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FSP vows to fight back

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Emergency receives some lawyers’ backing:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In spite of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) being quite clearly opposed to the declaration of Emergency, to deal with the continuing challenge posed by the ‘protest movement’, an increasingly vociferous section of the lawyers overwhelmingly support measures taken by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Appearing on ‘Rathu Ira,’ anchored by Nimesh Wijesuriya, on Swarnavahini on Thursday (04) night, a former top hand in the Attorney General’s Department Srinath Perera, PC, and several senior lawyers, including Tirantha Walaiyadde, PC, and Attorney-at-Law Ravindra Manoj Gamage, strongly backed the declaration of Emergency, though they expressed concerns over previous accusations directed at the UNP leader.

The panel included Attorney-at-Law Nuwan Bopage, a key member of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), one of the groups that spearheaded the ‘operation’ leading to the forced resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on July 14. On behalf the breakaway JVP faction, lawyer Bopage vowed to resist Wickremesinghe’s onslaught whatever the consequences.

Issuing a dire warning to junior colleague Bopage that he would end up in jail for working against the State, Walaiyadde emphasised whatever the allegations directed at President Ranil Wickremesinghe in the past, he should be given the time and space to address the unprecedented issues at hand. “If the new President is denied at least six months to take tangible measures to overcome the challenges, the country should be prepared for a civil war,” the senior attorney warned.

Walaiyadde endorsed security measures against the threat posed by those hell-bent on overthrowing the government outside constitutional means, but declined to comment on current judicial proceedings pertaining to cases involving the protest movement and related actions. The outspoken lawyer said that no one had emerged as the leader/leaders of the increasingly militant protest movement, though it initially claimed that it was non-partisan and peaceful. The protest grouping tried to cover up its failure claiming all of them represented the leadership,

Nimesh Wijesuriya dealt with issues related to the ‘protest movement’ in the wake of the continuing debate over the role played by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in the overall project. Attorney-at-Law Manoli Jinadsa recently raised a very pertinent question about the failure on the part of the BASL to censure the ‘protest movement’ over such illegal acts like the seizure of the President’s House, Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s Office and torching of the then PM’s private residence. Since then BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC has essentially responded to such accusations by stating those matters are now sub judice as they are before courts.

Walaiyadde called those who had been engaged in protest outside the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) demanding external interventions traitors. Alleging interested parties propagated lies to undermine the government of the day, Walaiyadde said that they should be dealt with.

At the beginning of the programme, Bopage slammed the Wickremesinghe administration over the ongoing attempts to suppress the ‘protest movement.’ Alleging Wickremesinghe exploited the public protest to his advantage, Bopage demanded to know the rationale in the President changing his stand on many matters as soon as he received the presidency.

Bopage declared that the ‘protest movement’ would continue as long as the government fails to address burning issues.Strongly endorsing the right to dissent, lawyer Gamage alleged that those who had engaged in what he called murderous politics of the 80s, took advantage of the public struggling to make ends meet.

Condemning the attack carried out at Galle Face allegedly at the behest of Temple Trees on May 09, lawyer Gamage accused far greater conspirators’ engineered meticulous countrywide violence.Attorney-at-Law Gamage questioned the ‘protest movement’s demand for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s successor. Declaring that the UNP leader should be given an opportunity to address the issues at hand, lawyer Gamage demanded to know who the FSP’s choice was for presidency.

Former Additional Solicitor General Srinath Perera censured President Wickremesinghe over his past conduct with reference to Treasury bond scams perpetrated in 2015 and 2916 during his tenure as the Prime Minister while challenging the new President to investigate high profile corruption cases involving the Rajapaksa family.

Declaring the Rajapaksas would never be punished by an administration led by Wickremesinghe, lawyer Perera PC said that the President’s intention was to somehow protect the corrupt lot.Therefore, justice shouldn’t be expected from President Wickremesinghe, the former UNPer said, while throwing his weight behind the emergency declared by the new leader.

Walaiyadde lambasted the JVP and its offshoot FSP over violence directed at the State. The lawyer dismissed efforts to portray the ‘protest movement’ as peaceful. The lawyer called for harshest possible action against those who had engaged in violence. Colleagues Perera and Gamage accepted that stance.

All of them said that while the right to dissent should be respected, efforts to subvert the country couldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances.Walaiyadde said that those in and outside the Parliament responsible for encouraging violence should be dealt with.

Nuwan Bopage said that the State/Government had failed to address the grievances of the masses. The FSP spokesperson queried the absurdity in lawyers representing the interests of the State/Government while the public were deprived of the basic needs and two proper meals a day. Bopage maintained that those who benefited from the utterly corrupt system shamelessly threw their weight behind deceitful leaders.Gamage countered declaring ‘rule of law’ is not ‘rule of lawyers’

Gamage reminded how Bopage threatened the IGP and other senior police officers, including Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon outside the police headquarters. Bopage had no qualms in declaring they knew where the IGP and other senior officers lived, Bopage said. What the lawyer meant was their residences, too, could be destroyed at any time. How such actions could be termed peaceful?.

Gamage alleged that those who inspired violence wouldn’t be there for those who end up in jail. The lawyer pointed out that hundreds of persons taken in by law enforcement authorities over violent incidents would have bear the legal costs while those who inspired them turned a blind eye to their plight.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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