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Lawyer draws judge Marasinghe’s attention to deaths in custody

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HRC issues instructions to police on PTA cases

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has issued specific instructions to police headquarters as regards those already in custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and new arrests.

The heads of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) and the Police Legal Division have been advised to brief the HRC immediately on the change of status of PTA suspects, as well as new arrests.

Authoritative sources said that instructions had been issued at a meeting summoned by the newly appointed HRC Chairperson Justice (Retired) Rohini Marasinghe last Wednesday (29) at the HRC.

HRC Commissioner Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara participated online whereas the other members, Chairperson Marasinghe, Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan attended the meeting. Sources said that the HRC had stressed the pivotal importance of keeping the outfit fully informed of developments relating to PTA cases.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has recently appointed Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero, Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus (SLCC), to the HRC. Sources said that the SLCC had held discussions with the government over the post-war reconciliation process and the PTA remained high on the group’s agenda. Ven. Priyarathana replaced another civil society activist Harsha Kumara Navaratne, who recently received appointment as High Commissioner in Canada.

The HRC has also asked the head of the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) to be present at discussions pertaining to PTA cases. Sources said that though the CCD had made representations to the HRC last week, the Commissioners were keen to meet the head of the outfit himself.

A spokesperson for the HRC told The Island that over 12 years after the conclusion of the war, the PTA had remained one of the most contentious issues with the UN, the European Union as well as several powerful countries repeatedly taking it up.

Sri Lanka was under pressure to do away with the PTA or introduce amendments ‘to make it conform to international standards’, the official said. Referring to work undertaken by successive governments in this regard, the official said that the HRC intended to maintain a closer watch on law enforcement outfits.

Several hundred persons are currently detained under PTA. Most of them are believed to be persons taken into custody in connection with the ongoing investigations into Easter Sunday attacks (2019).

Prominent civil society activists who haven’t joined the SLCC initiative say the government owes an explanation on how it intends to reform the PTA. One-time HRC member, Ambika Satkunanathan, in a recent statement sent to The Island on behalf of a large grouping of civil society members and organisations strongly criticised the way the government handled the issue. The grouping alleged that the government proposals shared with the SLCC did not address even ten basic shortcomings of the PTA. Calling for greater transparency in the process, the group has warned that national security couldn’t be achieved by causing insecurity among sections of the population. The group has reiterated its call for repealing the PTA.

The group has said: “The repeal of the PTA must also be considered in light of the anti-terrorism and public security legal framework that Sri Lanka has in place, and the historical abuse of power by state entities. These entities should not be bestowed with additional power.”

Appreciating the HRC focus on PTA cases, lawyer Senaka Perera said that urgent review of security of those in police and judicial custody was necessary. Senaka Perera emphasized that the new HRC head should inquire into deaths in police custody since the change of government in Nov 2019. Responding to another query, the lawyer said that deaths in custody ceased during the 2015-2019 period but resumed after the last presidential election.

The rights activist said that he intended to seek a meeting with the HRC soon to discuss the issues at hand. “Death of handcuffed persons cannot be accepted under any circumstances,” lawyer said, faulting the police headquarters as well as the Public Security Ministry over continuing killings in custody. Referring to the statements issued by the HRC during tenure of Dr. Jagath Balasuriya as the Chairperson of the outfit as regards deaths in custody, attorney-at-law Perera said that the HRC failed to take tangible measures. Those bent on subverting the law wouldn’t give up their strategy simply because the HRC issued a statement or called for explanation from police headquarters. The lawyer said that he hoped the new HRC head would take remedial measures.



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Canadian declaration of ‘Tamil genocide’ may influence European parliaments, EU – Maj. Gen. (retd.) Gallage

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‘Counter lies, or face consequences’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says controversial Canadian House of Commons declaration that Tamil genocide took place in Sri Lanka may influence many Western parliaments as well as the EU.

The Gajaba Regiment war veteran said that the recognition of 18th May, the day Sri Lanka defeated terrorism as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day was an affront to Sri Lanka.

The ex-combat officer said that the government owed an explanation without delay. Perhaps, Sri Lanka parliament should remind Canada of deaths of hundreds of native residential school students, who had been literally snatched from their families, the retired officer said, adding that it would be interesting to see whether any political parties, civil society groups or those who issue statements against Sri Lanka at the drop of a hat would question the Canada’s gruesome past. So far unmarked graves of more than 1000 native children have been found on the grounds of such schools run till the mid-1990s, the retired Major General said.

Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, son of veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree presented the motion on Wednesday (18). “Canada becomes the first national parliament in the world to recognize May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day,” tweeted, Anandasangree, the MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park.

The motion states that “this House acknowledges the Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and recognizes May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”.

The House of Commons unanimously accepted the motion.

Gallage alleged that Sri Lanka lacked political will to counter the campaign against the country. Acknowledging the current political-fiscal -social crisis caused by decades of economic mismanagement, he warned that the Canadian declaration would have disastrous consequences. Would the government care to examine how interested parties could exploit the Canadian condemnation of Sri Lanka? Gallage asked.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in the third week of May 2009.

Gallage questioned the responsibility on the part of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries for Sri Lanka’s failure to meet the challenge.

Anandasangaree brought forward the motion on the 13th anniversary of the annihilation of the LTTE fighting cadre at Mullivaikkal.

Retired Maj. Gen. said that those who had failed to throw a lifeline to the LTTE as the military brought the war to a rapid conclusion worked overtime for the realization of the Canadian project.

Responding to another query, Gallage said that declaration of May 18 as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against itself at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in early Oct. 2015 under the yahapalana regime.

Gallage recalled how Australia denied him a visa during yahapalana administration though there hadn’t been specific war crimes allegations against him. Australia also found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009.

Established in Jan, 2008, the 59 Division, deployed on the eastern flank aka the Weli Oya front, fought under the then Brig. Nandana Udawatte’s command for one year to cross the Anandakulam and Nagacholai forest reserves, which served as natural defences for the LTTE Mullaitivu stronghold.

Maj. Gen. Gallage said that the Parliament should respond to the Canadian House of Commons declaration on Tamil genocide. The former senior officer who was always in the thick of combat reiterated that unless tangible action was taken immediately the Canadian motion would cause irreparable damage. The Tamil Diaspora would exploit their success with Canadian political parties to pressure other countries, Gallage said, the coming Geneva sessions would be quite a challenge.

He urged the current military top brass to make representations to the government as regards the damning unfair Canadian indictment of Sri Lanka. “We should ask Canada to share with us information on the basis its Parliament reached conclusion that genocide took place here. The very basis of their declaration is questionable,” Gallage said, adding that Sri Lanka should officially inform Canada of the Indian intervention that led to the deaths of thousands, both before and after the deployment of the Indian Army (1987-1990), killing of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE female suicide cadre and the sea borne attempt to assassinate the Maldivian President in 1989. “We should set the record straight. We should use wartime British High Commission cables now in the public domain to counter lies,” the Gajaba Regiment veteran said.

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Some MPs seek hotel accommodation to attend parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday that a group of MPs had requested that they be provided hotel accommodations for them to attend Parliament sittings.

Speaker Abeywardena said that the request had been made due to the prevailing fuel crisis.

The Speaker said that some MPs who travelled from outstations were unable to return home due to the fuel shortage.

“Therefore, they have requested me to book a hotel for them to stay in Colombo to attend Parliament proceedings,” he said.

The Speaker’s clarification came as reports of MPs being provided fuel at a subsidised rate were raised in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that fuel had not been given at subsidised rates to any MP.

Many government MPs also lost life possessions as their houses were looted and torched by marauding mobs early last week.

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Elder brother says MR should have known when to quit politics

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SLPP MP and former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that his younger brother former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should have retired from politics after concluding his second term as President.

“Nearly 50 years of his outstanding political achievements and journey have been lost at present,” he said.

“If we become greedy for power and positions then we face such consequences as we see today,” he said.

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