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Kiriella insists it’s prerogative of Speaker to bring Ranjan from prison to Parliament

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella yesterday told Parliament that it was the prerogative of the Speaker to bring MP Ranjan Ramanayake or not.

 Raising a point of order, MP Kiriella said that neither the court nor the Department of the Attorney General could intervene in the matter and asked the Speaker to summon MP Ramanayake to Parliament.

 “The Appeal Court, in the matter of MP Premalal Jayasekera, said that it was the duty of the Speaker to allow or disallow an MP to sit in Parliament. It said that the court had no powers in that matter. Anura Bandaranaike, as the Speaker, once clearly stated that the court could not intervene in parliamentary affairs. Similarly, during the tenure of Chamal Rajapaksa as the Speaker, the court gave a ruling to stop the impeachment against Shirani Bandaranayake but the Speaker did not stop it on the same ground that the court could not intervene in the affairs of Parliament. Therefore, the Speaker is the one who should make the final decision in this regard.

“The Speaker has made a statement that if the Attorney General and Court permitted him to bring MP Ramanayake to Parliament, he would do so. When he tried to bring Premalal Jayasekera, the Attorney General objected, but the Speaker went ahead using his powers and allowed Jayasekera to attend Parliament. That means the Speaker has the powers, and, therefore, I request hims bring MP Ramanayake to parliament.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that MP Ramanayake had been sentenced to jail for contempt of court and soon after that the Chairman of Elections Commission had stated that Ramanayake’s parliament seat might go vacant only if he continued to be in jail for over six months.

“According to that statement, Ramanayake still is an MP and he should be allowed to attend Parliament. He has that right under the privileges of an MP. As per legal experts, the sections 66, 89, 91 and 105 have ensured that he is still an MP. The Speaker is duty bound to ensure the rights and privileges of MPs so he is expected to take action to facilitate MP Ramanayake’s coming to parliament,” Opposition Leader Premadasa said.

TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran: “I want to flag several points in this regard. Before doing so, I am bound by the law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter as the counsel who appeared for Ranjan Ramanayake in his case at the Supreme Court. I was privileged to appear for a clean and honest politician in court and I am proud of that. Nevertheless, he has been convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years rigorous imprisonment is unprecedented and exceptionally severe. Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court. This has an implication to the Articles in the Constitution the Opposition Leader has just mentioned because it says for an offence for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. There is nothing prescribed in the law, for parliament has failed to enact laws for contempt of court. Although there have been in the public realm a lot of instances where even drafts had been made we have not done that. By failing to do that, it has been something like freedom of the wild ass anything can be given as a sentence. That is not a good thing. In this case, Parliament has to take steps to enact a law. English law is to be substantive law because we do not have statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. Unfortunately the court disregarded it. I like to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to statute for contempt of court in this unprecedented injustice to an honest member of parliament.”

Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage:  Sumanthiran is the one who put Ramanayake in trouble by instructing him to go to the Supreme Court. You did not even go to the court when he was sentenced. Not a single MP was there to support Ranjan. If another lawyer had appeared for Ranjan Ramanayake he would have walked free today. Ramanayake did not have a counsel on that day.  We all are saddened by the predicament Ranjan Ramanayake is in today. I have filed two cases against him and next week I will withdraw them by filing two motions because if those cases would be heard to an end, Ramanayake may get four more years in prison. We stand for MPs’ rights, but do not forget Ramanayake denigrated and continued to humiliate the judiciary. The Speaker should consider that the ruling to imprison Ramanayake was given by the Supreme Court.

MP Premalal Jayasekera: I was imprisoned by a High Court. We have records that one of the MPs had been told by the then Justice Minister that I would be sent to gallows. She had said the same to one of the chairmen of an institute. Therefore, I appealed against the judgment handed down to me. However, the ruling given to MP Ramanayake is not by a High Court but by the Supreme Court – the highest and apex court of the country. He has no court to go above that.

State Minister Nimal Lanza said that Ramanayake had humiliated and denigrated all, not only parliament, judiciary, police but all. “Ramanayake is in the same plight as the proverbial woodpecker that finally pecked on the banana tree. MP Sumanthiran should have pointed out those laws at the court not here.”

Justice Minister Ali Sabry: “We regret punishment MP Ramanayake received. The Opposition Leader cited Section 89 of the Constitution. The sub section 4 of section 89 clearly states that no person shall be qualified to be an elector at an election of the President, or of the Members of Parliament or to vote at any Referendum, if he is subject to the following disqualification. That is if he is serving or has during the period of seven years immediately preceding completed serving of a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) for a term not less than six months imposed after conviction by any court for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than two years or is under sentence of death or is serving or has during the period of seven years immediately preceding completed the serving of a sentence of imprisonment for a term not less than six months awarded in lieu of execution of such sentence, provided that if any person disqualified under this paragraph is granted a free pardon such disqualification shall cease from the date on which the pardon is granted. So it is clear that Ramanayake is presently serving. This is different from the case of Premalal Jayasekera. The Supreme Court is the apex court of the country and since 1972 we cannot refer its decisions to another court for reversal.  So no appeal is pending.” 

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query

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SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign

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The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.

 

 

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