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Defeated UNP candidate questioned over complaints regarding UK passport holder in Parliament, EC fiasco

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…audio tapes featuring ex-EC Chairman et al handed over to CIABOC

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) have recorded statements from defeated UNP Colombo District candidate Oshala Herath as regards the re-registration of Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP) as the Samaji Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and SJB National List MP Diana Gamage being a British passport holder, respectively.

One-time office bearer of the AJP, MP Gamage, wife of Senaka de Silva, a former top aide to General Sarath Fonseka is one of the seven SJB National List members. Having secured 54 seats, the SJB received recognition as the main Opposition in Parliament.

The CID and the CIABOC questioned Herath on Monday (28) and Wednesday (30), respectively.

Having obtained the UNP membership on the day he signed nomination papers for the Aug 5, 2020 parliamentary election, Herath contested Colombo district under the Elephant symbol.

The CID and the CIABOC questioned one-time media aide to President Maithripala Sirisena regarding complaints received from him.

Herath told The Island that he furnished photo copies of lawmaker Gamage’s British passport to the CID. The civil society activist said that he sincerely expected the new Election Commission (EC) to inquire into his complaint.

Attorney-at-law Nimal Punchihewa heads the five-member EC established in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The original EC formed in terms of the 17th Amendment consists of three Commissioners.

The police and the CIABOC confirmed the recording of statements from Herath.

Lawmaker Gamage, who switched allegiance to Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) during the vote on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, has strongly denied accusations as regards her nationality though she admitted at one time she carried a British passport.

Responding to The Island queries, Herath said that he handed over an entire set of audio recordings featuring former EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya, EC member Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and particularly interesting conversation involving him, Deshapriya and the then lawmaker Ravi Karunanayake at a church at Rajagiriya as well as other conversations to the CIABOC. In his original complaint to the CIABOC in the run-up to the last parliamentary polls, Herath said that the EC brazenly violated procedures in re-registering AJP as SJB.

Former Colombo District UNP MP attorney-at-law Sujeewa Senasinghe, too, features in a conversation along with Deshapriya and President’s Counsel Farman Cassim.

Herath said that he expected the five-man Parliamentary Council, too, to examine his complaint against the EC. The civil society activist also lambasted those engaged in polls monitoring for remaining silent over major violations though they issued statements on minor matters.



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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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