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Minister and MP cross swords over racism, terrorism, violation of oath

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By Saman Indrajith

There was discrimination against Tamils in this country, even in the remembrance of the dead, TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament on Saturday. “Nobody raises questions when the JVP remembers its fallen comrades and displays pictures of Rohana Wijeweera in berets. But when the Tamils remember their dead, the issue of terrorism is brought up. Isn’t this discrimination,” MP Sumanthiran queried.

 He said so when Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Dr Sarath Weerasekera raising a point of order stated that MP Sumanthiran had attended a remembrance service of Pandithar, an LTTE leader.

 Minister Weerasekera said that the MP had taken an oath not to divide the country and attending a remembrance of an LTTE leader was wrong.

The Minister raised to the point of order after MP Sumanthiran raised a privilege issue on commission of inquiry into political victimization had announced that he would be named for evading the commission sessions. “I have received from time to time summons from the Commissioner of Inquiry to attend before the commissions. I have been named a respondent in that summons. Since they were in Sinhala language I wrote to the commission that I be provided with the material to respond and to send an English to Tamil translations of those matters. I appeared twice before the said commission and made the same request. There the Commissioner ordered that I be provided with material and their translations. Nothing of the sort happened. Last week, I received another summons very late after I went home from parliament sittings, and I responded to the Commissioner the following day informing him of the fact that the material had not been provided to me in English or Tamil and I was not able to appear before the Commission when there were parliament sittings. Later, I read in the newspapers that Commissioner of Inquiry Upali Abeyratne had some MPs including me were not coming before the commission and we would be named. This is in breach of my privileges. I urge the Speaker to inform the Commissioner of Inquiry that I should not be named since I was attending parliament.”

Minister Dr Weerasekera said that MP Sumanthiran talked of MP’s privileges after violating the MP’s code of conduct by attending a funeral of a terrorist. “That was against the oath he had taken as an MP. The Speaker should ask him about it. Earlier this week, the TNA MP went to the home of Pandithar’s mother, in Valvettithurai, where he lit a lamp to commemorate the fallen LTTE leader. He was one of the LTTE leaders who had killed security force members in captivity,” the Minister said.

MP Sumanthiran: I do not need to answer the allegation, but I do so since my name was mentioned. Sinnathurai Maheswari was one of my clients. I appeared for her in a case at the Jaffna High Court where the learned judge told me that she could conduct remembrance in public places but was allowed to remember her son who was killed in 1985 privately at home. It was not even a home, it was a shack. I went there on that day and explained to my client the instructions given by the judge.

Minister Weerasekera: The dead person was an LTTE leader. He was a killer.

MP Sumanthiran: Yes, he was a member of the LTTE. Nevertheless, he was her son. Every mother has a right to remember her children. The Minister has never raised any questions with regard to the JVP remembering Rohana Wijeweera in the streets of Colombo. Even in the remembrance of the dead, there is discrimination against the Tamil people. I did not want to respond to the minister but I spoke because otherwise this would be used in racist propaganda.

Minister Dr Weerasekera: You are a racist. You are the one who talks about majority sovereignty. There is no such sovereignty. Sovereignty is for all the people. You gave a very childish excuse. The mother can remember her son there is no problem, but an MP cannot go to such a place.

On the other hand you cannot compare the LTTE with the JVP. The LTTE tried to divide the country. You should be ashamed of yourself to talk about MPs privileges after acting against the oath you have taken as an MP.

MP Sumanthiran: Why should I be ashamed? You are the racist you should be ashamed of yourself. Shame on you!

Minister Weerasekera: No, Shame on you!

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena moved the House for the next item.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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