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Johnston demands one billion rupees in damages from ex-JVP MP Wasantha

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For alleging fraud amounting to Rs 164.4 billion in the the Second Phase of the Central Expressway Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando has demanded one billion rupees in damages from former JVP MP Wasantha Samarasinghe, who recently alleged that a fraud to the tune of Rs 164.4 billion had taken place in the implementation of the Second Phase of the Central Expressway.

Minister Fernando, in a letter of demand sent through his lawyer, states that Samarasinghe made false allegations at a press conference on Feb 20 and that the latter continued to repeat the same false, malicious and defamatory allegations through various media platforms, both print and electronic.

The letter of demand by Attorney-at-Law Kasun Weerasekera  says: “I am instructed that you convened a press conference on or about 20th February 2022 under the banner of ‘Voice Against Corruption Organization’ whereby you intentionally, falsely, wrongfully, and maliciously prejudiced and defamed my client by stating that my client is in the process of committing a financial fraud amounting to Rs. 164.4 Billion during the construction of the 20km stretch of the Central Expressway from Galagedara to Rambukkana.

“Details of the said defamatory statements levelled against my client by you at the aforesaid press conference dated 20th February 2022 are inter-alia as follows; i. That tenders had been called for the construction of the aforesaid 20 km stretch of the Central Expressway from Galagedara to Rambukkana, ii. That approval of tenders for the aforesaid project are under the purview of a Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee designated as CANC, iii. That bids were submitted by two companies, namely a Chinese Company named Metallurgical Corporation (MCC) and a Sri Lankan Company named Lanka Infrastructure Development Consortium (LIDC), iv. That the lower bid submitted by MCC amounting to USD $ 1,050 million (Rs. 210 Billion) had been rejected by the said Committee in favour of the higher bid submitted by LIDC amounting to USD $ 1,872 million (Rs. 374.4 Billion).”

While vehemently denying the false, wrongful malicious and defamatory allegations levelled by Samnarasinghe, the Minister states that Second Phase project of the Central Expressway was still in the procurement stage and tenders have yet to be even called for the said project. Only four companies have so far subjected themselves to be assessed at the procurement stage of this project, and no such Chinese Company by the name referred to by you has submitted a proposal for the same.

The lawyer’s letter said: “In the said circumstances, I am instructed that the contents of the aforesaid statements uttered by you and given wide publicity in the print and electronic media as well as on your official YouTube and Facebook page/channel are patently false, and have been deliberately and maliciously stated by you without any evidence to shock the conscience of the public at large and cause public outrage and hatred towards my client by falsely alleging that a such colossal and unprecedented sum of Rs. 164.4 Billion has been defrauded by my client, a figure that is purportedly over ten times more than the purported loss suffered by the State due to the infamous Bond Scam of 2015- 2017 period which in itself caused significant public outrage at the time.

“Thereby I am instructed that the aforesaid false, untrue words and/or statements made by you towards my client are defamatory both per-se as well as by innuendo and have been made without lawful justification or excuse and that you published and/or caused to be published the said statements and/or words with animus injuriandi and express malice against my client.”

“Further, the said statements and/or words made by you have wrongfully, maliciously and falsely attributed bad moral character to my client and seeks to diminish his social standing among the public, in furtherance of your own ulterior and collateral political motives, while acting in gross violation of my client’s rights.

“I am instructed that my client estimates the damages caused by you to my client at One Billion Rupees (Rs. 1,000,000,000/-). In the aforesaid circumstances, I am instructed to demand from you and demand is hereby made for the settlement of said One Billion Rupees (Rs. 1,000,000,000/-) to my client within 14 days hereof.

“In the event of your failure to do so within the above said period, I have received further instructions to put you on Notice and Notice is hereby given that my Client will be instituting legal action against you for the recovery of the said total sum of One Billion Rupees (Rs. 1,000,000,000/-) together with costs of suit and Legal interest due thereof.”



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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