By Shamindra Ferdinando
Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris says the new government cannot move forward due to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the SLPP, said that their priority would be to do away with controversial sections in the 19A causing hindrance to the new administration.
The minister said so addressing the media at the SLPP Office on Monday (24) at Nelum Mawatha.
The crisis caused by the 19th Amendment was such that the government couldn’t move forward, systematically, Prof. Peiris said. The success of the new administration depended on the repealing of those sections inimical to the wellbeing of the country.
At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris said that a Vote-on-Account would be presented to parliament later this week to secure funding required until the government presented the budget for 2021.
The Education Minister said that the SLPP never sought to suppress its intention to amend the 19th Amendment. Pointing out that it had been the SLPP’s main campaign slogan at the parliamentary election; Prof. Peiris said that they required a two-thirds majority in parliament to address the problem.
The SLPP obtained 145 seats, one more than the UPFA’s 144 at the 2010 general election. Prof. Peiris said that the government commanded an overwhelming majority of 150 seats with the backing of those friendly parties who contested on their own. The Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP/2 seats), Sri Lanka Freedom Party/1 seat), National Congress (NC/1 seat) and Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP/1 seat) back the SLPP.
Calling the 19th Amendment a curse, Prof. Peiris alleged that it undermined the country in numerous ways. The Education Minister dealt with one major problem caused by the 19th Amendment. The creation of two power centres by it ripped apart the then administration with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe struggling for control. They caused unprecedented chaos, Prof. Peiris said, pointing out that such a situation wouldn’t have arisen if there was no 19th Amendment.
Prof. Peiris explained how President Sirisena in the wake of the debilitating setback experienced by the SLFP and the UNP at the Local Government poll in February 2018, abolished the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) headed by Premier Wickremesinghe. The President then named a National Economic Council (NEC) under his leadership.
The former law professor said that the CCEM that had been established to make recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers on implementation of laws and related subjects concerning economic affairs, monetary and financial policy, national investment programme, facilitating private sector investments, investments and economic development of the country in a way functioned as an alternative to the cabinet. The Education Minister said that the Premier exercised powers to form his own cabinet as the cabinet of ministers included SLFPers.
Prof. Peiris said that investors wouldn’t have considered Sri Lanka a safe destination due to the battle between the two partners. President Sirisena, himself sacked a person whom he appointed to the NEC claiming that he was more away from Sri Lanka than in being paid half a million rupees a month.
Under no circumstances could power centres be created at the expense of stability. The 19th Amendment created an extremely dangerous situation that enabled various interested parties to undermine the country at will, the top academic said.
The former External Affairs Minister said that 19th Amendment paved the way for the Speaker, too, to play a nosy role not exercised by any previous Speaker.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa tasked Justice Minister Ali Sabri to bring in the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to do away with controversial sections in the 19 A.
Prof. Peiris said that the government measures to introduce a new Amendment were on track.
Ex-Defence Secy claims he was never shown Military Intelligence reports
Easter Sunday probe:
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Tuesday, claimed, before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI), investigating the Easter Sunday attacks, that he had never seen intelligence reports sent by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) to the Defence Ministry, regarding National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim and his extremist activities.
Fernando said so when the Commissioners drew Fernando’s attention to several intelligence reports shared by the DMI, between January and April 21, 2019, with the Defence Ministry. After going through the reports, the former Defence Secretary said that he had never seen them before.
“Former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis didn’t inform me of the reports shared by DMI. I see that these reports contained information that I could have used to take certain preventive measures.”
When shown a DMI report, presented at an Intelligence Review Meeting (IRM), stating that Zahran may have fled to India in March, 2019, the witness said he had never seen the document, but he was aware that the State Intelligence Service (SIS) had rejected that DMI report.
“The SIS believed that Zahran was in the country by March 2019. This tallied with CID’s opinions.”
The witness added that he had been displeased with officials, including former CNI, for not sharing DMI intelligence reports with him.
Fernando added that, according to the Constitution, the President had to appoint an acting Defence Minister when he travelled overseas.
“However, former President Maithripala Sirisena didn’t appoint anyone as the acting Defence Minister when he left the country on April 16, 2019,” Fernando said.
Fernando said he had contacted former Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Nilantha Jayawardena on several occasions after the motorcycle bomb explosion at Kattankudy on 16 April, 2019, but the latter had never informed him that it was the work of Zahran Hashim and his associates.
Answering a question posed by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG,) who led the evidence about the incident, Fernando added that although SDIG Jayawardena had sent him some photos related to the incident through WhatsApp, they were not clear.
The witness was also asked about the detection of a stock of explosives at the Jihadist training camp in Wanathawilluwa on 16 January, 2019.
Fernando said he had been informed of the detection, but he did not think those explosives could be used for a terrorist attack.
A commissioner asked the witness if he had been able to assess the damage that could be caused by the explosives. Fernando he had no expertise in the subject.
India: All 32 accused in Babri Mosque demolition case acquitted
BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, September 30:
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh state on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Mosque demolition case almost 28 years after a mob razed the 16th century structure in Ayodhya.
The accused faced charges like criminal conspiracy, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, and unlawful assembly.
The demolition triggered some of the deadliest riots since the partition riots in 1947 that left about 2,000 dead. The acquitted included veteran Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Lal Krishna Advani (92), and Murli Manohar Joshi (86).
CBI Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav ordered the acquittal by citing a lack of evidence. He said the probe agency could not prove the authenticity of the audio and video evidence submitted. He said the demolition was not pre-planned and the accused tried to stop “anti-social” elements who razed the mosque.
Former Union minister Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of the demolition, are among other accused acquitted in the case. They have tested positive for Covid-19 and are hospitalised, and could not attend the court proceedings on Wednesday. Singh’s government was dismissed over the demolition.
Sadhvi Rithambhara, Lallu Singh, Pawan Pandey, Vinay Katiyar, and Champat Rai were among the accused present in the CBI court.
The verdict came months after the Supreme Court in November 2019 ruled in favour of building a temple at the 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya, where the mosque once stood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended a ceremony to mark the beginning of the temple construction in August.
Security was heightened on the court premises. No one except the defence, CBI lawyers, and the accused were allowed inside the courtroom. Entry was permitted through only one gate and barricades were put on nearby roads to restrict traffic.
Supporters of the accused were stopped at the barricades as they started arriving at the court. Journalists were denied access to the court building, and most of the shops in the vicinity remained closed.
The CBI took over the demolition case a week after the mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992. Two simultaneous criminal trials in Lucknow and Rae Bareli were conducted until the Supreme Court shifted all cases to Lucknow in 2017. The top court in July last year extended the timeframe for completing the criminal trial by six months and also set a deadline of nine months for the final order.
The nine-month deadline expired on April 19. The Supreme Court on May 8 set the new deadline of August 31 for the judgment. In August, it again extended the deadline till September 30.
CBI produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence during the course of the trial and the special court framed charges against 49 accused. Seventeen of the accused died during the course of the trial.
Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani welcomed the judgement by the special CBI court which acquitted him and 31 other accused in the Babri mosque demolition case.
“I wholeheartedly welcome the judgement. The judgement vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement,” Advani said after the verdict by the court in Lucknow.
He, along with another accused Murli Manohar Joshi, participated in the proceedings through video conferencing. “It’s a historic decision by the court. This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the December 6 incident in Ayodhya. Our programme and rallies were not part of any conspiracy. We are happy, everyone should now be excited about Ram Mandir’s construction,” said Joshi.
The CBI, which went into the case, produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 16 had died during the course of the trial. Over two dozen of 32 accused were present
The verdict given by the special CBI court in the Babri demolition case has been hailed by many political leaders and Union ministers. Defence minister Rajnath Singh took the lead in congratulating the 32 who were acquitted.
However, the opposition Congress Party said the verdict runs counter to the 2019 Supreme Court judgment as also the “Constitutional spirit”. The party asked the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments to file an appeal against the decision of the special court.
“Every Indian, who has innate faith in the Constitution as also in the spirit of communal amity and brotherhood, expects and urges the Central and State Governments to file an appeal against the decision of the Special Court founded in error and follow the letter of the law and the Constitution, without any partiality and pre-meditated prejudice. This is the true calling of rule of law and our Constitution,” he added.
Amnesty International to cease work in India, citing government harassment
NEW DELHI —
Amnesty International said Tuesday (29) that it would halt operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen and its executives interrogated by financial authorities, the latest steps in what the human rights group called a two-year campaign of harassment, the Washington Post report posted on Sept 29.
Washington Post report: The announcement reflects the diminishing space for dissent in the world’s largest democracy, where critics of government policies increasingly face probes by authorities or even arrest.
The government is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement. Its goal is to “stoke a climate of fear.”
Amnesty said it would lay off more than 100 staff members and cease its human rights campaigns in India.
Its recent work included reports alleging police complicity in deadly interreligious riots in Delhi earlier this year and an investigation into India’s crackdown in the restive Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Tuesday’s announcement puts India in the same category as authoritarian regimes such as Russia, the only other country where Amnesty International previously ceased operations when it shuttered its office in 2016. The director of its Turkey arm was arrested, but its office in the country remains functional. The group does not have a presence in China.
Amnesty said it was in compliance with all Indian laws and had received no formal communication from the authorities regarding the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month. No charges have been filed against the organization, it said. It plans to challenge the freezing of its accounts in court but said it did not expect a ruling soon.
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs alleged in a statement that Amnesty India was receiving funds from abroad in contravention of the law, a practice that had invited action from the previous government, as well. “All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power” are a “ploy to divert attention,” it said.
A spokesman for the Enforcement Directorate — an investigative agency that enforces laws regarding money laundering and foreign exchange — did not respond to a request for comment.
Amnesty is not the only international watchdog under pressure from the government. Greenpeace India has been the subject of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate since 2018. The probe forced the group to reduce its staff by a third and scale back its work on climate change.
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