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Military assistance may be sought to execute warrants if police fail to make arrests

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DSG Peiris demands police upgrade their representation in court

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Attorney General’s Department is willing even to consider securing assistance of the military to execute warrants issued by courts following submissions made by the department, if the police are unable to make arrests.

Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) Dileepa Peiris said so addressing the media at the AG’s Department last Friday evening (31). Flanked by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sumathi Dharmawardena and State Counsel and AG Department spokesperson Nishara Jayaratne, DSG Peiris said the police could discuss difficulties experienced by officers in executing warrants, if any, with AG Dappula de Livera, PC.

DSG Peiris said that they could work out a mechanism in this regard. If required, the assistance of the military could be obtained, he said.

At the onset of the briefing, the first ever called by the AG’s Department, ASG Dharmawardena and State Counsel Jayaratne explained the decision to brief the media as regards the ongoing high profile case heard before the Negombo Magistrate court where now interdicted Superintendent of the prison there Anurudda Sampayo and three other employees were accused of cooperating with the drug dealers and the underworld. The AG’s Department swung into action after Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne countered accusations directed at the police on a special television programme.

DSG Peiris questioned the circumstances under which Chief Jailor of the Negombo Prison Upali Sarath Bandara and Second tier Jailor Nishantha Senaratne simply walked into the Magistrate court on July 29 seven days after the issuance of warrants. They were remanded until August 4

In addition to them, the other suspect jailor Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala who had earlier surrendered to the CID was also remanded until August 4 as well.

On the instructions of the AG, DSG Peiris vowed to go flat out against those responsible for building a criminal empire within the Negombo prison. Declaring that the Negombo case was very special and a challenge to the judiciary and the law enforcement, DSG Peiris explained that the exposure of the underworld and Prisons officials nexus as a result of investigation conducted on February 13 and May 11 this year.

Disclosing various contraband including narcotics seized during raids, DSG Peiris pointed out how the Prisons authorities allowed a digital scale in hands of those dealing in drugs for obvious reasons. The second raid led to the recovery of a double door fridge, electric kettle and various other items, including food supplements, DSG Peiris said, adding that it was only the beginning. “We’ll conduct a major investigation. The AG’s Department secured warrants for the arrests of the four personnel after convincing the court of the need to do so.”€

The fourth suspect (Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala) surrendered to the CID before the execution of the relevant warrant, the DIG said, while recollecting the high handed manner Chief Jailor Upali Sarath Bandara and Second tier Jailor Nishantha Senaratne walked into the witness box. The top official questioned how two wanted men arrived at the Negombo Magistrate court after having evaded the police for several days. DSG Peiris said that the police owed the AG and the public an explanation why the two suspects couldn’t be tracked down before they reached the court premises.

DSG Peiris said that the pathetic failure on the part of the police to execute warrants sent wrong signal to the public. Recent threats directed at the President, the Secretary, Ministry of Defence as well as the Commissioner General of Prisons by a criminal held at the Boossa prison should be examined against the backdrop of the alleged nexus between the underworld and those supposed to ensure law and order. The DSG emphasized the need to ascertain how criminal held in maximum security prison enjoyed such exclusive power even to challenge the President.

Responding to a query, DSG Peiris stressed that they didn’t have any problem with the Acting IGP and other law enforcement officers.

The DSG said: “The AG’s Department enjoyed excellent working relationship with the police. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to what was going on.”

DSG Peiris rapped police headquarters for not assigning senior officers to represent the department in high profile cases such as the Negombo prison and the alleged involvement of a group of Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) sleuths dealing in heroin.

DSG Peiris asked why a Senior DIG, DIG or IGP himself couldn’t represent the police in high profile case as he in his capacity as the DSG represented the AG in the lowest court. The police top brass should provide the required leadership in the battle against the underworld. DSG Peiris said that a group of five represented the AG’s Department at the Negombo Magistrate court whereas the police were represented by an ASP.

He Peiris emphasized that they couldn’t allow the unacceptable situation to continue under any circumstances. If the police couldn’t carry out court directives, the police top brass should explain the difficulties so remedial measures could be taken, in consultation with relevant parties.

Responding to allegations that the AG’s Department had been in an unnecessary hurry and too hasty in criticizing the police, DSG Peiris said that they weren’t engaged in what the critics called media shows. DSG Peiris reiterated that Acting IGP should be held responsible for the failure on the part of the police so far to arrest Sampayo as well as other accomplices now in remand after having walked into the Negombo Magistrate’s court.

DSG acknowledged the services rendered by law enforcement officers even at the risk of their lives whereas a minority among the 87,000 strong police department bring the entire service into disrepute.

Responding to another query, DSG Peiris compared government authorities securing the custody of Dubai-based Makandure Madush in May 2019 and Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP in August 2009 with Sampayo arriving at Hulftsdorp court complex to sign an affidavit, after the issuance of warrant for his arrest. The DSG pointed out that Sampayo had been represented by a President’s Counsel and 15 other lawyers. Where were the police, an irate DSG asked.

The Acting IGP should explain what was going on and his department’s failure to execute the relevant warrant.

Referring to Negombo prison and PNB cases, DSG Peiris said that those genuine crime fighters lacked real friends and required backing whereas the underworld received unhindered support and assistance of the majority. DSG Peiris asserted that it was a very unfortunate situation.

The DSG said that his department would go all out to find out who provided refuge to Sampayo and his assistants as the exposure of those providing cover to wanted men was as important as apprehending the fugitives. DSG Peiris said that there was provision in the law to move court against law enforcement officers who failed to execute warrants.

The Deputy Solicitor General explained that the AG enjoyed the power to initiate an inquiry of his own even without receiving a complaint. He praised the role played by both print and electronic media in highlighting the Negombo case. If not for the media, those interested parties could have easily suppressed the case, the DSG said, urging the media to continue with their good work.

Responding to another query, DSG Peiris said that no one was above the law while emphasizing the need to inquire into alleged involvement of some elite Special Task Force (STF) personnel with the underworld.

Regardless of the consequences, the AG’s Department was determined to bring those high profile cases to a successful conclusion, DSG Peiris said, pointing out that he could have simply allowed the police to ask for additional time from the Negombo Magistrate when the case was taken up on July 22. Alleging that was the norm, the DSG said that the AG’s Department felt the need to take a tough stand “on this issue as our very existence was at stake.

 



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Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill

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… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory

Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.

Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.

Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.

The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.

Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.

Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.

The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties

Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.

Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.

 

 

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Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander

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An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.

Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.

“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.

The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.

“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.

Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”

 

 

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‘UNHRC missive exposes UK duplicity in grave accountability matters’

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama says that the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva–based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the United Kingdom’s policy of double standards has been challenged by no less a person than UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Bogollagama said that the Bachelet warning couldn’t have been issued at a better time as the UK stepped up pressure on Sri Lanka over accountability issues. The former FM was responding to Bachelet’s declaration on April 12 that the proposed new Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, in its current form, would undermine key human rights obligations that the UK has committed itself to respect.

The UK is a member of the UNHRC. Bogollagama pointed out that Bachelet had called for amendments to the proposed Bill to ensure that it didn’t protect British personnel deployed overseas for acts of torture and other serious international crimes.

The Bill is now reaching its final stages in the legislative process, and will shortly be debated again by the House of Lords, the UK’s upper chamber, where amendments may still be made.

In the run-up to the Geneva vote on a resolution spearheaded by the UK on March 23, SLPP Chairman and former External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris questioned the rationale in British actions. Prof Peiris asked how the UK sought protection for its armed forces deployed outside their territory whereas it sought punitive measures against Sri Lanka for fighting terrorism in its own land.

Bogollagama said that British double standards should be examined taking into consideration the UK’s current membership in the UNHRC as well its role as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group. The Core Group members include Germany and Canada.

Bogollagama who served as the Foreign Minister during the fourth phase of the war (2007-2010) alleged that the UK adopted an extremely hostile position primarily because of domestic political reasons. Wikileaks disclosed the true extent of Tamil Diaspora influence on the British political establishment, Bogollagama said. So much so, the UK allowed the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to announce its formation in the House of Commons in early 2010, the former Minister said. Would the UK accept Geneva advice as regards the proposed Bill, Bogollagama asked, those who voted for the resolution moved against Sri Lanka and abstained to realise that the UK’s stand in respect of Colombo was political.

The UK succeeded the US as Sri Lanka Core Chair in 2018 after the latter quit the Geneva body in a huff calling it a cesspool of political bias.

The purpose of the controversial British Bill is stated as being “to provide greater certainty for Service personnel and veterans in relation to claims and potential prosecution for historical events that occurred in the complex environment of armed conflict overseas.” British Forces played significant roles in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bill seeks to achieve this, in particular, by introducing new preconditions for the prosecution of alleged offences covered by the Bill.

“As currently drafted, the Bill would make it substantially less likely that UK service members on overseas operations would be held accountable for serious human rights violations amounting to international crimes,” the UNHRC statement dated April 12 quoted Bachelet as having said.

It stated that in its present form, the proposed legislation raises substantial questions about the UK’s future compliance with its international obligations, particularly under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), as well as the 1949 Geneva Conventions. These include obligations to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts such as torture and unlawful killing, and make no distinction as to when the offences were committed.

Responding to another query, Bogollagama said that Bachelet’s statement exposed the British hypocrisy. While demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lankan military on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, the British deprived Geneva of wartime dispatches (January-May 2009) from its High Commission in Colombo in a bid to facilitate the campaign against Sri Lanka, former minister Bogollagama said.

The British exposed their hostile intentions when London turned down Sri Lanka’s request to hand over those dispatches to Geneva, the ex-lawmaker said, urging the government to continuously highlight the need for examination of all available evidence by the proposed new Geneva inquiry unit appointed at a cost of USD 2.8 mn.

Bachelet’s request to the UK was interesting, Bogollagama said. The former minister was referring to Bachelet’s appeal: “I urge UK legislators in both Houses of Parliament, and the Government, to take these concerns fully into account when reviewing the Bill, and to ensure that the law of the United Kingdom remains entirely unambiguous with regard to accountability for international crimes perpetrated by individuals, no matter when, where or by whom they are committed.”

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