat in the last parliament. Kumarasinghe lost her seat as a result of a case filed against her in terms of the 19th Amendment that barred dual citizens in parliament. The 20th Amendment did away with that provision.

In terms of the 20th Amendment, the EC will comprise five persons. The President will constitute the EC having obtained opinion of the five-member Parliamentary Council (PC) headed by the Speaker. The PC consists of Speaker, PM, Opposition Leader and representative each of the PM and the Opposition Leader.

Herath said that he would take up the issue with the PC if the new EC too ignored the complaint lodged in respect of the SJB lawmaker.

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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary

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There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran

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But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President

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The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.

 

 

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