Opposition MPs fear for their safety in the House – JVP
Leader of the House, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that no member of the House should be allowed to threaten and intimidate the Speaker and action should be taken immediately to control the unparliamentary conduct of the Opposition MPs.
Taking part in the debate on Budget 2022, the leader of the House said that the SJB MPs had displayed their callous disregard for parliamentary traditions, Standing Orders and dignity and decorum in the House last Friday and Saturday.
“We discussed this matter at length at the special party leaders’ meeting. The Speaker is the one who gives leadership to this august assembly. No MP can threaten and intimidate him or any presiding member. All MPs are duty bound to prevent any such threats, acts of intimidation and influences on the Chair. It is also the responsibility of the Leader of the House and the Chief Government Whip to assist the Speaker to conduct parliamentary sessions without hindrance.
“We must ensure the protection of the Speaker. When we scrutinise the video footage of Friday’s session, we can see how MP Manusha Nanayakkara ran to the Chair, threatening the Speaker. That is an unparliamentary act. We must ensure that the Speaker’s word or ruling on any matter is final. That is how a parliament is run anywhere in the world. The Speaker should order an investigation into this matter. We are saddened and hurt by the Opposition’s conduct of threatening the Speaker and thereafter trying to politicise the issue. We should put an end to this conduct of the opposition MPs.
“When there was a countrywide power cut, electricity supply in Parliament, too, was disrupted on Friday. That is a dangerous incident. That, too, should be investigated. We saw how the opposition MPs became jubilant when there was a power outage. We have no problem with the Opposition complaining of any incident to anyone but they should not forget that they cannot absolve themselves of the blame for the incident.
JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake:
The SJB MPs have complained of an incident where its MP Manusha Nanayakkara was threatened. It is said that MP Nanayakkara fears for his life. He is afraid of moving out of parliament. An MP should be given the opportunity to speak freely without fear. If an MP has to leave Parliament in disguise in fear of being attacked, then one could understand the gravity of the prevailing situation in this country.
“We have seen enough committees, discussions and reports. One a complaint was lodged with the CID over an incident in this House. But nothing came of that probe. No punishment was meted out to any MPs involved in that incident. There have been many committees in the past over incidents that took place in the House but no action has been taken.
“I believe that the Speaker himself can give a ruling on the matter after scrutinising the video footage of the days of the recent t incidents.
“We call on the Speaker not to let this incident be forgotten. We call on him to give a ruling on the matter.
SLPP MP Mohamed Muzammil:
Although the SJB MPs boycotted the Parliament sessions, they did not forget to visit the parliament canteen today. They do not come to the chamber saying that they do not have security. If so, how come they could come to the parliament canteen? Their protest is intended to draw attention of the foreign powers who are against this country.
MP Anura Kumara addresed only one side of the matter. He should have spoken about both sides of the issue.
Time was when attempts on the lives of some MPs in this Parliament. There were knife wielding MPs as well as chilli powder throwers. We also have seen the way the former Speaker handled similar situations.
In the most recent incident, an SJB MP tried to attack the Speaker. It is our duty to protect him. We would not allow anyone to attack you while we are here. I find that the incumbent Speaker is too democratic. He gives more time to the Opposition. We on the government side have lodged a complaint against MP Nanayakkara. We need an urgent probe into that complaint. Today, the debate is to be on the Housing Ministry. Sajith Premadasa boycotted the debate to cover up his frauds as the Minister of Housing in the yahapalana government.
State Minister Shehan Semasinghe:
I call on the Speaker to investigate all incidents seven days prior to the Friday incident. At this rate, we are not sure that SJB MPs may stab the Speaker any time.
State Minister Kanchana Wijesekera:
The Opposition MPs level allegations against officials and others by taking cover behind Parliament privileges. We are ready to debate. Some of those sections expunged from the Hansard are published by the media.
Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane:
There have been many similar incidents in the past. The worst time in the known history was the time when Karu Jayasuriya was the Speaker. He did not permit the uttering of the name of the then President in this House. Today, some Opposition MPs even call the incumbent president a mad person in this House. Every MP should be treated respectfully and it is also the duty and responsibility of every MP to maintain his or her dignity. It is unfair to level baseless allegations. There is a need for everyone to conduct themselves according to the Standing Orders.
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga:
The Speaker has always acted in a democratic manner. The SJB tries to show that there is no democracy. The Opposition MPs tried to assault State Minister Kanchana Wijesekera today. If they could come to the canteen of Parliament why can’t they come to the Chamber? It is no surprise that Anura Kumara Dissanayake speaks for the SJB. He has always worked with them.
Matale District MP Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon: Someone in the officials’ box left of the Chair had videoed the incidents in the Chamber and leaked it to the media. That is a threat to security. It should be investigated and action should be taken against the person concerned.
Colombo District MP SAD Jagath Kumara:
Every member in this House is duty bound to respect the Chair. SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka spoke about the Chair in a derogatory manner. Some Opposition MPs behave in a deplorable manner. The Opposition MPs raise points of order unnecessarily. The Opposition is trying to intimidate the Speaker and that is a threat to democracy.
Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena:
There are wrong social media reports about the committee to be appointed by the Speaker.
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abywardena:
That committee will comprise members of both the government and the Opposition.
MP D. B. Herath:
When the Opposition MPs tried to attack the Speaker, the Chief Government Whip protected the Speaker. The SJB tries to propagate lies and internationalise them.
NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused
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.
China donates shipment of rice to Sri Lanka
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.
Rating downgrades discourage investors – JVP
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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