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Poll monitors believe SLPP should abide by AG’s advice

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MP-elect on death row

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Polls Monitoring groups-PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Election) and CMEV (Centre for Monitoring Election Violence) yesterday (2) said that the government would have to abide by the instructions issued by Attorney General Dappula de Livera in respect of MP elect Premalal Jayasekera sentenced to death over a killing in Kahawatte, Ratnapura, in January 2015.

The AG has informed the Secretary to the Justice Ministry and the Secretary General of Parliament of Jayasekera being disqualified to serve as a member of parliament and also to exercise his franchise.

Acknowledging that the SLPP Ratnapura candidate had received the second highest number of preferences at the August general election, PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi and CMEV National Coordinator and Researcher Manjula Gajanayake pointed out that the Attorney General expressed his opinion after the Secretary to the Justice Ministry sought his advice.

Premalal Jayasekera polled over 140,000 preference votes. Pavitradevi Vanniarachchi obtained over 200,000 votes the highest preference there by a candidate representing any contesting party.

Both Hettiarachchi and Gajanayake emphasized that it was no longer a political issue

Secretary to the Justice Ministry sought the AG’s advice in the wake of the Commissioner General of Prisons seeking advice regarding Jayasekera being allowed to attend the inauguration of parliament on August 20.

Hettiarachchi said that the authorities quite rightly refrained from taking Jayasekera to parliament on August 20 though the convict’s family received an invitation to attend the inauguration from the Office of the Secretary General of Parliament.

Responding to another query, Hettiarachchi, who is also the Convenor of March 12 Movement said that he couldn’t comment on behalf the civil society groups though the PAFFREL strongly opposed any political party or a lawmaker challenging the AG’s stand. There couldn’t be any dispute over the AG’s advice, Hettiarachchi stressed, urging all those responsible to review the situation.

According to the AG’s Department as a result of Jayasekera appealing against the Ratnapura High Court ruling, only the death sentence had been suspended pending the Court of Appeal case.

Hettiarachchi pointed out that in the wake Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara challenging the AG’s competence, the government sought the AG’s opinion on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Addressing the media on Monday (31), veteran lawyer Nanayakkara said that the AG couldn’t decide on Jayasekera’s fate as it was the responsibility of the parliament.

Manjula Gajanayake said that Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s dismissal of the AG’s opinion as regards Jayasekera’ eligibility sent a wrong signal to other members of the SLPP parliamentary group as well as the public. Gajanayake said that Nanayakkara couldn’t have been unaware of the constitutional provision as regards convicted persons.

Responding to another query, Gajanayake alleged that during the general election campaign in Ratnapura Vasudeva Nanayakkara repeatedly assured the electorate that he would stand by Premalal Jayasekera. Gajanayake said that the CMEV and other monitoring groups observed Nanayakkara’s campaign throughout that period.

Nanayakkara of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) contested on the SLPP ticket.

Former CAFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Election) Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told The Island that there were three previous examples regarding convicted persons being denied the opportunity to attend Provincial Council and Parliamentary sessions. Tennakoon said that former Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council member Hasitha Muhandiramge’s convicted over 1999 double murder case and General Sarath Fonseka were prevented from attending Sabaragamuwa PC and parliament, respectively.

Tennakoon said that the ruling SLPP would have to pick Sunny Rohana or Ranjith Bandara who polled 53,261 each in place of Premalal Jayasekera. As both SLPPers had polled equal number of preferential votes, the Election Commission (EC) would have to decide the replacement on toss of a coin.

Tennakoon said that a decision would have to be made before Parliament meets again on Sept 8. So far, the 9th parliament met twice on Aug 20 and 21.

Authoritative sources told The Island that the three-member EC hadn’t discussed the issue formally though it came up. The EC consists of Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera PC. Sources said that the EC was scheduled to meet him on coming Friday and Saturday. “We have not met as a Commission on this although it came up informally. We meet next on the 4th evening and 5th”, an EC member said.

Asked whether this could cause a dispute between the government and the AG’s department, sources said that the law was clear in this regard. Perhaps the parliament could intervene only by enacting new laws and backdating them, sources said.

CAFFE Executive Director Ahamed Manas Makeen faulted the Ratnapura electorate for voting for Premalal Jayasekera in spite of knowing he was convicted for the Kahawatte killing. Makeen also questioned the SLPP accommodating the former Deputy Minister on its Ratnapura nominations list regardless of the pending verdict.



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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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Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period

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Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.

Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.

DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.

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