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EC: HC judgment won’t bar Premalal from contesting

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… former, present polls monitors differ

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday (3) said that the recent Ratnapura High Court ruling, in respect of the 2015 January Kahawatte killing, wouldn’t bar SLPP candidate Premalal Jayasekera from contesting the parliamentary polls on August 5.

 Deshapriya said so when The Island asked for comment on the Ratnapura, High Court sentencing the SLPP candidate, along with two others, to death, over the killing of a person backing the then common candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

At the time of the incident, Jayasekera held the post of Deputy Minister in the SLFP-led UPFA government.

Deshapriya said that there had never been a similar case before though there had been cases of elected lawmakers being unseated after being found guilty by courts.

 “We’ll discuss the issue at hand after the election and decide what to do,” Deshapriya said, adding that there was no change in the status quo as a result of the Ratnapura HC ruling.

The EC consists of Mahinda Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

CMEV (Center for Monitoring Election Violence) spokesman Manjula Gajanayake told The Island that the top SLPP leadership should have considered all aspects before accommodating the former lawmaker on the Ratnapura nomination list. The SLPP could have easily avoided what Gajanayake called unnecessary complication by fielding another in place of Jayasekera, Gajanayake said. The polls monitor pointed out that the SLPP was aware that the Kahawatte case had been heard and the ruling was pending.

Responding to another query, Gajanayake said that the EC as well as political parties, especially those represented in parliament would have to address the issue.

Ratnapura District SLPP list comprises Vasudeva Nanayakkara (leader), Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, Janaka Wakkumbura, John Seneviratne, Premalal Jayasekera, Dunesh Gankanda, Akila Ellawala, Sanee Rohana Kodituwakku,  Ranjith Bandara, Gamini Waleboda, Muditha Prishanthi, Hettiarachchige Lakshman Premaratne, Athula Kumara Rahubadda and Miyuru Bhashitha Liyanage. SLPP’s 14 candidates, include six former lawmakers. Of them, Dunesh Gankanda was elected from the Ratnapura district on the UNP ticket at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015.

 The SLPP should blame itself for the crisis, Gajanayake said.

 On Feb 26, 2019 four suspects who had been charged with killing of an individual in Kahawatta during the 2015 presidential polls campaign were acquitted and released by the High Court of Ratnapura. However, Jayasekera and two others remained as accused.

 Executive Director of PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Election) Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that at the time Jayasekera received nomination he hadn’t been found guilty by High Court of Ratnapura. Therefore, there couldn’t be an issue in voters exercising their franchise for Jayasekera tomorrow, Hettiarachchi said. However, the EC would have to seek legal advice before Jayasekera received oaths as a member of parliament. 

 The police arrested Jayasekera in the Beruwela police area while he was hiding after the high profile Kahawatte killing.

 CaFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections) head Ahamed Manas Makeen told The Island that the electorate should exercise their franchise for those who had clean records. Those who abused women and children or encouraged such practices, bribery and corruption and engaged or promoted violence or extremism shouldn’t be encouraged. Makeen said that the CaFFE stand was relevant to all districts not only Ratnapura where a candidate was sentenced to death.

 However Makeen’s predecessor, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, in a letter dated Aug 2 addressed to the EC, on behalf of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said that in terms of the Article 89 of the Constitution a convicted murderer is automatically deprived of the right to exercise his franchise. Therefore, Jayasekera couldn’t vote at tomorrow’s general election, Tennakoon said, pointing out that in terms of Article 91 of the Constitution, a person disqualified to vote at the general election couldn’t contest. Tennakoon urged the EC to advice the Returning Officer of Ratnapura accordingly without delay.

 Keerthi functions as the SJB representative at the EC.

 SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said that they were watching the situation.

 

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Athaulla: Those responsible for MR’s defeat had a hand in Easter Sunday attacks

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MP A.L.M. Athaulla displays a copy of a letter he sent to the then President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe underscoring the need to do away with the 19th Amendment(Pic courtesy National Congress)

… assures support for 20 A

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who had a hand in engineering President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat at the 2015 presidential election were behind the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, National Congress MP A. L. M. Athaulla, told a media briefing at his Thalakotuwa Gardens road residence, Narahenpita yesterday (20).

Digamadulla District MP blamed 2014 organised attacks on Muslims in Aluthgama, Beruwela and Darga Town also on the same group hell bent destabilising the country. Instigating ethnic violence was part of their strategy, a one-time UPFA Minister said, urging all communities to be vigilant of despicable efforts to undermine political stability.

Athaulla said so when The Island asked him whether he subscribed to SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem’s recent declaration that the Easter Sunday attacks had been carried out by another force and not the National Thowheed Jamaat or its leader Zahran Hashim.

One-time Justice Minister Attorney-at-law Haleem alleged that the NTJ had been hired to carry out the operation.

SLMC leader Hakeem made the aforesaid claim on September 7 before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks.

Athaulla said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would ensure a thorough investigation into Easter Sunday attacks. The MP also expressed confidence in the progress made by the PCoI which the National Congress leader said could reveal the truth.

When The Island pointed out that former Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of the Eastern Range Edison Gunatilleke had recently accused Athaulla, former UPFA politician M H M Hisbullah et al of their involvement with extremists and terrorists, a smiling Athaulla said that there was absolutely no basis for such claims. He challenged Gunatilleke to prove his accusations. Athaulla said he didn’t even know Gunatilleke or even remember calling over the phone.

Lawmaker Athaulla questioned why Gunatilleke had waited so long to complain of political interference in police investigations. Declaring that he was among those politicians who received top level security, including bullet proof vehicles due to serious threats to his life, Athaulla denied ever working against the interests of the country.

Asked whether the unsubstantiated accusations had been levelled against him in a bid to deprive him of a possible cabinet portfolio, the National Congress leader replied in the negative.

Responding to a spate of media queries regarding the SLPP not accommodating him in the cabinet, Athaulla emphasized that he never asked for a cabinet portfolio nor would ever request for one.

MP Athaulla said that their responsibility would be to ensure required consensus in parliament to pave the way for the 20th Amendment in place of the 19th Amendment enacted at the onset of the treacherous yahapalana administration in 2015.

At the commencement of the media briefing, MP Athaulla said that the National Congress had backed the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa three conditions. “We asked for the eradication of terrorism. We also sought the demerger of the Eastern Province from the North during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency and those demands were met.”

Athaulla said that the only request yet to be fulfilled was a Constitution that met aspirations of all Sri Lankans.

He said that the National Congress believed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had been the Defence Secretary during the war and the war winning President Mahinda Rahapaksa, now the Prime Minister, would succeed in introducing a new Constitution. Referring to the 19th Amendment, MP Athaulla pointed out that the controversial piece of legislation caused chaos with political parties having to seek intervention of the Supreme Court to ascertain how powers were shared.

When The Island pointed out that even the SLPP hadn’t been able to settle differences among various sections as regards the 19th Amendment, lawmaker Athaulla said that he was confident the Rajapaksas wouldn’t do anything to harm the country. He denied any ambiguity over his party’s support for the 20th Amendment.

The country couldn’t afford to have the President and the Prime Minister from different political parties under any circumstances, the former minister said, warning of dire consequences in foreign interventions in the making of the new constitution.

Referring to the high profile Oslo peace bid in 2002-2003 during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister, Athaulla insisted that constitutional reforms introduced at the behest of foreign powers wouldn’t address local issues. The former minister said that the country’s strategic location attracted foreign interests therefore the country needed to be cautious.

Reiterating his backing for the 20th Amendment, MP Athaulla urged the government to take tangible measures to introduce a new Constitution. Underscoring the importance of the proposed new Constitution being a Sri Lankan effort, Athaulla recalled how the TNA and the SLMC had facilitated foreign intervention.

The former minister dismissed the Opposition’s claims as regards SLPP bid to do away with independent commissions. Independent commissions weren’t certainly independent, the MP alleged, pointing out that they didn’t do their job.

Athaulla however side-stepped a query regarding the 20th Amendment proposing to abolish restrictions on dual citizens contesting parliamentary polls.

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Five-storey building collapses on house, killing baby, his parents

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By Cyril Wimalaurendre Kandy –

A 45-day-old baby boy and his parents were killed yesterday when a five-storey building collapsed on their house at Sangamitta Mawatha, Kandy.

Brigadier Sarada Samarakoon, Commander of the 11 Brigade, told the media that the building had collapsed on the house around 5 am yesterday. There were five people in the house. Residents of the area were able to save two women and the baby. The baby passed away after being admitted to the Kandy National Hospital.

The army was able to recover the bodies of the baby’s parents after a search operation, which lasted nearly seven hours. The deceased were Chamila Prasad (35) his wife Achala Ekanayake (32) who is a lecturer of the University of Uva.

The two survivors Jayanthi Kumarihamay and Lakshika Jayamini, mother and niece of Achala Ekanayake respectively, said that they had heard a thundering sound around 4.30 am and noticed that pieces of rock and earth were falling into the house and shortly thereafter saw the roof of the house cave in. They added that the room where they were has been only partially damaged. The collapsed building is said to belong to a retired senior police officer.

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Sirisena didn’t want immediate action against Muslim extremists for political expediency

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– Former defence secretary

by Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena has not allowed immediate action against the Sri Lankans who had returned after fighting for the Islamic State (IS) and extremist foreign preachers because he feared upsetting Muslim politicians, former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Friday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Fernando told the PCoI that he had informed Sirisena of the Sri Lankans who had returned after receiving weapons training from terrorist organisations such as the IS and Al Qaeda, and extremist foreign preachers operating in Sri Lanka.

“President Sirisena told me that taking action on those issues would cause problems with Muslim politicians and asked me not to be impatient.”

The witness said in the previous government, Muslim politicians had frequently intervened to prevent the arrest of a number of criminals. Fernando alleged that perhaps the National Thowheed Jamaat leader Zahran Hashim could have been arrested prior to Easter Sunday attacks if not for such political pressure.

Answering a question by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) who led the evidence, Fernando said that Zahran had supported former President Sirisena during the 2015 presidential election.

Zahran had contested a local government election too and further details could be given after examining the reports, the ex- Defence Secretary added.

Asked by a commissioner on whether there had been adequate provisions for taking legal action against extremists, Fernando said that legal action was possible but political pressures had prevented that.

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