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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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CEBEU guns for ex-Chairman Ferdinando

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by Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) Friday  said that they are in the process of collecting evidence against former Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando over the recent statement he made on a proposed power project with India.

A senior engineer said that there is a high possibility that the seasoned civil servant dragged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to disrepute because he didn’t see eye to eye with the President.

Eng. Isuru Kasthuriratne, a committee member of the CEBEU and Project Engineer – Mannar Wind Power Project of the Board said they would never allow former chairman to get away easily.

“There are always controversies about him. We would not let this case go. We are in touch with all bodies,” he said.

Kasthuriratne said that very relevant documents were authored and authorized by the former chairman and “he cannot simply say he is not aware of this and that.”

Ferdinando on June 11, tendered his resignation following the controversy he sparked over the planned 500 MW unsolicited wind power project here by India’s Adani group.

“The Adani group at first proposed to sell power to the CEB at 6.50 US cents per unit,” CEBEU President Anil Ranjith told journalists recently.

Despite numerous attempts, the former CEB chairman was not available for comment.

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Dilshan Wirasekara, new CSE Chairman

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The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) announced the appointment of Dilshan Wirasekara as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CSE with effect from Friday (24).

Wirasekara has served on the Board of the CSE since 21st November 2017 and succeeds Dumith Fernando, who steps down as the Chairman after completing his two-year tenure.

Wirasekara is the Director/Chief Executive Officer of one of the leading investment banking firms, First Capital Holdings PLC, offering a diverse range of financial services in Government Securities, Corporate Finance and Advisory, Asset Management and Stock Brokering, which he has been part of since 2013.

He currently is the chairman of the Investment Subcommittee of the CSE and also serves on the Risk and Audit Committee of the CSE as well as the CSE/SEC joint committees on Digitalization and the Central Counter Party System (CCP).

An Investment banker by profession with a career spanning over 26 years, comprising diversified expertise in financial services, including banking, treasury and investment management, capital market strategy, and corporate finance advisory services.

Wirasekara specializes in Asset and Liability Risk Management, having secured the accolade of leading and representing two Sri Lankan companies in winning the International Bank Asset and Liability competition organized annually by the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), German Investment Corporation (DEG), and Proparco – a subsidiary of the Agence Française de Development (AFD).

Wirasekara is an alumnus of INSEAD, having completed his Executive Professional Education at INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France. He is also an alumnus of AOTS, Tokyo, Japan.

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NCE on Govt’s focus on directing public servants to private sector employment

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National Chamber of Exporters has given the a proposal to the Prime Minister and copied it to the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government on providing employment opportunities to government servants in the private sector companies for a specified period.

The Chamber said in a release: Through Media sources we got to know that The Ministry of Public Administration has appointed a committee to look into the possibility of granting five years of leave to government employees to work in the private sector.

Its states that a seven-member committee has been appointed for this purpose and that the said committee is to submit its report to the Cabinet of Ministers within two weeks.

Sri Lankan exporters are proposing to absorb public sector employees for employment in the sector to relieve the burden of wages and related costs on the Government.

The Export Sector has been able to sustain business and has also reached the pre pandemic level of an average of USD.01 billion export revenue during the period January to April 2022. Before the dawn of the pandemic, exporters were facing difficulties with lack of skilled workers. However, during the pandemic, many exporters were compelled to downsize operations and lay off employees which has created a vacuum in crucial areas of operations.

In current scenario, considering the financial burden and the reportedly excessive workforce attached to the public sector, NCE member exporters are proposing following options in reaching a win-win agreement for both government and the export sector. It is to be noted that labour requirements of exporters vary according to the relevant industry, yet in general all categories could be considered.

1. Any government employee in the permanent carder is eligible to apply for employment in the export sector, excluding from following institutions as they are involved in law enforcement in the country which may lead to conflict of interests.

a) Department of Police

b) Department of Inland Revenue

c) Department of Customs

d) Department of Excise

 2.Government to grant unpaid leave up to a maximum of 59 months.

 3.Employer will offer a “Temporary Labour Contract “to such selected individuals which include: –

 a) Period of contract for 59 months (because on completion of the 60th month, the employee will be eligible for Gratuity.)

b) Their employment will be in accordance with the laws and statutes under which the respective private sector company’s  employees of similar cadre is employed.

c) Leave entitlement as per employer’s policy on leave

d) Employment contract can be terminated with either party giving 30 days’ written notice.

e) In case of maternity leave, a number of stipulated days will be available as unpaid leave.

f)  At the end of 59 months, the government to absorb such individuals back to the public sector employment as per pertinent rules and regulations.

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