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Prez ignores Sajith’s last-minute move, appoints Ranil PM

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By Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday (12) went ahead with his original plan to swear in UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as new Premier despite SJB leader Sajith Premadasa’s last-minute offer to accept the post.

Soon after the President’s Office confirmed the decision to swear in Wickremesinghe, Premadasa, who is also the Opposition Leader, dispatched a letter to President Rajapaksa.

Addressing the media soon afterwards, Premadasa said that following the President’s address to the nation on Wednesday, he had felt the need to drop his earlier demand for President Rajapaksa’s resignation for him to accept the premiership.

Wickremesinghe, who is the only UNP MP in the Parliament, has held the premiership on five previous occasions.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara told the media that members of his party wouldn’t switch allegiance to the new administration.

Wickremesinghe was sworn in before President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

It was the sixth time Wickremesinghe was appointed the PM.

Wickremesinghe is to establish a new government and select a new Cabinet of Ministers from several political parties today and address the nation thereafter to reveal his plans to resolve the prevailing crises.

Political sources said that the President and the UNP leader would work together to secure the backing of political parties to stabilise the economy, and they were confident a consensus could be reached before the Parliament meets again on 17 May.

Having received blessings at the Walukaramaya, Colombo, Premier Wickremesinhe assured the media that he would work hard towards resolving the crises urgently.

Wickremesinghe said that his intention was to help those struggling to make ends meet to have three meals a day.

Wickremesinghe’s appointment was slammed by Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and several members of Maha Sangha including Ven Omalpe Sobitha thera.

“This is not the change the country was looking for,” Cardinal said, adding that Wickremesinghe’s appointment to the post of Prime Minister could not be accepted.

“Wickremesinghe is only one representative of Parliament and he does not command the majority in Parliament. This appointment is not legal and this is not the solution that the people in this country want at the moment,” he said.

The Cardinal said the people want a person with reputed integrity and not a person who has been defeated in politics, and who has been thrown out of power by the people.

He also said the people want a person who can win the confidence of all the people.

“The Mahanayake Theros suggest a non-partisan person. What has happened to that suggestion is everybody’s guess. We would like to reiterate that is it necessary for us to move forward from the present crisis with confidence into the future, we need a complete change of this system. And that can happen not through the leaders of the present parliament parties,” he said.

The Cardinal said that it can only happen with someone who is not a partisan person, who can win the confidence of all the citizens of this country.

‘The Mahanayake Theros made that request to the President and we expect the President to honor that request, and to respect the voice of the clergy,’ he said.

Chief Sanghanayake (Dakshina Lankawa) of the Ramanna Nikaya, Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera said that the appointment of Wickremesinghe to the vacant post of Prime Minister is ‘against due process, unconstitutional, and unethical.’

Thera said that Wickremesinghe is not suitable to be appointed to the post of Prime Minister.

“The people are asking for one thing, but are being offered something completely different,” said Sobhitha Thera, adding the Mahanayake Theras have made a clear directive with respect to the appointment of a new administration.

He said the appointment of Wickremesinghe would be seen as a direct disregard of the directive.

“The entire country is aware that Ranil Wickremesinghe is not a leader who has won the hearts of the people,” Ven Thera said.

He is a National List MP and is not a leader who can realize the aspirations of the people, said Sobhitha Thera, adding that Wickremesinghe is being appointed for some other personal reason, and not because the people want him as the PM.

“This is a decision being made for the sole protection of the Rajapaksas.”

He said that one person is being given power by breaking away MPs from other parties, sometimes forcibly or by offering them money.



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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence

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Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks

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Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty

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Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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