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ASP Eric’s transfer: 20A faulted, explanation sought from govt.



‘State Minister Arundika made his move the day Prez constituted new Police Commission’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (1) alleged that the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution had enabled the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government to interfere with the police with impunity.

The recent transferring of ASP Eric Perera based at Wennappuwa in the Chilaw police division on political grounds wouldn’t have been possible if the 19th Amendment had been intact, SJB Colombo District lawmaker Mujibur Rahman told The Island.

Along with the tough talking ASP, five other law enforcement officers who served under him received transfers.

A letter dated Dec 3, 2020 written by the then State Plantation Minister Arundika Fernando (SLPP/Puttalam District) requesting Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera to transfer the officer was in the public domain, MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesman pointed out that State Minister Fernando on Wednesday (31) at a media briefing acknowledged him seeking the Public Security Minister’s intervention. The endorsement of the State Minister’s letter by the Police Headquarters, too, had been released, the MP said. Therefore, there couldn’t be an issue, the SJB member said, pointing out the absurdity in State Minister Fernando requesting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne to inquire into how the media got hold of the letter.

Eric Perera formerly of the elite Special Task Force (STF) received appointment in 2019 as ASP Wennappuwa, which the police headquarters has categorized as a red zone known for unbridled vices.

Those who voted for the 20th Amendment enacted in Oct 2020 at the expense of the 19th introduced by the previous administration in 2015 should be ashamed of themselves. Over a half a dozen lawmakers elected on the SJB ticket and one National List MP also of the same party voted for the 20th Amendment, MP Rahman said.

Appreciating the media and social media platforms for the reportage of the ASP’s transfer, MP Rahman emphasized that the National Police Commission (NPC) owed an explanation as regards its stand on the ASP’s transfer. If police transfers no longer came under its purview, the NPC should acknowledge that blatant truth.

The NPC consists of former IGP Chandra Fernando – member and Chairman, S. Liyanagama, A.S.P.S. Priyantha Sanjeewa, N.S.M. Samsudeen, Gunapala Wickramage, Premasiri Perera and T.P. Parameshwaran.

MP Rahman said that the NPC had been appointed on Dec 3, 2020 in terms of schedule one of Chapter VII (a) of the Constitution. Mrs. Samanthi Mihindukula functions as the Secretary to the NPC.

Rahman urged the nine-member expert committee now formulating the new draft Constitution to pay attention to the ASP’s transfer. It would be a grave mistake on the part of the NPC as well as the expert committee chaired by Romesh de Silva, PC, to ignore the incident that reflected the transformation of the NPC. “The 20 Amendment reduced the NPC to a toothless tiger,” the former UNP lawmaker said, underscoring the fact that the new law made the all independent commissions redundant.

MP Rahman admitted that their governments, too, interfered in police matters and such interferences were not acceptable to the public.

Defence Secretary Maj. General (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne in his widely read ‘Road to Nanthikadal’ mentioned Eric Perera’s heroic response to LTTE threats to Kanchankudah STF detachment in the East during the Norway arranged Ceasefire Agreement that came into operation in Feb 2002.

According to State Minister Fernando, he wanted the Public Security Minister to transfer ASP Perera along with those who served under his command out of the Chilaw Division. ASP Perera received a transfer to the neighbouring Negombo police division.

Rahman questioned the government’s grandiose plans to eradicate crime and corruption when honest officers couldn’t perform their duties without being harassed. The SJB spokesman pointed out that a leaked audio carried by television stations and posted on social media revealed the State Minister asking ASP Perera not to take action against those whom the minister described as small time moonshine dealers. The ASP had the courage to turn down the request made at a discussion at a Wennappuwa development meeting in Feb this year. ASP Perera underscored such a policy couldn’t be adopted under any circumstances and if implemented would be exploited by all. The top law enforcement officer admitted that some of his colleagues serving with him cooperated with those engaged in vice.

Police headquarters, Director Media and spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa told The Island that the power to transfer police officers had been vested with the Public Service Commission (PSC) at the expense of the NPC. According to him, the ASPs and above, in respect of disciplinary matters and service requirements, those powers were exercised by the Secretary to the Public Security Minister.



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Govt. eases restrictions on foreigners as Covid-19 rips through country



DGHS, IGP informed of SLTDA decision

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In what many thought was a shocking decision, the Tourism Ministry yesterday (16) declared that tourists would be able to travel across the country despite movement restrictions in force since last Thursday (14) to control the rapid spread of Covid-19.

 Tourism Ministry, in a statement issued yesterday afternoon (16) quoted Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Dhammika Wijesinhe as having said that the foreigners in the country could travel in what she called a bio bubble. Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr Asela Gunawardena and IGP C.D. Wickremaratne had been informed of the arrangements, she said.

The announcement was made as the government struggled to cope with an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases as well as deaths. It came close on the heels of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga declaring that the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) wouldn’t be closed. When The Island sought an explanation from the Tourism Ministry how such a decision was taken regardless of tough quarantine laws and health guidelines in place to control the spread of rampaging Covid-19 epidemic, an authoritative official said that the Ministry issued a statement received from the SLTDA.

DG Wijesinghe said that those individuals and firms responsible for bringing in tourists had been instructed to strictly follow health guidelines or face the consequences.

Declaring that tourism has been categorized as an export industry, DG Wijesinghe said that the SLTDA stepped in the wake of complaints that foreigners experienced difficulties as a result of travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the latest Covid-19 eruption.

The Tourism Ministry further quoted the official as having stressed that arrangements were now in place to ensure tourists could travel in a bio bubble without hindrance.

Police headquarters said that after the lifting of ‘lockdown’ on Monday at 4 am, travel restrictions from 11 pm to 4 am on a daily basis during May would continue.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) spokesperson Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that the government seemed hell-bent on causing further chaos. Having allowed influential parties to bring in foreigners for quarantine in the country, the government caused the deterioration and now restrictions were done away at the risk of further intensification of the spread of the virus.

Dr. Bellana recalled how the government permitted the England cricket tour of Sri Lanka to go ahead in January this year at a time the UK was in a grave crisis over a new deadlier variant of Covid-19 spreading there and also allowed groups of Ukrainians in when Ukraine was in lockdown.

Responding to another query, Dr. Bellana pointed out that the shocking declaration that restrictions would not apply to foreigners meant that the government was yet to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Dr. Bellana said that the government seemed to be blind to the fact that the death toll was on the verge of passing 1,000 and the cases nearing 150,000. If those at the helm of administration really believed tourists could move across the country safely in bio bubbles let them create the same for others, Dr. Bellana said.

According to the GMOF, the government was pulling in different directions in the absence of a cohesive strategy to meet the daunting Covid-19 challenge. The failure to understand the need to apply the same set of quarantine laws and health guidelines to all was one of the primary reasons for the deterioration of the problem.  Dr. Bellana asked how the government did away with restrictions while the doctors reported the detection of at least six Covid-19 variants.

Dr. Bellana said that he expected experts would oppose the government’s short-sighted policies.

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Gaza conflict: Parliament calls for truce; govt. silent yet



By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Dr. Suren Raghavan, on behalf of the Sri Lanka-Palestinian Parliament Friendship Association has urged the government and the Opposition to join the international community in calling for an immediate cessation of violence in the latest conflict involving Israel and Hamas.

The recently formed Association in a statement issued on May 13 called for cessation of hostilities in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Association represents both government and the Opposition.

Citing international media reports, the Association expressed concerns over suffering of civilians on both sides due to military action during the month of Ramazan. Dr. Raghavan, the only SLFPer accommodated on the SLPP National List made reference to indiscriminate rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and Israeli air strikes.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday (16) acknowledged the government was yet to issue a statement on the situation in Gaza.

According to international media reports, an Israeli airstrike on Saturday destroyed a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press offices in the Gaza Strip. The airstrike came about an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to leave the building. The building houses the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

Meanwhile, Israel Solidarity Movement (ISM) strongly condemned Hamas for attacking civilian targets in Israel. Calling Hamas a terrorist organization, the ISM pointed out that terrorists used Palestinians as a human shield while attacking Israeli civilians.  Pointing out that Hamas actions had placed the Palestinian community in peril, the IMS recalled how Sri Lanka suffered during the war against the LTTE. Making reference to sufferings caused by 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, the ISM stood solidly with those who backed whatever Israeli action taken to neutralize the Hamas challenge.

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Central Bank: No immediate threat of inflation rise from monetary expansion



By Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka was currently experiencing high monetary expansion, but the Central Bank did not expect an acceleration of inflation in the near future, Economic Research Director at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara told The Island yesterday.

Answering a query on the broad money growth and its wider implications, Dr. Amarasekera said, “At the end of 2020, broad money expanded by 23.4% compared to the end 2019. The extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required increased credit to the government from Sri Lanka’s banking system, and the historically low interest rate structure also resulted in a pickup in the growth of credit to the private sector in the second half of the year. This policy driven expansion in broad money supply was essential for the country to dampen the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.”

“As the Sri Lankan economy is operating below its potential, we do not project a demand-driven acceleration in inflation in the near term. Even the relatively high economic growth projected for 2021 will be partly driven by the low base in the previous year, and therefore, it is unlikely that there will be an overheating of the economy in 2021 as well, although we envisage a monetary expansion of 21%.”

“However, as the authority responsible for the money stock of the country, the Central Bank remains cautious about any excessive expansion in money growth. Nevertheless, the close relationship between money and inflation that we used to see in the past is no longer in existence. For example, during the most part of a period of single digit inflation that Sri Lanka experienced since 2009, broad money growth has remained above 15%. The breakdown of the close relationship between money growth and inflation is also one reason for the Central Bank to move away from a monetary targeting framework towards a flexible inflation targeting framework to conduct monetary policy. Anchoring of inflation expectations has also helped curb the inflationary effects of exchange rate movements as well. Many other countries have also experienced similar situations.”

“When the economy recovers and demand conditions improve, the Central Bank will take appropriate action to make necessary policy adjustments to ensure the continuation of inflation at the desirable levels of mid-single digits without disrupting the growth process,” Dr. Amarasekara said.

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