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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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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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