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PM praises 20A, explains what went wrong with 19A brought in to ‘suppress Rajapaksas’



By Saman Indrajith

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (21) told Parliament that he was happy and proud of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution for it would become law without any political deals to get it passed in Parliament.

 Participating in the second reading stage debate on the amendment bill, the Prime Minister said that instances of constitutional reforms in history were full of political deals to obtain votes from other parties to pass those bills. “There is neither such pressure nor political deal in this instance,” he said.

 The 20th Amendment was brought to remove the 19th Amendment which had plunged the country into anarchy and was rejected by the people, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said.

The PM said people had given the SLPP to strengthen the position of the President and therefore the 20th Amendment had been brought in to strengthen national security and repeal the 19th Amendment which destabilized the country.

The Prime Minister said that the government was not planning to continue with the existing Constitution would introduce a new constitution to build the nation fulfilling the long awaited aspiration of the people.

“No other Constitution has been criticised as much as this Constitution. Dr. NM Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva and Sarath Muttettuwegama were the ones who initially opposed this constitution but, they are not alive today. However, we have no choice but to maintain this constitution. Although the SLFP opposes this Constitution, the Presidents produced by the SLFP have formed governments under it. Although UNP leader J.R. Jayewardene had introduced the present Constitution to prevent the SLFP from coming to power, the SLFP had ruled the country for the longest period by producing the highest number of residents. Therefore, all of us have been subjected to political ridicule under this constitution. But we have not been able to change this Constitution because one party could not get a two- thirds majority in Parliament under the PR system, but we have won a two-thirds majority. The people of this country wanted a government that would safeguard the sovereignty of the people without succumbing to foreign pressures and breaking up into factions.”

  The PM said that when a Constitution was amended it was normal for various debates to arise in Parliament. “However, certain amendments in history have been made with MPs kept under pressure. But, we are not bringing this 20th Amendment to Parliament through political deals or by securing votes by exerting influence on anyone. That is why at this moment when the 20th Amendment is being brought, there is room for debate. On the other hand, I would like to ask whether the same could be said about the 19th Amendment. At that time the Maha Sangha or anyone was not allowed to protest. Therefore, we can be happy about the manner in which the 20th Amendment is being debated respecting the democratic rights of the people without any underhand deal making involved.”

The PM said that the 19th Amendment was solely aimed at taking revenge from the Rajapaksa family and to target the civic rights of the Rajapaksas. But unfortunately, it had only jeopardised the national security and unity of the country.

“Some people rejoiced when the President’s wings were clipped, not realising that such action would endanger national security. The Head of former State Intelligence Service has revealed before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday attacks that at least 10,000 officials had been aware that the terror strikes would happen but could do nothing to prevent the attack.”

In addition the Prime Minister noted that the president did not even have the power to remove the IGP even after such a tragedy or even to transfer inefficient police officers. “Only the Police Commission can do that. But it was a mystery as to who the Police Commission was answerable to.

“The state intelligence and other intelligence services were very strong during our time. But after the introduction of 19th Amendment, the CID was used to hunt down Opposition politicians. As a result, the efficiency of services such as the CID intelligence deteriorated. Now, the CID could not apprehend Rishad Bathiudeen fast. Rishad’s younger brother who was allegedly linked to terrorists has been released on bail by the police. No there is nothing that can be done about that.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that officials from the Attorney General’s Department had been summoned to Temple Trees to conduct an anti-corruption committee during the previous regime. For five years Temple Trees had spent a colossal sum of money to maintain that committee. “Even the officials of the then Attorney General’s Department have publicly stated that the committee was illegal. But has the Independent Audit Commission audited the huge expenditure incurred by this committee? Is there a report submitted to this country after such an audit?”

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”



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Bathiudeen granted bail



Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions



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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI



By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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