Probe into SJB MP’s alleged British citizenship held up: CJ’s intervention sought
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Civil society activist Oshala Herath has sought Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya’s intervention to expedite investigations into a complaint he lodged with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Nov 1, 2020, as regards Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Diana Gamage being a British passport holder.
The SJB accommodated the former actress on its National List following the last parliamentary election in August 2020. MP Gamage has since switched her allegiance to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).
Diana Gamage served as the Chairperson of the Ranminitenne tele cinema village during the yahapalana administration.
In terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2015 foreign passport holders were not eligible to enter Parliament.
Herath said that he had written to the Chief Justice on 09 Dec. after having failed to convince those responsible, including the Parliament, to inquire into his complaint. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena should inquire into the accusation whether a British national functioned as a Member of Parliament here. Having served the then President Maithripala Sirisena’s media outfit, Herath contested Colombo at the last general election in August 2020 on the UNP ticket.
MP Gamage has repeatedly denied Herath’s accusations. The complainant said that the CID recorded his statement on Dec 26, 2020 only after he got in touch with Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera. In his letter to CJ Jayasuriya, Herath quoted CID officers as having told him that his complaint as regards the MP being a British national is accurate. Herath quoted the CID further as having informed him on January 19, 2021 that following the conclusion of the inquiry the relevant report has been submitted to the Director, CID.
Responding to another query, Herath said that his Attorney-at-Law sought clarification as regards the status of the investigation from the then Director, CID Nishantha de Zoysa and was informed on March 04, 2021 that a ‘B’ report has been filed in respect of my complaint bearing 48037,1/21 at the Chief Magistrate’s court, Colombo.
According to Herath, through his Attorney-at-Law, he was able to obtain a certified copy of the said ‘B’ report on 27 April, 2021 though the case seemed to be sort of discarded.
Herath questioned the failure on the part of the CID to at least record MP Gamage’s statement over a year after he lodged a complaint with the CID. Herath said that the SLPP government’s much touted concept ‘One Country, One Law’ seemed irrelevant as the police were obviously not given a free hand to investigate.
Herath said that he provided copies of relevant documents, including his complaint to the Director, CID dated Nov 01. 2020 and the ‘B’ report to the CJ. In his letter to the CJ, Herath said that he lacked the wherewithal to proceed with the case and expected his intervention to ensure expeditious conclusion of the legal proceedings.
Herath pointed out that investigators appeared to have dropped the high profile case after having recorded statements from Deputy Controller, Immigration and Emigration Dinushan Ramawickrema, Controller (Visa) Immigration and Emigration Jinani Atukorala, Deputy Commissioner, Registrar of Persons Department Chalani Weerakoon, Former Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, former Additional Secretary Ramani Padmaseeli Gunawardena , Additional District Registrar, Thimbirigasyaya Jivani Karunaratne, Divisional Secretariat, Dehiwala Mangalika Fernando and Grama Sevaka, Arangala.
Herath said that the CID in March this year informed the Colombo Magistrate’s court that information in that regard had been sought from the British High Commission in Colombo to proceed with the case. Herath said that the CID in its ‘B’ report clearly stated that on the basis of statements recorded from relevant officials, the suspect had violated two specific sections of 45 (1) of 1948 No 20 Immigrants and Emigrants Act and Amendments.
Herath asked whether MP Gamage received government protection as she switched sides and was engaged in a running battle with the SJB. Gamage has challenged in the Supreme Court an SJB move to expel her from the party over her voting with the SLPP parliamentary group on several contentious matters, particularly the Colombo Port City Economic Bill in Oct 2020.
Overtime gravy train for public sector back
Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy
By Shamindra Ferdinando
UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.
The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.
Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.
Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.
Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.
Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.
One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.
Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee
Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.
Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.
Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.
Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.
The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)
Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.
The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.
They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.
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