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PSC finally responds to AG’s recommendation to take action

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The Public Service Commission (PSC) has responded to the Attorney General’s recommendation that disciplinary action be taken against Deputy Solicitor General Azard Navavi and State Counsel Malik Azeez, who were entrusted with the file on National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim, for lapses in handling the case, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.

This was revealed when Attorney General (AG) Dappula de Livera’s Coordinating Officer, State Counsel, Nishara Jayaratne appeared before the PCoI.

The commission prevented the counsel disclosing the PSC decision.

A request by Shavindra Fernando, PC, who appeared for Navavi, to declare Jayaratne guilty of contempt of PCoI was rejected by a majority of the Commissioners.

AG Dappula de Livera’s Coordinating Officer, State Counsel, Nishara Jayaratne was ordered to appear before the PCoI considering a request made by Shavindra Fernando, PC, on 15 December 2020.

On that day, it was revealed that the Attorney General had recommended disciplinary action against Deputy Solicitor General Azard Navavi and State Counsel Malik Azeez, who were given the file on National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim as far back as 2017. A preliminary inquiry on the duo by a three member committee had also been concluded and the investigators recommendations together with charge sheets had been sent to the Public Service Commission (PSC), Additional Solicitor General, Sumathi Dharmawardena told the PCoI, yesterday.

On 05 December Deputy Solicitor General Navavi said that the Attorney General’s Department had paid attention to the file on NTJ leader Zahran Hashim, sent by Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) seeking their advice, only three weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks. Chairman of the PCoI asked Navavi what the AG’s Department did about the file on Zahran, sent by the TID for legal advice. Navavi said that he received the file on 07 June 2017 and that he designated State Counsel Malik Azeez, who was under him, to handle the file. Both men insisted that the TID had not furnished the information it had in its possession about NTJ and Zahran until 2019.

Additional Solicitor General, Sumathi Dharmawardena was called before the PCoI to shed more light on the matter. Dharmawardena is also in charge of administration at the AG’s Department. Dharmawardena said that in 2019, he testified before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the Easter Sunday attacks on the file TID had sent.

Dharmawardena added that he had drawn Attorney General Dappula de Livera’s attention to the final report of the PSC on or around 24 February 2020. The following day, Livera had recommended that an inquiry be conducted on Navavi and Azeez. Initially, the investigation was to be conducted by Deputy Solicitor General, Susantha Balapatabendi.

However on 13 March 2020, a three-member committee consisting of Senior Additional Solicitor General, Sarath Jayamanne, Balapatabendi and Senior Deputy Solicitor General, Mayadunne Corea was appointed. Jayamanne resigned from the committee on 29 May 2020 and on 01 June 2020, Additional Solicitor General, Priyantha Nawana was made the head of the Committee, Dharmawardena said.

The committee completed the investigation in July 2020 and the report had been sent to him, Dharmawardena said. The document contained draft charge sheets. It was given to Acting Solicitor General Sanjay Rajaratnam for further recommendations. On 27 July 2020, Rajaratnam had recommended disciplinary action, Dharmawardena said.

Shavindra Fernando, PC, who appeared for Navavi then brought Dharmawardena’s attention to a letter the AG sent to acting IGP on 18 June 2020. In the letter Livera has said law officers of the AG’s Department had done nothing wrong.

Fernando: “On 10 June 2019, the coordinating officer to the AG repeated the claim in a press release. It is obvious that AG didn’t think Navavi and Azeez had done anything wrong.” Fernando then asked the PCoI to summon State Counsel, Nishara Jayaratne as she was responsible for issuing press releases.

Jayaratne arrived at PCoI last Friday and soon got into a heated argument with Fernando, who accused her of contempt of PCoI. Jayaratne, who had appeared without a lawyer, sought legal advice and PCoI granted her time till yesterday.

Jayaratne yesterday appeared with another counsel from the AG’s Department and Fernando objected to it. However, Senior Deputy Solicitor General Vikum de Abrew said the counsel could appear on behalf of Jayaratne.

De Abrew also said that PSC had responded, on 15 December 2020, to the report the AG’s Department sent on Navavi and Azeez.

Chairman of the PCoI: “If you want to say something about what the PSC said about your recommendation, please let us know through the Department.”

Then the cross examination of Jayaratne began.

Shavindra Fernando PC: “The letter the AG sent to the acting IGP on 18 June 2020 states that the law officers of the AG’s Department had done nothing wrong. Isn’t this his opinion on the matter?”

Senior Deputy Solicitor General Vikum de Abrew said: “My learned friend has asked this question 18 times before. The witness has already responded.”

Fernando: “I am repeating myself because I didn’t get a straight answer. The letter to the acting IGP reflected the AG’s opinion. Isn’t that so?”

Jayaratne: “This letter doesn’t contain the AG’s opinion. It contains instructions to the then acting IGP. Twice the AG said, “I advise.” There are two sides to a coin. The AG advises the acting IGP to conduct further investigations because the file is incomplete. On the other hand, we don’t need to inform the acting IGP if our law officers have made lapses.”

Fernando then told PCoI that Jayaratne was not giving straight forward answers just like she had done the previous day. He again urged the PCoI to consider Jayaratne guilty of contempt of PCoI.

Jayaratne said that it was unfair to make the allegation and that it was an attempt to tarnish her image. She said: “I never insulted the commission. I answered all the questions. They are trying to tarnish my reputation and the post I hold.”

The Chairman of the PCoI said that she was guilty of contempt, but the other commissioners were of the view that she was not.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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