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Civil society asks for explanation from AG, CIABOC

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Dismissal of nearly dozen high-profile cases:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Civil society group, Purawesi Balaya, told the media at Rajagiriya on Wednesday (31) that the Attorney General’s Department as well as the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption) owed an explanation regarding the dismissal of several high-profile cases due to shortcomings on their part.

The AG and the CIABOC owed an immediate explanation and the public had a right to know, Purawesi Balaya spokesman Gamini Viyangoda said. Flanked by attorney-at-law K.W. Janaranjana and Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Viyangoda emphasised that the AG and CIABOC should bear the responsibility for taking remedial measures. Would the AG and CIABOC reexamine the cases and initiate fresh proceedings if dismissals were caused by flaws on the part of the institutions? Viyangoda asked.

The civil society activist said that the issue at hand should be examined against the backdrop of the enactment of the 20th Amendment at the expense of the 19th Amendment.

Referring to recent criticism of those who flayed the government over alleged destruction of state forests, including Sinharaja, Viyangoda said that the government conveniently branded all its critics as traitors. The conduct of the AG, CIABOC as well as other institutions and sectors had to be studied in post 20th Amendment enactment as the President exercised powers hitherto shared with the Parliament and the judiciary.

Viyangoda said that the CIABOC owed an explanation as to how the decision to drop all charges against former lawmaker and Foreign Ministry Monitoring MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena pertaining to Mihin Lanka case was arrived at. That particular case dealt with misappropriation of public funds amounting to Rs 883 mn, he said, while referring to recent dismissal of cases involving one-time Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pilleyan, Johnston Fernando, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Basil Rajapaksa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris. The former CJ ended up as Sri Lanka’s top representative in New York.

Noting that Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, unlike his predecessors, had been constantly present in both print and electronic media, Viyangoda said that the public shouldn’t be deprived of an opportunity to know the truth. If the AG and CIABOC realised their institutions were at fault, they should accept responsibility, Viyangoda said, pointing out that all those who benefited were members of the government or those connected with it.

Viyangoda pointed out that Jayantha Jayasuriya, the AG during whose tenure legal proceedings had been initiated against those above mentioned persons was now the head of the judiciary, in his capacity as the Chief Justice. Viyangoda said that it would be interesting to know whether the CIABOC and AG examined any other cases other than those of government personalities.

The civil society activist, who through their group Purawesi Balaya backed the previous UNP government even after bond scams and other grave transgressions said that on one hand those who had been under investigation and hauled up before courts were cleared whereas government cronies perpetrated unprecedented corruption. Claiming that the massive scam in slashing of duty on sugar imports revealed at the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) chaired by government member Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and the murderous racket in importing of contaminated coconut oil highlighted the pathetic state of affairs. In spite of exposure of such despicable frauds, the government simply went ahead with its projects regardless of the consequences, Viyangoda said, urging the electorate to be mindful of deadly strategies. Viyangoda also drew a parallel with scores of retired military and police personnel receiving top appointments in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration and the recent military take-over of Myanmar.

Viyangoda said that the public shouldn’t be surprised if the incumbent administration resorted to punitive measures to suppress the democratic Opposition. The civil society accepted responsibility for spearheading a campaign having realized the importance of its role in post-20th Amendment period.

Viyangoda said that the vast majority of those who had voted for SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the 2019 presidential and the SLPP at the 2020 general election regreted having done so.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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