By Shamindra Ferdinando
Director General, Legal Affairs, at the Presidential Secretariat attorney-at-law Harigupta Rohanadeera says the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) retained the right to initiate fresh proceedings in respect of cases dismissed by courts as well as those withdrawn by the institution.
Rohanadeera said so appearing in the latest ‘Salakuna’ live interview on ‘Hiru’ anchored by Chamuditha Samarawickrema. The Presidential Secretariat Director General explained how those cases could be resumed again though being terminated on technical grounds.
Samarawickreme, one-time media head of President Maithripala Sirisena questioned the rationale in the dismissal of a spate of high profile cases initiated by the CIABOC and the Attorney General’s Department during the previous administration.
The new CIABOC comprises retired Supreme Court Justice Eva Wanasundera, retired Court of Appeal Justice Deepali Wijesundera and retired DIG and one time Chief of State Intelligence Service during the previous Rajapaksa administration Chandra Nimal Wakishta.
The new commission has been constituted in terms of the 20th Amendment enacted last October by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hitherto shared with the Parliament and the judiciary.
The CIABOC dropped all charges against former lawmaker and Foreign Ministry Monitoring MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena pertaining to Mihin Lanka case. That particular case dealt with misappropriation of public funds amounting to Rs 883 mn.
The other persons freed included one-time Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pilleyan (now MP backing the SLPP), Minister Johnston Fernando, Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris. The former CJ received appointment as Sri Lanka’s top representative at the United Nations in New York.
Asked to explain the status of follow-up action on report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Political Victimization (2015-2019), Rohanadeera pointed out the appointment of a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to go into the report. The P CoI comprises Supreme Court Judges Dhammika Priyantha Samarakoon Jayawardena, Hema Kumuduni Wickramasinghe and Court of Appeal Judge Sobhitha Rajakaruna.
Reference was also made to the recommendations made by Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Political Victimization pertaining to deprival of civic rights of politicians’ et al.
Rohanadeera declined to comment on the status of parliamentary proceedings and follow-up action pertaining to the report submitted by the Commission. Denial of civic rights has been made against Rajitha Senaratne (SJB), Patali Champika Ranawaka (SJB), R. Sampanthan (TNA), M.A. Sumanthiran (TNA), Anura Kumara Dissanayake (JVP), the late Mangala Samaraweera (former lawmaker), Ravi Karunanayake (former lawmaker), Ajith P Perera (former lawmaker), Arjuna Ranatunga (former lawmaker), Ranjan Ramanayake (former UNP lawmaker, now in remand for contempt of court), Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP Leader), Sarath Fonseka (SJB), Rauff Hakeem (SLMC), Malik Samarawickrema (former lawmaker), J.C. Weliamuna, PC (former High Commissioner to Australia), Jayampathi Wickremaratne , PC (former lawmaker), Wasantha Navaratne ,PC, Thusith Mudalige ( Additional Solicitor General, AG’s Department), Upul Jayasuriya,PC, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe, PC (former Solicitor General), Janaka Bandara (Senior State Counsel AG’s Department), Shani Abeysekera (SSP, Former CID Director) B.S. Tissera (ASP,ex- CID), Ravi Waidyalankara (SDIG FCID), Nishantha Silva ( IP, ex- CID OIC), Ravi Seneviratne (SDIG, ex- CID), Ravindra Wijeguneratne( Admiral, ex- Navy Commander), JJ Ranasinghe (Rear Admiral SLN), Prasad Kariyawasam (ex-Foreign Secretary), Ravinatha Aryasinha (Ambassador in Washington), Saman Ekanayake (ex-Secy to PM Wickremesinghe), S.A. Khan (ex-Ambassador to the UAE) and C.A.H.M. Wijeratne ( Former Director General Legal, MFA and Ambassador for Sri Lanka to Poland).
Rohanadeera also dealt with several other issues, including the contentious issue of making vaccination compulsory as part of the overall government response to raging Covid-19 pandemic.
The top official strongly backed the measure in line with what he called doctrine of necessity. Pointing out the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr Asela Gunawardena enjoyed the legal right to decide on such matters, Rohanadeera said that anyone opposed to mandatory vaccination could move the Supreme Court.
General Shavendra Silva, who is the head of the Covid-19 Task Force, recently declared that those visiting public places would be asked to produce vaccination certificate from Sept 15.
Acknowledging the freedom of speech and the right to dissent and protest, the attorney-at-law emphasized the responsibility on the part of the people to follow the health guidelines or prepare to face the consequences.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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