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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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Easter Sunday: “Accept guilt with contrite hearts,” says Kurunegala Bishop

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by Norman Palihawadane

If those responsible for the Easter Sunday terror attacks do not accept their guilt with contrite hearts, then nature will follow suit, says President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka and the Bishop of Kurunegala Catholic Diocese, Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera.

While delivering his homily at the Holy Mass offered on behalf of the children who received Sacrament of Confirmation at the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes at Yakadapatha, Bishop Perera said that justice has not yet been meted out to the Easter Sunday victims.

“Nature will surely stand against those responsible. Nature will ruthlessly follow them at every step they take and their conscience will not keep them at rest. This is what I believe,” he said.

He said that Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had stated that those responsible for the terror attacks on Easter Sunday must come forward and accept their guilt. “If those who masterminded this crime fail to do so, I strongly believe that Nature will follow suit,” Bishop Perera said.

“Perusing the pages of history we know well that kings and state rulers had been elevated to positions of power by many means. Also we know for certain that none of them ruled for eternity. None will rule forever.”

He said that if the present day rulers while hiding the truth of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, do nothing to mete justice to the victims and their families, they will suffer immensely.

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TNA accepts president’s overture, MP suggests party ready to talk federal

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ECONOMYNEXT —Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will engage constructively in sincere attempts at resolving the ethnic issue, legislator M A Sumanthiran said responding to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s overtures to the opposition, while also suggesting that the TNA was open to a federal solution.

“We will engage constructively in every sincere attempt as we have always done but will not allow any farcical process,” Sumanthiran tweeted Thursday November 24 afternoon.In a speech made in parliament the previous day, the Jaffna district MP said there can be no reconciliation by sweeping the truth under the carpet.

“It is only by the ascertainment of the truth that there can be true reconciliation,” he said.

“Your actions must be louder than words. All we have are words, words and words. As I speak, more lands are being acquired,” he added, highlighting an example that prompted a response from President Wickremesinghe that he would look into the matter.

Wickremesinghe on Wednesday re-extended an open invitation to opposition parties to a discussion on a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic problem. Talks would begin after December 11, he said, with a view to agreeing on a solution by February 04 2023 when the island nation celebrates 75 years of independence from the British.

“We welcome the president’s initiative. He said everyone must agree on the solution. We want all the people of this country to be content and be satisfied and feel secure that this is their country,” said Sumanthiran.The MP said there is broad consensus already on the issue and that only a few things need to be ironed out.

“That can be done in a day’s sitting. You don’t require three months,” he said.

President Wickremesinghe agreed in his speech that there is nothing new left to talk about.If the president is looking at the South African example, said Sumanthiran, it must be noted that that country underwent a political transformation “before they could look at accountability issues”.

“That fundamental change must happen and must precede other measures,” he said.

Among the issues that Sri Lanka is confronted with with regard to reconciliation between communities is the matter of alleged human rights abuses, particularly during the final phase of the 26-year armed conflict. Missing persons, militarisation and alleged land grabs have also figured prominently in various international fora where Sri Lanka’s human rights record has come up for discussion.

“Of course you need to do many confidence-building exercises because there is a serious lack of trust because of the long history and what happened,” said Sumanthiran.

The MP said it is crucial that the core, root issues are settled first before considering issues of justice and accountability, which he said would provide the people a different outlook on resolving those issues.He also paid what has lately been a rare compliment to President Wickremesinghe from the TNA.

“We recognise that perhaps you are the only person in this House today — although you’re not a member of this house — who’s had the longest experience in this matter. You were part of the government negotiation team that negotiated with the TULF from the middle to the end of 1986, which ended with the Indo-Lanka accord, and the 13th amendment which we did not accept as a meaningful scheme of devolution,” he said.

The 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution emerged out of the controversial Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a purported solution to the worsening ethnic conflict. Provincial councils came in the wake of this amendment, but land and police powers have yet to be devolved to the provinces as originally envisioned. Both Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists have opposed the 13th amendment, the former claiming it devolved too much, the latter complaining it didn’t devolve enough.

Wickremesinghe knows “everything that is to know about the resolution of this”, said Sumanthiran. He also acknowledged the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“Though we did not participate in the APRC, that’s a good report. Many members in the front row today in the government were members of the cabinet in August 2000 when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga brought a constitution bill to parliament. The UNP at that time led by President Wickremesinghe opposed it only because of a transitional provision with regard to executive presidency, not because of the devolution arrangements in that,” he said.

The UNP government notoriously burnt the draft bill in parliament when the Kumaratunga government presented it. Analysts have revisited that event as a possible misstep in Sri Lanka’s path to a lasting peace, though others disagree.Sumanthiran said consensus is already there and all that is required is for decisions to be made.

“That is what has been entrusted to the president now,” he said.

The president’s call for a permanent resolution by the 75th Independence Day celebrations is a good ideal to work towards, but there isn’t much time, the MP warned.

“So we are willing to work with you constructively to achieve the objective you have enunciated. We’re willing to achieve the reasonable and legitimate aspirations of our people and indeed all the people that live in this country,” he said.In his speech, Sumanthiran was emphatic that his party does not wish to do anything behind the back of the majority.

“Everyone must feel secure. That is our desire as well. That the majority of this country must accept it.”

The MP then said that more than 40 percent of the world’s population live in federal countries. (There are 25 countries with a federal form of government).

“Those are the strongest countries in the world,” the MP claimed.

“You have others who are quasi federal, who sometimes call themselves unitary, like Great Britain, where the extent of devolution is far more than even in a federal form of government.

“We don’t ask for something that is not found anywhere in the world. We’re asking for something that is reasonable and is practised all around the globe. That will ensure that all our people will live with dignity and self respect in this country. We want the majority people to accept and understand that. You are, after all, a preponderant majority. No one can shift that. It was Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranaike who in 1926  introduced the idea of federalism to this country, not the Tamil leaders,” he said.Sumanthiran recalled that it was in fact the Kandyan chiefs who had asked for a federal form of government on two separate occasions in the early 20th century.

“So it can’t be bad for the Sinhala people, it was the Sinhala people who asked for it,” he said, noting that over time wrong messages have been communicated to the country.

“There are suspicions those must be allayed. We must resolve this in a just way, so that we can all can then stand up as the president envisages by Feb 04 2023 as the children of one mother,” Sumanthiran said.

Federalism has been a highly controversial and politically inflammable idea in Sri Lanka over the years, with many nationalist or even some moderate parties in the south vehemently opposing the very suggestion of it. It is unclear whether this stance has softened over the 13 years since the end of the war, but to date no Sinhalese-dominated party has come out in support for it.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Gevindu Kumaratunga who now sits in the opposition responding to Wickremesinghe’s invitation on Wednesday cautioned that they can only support a proposal that will honour Sri Lanka’s unitary character.

“If you’re asking for a consensus within a unitary Sri Lanka, we’ll agree. Outside of that, I don’t think a majority of people will agree. There is a ground reality here. Our soldiers laid down their lives to protect the unitary state,” said Kumaratunga.

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Women MPs to wear orange on Dec 1 to protest gender based violence

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Women MPs will attend parliament on Dec. 1 in line with slogan ‘Let’s unite to end gender based violence’ of the UN-led global campaign – 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (WPC) Chairperson, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said that a wristband with the message “Let’s Unite to end Gender Based Violence” will also be worn as a solidarity measure with the global campaign against GBV.

She said: “The global theme of the campaign 2022 is ‘UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.’ It emphasizes that without unity, GBV cannot be fought. It calls on governments, development partners, youth, media and all other stakeholders to come together to fight against GBV.

“Therefore, the 16 days of activism against GBV is an important advocacy period for our goal to advocate for and ensure equal grounds for women in Sri Lanka,” Fernandopulle said.

She said that a recent survey on Women’s Well-being by the Department of Census and Statistics had reported that during their lifetime, 20 percent of the ever-partnered women have faced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner and that 25 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner after 15 years of age.

Eighteen percent expressed that they were subjected to economic abuse by a partner in their lifetime while 21 percent of the women who experienced violence by a partner had never expressed it to anyone before the interviews.

WPC’s Deputy Chairperson, Matale District MP Rohini Kaviratne said that GBV was nothing new to women in Sri Lanka. “We as women have had to face it always. As women parliamentarians we always face verbal abuse based on our gender,” she said.

Kaviratne said that during elections, and whenever someone needs to disgrace the female candidates, the most common weapon used is their gender roles. “The stereotypical thinking stigmatizes our roles in the public sphere and stepping out of the house to be a leader in politics as a female parliamentarian. We should fight this. We should fight any form of GBV.”

JVP-led NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya said that the WPC was in the process of supporting the drafting of a Women’s Bill to be presented to parliament.  “However, we are conscious that laws alone do not effect change. There is a lot of work that needs to be done both institutionally and politically to ensure that the Bill when passed will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Lankan women.”

Tourism State Minister Diana Gamage said: We urge all Lankans to have zero tolerance for any kind of violence or sexual harassment committed against any human being. We should act, not be silent and passive observers.”

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