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DEW endorses dissident ministers’ stand on secret Yugadanavi deal

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‘It cannot be defended in terms of collective responsibility of Cabinet of Ministers’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Minister D. E. W. Gunasekera says dissident ministers, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila, are right in having thrown their weight behind those who petitioned the Supreme Court against the signing of the sale and purchase agreement for the purchase of 40% of the issued share capital of West Coast Power (Pvt.) Ltd.

Seller Sri Lanka and buyer New Fortress Energy Sri Lanka Power Holding LLC signed the agreement on Sept. 17, 2021 in Colombo.

Gunasekera, who served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party from 2004 till late August 2020, has, in an article published in the party organ, Aththa, in its 02 Jan. edition, emphasised that in spite of being a member of the SLPP Cabinet, the three ministers obviously didn’t want to be respondents in the high profile case. Instead, they have taken a principled stand on the agreement, which was not subjected to proper Cabinet procedure.

Dr. G. Weerasinghe succeeded Gunasekera as the General Secretary of the CP but was denied an SLPP National List slot regardless of an understanding among constituents. First time entrant to parliamentary politics Weerasumana Weerasinghe, longstanding CP member represents Matara District. The CP backs the stand taken by the three ministers, both in and outside Parliament.

Declaring that the ministers opposed the agreement as it had been signed without following proper procedures against their conscience, Gunasekera said that their actions couldn’t be considered a violation of the collective Cabinet responsibility.

The Supreme Court will resume hearing on the case on 10 Jan. The SC bench consists of Supreme Court five-judge-bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena, Justice Vijith Malalgoda and Justice L.T.B. Dehideniya.

The case was heard on Dec 16 and 17. The five-judge-bench put off the case to January 10 after Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, appearing on behalf of the respondents requested that the proceedings not be resumed on Dec 21. The judges wanted to hear the case on Dec 21 and 22.

Gunasekera emphasised that against the backdrop of three Ministers decrying the agreement, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should have given an opportunity for the cabinet of ministers to discuss the issue at hand. Had remedial measures been taken promptly, the SLPP government could have prevented the problem being exploded into a major political crisis, the former lawmaker said. Gunasekera asserted that the government blundered seriously by its failure to address concerns expressed by a section of the ministers. The former minister declared: “It is the first mistake and the first sin.”

Gunasekera explained how the absence of transparency in the sale of 40 % shares owned by the Treasury to New Fortress Energy, hasty approval of the agreement at the Cabinet level without following due procedure, bringing the power ministry under a new Minister Gamini Lokuge at the expense of Dullas Alahapperuma ahead of the finalization of the agreement, the project being a threat to the country’s sovereignty and inimical to national aspirations and finally the impact on current Geo-political situation undermined stability.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) General Secretary Ranjith Maddumabandara, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) former Parliamentarians Sunil Hadunneththi and Wasantha Samarasinghe, Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven. Elle Gunawansa thera and Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya have challenged the deal in the Supreme Court.

The former minister also examined the SLPP’s continuing failure to grasp the current crisis. Instead of realizing that their economic strategy had failed to meet the desired objectives or challenges, influential sections of the SLPP quite conveniently blamed the crisis on the Covid-19 epidemic, the ex-MP said.

Gunasekera questioned whether the government was considering a taking a turn to the right seeking a new alternative.

The outspoken politician emphasized that the SJB, the UNP and the JVP (JVP contested last general election on the Jathika Jana Balavegaya ticket) hadn’t been able to correctly ascertain the current situation, particularly against the backdrop of the crisis caused by Yugadanavi fiasco. The SJB and the UNP essentially blamed the current situation on incompetence and mismanagement whereas the JVP believed waste, corruption and misappropriation of public funds caused the deterioration of the national economy.

The former minister also drew public attention to the government altogether doing away with price controls. The runaway cost of living should be examined taking into consideration the government ending state intervention in price controls, the ex-lawmaker said, adding that those who asserted that eradication of bribery, corruption and misappropriation of public funds would be the panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills should realize how government strategy and policies contributed to the deterioration.

Gunasekera also questioned the suitability of the majority of those who had received appointments from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Categorizing them as believers of disastrous neo liberal policies, Gunasekera said that the current dispensation was in fact a UPFA style administration. They had proved their belief in neo liberalism through their actions, the former MP said.

The former minister declared that the vast majority of lawmakers in the Parliament couldn’t even understand the developments that had taken place since 1956 hence the deterioration of overall parliamentary standards and way of thinking. Taking a genuine anti-imperialistic patriotic stand was no longer attractive to the majority of lawmakers, Gunasekera said, adding that the current lot basically followed the policies of those elected to the Parliament in 1977.

Gunasekera also examined the differences between the current dispensation and the 2005-2015 Mahinda Rajapaksa administration that quite convincingly managed political upheavals both in and out of Parliament. The former minister said that the same couldn’t be said about the current dispensation.



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NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused

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Welikada Prison killings

‘The BASL should make its position clear now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners, Attorney-at-Law, Senaka Perera, says his outfit will soon move the Supreme Court against the acquittal and discharging of Inspector Neomal Moses Rangajiva, the first accused in the Welikada Prison killings.

The civil society activist, in a brief interview with The Island, over the weekend, said that the relatives of those who perished in the violence in the Welikada Prison compound on Nov 09 and 10, 2012, had requested him to pursue this matter.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar last Wednesday (12) sentenced to death ex-Welikada Prisons Chief Lamahewage Emil Ranjan over the Welikada killings. He was the second accused in the high-profile case, whereas Rangajiva, at that time attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), was acquitted and released from all charges.

Lawyer Perera said that as the verdict had been given by a Trial-at-Bar, the appeal would have to be made to the Supreme Court. The Trial-at-Bar bench comprising High Court judges Gihan Kulathunga (President), Pradeep Hettiarachchi and Manjula Thilakarathna was unanimous in its decisions.

The Trial-at-Bar said that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the PNB officer beyond reasonable doubt.

Responding to questions, Senaka Perera said that if it hadn’t been a Trial-at-Bar, his group would have moved the Court of Appeal. Senaka Perera explained: “We intend to write to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, in this regard. We are of the view the AG should appeal against the acquittal and discharging of Rangajiva. However, if the AG refrained from doing so,  the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners will accept the responsibility.”

In terms of the Trial-at-Bar proceedings, the eight prison inmates who were killed in the incident are Kankanmalage Malinda Nilendra Pelpola alias Malan, Attapattu Sangakkara Nirmala Atapattu, Mohammed Wijaya Rohana alias Gundu, Chinthamani Mohottige Thushara Chandana alias Kalu Thushara, Asarappulige Jothipala alias Ponna Kapila, Harshan Sri Manakeerthi Perera alias Manju Sri, Raigamage Susantha Perera alias Mala Susantha, Devamullage Malith Sameera Perera alias Konda Amila.

However, lawyer Senaka Perera said that altogether 27 inmates had been killed after the deployment of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Army inside the Welikada Prison. According to official records, in addition to 27 deaths, at least 43 other inmates received injuries. The then Prisons Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera informed Parliament of the deaths of 27 inmates.

The then Police Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakoday said that inmates had triggered violence as the STF was looking for drugs and hand phones inside the prison.

The Attorney General filed indictments against IP Rangajeewa, Lamahewage Emil Ranjan and Indika Sampath, an officer attached to the Prisons intelligence unit under 33 counts, including committing murder, conspiring to commit murder after being members of an unlawful assembly.

The Court proceeded in spite of the third accused Indika Sampath who managed to evade the police so far.

The human rights activist recalled how Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, named a Trial-at-Bar to hear the Welikada case on a request made by Rajaratnam’s predecessor, Dappula de Livera, PC. The latter made the request in late June 2019. Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera in late May 2021.

The Prisons Department and the Justice Ministry couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for ensuring safety and security of those in their care, lawyer Senaka Perera said. Those who had been remanded and sentenced could be serious offenders and some may even deserve a death sentence but the State shouldn’t under any circumstances resort to extra judicial measures, the public litigation activist said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that he believed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) should examine the Welikada case and make its position known to the public. “Perhaps, the BASL, too, should consider moving the SC against the acquittal and discharging of the first accused,” the lawyer said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that before the former AG made an intervention the progress in investigations had been slow. In fact, real progress was made since 2017, two years after the change of government following the 2015 presidential election, the lawyer said, alleging that the powers that be continuously hindered the investigations.

According to lawyer Perera and other sources, there had been four separate investigations at different levels beginning with the one launched by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) immediately after the Welikada killings. Subsequently the then Prisons Minister the late Chandrasiri Gajadeera named a three-member team to inquire into the Welikada killings. The committee comprising retired High Court judge Bandula Atapattu, retired DIG Gunasena Thenabadu and Prisons Ministry Legal Officer Lalith Andrahannadi produced two reports in Feb 2013 and Nov 2013. There had been two other investigations ordered by the then Prisons Chief P.W. Kodipillai and the Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that the four investigations undertaken during the Rajapaksa administration should be examined. The lawyer emphasized the importance of appraisal of the investigations as the Trial-at-Bar declared that the progress had been made only since 2017.

In addition to those four investigations, there had been another report prepared by the three-member committee comprising retired High Court judge Wimal Nambuwasam, retired Senior DIG Asoka Wijeyatilleke and senior public servant S.K. Liyanage. Appointed on January 22, 2015, less than two weeks after the presidential election, the committee handed over its report to the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, on June 09, 2015 as the latter appointed it.

Lawyer Perera said that the former Prisons Chief claimed that the inmates after having broken into the Prisons armoury seized weapons, including machine guns.

The activist pointed out that the 2012 incidents were the worst since the 1983 massacre of Tamil terrorist suspects. The public have lost faith in law enforcement authorities and the political leadership regardless of the party that held power, the lawyer said. There couldn’t be better example than how the current dispensation handled the then State Minister for Prisons Lohan Ratwatte’s ‘raids’ on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons in September last year.

The report prepared by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena into the incidents involving Ratwatte should be made public as the police were yet to at least record the State Minister’s statement, lawyer Perera said.

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China donates shipment of rice to Sri Lanka

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By Anura Balasuriya

China will soon send a shipment of rice to Sri Lanka as a donation, a Ministry of Trade spokesman said.

The donation comes in the wake of the 70 year anniversary of the Sri Lanka – China Rubber Rice pact on 1952.

Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardane had discussed the matter recently with a senior Chinese Embassy officia, the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

“The Chinese Embassy in Colombo is already doing the needful. The Trade Ministry has informed China of the varieties of rice that Sri Lankan consumers like,” the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

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Rating downgrades discourage investors – JVP

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JVP MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, on Friday (14) day, said investors were discouraged by the continuous downgrading of the country’s credit ratings.

Speaking at an event in Colombo, MP Amarasuriya said import costs had increased as the country was going through a forex crisis. The President’s agricultural policy had been a disaster and that in the coming months, the government would have to import large volumes of food.

Amarasuriya added that Sri Lanka’s relations with other nations had deteriorated and that too would have an adverse impact on the country.

Dr. Amarasuriya said that international rating agencies were independent and that their ratings were very important for investors to make decisions.

“Investors don’t consult Ajith Nivard Cabraal before investing. Besides, in other countries, it is economic experts, not politicians, who become Central Bank Governors,” she added.

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