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Conduct of AG’s Dept. under microscope

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Failure to arrest Zahran

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Attorney General has recommended disciplinary action against Deputy Solicitor General, Azard Navavi, and State Counsel Malik Azeez, who were entrusted with the file on National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim, for lapses in handling the case, the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.

A three-member committee had also concluded its inquiry, and charge sheets have been sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC,) 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 been no response so far, he said.

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, three weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks, Deputy Solicitor General Navavi, on December  (05) told the PCoI.

When the PCoI summoned Navavi and Azeez, the Chairman 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 directed Azeez, who was under him to handle it. Both men insisted that the TID had not relayed the information it had about NTJ and Zahran until 2019.

Azeez said that on 12 March 2019,  there had been a meeting  with several TID officers on the file and only at that point had the officers mentioned that the TID had obtained warrants twice to arrest Zahran.

“The arrest warrants had not been attached to the file or brought to the notice of the AG’s Department until March 2019,” Azeez said.

Azeez informed the Commission that the TID had added documents to the file twice, in 2017 and 2018. None of those included the two arrest warrants or statements recorded by Zahran’s mother and wife. Without those important documents, the AG’s department officials had not been able to detect a threat to National Security, Azeez said.

Additional Solicitor General Sumathi Dharmawardena was called before the PCoI to shed more light on the matter. He 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 that TID had sent.

ASG Dharmawardena added that he had drawn Attorney General, Dappula de Livera’s attention to the final report of the PSC on or around 24 February 2020. The following day, Livera had recommended that an inquiry be conducted as regards Navavi and Azeez. Initially, the investigation was to be done 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 had been appointed. Jayamanne resigned from the committee on 29 May 2020 and on 01 June 2020, Additional Solicitor General, Priyantha Nawana had been made 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 containing draft charge sheets had been given to Acting Solicitor General Sanjay Rajaratnam for further recommendations and on 27 July 2020, Rajaratnam had also recommended disciplinary action, Dharmawardena said.

“Rajaratnam again on 12 November 2020 said action should be taken on the matter.”

Chairman of the PCoI: “Did you send this to the PSC for action?”

Dharmawardena: “Yes, this was sent to the PSC through the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice. This was done on 27 November 2020.”

Incidentally, 27 November 2020 was the day Dharmawardena was asked to come to the Police Unit of the PCoI to give a statement.

Dharmawardena said that there had been no response to the report so far.

Chairman of the PCoI: “The TID sent a file for advice in 2017 to the division that handled criminal cases. Who was in charge of the division then?”

Dharmawardena: “Senior Additional Solicitor General Kapila Waidyaratne.”

Chairman of the PCoI: “Who were the law officers in charge of the Eastern Province after June 2017?”

Dharmawardena: “Navavi, who was a senior state counsel then was in charge of the area.”

Chairman of the PCoI: “Who was his supervisor?”

Dharmawardena: “Current AG Dappula de Livera.”

Shavindra Fernando, PC, who appeared for Navavi then cross-examined Dharmawardena.

Fernando: “The Committee recommended legal action against the two law officers in July 2020. But you only sent the report to PSC on 27 November 2020. You also gave a statement to the PCoI Police Unit on that day. Is this true?”

Dharmawardena: “This is not a question I can answer. Only the AG can.”

Fernando: “On 18 June 2019, the AG sent a letter to the acting IGP, saying that the law officers of the AG’s Department were not at fault in this case. On 10 July 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.”

Dharmawardena: “The administration division has nothing to do with sending press releases.”

Fernando: “Can the Commission ask the coordinating officer to the AG to testify before the PCoI on this?”

The PCoI then ordered State Counsel, Nishara Jayaratne to appear before the PCoI tomorrow (17).

She was also asked to give a statement to the police unit attached to the PCoI, today.

 

 

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  

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Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo

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China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits

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By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.

 

 

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