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‘Colombo based Indian HC official issued last warning before 2019 Easter attacks



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The founding Director General of the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) Asanga Abeyagoonasekera says the then Chief of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardana had received the final warning about the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks from an Indian with diplomatic status based at the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

Abeygoonasekera, in an exclusive interview with Chamuditha Samarwickrema recently on ‘Truth with Chamuditha’ quoted the Indian as having told him intelligence on the impending blasts would have been shared if he knew Abeygoonasekera was planning to visit Shangri La.

Abeygoonasekera was about to press the button of a lift in Shangri La when the first of the two blasts ripped through the hotel. One time Executive Director of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) had been with his wife and two children.

Shangri La blasts claimed the lives of 35 persons and wounded 34.

Abeygoonasekera alleged that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) that inquired into the Easter attacks prevented him from naming the Indian.

Claiming that he knew the diplomat for some time, Abeygoonasekera questioned how the Indian intelligence had prior information of the date of the operation unless someone within Zahran Hashim’s outfit worked for them.

Zahran Hashim and Ilham Ahmed carried out attacks in Shangrila.

Abeygoonasekera said that when he asked for an explanation as to how India got to know about the date of the suicide attacks, the Indian HC representative attributed their success to examination of accidental explosion in Sainthamaruthu in the East. Abeygoonasekera said that Indian claimed the accidental blast that had wrecked a motorcycle led them to get specific information.

Abeygoonasekera agreed with interviewer Samarawickrema the diplomat’s claim was not acceptable.

However, Abeygoonasekera appeared to have mistakenly referred to a blast at Sainthamaruthu in the run up to the April 21 suicide attacks whereas the actual test blast took place at Kattankudy on April 16.

Abeygoonasekera now functions as the Senior Advisor to Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

The young academic alleged that in the wake of 2019 Easter attacks the yahapalana government sought to move him out of INSSSL. Asserting that an influential section of the previous administration wanted him out of that position in the wake of him raising the failure on the part of the then President Maithripala Sirisena to act on a missive sent by him as regards heightened threat posed by extremists.

Declaring that he raised the issue at the National Security Council following the Easter Sunday blasts, Abeygoonasekera admitted that he was not sure whether the President actually received his report exclusively prepared for him though it was submitted through the Secretary, Ministry of Defence.

Pressed for a definite answer, Abeygoonasekera said that when he inquired from President Sirisena, the latter claimed he never received it.

Abeygoonasekera claimed that however, Senior DIG Jayawardena had told him how President Sirisena discarded the report expressing concerns about causing an unnecessary issue.

Abeygoonasekera, the only son of assassinated SLMP leader Ossie Abeygoonasekera recalled how President Sirisena created INSSSL by a cabinet paper. The SLMP leader was killed in an LTTE suicide attack on UNP presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake’s political platform at Thotalanga in Oct 1994.

The academic contested Gampaha district at the 2015 general election on the UNP ticket.

Asanga Abeygoonasekera questioned whether the powers that be felt uncomfortable as a result of him disputing the then administration’s response to the extremist threat. According to him, in his capacity as the DG, INSSSL, he authored a report warning the President of the impending threat soon after the police raided extremists’ hideout at Wanathawilluwa in January 2019.

Responding to interviewer, Abeygoonasekera said that after the 2019 presidential election he was told of a diplomatic posting at the Sri Lankan mission in Germany. On an assurance received from the cabinet by way of a letter, Abeygoonasekera quit the INSSSL to pave the way for the incumbent Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage to take over that post. However, the diplomatic posting hadn’t materialized as promised, Abeygoonasekera said, adding that though he brought the development to the notice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa the government didn’t take remedial measures.

After the change of government in 2015 the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera had removed Abeygoonasekera from LKIIRSS though the same government created INSSSL later to accommodate him.

Commenting on former Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC’s declaration soon before his retirement in May this year that the Easter Sunday carnage was a conspiracy, Abeygoonasekera explained how the perpetrators would have chosen Sri Lanka to carry out the operation. Abeygoonasekera made reference to high level Indian delegation visiting Colombo just ahead of the Easter carnage.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly asked the government to inquire into the former AG’s claim though he was yet to be questioned.

According to the Parliamentary Select Committee that inquired into the suicide blasts that claimed the lives of 277, including bombers and caused injuries to 406 persons.

Abeygoonasekera strongly questioned the conduct of the then SIS Chief Senior DIG Jayawardena. In spite of President Sirisena’s specific instructions, Jayawardena conveniently refrained from making available certain letters written by Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara thera regarding extremist activities. The SIS Chief withheld those letters claiming they had previously examined the matters discussed therein, Abeygoonasekera said.

Abeygoonasekera declined to blame any particular country though he expressed the belief Indian, US and China factors should be examined thoroughly. The academic lamented the failure on the part of successive administrations to probe how the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) received the required funding. Asked whether the perpetrators could be identified, Abeygoonasekera quoted a foreign expert as having told him perhaps in about 20 to 30 years.

Referring to a discussion he had with Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Abeygoonasekera said that the Church suspected a certain country, though he didn’t want to disclose the Archbishop’s suspicions. Abeygoonaekera said that all agreed that there was an external power behind the Easter Sunday carnage.

Declaring that President Sirisena, who had held the defence portfolio at the time of the deadly carnage didn’t benefit at all, Abeygoonasekera blamed the ‘Deep State’ for the heinous operation. When repeatedly asked by the interviewer, Abeygoonasekera admitted that his reference to experts in Singapore receiving the attention of the P CoI was about Prof. Rohan Gunaratne now with the INSSSL.

Abeygoonasekera said that the conduct of the then SIS Chief was very suspicious as he in spite of being the recipient of specific intelligence didn’t take tangible measures to thwart the attacks.

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Outgoing BASL chief asks lawyers to continue struggle to safeguard rule of law, democracy, judicial independence



Saliya Peiris

Outgoing President of the BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Saliya Peiris, PC has urged his colleagues to continue their struggle to counter threats to the rule of law and judicial independence.

“The BASL was able to play a pivotal role in the nation’s struggle to safeguard the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. In doing so, we were together able to make our profession relevant to the lives of the people and help enhance its credibility and public acceptance,” Saliya Peiris, PC said in a statement to mark the completion of his tenure as BASL President.

Peiris has said that in these two years, the BASL took up strong positions on many issues and where necessary sought recourse to the courts to protect the rights of the people.

“In the coming months, the Bar will need to continue to stand for the principles which are at the core of our profession and to protect the rights described in the Constitution as the intangible heritage of the people,” he said.

Excerpts of the statement:

“As I conclude my term as President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), I write to thank you for the support given to me during my tenure and for placing confidence in me. It has been my privilege to have led the Bar during this momentous period in our history.

“With your support and drawing from your strength, the BASL was able to play a pivotal role in this nation’s struggle for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. In doing so we were together able to make our profession relevant to the lives of the people and help enhance its credibility and public acceptance.

“In these two years the BASL took up strong positions on many issues and where necessary sought recourse to the courts to secure the rights of the people. The BASL was the first amongst the professional bodies to publicly express its view on the looming economic crisis and the need to address the same.”

“Amidst these difficult times, the BASL continued to support the membership in their professional development and welfare. Through seminars, symposiums, workshops, webinars as well as through its social and welfare work during the pandemic and thereafter, the BASL was able to reach out to thousands of members, including the junior members of the Bar. The BASL also reached out to the branches in the outstations in an unprecedented manner. The BASL formed the Members Benevolent Society, and it is our expectation that the Society will grow to benefit the members in the years to come.

“As I write, we see new threats emerging to the rule of law and a concerted effort being made to undermine the independence of the judiciary. In the coming months the Bar will need to continue to fiercely stand for the principles which are at the core of our profession and to protect the rights described in the Constitution as the tangible heritage of the people.

“I take this opportunity to thank His Lordship the Chief Justice, all the members of the judiciary, the Hon. Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the members of the official Bar for the support and co-operation extended towards me as the President of the BASL.

“A special worn of thanks also to the Chairpersons of the Standing Committees as well as the Co-Chairs and Convenors for their immense contribution towards the BASL.

“I must record my deep appreciation for the unwavering strength demonstrated by the Bar Council the Executive Committee and the office bearers of the BASL, namely the Deputy President Mr. Anura Meddegoda PC, the Secretary of the BASL Mr. lsuru Balapatabendi, the Treasurer Mr. Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Mr. Mehran Careem as well as the former Secretary Mr. Rajeev Amarasuriya and the former Assistant Secretary Mr. Pasindu Silva for their unstinted support and co-operation given to me.

“I am indebted to the senior members of the profession to whom I turned to, for their wise counsel and words of encouragement.

“I have striven at all times to act according to the cherished values of our profession and to act in its best interests, mindful of the trust and confidence you placed in me on 24 February 2021. As I leave office, I trust that I have performed the duties of this office in accordance with your expectations. I have at all times drawn strength and been inspired by your goodwill towards me.

“I extend my best wishes to the incoming President Mr. Kaushalya Navaratne and the new office bearers and members of the Executive Committee.

“It is my sincere hope that the BASL will remain a strong and vibrant institution, inspiring confidence among the people of the nation, dedicated towards upholding the rule of law, democracy, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of the people and the community whilst safeguarding and promoting the welfare and interests of the members of the Bar.”

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SC summons IGP for disregarding court order



C. D. Wickramaratne

by AJA Abeynayake

The Supreme Court (SC), on Friday, summoned IGP C. D. Wickramaratne to appear in court on 03 April for disregarding a court order.The SC issued the summons when a fundamental rights petition was called before a bench comprising Justices S. Thurairajah, A. H. M.D. Nawaz and Achala Vengappuli.

The IGP has been ordered by the Supreme Court to prepare a set of guidelines to prevent the deaths of suspects in police custody taken out for various investigations.The SC judges pointed out that the IG had not abided by the order and expressed displeasure.

Justice Thurairajah said that despite the fact that the Supreme Court itself had given many judgments regarding the police, there had been no progress in the police department.The Justice said the police had a separate legal department and money should be allocated and training imparted to the police personnel through that section.

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Opposition slams govt. for move to undermine judiciary



The Opposition has strongly condemned what it calls a move by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to undermine the Supreme Court (SC).The Opposition has, in a joint statement issued over the weekend, urged the government to refrain from being hostile towards the apex court.

Among the signatories to the statement are Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Wimal Weerawansa, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, M.A. Sumanthiran and Udaya Gammanpila.

“The country is facing an unprecedented crisis in respect of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” the Opposition has said.

“Basic principles and values we had all taken for granted, are now being directly and strenuously challenged.

“Now, for the first time, a criterion fraught with the gravest consequences for the very survival of representative democracy, is sought to be laid down that election can be held only if and when the Head of State is subjectively satisfied that the economic condition of the country warrants the allocation of resources for the conduct of an election at a particular time.

“The alarming corollary is a vicious onslaught on the Supreme Court in the exercise of its inalienable jurisdiction to uphold and implement the provisions of the highest law, the Constitution of the Republic.

“The country has been treated to the ignominious spectacle of the apex court being derided and reviled in parliament.

“The interim order by the court, directing the Minister of Finance and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to refrain from preventing the release, to the Election Commission, of financial resources allocated by parliament in the annual budget for the conduct of the Local Government election, has been contemptuously disregarded.

“In a flagrant violation of a binding decision by the Supreme Court, the Government Printer and other relevant authorities are being deprived of funds required for the performance of essential functions in this regard.

“Urgent appeals by the Election Commission, addressed to the Finance Secretary, continue to be simply ignored.

“Refusal by the Executive to give effect to imperative directions by the Supreme Court represents, of itself, a deliberate erosion of the foundations of our constitutional system, based as it is on the clearly demarcated separation of powers among the organs of government.

“It expresses, in our view, undisguised contempt for cherished constitutional values which form the bedrock of freedom and stability in our country.

“Tragically, not even this seems to satisfy the appetite of an unelected administration to arrogate to itself authoritarian powers incompatible with the rudiments of a functioning democracy.

“The government has brazenly invaded the province of the judiciary by means of a wholly distended, and entirely illegitimate, recourse to the concept of parliamentary privilege to assail the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

“We are aghast at the purported initiative by the Privileges Committee of Parliament directing the Supreme Court to forward to parliament the interim order which has already been impugned with egregious disregard for sound principle and policy.

“There were strident calls in parliament for the discontinuation of proceedings property in progress before the Supreme Court : these were complimented by demands for the cessation of all judicial action in respect of pending proceedings , until parliamentary processes with regard to privileges are exhausted : to cap it all, cynically infringing express provision contained in the Standing Orders of Parliament, there was explicit criticism of a judgment of the Supreme Court and indeed, of propriety of the behavior of a judge , in the absence of substantive motion before the House.

“In keeping with established precedents across the civilized world, these actions constitute, cumulatively, contempt of the Supreme Court in uniquely aggravating circumstances.

“We find very disquieting the arrogant and dismissive attitude which the government, embarked on its dangerous frolic, has adopted to the emphatic appeals by religious leaders, including the Venerable Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and his Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo.

“The sense of frivolity and flippancy underpinning the government’s approach to issues which define our political system and our way of life, presents to this nation and the world a spectacle of which we can hardly be proud.

“Representing all parties and groups in the Opposition in the parliament, we wish to express our profound respect for the judiciary –an indispensable pillar and, indeed, the final bulwark for the enjoyment of individual and collective liberties enshrined in the Constitution –and our firm resolve to resist, by all means at our disposal within a democratic framework, every attempt to undermine the prestige and stature of our country’s judiciary.”

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