*P CoI faulted for not making specific recommendation against Ranil
*Criminal liability of CNI and SIS Chief highlighted
*Respond within month or face the consequences
By Norman Palihawadana and Shamindra Ferdinando
The National Catholic Committee for Justice has urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry
(PCoI) in respect of the then President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the leader of the SLFP and the then Prime Minister and the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday (13) briefed the media at the Archbishop House, Borella, as regards steps taken by the committee to pressure the government to carry out the PCoI recommendations. The Archbishop faulted the SLPP administration for its failure to implement the PCoI recommendations five months after receiving it.
President Sirisena appointed the PCoI in the run-up to the last presidential election. His successor Gotabaya Rajapaksa retained the same commission.
An 18-page report sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, dealing with specific alleged lapses on the part of the incumbent government, was released by the Cardinal to the media yesterday.
Referring to the PCoI report (PCoI Final Report Vol. 1, p 265), the Cardinal asked why the government had refrained from initiating criminal proceedings against Sirisena under suitable provision in the Penal Code. SLFP leader Sirisena now represents the ruling SLPP in Parliament. The SLFP with 14-member parliamentary group is the second largest constituent of the incumbent government.
Cardinal Ranjith also found fault with the PCoI for failing to make specific recommendation in respect of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, though it recognised his role in facilitating Islamic extremism. Referring to PCoI assessment of PM Wickremesinghe’s soft approach towards Islamic extremism that paved the way for the Easter Sunday carnage (P CoI Final Report Vol 1, p 276-277), the Cardinal said that they couldn’t comprehend why specific recommendation was not made. Wickremesinghe recently re-entered parliament on the UNP’s National List slot.
The PCoI comprised Supreme Court Judge Janak de Silva, Court of Appeal Judge Nishshanka Bandula Karunaratne, retired Supreme Court Judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksha and A.L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu and former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice W.M.M.R. Adhikari. H.M.P. Buwaneka Herath functioned as the Secretary to the P CoI.
Cardinal said that Wickremesinghe’s lax approach and irresponsible attitude should have been thoroughly investigated.
The Cardinal on behalf of the National Catholic Committee for Justice declared that unless the government responded positively within a month, they would be compelled to resort to other means obtain justice.
The signatries to report sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa are Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Bishop Harold Anthony Perera, Bishop Devsritha Valence Mendis, Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe, Bishop Maxwell Granville Silva, Bishop J.D. Anthony Jayakody, Bishop P. Anton Ranjith, Very Rev Fr Francis Nicholas Senanayake, Very Rev Fr. Daya A. Shelton Welikadarachchi, Very Rev Fr. S. Bertam Ranjith, Very Rev. Fr. Jayantha Sylvester Ranasinghe, Very Rev Fr. Ciswan De Croos, Very Rev Fr. Nihan Ivan Perera, Very Rev Fr. Shantha Sagara Hettiarachchi, Very Rev Fr. Manokumaran Nagaratnam, Very. Rev Fr. Jude Freely Muthukudarachchi, Rev. Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando, Rev Fr. C.A. Cecil Joy Evangelist Perera, Rev. Fr Camillus Fernando, Rev. Fr. Lawrence Ramanayake, Rev. Fr. Dilan Fernando SSS, Rev. Fr. Mahendra D.P. Goonetilleke, Rev Fr. Lal Pushpadeva OMI, Rev. Fr. Deninton N. S. Subasinghe, Very Rev Fr. Jude Samantha Kumara Fernando, Rev. Fr Gihan T. Perera, Rev Fr. Claude Nishantha Nonis, Rev Fr L.P. Lalith Perera, Rev. Fr. Anton Jude Raj Fernando, Rev. Fr. H. Lakshman Srilal Fonseka, Rev. Fr. Manjula Niroshan Fernando, Rev. Fr. Anton Gihan Nalin Gunetilleke, Rev Fr. W.D. Jude Chrysantha Fernando, and Rev. Fr. P.A.D. Joseph Indika.
Noting that legal action has been initiated against the then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernndo over his failure to thwart the Easter Sunday bombings, the Catholic Church asked why action hadn’t been taken in respect of the then Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and Director of State Intelligence Service Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena. The Church pointed out that the PCoI had recommended that the Attorney General should consider criminal proceedings against Mendis and Jayawardena under any suitable provision in the Penal Code.
The Church stressed that the P CoI made the recommendation on the basis that the available evidence indicated that there was criminal liability on the part of both Mendis and Jayewardena.
It pointed out that P CoI recommendation in respect of the then Senior DIG Western Province Nandana Munasinghe (criminal liability), DIG Colombo North Deshabandu Tennakoon (disciplinary inquiry), SP Colombo North Sanjeewa Bandara (criminal liability), SP Chandana Atukorale (criminal liability), Director Western Province Intelligence Division B.E.I. Prasanna (criminal liability), ASP S. Kumara (disciplinary inquiry), Acting OIC, Fort Chief Inspector R.M. Sarath Kumarasinghe, OIC Fort Chief Inspector Sagara Wilegoda Liyanage (criminal liability) and OIC Katana Chaminda Nawaratne (disciplinary inquiry).
The Church said that out of the implicated law enforcement officers action had been taken only against the then IGP Pujith Jayasundera.
SLFP tells major partner how to resolve crisis
Kotelawala Bill rallying point for Opposition
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has offered to support the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Act if the government met its four conditions primarily meant to ensure KNDU remained within the State University system.
The SLFP, in a missive dated Aug 3 addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has made the following amendments to the KNDU Bill, namely (i) the KNDU should be under the University Grants Commission (UGC) (ii) those outside the military to be admitted on the basis of Z-Score rankings (iii) taking into consideration undergraduates had to pay for receiving education at the KNDU and making arrangements to provide them with loans payable later and (iv) civilians should be in the majority in the unversity governing bodies.
The SLFP parliamentary group consists of 14, including one National List member, Dr. Suren Raghvan. The SLPP with 116 seats on its own enjoys a simple majority in Parliament.
Office of former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (4) made available a copy of its letter to the President signed by Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, MP, Chairman of the SLFP committee that inquired into the simmering KNDU controversy.
The SLPP decision to go ahead with KNDU Act has triggered protests in Colombo and several other areas, including Jaffna.
Acknowledging the pivotal importance in addressing issues pertaining to University level education, particularly those who couldn’t enter State universities seeking entry into Universities even in developing countries, the SLFP has recommended the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to examine the issue at hand within a specific period would be the most suitable measure. However, if the government wanted to move the matter expeditiously in Parliament, the SLFP believed the above mentioned four amendments should be included.
Lawmaker Siyambalapitiya told The Island that the party consulted the SLFP parliamentary group as well as several other stakeholders before reaching consensus on the KNDU Act. MP Siyambalapitiya said that the SLFP expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pay special attention to the suggestions made.
Senior Vice President of the SLFP Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told The Island that if there had been proper mechanism for consultations among constituents of the SLPP led alliance issues such as the KNDU Bill could have been easily avoided. Prof. Piyadasa emphasized that those in political authority should have consulted all constituents before it finalised the KNDU Bill and presenting it to Parliament. Responding to another query, Piyadasa pointed out why SLPP should do away with the practice of taking major decisions without consulting constituents. The academic cited the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct 2020 and the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill as two glaring examples.
Prof. Piyadasa pointed out how some sections of the Opposition exploited mishandling of the KNDU issue to such an extent that now trade unions affiliated to political parties brought dozens of groups under one banner. They had managed to cleverly mix teachers’ salary issue with the KNDU controversy, Prof. Piyadasa said, alleging the government allowed the situation to get out of hand. Tuesday’s violent protest on the road leading to Parliament highlighted the deterioration of the situation and the failure on the part of the government to address the issue at hand, prudently.
Prof. Piyadasa said that the government couldn’t ignore concerns expressed by the Government Medical Officers’ Association and the Association of Medical Specialists in that regard. Pointing out the government could easily resolve the issue by following the SLFP’s recommendations, Prof. Piyadasa said urging the government to respond to the developing situation swiftly and decisively.
Referring to a spate of statements issued by the Defence Ministry in that regard, Prof. Piyadasa said that the government should seek the backing of all political parties represented in parliament to expand capacity of State Universities.
He said that the SLFP recently discussed the matter with breakaway JVP faction, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). Except perhaps for some pursuing agendas of their own, vast majority of lawmakers wouldn’t back the proposed KNDU Bill in its present form, Prof. Piyadasa said.
Piyadasa emphasized unnecessary trouble caused by the government’s shortsighted strategy couldn’t be resolved by resorting to police crackdowns.
Shouting match over arrest and detention of MP
By Saman Indrajith
Parliament was plunged into turmoil yesterday over the arrest and detention of MP Rishad Bathiudeen, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in the Chamber.
Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, raising a point of order, said that MP Bathiudeen had been detained for nearly 100 days without being charged. “MP Bathiudeen has not been given a charge sheet. The police have not even informed the Speaker of this arrest and detention of the MP. His case had been postponed four times. This is against British parliamentary traditions. This amounts to the breach of privileges of the MP. We demand that the MP should be set free.”
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: I have been informed of the arrest of MP Bathiudeen.
Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: On what grounds?
The Speaker: For an investigation.
Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: It cannot be accepted as a reason for the arrest. On what grounds the arrest has been made?
(MPs of government side shouts at the Chief Opposition Whip)
Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando: Time was when we too were taken into custody. No reasons were given. The then Speaker did not speak a word when we were taken into custody. Where had that tradition been then?
Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: This is a matter of importance for each and every MP. This is applicable to all of us. This could happen to you one day. There have been several Presidents in the country, but no MP was detained under any of them in this manner.
Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena: There is an investigation against MP Bathiudeen. Another probe has also been initiated by the police. Those investigations have to be conducted properly. There is no meaning in shouting here while there are investigations pending against MP Bathiudeen.
(SJB MPs shout against the government while the Speaker was trying to bring the House in order)
MP Rishad Bathiudeen: Ninety-two days have lapsed since I was taken into custody. There were investigations only for five days. I am being detained in a dark room for 24 hours. There is no reason for my arrest. I am telling the President of this country, Sir, there is no reason for my arrest. There was an additional secretary by the name of Balasubramaniyam in my ministry. I am told that I was arrested over a telephone conversation that Balasubraniyam had with somebody.
Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: MP Bathiudeen mentioned one Balasubramaniyam. Balasubramaniyam has fled the country. You should know that.
Several policemen injured as IUSF-led protesters topple police barricades
Maharagama OIC’s fingers badly mangled
By Saman Indrajith
Several policemen had been injured on Tuesday when undergraduates, led by the Inter-University Students Federation, toppled barricades set up to prevent them from marching on the road leading to Parliament.
Among the injured is OIC of the Maharagama police, Chief Inspector H.H. Janakantha, who was operated on at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. Three of his fingers in his hand were badly mangled. He was first taken to the Medical Centre in the parliamentary complex but later transferred to the Jayewardenepura hospital.
The protesters wrested the barricade from policemen who were attempting to hold back the protesters.
The Maharagama OIC was among additional policemen summoned from nearby stations to strengthen the security of Parliament and the high security zone.
The protesters led by the IUSF started from several places to march towards Parliament around noon to protest against the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University Bill. The main march started from the Ayurveda Roundabout in Borella. The march created heavy traffic between the Ayurveda roundabout and Battaramulla during the lunch hour traffic.
The protesters could not be stopped at the Parliament Roundabout, and they proceeded up to the Jayanthipura entrance to the Parliament premises. They pulled down barricades but the police managed to stop them at that point. The IUSF activists set a coffin labelled ‘the death of free education’ on fire at the main entrance to Parliament. The protesters dispersed about one hour later after IUSF convener Wasantha Mudalige and Prof. Mahim Mendis of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations made speeches against the KNDU (Kotelawala National Defence Univeristy) Bill.
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