By Saman Indrajith
Education Minister Prof GL Peiris yesterday called on the Attorney General to initiate the process of prosecuting those responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage on the basis of the investigations that had already been concluded.
Participating in the adjournment debate on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Easter Sunday terror attacks, the Minister said that 36 investigations had been completed and their files sent to the AG for legal action.
The Minister said: The Presidential Commission of Inquiry is not a court of law that decides who the offenders or wrongdoers are and impose punishments. A commission has no police powers to conduct investigations. However, the PCoI remaining within its mandate and terms of reference has done an outstanding job. The government is duty bound to implement the recommendations of the PCoI and there is no doubt about it. That is certain. There are some wrong wrong opinions being expressed about the Cabinet subcommittee chaired by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa. There was no independent probe by that subcommittee. It was entrusted with a separate task. The final report of the PCoI into the Easter Sunday attack contains many recommendations in hundreds of pages. That report is very complex. The government needed to decide which recommendations should be implemented on a priority basis.
“The Subcommittee was expected to instruct the government on the implementation of the PCoI report’s recommendations. There are some recommendations that could be implemented at once.
“If the Mawanella incident, where several Buddha statues were damaged, in my opinion had been properly investigated, the Easter Sunday catastrophe could have been averted. in the aftermath of that incident several persons were taken into custody. Unfortunately, they were released. We can apprehend the policemen who released them and take action against them. In addition, we can find who ordered the release of the suspects and take action against them.
“Regarding the Easter Sunday carnage affair, we must first ascertain the different tasks to be completed by the government, the Attorney General and courts. When these three are mixed there is confusion in the public mind. The government acts through the Police – the CID and the TID. In that regard a heavy load of work has been completed. Around 99 have been arrested for their involvements in the incidents and events that have links to the Easter Sunday carnage. Thirty-six investigations have been completed.
“I studied this report and observed that there are clear indications and details about the incidents and persons. Those are not general statements but very specific ones.
“Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith went before the court asking for an investigation into a suspected hoard of 6,000 swords and knives and to obtain a court order to ascertain the truth. The police could do the same even without a court order. The IGP has issued orders to detail two teams of policemen for the purpose. These weapons pose a threat. Therefore, they must be found, and the threat removed. They have been imported. Then who was involved in getting them released from the Customs. It is not an easy task to get a stock of 6,000 swords and knives through the Customs. There should have been a political involvement and the police are conducting investigations.
“The next issue is the suspected foreign involvement. Not even the LTTE had been able to carry out eight bomb attacks from Colombo to Batticaloa within two three hours. Who funded that process? Who facilitated them? Who aided and abetted them? To find answers for those questions the government is not only investigating the local persons but also people abroad to find their links. We have discussed the matter with foreign governments. Up to this point, we have made 54 arrests in five countries and got around 50 of them extradited to Sri Lanka. There is a process of getting the remaining persons extradited. There is a reference in the report to an incident in Qatar in October 2020, following which several persons were arrested. Some of them are not Sri Lankan citizens. Some of them who had links with them have gone to Australia, but they too have been traced and investigated. So, the government has performed well in the investigations to find those responsible for the crime as well as to ensure that there would be no recurrence of such incident.
“Then there are questions about the money trail of this affair. There is a question whether there had been pumping of funds from abroad for this attack and its preparations. There are important recommendations and a mentioning that a Turkish organization by the name of FETO sent funds to Sri Lanka. FETO is an armed insurgency organization against the Turkish government. The PCoI report mentions that organization too has channeled funds to those involved in the Easter Sunday attacks. This shows that the government has done its work, and nothing has been left behind.
“Thirty-six files of completed investigations have been sent to the Attorney General for further actions. Thereafter it is up to the Attorney General to proceed with prosecutions. The government and police have completed their investigations. The Attorney General should make an independent decision as to whether the available evidence is enough to institute legal actions. We as the government would ensure that the process would be cleared of politics so that no innocent person would be targeted, or no responsible person would be exculpated because of his rank or powers. The process is impartial. We do not instruct the Attorney General. We have no powers or need for that. It is not possible to file all those 36 cases at once. There are religious leaders demanding justice. We call on the Attorney General to act fast regarding the matters for which the cases could be filed in courts.
“The report also contains recommendations regarding the Madrasa schools. In this regard the Ministry of Education has a special responsibility. I think that there are around 365 registered Madrasas in the country. In addition, there are separate institutes under various names. There is a need to regulate them. Those who are under the age of 16 cannot go to such unregulated and unregistered institutes. That is illegal. We must find what is being taught there, who is giving funds to them and who is maintaining them.
“The government hopes to bring new laws regarding money laundering, extradition, terrorist funding etc., because the extant laws are not enough to address the complex challenges in the present times.”
Lokuge accused of overriding Covid-19 counter measures
Piliyandala removed from isolation list: DGHS helpless
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Asela Gunawardena, who is the state authority for the national campaign against the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, has acknowledged that his directive that Piliyandala police area be isolated on May Day was overridden.
Appearing on Hiru TV ‘Salakuna’ programme on Monday (3) night, Dr. Gunawardena admitted that the very basis of the mechanism in place to isolate areas threatened by the Covid-19 epidemic had been violated.
Dr. Gunawardena said so in response to ‘Salakuna’ anchor Chamuditha Samarawickrema repeatedly pressing the DGHS over the removal of the isolation directive issued effective at 6 am on May Day following Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge’s intervention. Samarawickrema sought an explanation as regards the removal of the directive at 5 pm and the subsequent isolation of five Grama Niladhari areas in the Piliyandala police area.
Samarawickrema pointed out to DGHS that politicians had been allowed to behave in a manner inimical to the entire national effort to counter the pandemic whereas the public and in some instances even the media were repeatedly criticized for not cooperating with government efforts.
Dr. Gunawardena recently issued a dire warning over the absence of sufficient hospital facilities in case the situation further deteriorated rapidly. The number of deaths reported till Monday stood at 709 with the country recording well over 1,000 new cases every day for about a week.
Responding to Samarawickrema, Dr. Gunawardena explained the mechanism in place to control the pandemic. According to the DGHS, the Medical Officer Health (MoH) responsible for a particular area brought the situation to the notice of the Provincial Authority who in turn alerted him. Once the DGHS decided to act on recommendation made by MoH and Provincial Authority, the Commander of the Army who is also the head of the Covid-19 Task Force General Shavendra Silva was informed, the DGHS explained.
Samarawickrema asked the DGHS how isolation of Piliyandala had been removed if such measures were taken in terms of scientific foundation as he mentioned.
In the wake of Samarawickrema challenging the DGHS to act on Minister Lokuge’s intervention, the latter promised to look into the matter.
Samarawickrema told The Island that he raised the issue at hand particularly against the backdrop of the government banning May Day rallies as part of the overall measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Samarawickrema said that Minister Lokuge had told the media, including Hiru that some persons on his staff, too, were tested positive. In spite of that the Minister accompanied by a group of people were on the move in the Piliyandala area, Samarawickrema said.
Responding to another query, Dr Gunawardena said that he announced the isolation of Piliyandala on Hiru at 6.25 am on May Day. Then several hours later, another statement was received regarding the removal of the isolation directive, Samarawickrema said.
The Island didn’t receive a response to sms sent to Minister Lokuge and Dr. Gunawardena seeking clarification regarding the issue at hand.
Minister Lokuge was shown on Hiru main news bulletin Monday night assuring the Piliyandala electorate as the people’s representative he had a right to look into their grievances.
Two companies play deaf and dumb on directives issued against use of polythene/plastic
By Ifham Nizam
A new shampoo claiming to be nourishing, soft and smooth with egg protein is planning to hit the market in sachets format despite a ban on such packaging for shampoos.
Authorities are puzzled by the introduction of this shampoo in sachets when the Ministry of Environment has given strict guidelines to put an end to polythene sachet format packaging.
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday instructed officials to take up the matter with the multinational concerned and also to look into the possibilities of canceling their environmental licenses.
Environment Minister said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) would take immediate legal action against two companies for violating the gazette notification banning plastics and polythene.
The Environment Ministry has taken steps to ban several related products from March 31 with the aim of reducing the use of polythene and plastics here.
The CEA has taken steps to ban sachets made of polythene and plastics weighing less than 20 grams which do not belong to the category of food and pharmaceuticals.
Accordingly, the Minister of Environment has issued a gazette notification banning five types of polythene and plastic products.
Some companies have complied with the orders and stopped manufacturing their products in sachets. The disposal of some sachets discarded after use has caused a number of serious environmental problems.
The ban was implemented after an environmental study.
Despite the ban, two companies have been found to be violating the gazette notification. Although the gazette notification prohibits the production of sachets of less than 20 grams, one company continues to manufacture 24 grams of sachets using polythene and plastic.
It has also been reported that another company is still carrying out the relevant manufacturing activities in spite of the ban.
Minister Amaraweera has instructed the CEA yesterday to take all necessary steps against the two companies after discussions with all legal divisions, Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe said.
Debate on Port City Bill will be held when SC conveys its decision – Govt.
By Saman Indrajith
Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday that the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill would be taken up for debate when the Supreme Court conveyed its decision thereon to the House.
“The Supreme Court decision has not yet been conveyed to the Speaker. Therefore, the party leaders’ meeting decided to put off the debate and to debate the prevailing situation and the pandemic instead on Wednesday. It was also decided to debate the Port City Bill on the first available day after the Supreme Court informs the Speaker of its ruling. The Supreme Court is bound to give its decision within 21 days,” Minister Fernando said.
Fernando said that there was no point in taking the matter up for debate without knowing the Supreme Court ruling.
Whenever a Bill was challenged in the Supreme Court its parliamentary process was delayed until the ruling of the court was conveyed to the House. “This is the tradition. The Opposition Leader and his MPs should know that. The Bill will be passed only after the debate. Today, you are asking us to conduct the debate without the Supreme Court ruling. It is sub judice until the court’s decision is conveyed to the House. In addition, what do you intend to say in the debate without knowing the Court’s ruling?”
Minister Fernando said: “There are many MPs and ministers in the government rank to speak on the Bill and to permit time to them we have decided to postpone questions time. We have also decided to hold the session from morning to 8.00 pm. Therefore, do not make wild allegations that we are running away from the debate. It is we who brought the Bill and we are ready to debate it. We are also awaiting to expose the lies of the Opposition in the debate. You have been lying about the Port City since 2015. You have been accusing us of a building a Chinese colony. The JVP said that not even the stones of the Sigiriya rock mountain would be sufficient for the Port City. That was in the same manner they raised allegations that the Southern Expressway was being built for the Rajapaksa family to bring curd to Colombo. Now, all those lies have been exposed. In the same way, we need this debate to prove you are wrong. We will hold the debate and will pass this Bill.”
The party leaders’ meeting chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (04) decided not to hold the debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill today (05).
Instead, the adjournment debate on the country’s situation in the face of the Covid 19 would be held from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm without a lunch break, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake said.
Dasanayake said that the decision against holding the debate had been taken as Parliament had not yet received the determination of the Supreme Court with regard to the petitions filed over the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill.
After receiving the determination of the Supreme Court, party leaders would have to take a decision on when the debate should be held, the Secretary General said.
The Committee on Parliamentary Business decided on April 30 to hold this week’s Parliamentary sittings on May 04 and 05 only, due to the prevailing situation.
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