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Opposition seeks info from AG on dismissed high-profile cases

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Same request to be made from CIABOC

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) has sought information in terms of the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the Attorney General’s Department pertaining to the withdrawal of indictments in a number of cases following the last presidential election in Nov. 2019.

Colombo District SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman made the appeal on behalf of the main Opposition party. A four-member parliamentary delegation consisting of Rahman, J.C. Alawathuwala, Harshana Rajakaruna and Kavinda Jayawardana visited the AG’s Department yesterday (02).

Having made a request from the AG, lawmaker Rahman told The Island that though the media had reported withdrawal of indictments filed in respect of high profile cases, the SJB felt the need to seek clarification from the AG.

The former UNPer pointed out that the indictments that had been filed during the tenure of Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, in his capacity as AG were withdrawn when he served as the Chief Justice.  Dappula de Livera, PC, succeeded Jayasuriya in late April 2019. Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, succeeded de Livera in May, 2021.

The Bill entitled ‘Right to Information’ was passed with amendments in Parliament during the previous administration.

Responding to another query, MP Rahman said that the SJB sought (i) the number of indictments withdrawn after the last presidential election (ii) specific cases (iii) case numbers of the indictments and (iv) on what dates have the indictments and/or court proceedings filed by the AG after the last presidential election been withdrawn?

MP Rahman said that the SJB requested an opportunity to examine relevant work, documents, records and take down notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records and take certified samples of material.

The SJB would shortly seek information from the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) as regards the cases withdrawn since the change of government in Nov 2019. Although the public knew of the cases withdrawn over the past two years, the SJB would use RTI to compel the AG and the CIABOC to explain the circumstances, he said.

“We would like to know how the AG and CIABOC decided on high profile cases,” MP Rahuman said adding that those institutions couldn’t ignore their concerns.

The SJB spokesman said that the CIABOC owed an explanation as to how the decision to drop all charges against former lawmaker and Foreign Ministry Monitoring MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena pertaining to the Mihin Lanka case was arrived at. That particular case dealt with misappropriation of public funds amounting to Rs 883 mn, the lawmaker said, while referring to the subsequent dismissal of cases involving one-time Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pilleyan, Johnston Fernando, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Basil Rajapaksa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon and former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris. The former CJ now serves as Sri Lanka’s top representative in New York.

MP Rahman said that they intended to take up the issue both in and out of Parliament. Those who propagated the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept as part of SLPP’s overall political strategy should first of all ensure the implementation of existing laws. The government shouldn’t under any circumstances circumvent the law for the benefit of its members, the MP said, pointing out that so many indictments filed against influential persons hadn’t been withdrawn in such a short period.

The SJB MP said that they were in the process of gathering information pertaining to judicial matters. “Once we obtain the official position as regards sensationally dismissed cases, the public can be briefed,” then the genuine Opposition in Parliament, the civil society and the media could pursue the matter, MP Rahman said.

Asked whether the SJB expected the international community, too, to pay attention to the matters concerning the judiciary, lawmaker Rahman said that the government couldn’t adopt double standards. The government repeatedly assured the international community that Sri Lanka law was able to cope up with accountability issues, the MP said. However, dismissal of cases against those connected with the government   under controversial circumstances was causing concern among those interested, the MP claimed.



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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB

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Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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Teheran expects enhancement of bilateral ties in all fields

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Following Iranian FM’s visit

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, during high level meetings in Colombo this week, expressed hope that with this trip, the bilateral ties in all fields, including political, economic, commercial, and tourism, would be expanded.

Amirabdollahian was here at the official invitation of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC. During his meeting with Sabry, Amirabdollahian referred to the good and friendly relations between the two countries and the continuous consultations between them on bilateral, regional, and international issues.

The Iranian also considered scientific and technological issues as areas to which the two countries pay attention for cooperation.

Amirabdollahian appreciated the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, to visit this country and stated: “We hope that this trip will be on the agenda at the right time.”

He also appreciated Sri Lanka’s positions in supporting the people of Palestine and Gaza in international forums, including the United Nations.

In this meeting, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also warmly welcomed his Iranian counterpart and described his trip to Tehran last summer as memorable, stating: “During my trip to Iran, I witnessed the high morale of the Iranian people in the social arena. I observed production and life.”

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister emphasized: “The two countries have good relations with common areas and shared values.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s transition from previous economic conditions and economic growth and prosperity in this country, Ali Sabry expressed hope that the relations between the two countries would expand even more in the new era.

Referring to the industrial and economic capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka emphasized the readiness of his country to host Iranians to implement economic projects in Sri Lanka.

The issue of developing cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism was one of the other topics discussed by the foreign ministers of the two countries, and the parties expressed hope that Iranian and Sri Lankan tourists would mutually choose the two countries more and more as tourist destinations.

In this regard, the parties emphasized the necessity of establishing direct flights between Iran and Sri Lanka, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

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Only 50,000 out of 7 mn buildings have rooftop solar systems

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Great potential to increase solar power generation

by Rathindr5a Kuruwita

Rooftop solar power generation in Sri Lanka has exceeded 750 megawatts by the middle of February 2024, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) media spokesman Noel Priyantha said on Wednesday.

Priyantha added that Sri Lanka has great potential in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

Sri Lanka has around seven million buildings, but only 50,000 of them have installed rooftop solar systems, and there is a great potential to increase rooftop solar power generation exponentially, he said.

The CEB now buys a unit of electricity from rooftop solar power producers for 37 rupees, and these producers can recover their initial costs in five years, Priyantha said.

The CEB is also talking to state-owned banks to introduce a concessional bank loan for those interested in installing rooftop solar power units, he said.

The Sri Lankan government has set a goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

The total installed capacity of the national power grid is over 5,000 megawatts, and the daily energy consumption in February 2024 is about 46 gigawatts per day, Priyantha said .

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