Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena might permit MP Rishad Bathiudeen to attend Parliament; the latter and several others are being held on a 90-day detention order in connection with the Easter Sunday terror attacks investigations, but that might have serious repercussions for the country’s security, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Sarath Weerasekera warns.
In an interview with The Island, the retired top Navy officer said that the previous week, he, in his capacity as Minister of Public Security, had requested the Speaker not to override the detention order made under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. “I have nothing personal in this matter. It’s my duty to warn of any impediment to the ongoing investigations. He is being held on detention orders under the PTA. If he makes any statements, it may have an impact on the investigations. Such statements can harm the investigation and may allow other persons under investigation to evade arrests. Therefore, I am requesting the Speaker not to allow anyone held under the PTA to be allowed into Parliament until the investigations are concluded. However, I came to know from the media that the Speaker has decided to allow Bathiudeen to attend Parliament. The Speaker is doing so, making use of provisions of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act. There is another argument that Bathiudeen is only a suspect until proven guilty, he has a right to attend Parliament. However, overruling a PTA detention order amounts to the legislature undermining the Executive. The arrest and detention order are executive actions.”
“Allowing Bathiudeen to attend Parliament at this juncture will seriously jeopardise the ongoing investigations. The law can permit it but that does not mean that there wouldn’t be unlawful repercussions resulting from such action.
“There are some elements in the Opposition bent on sabotaging the investigations so that they can get away with their crimes. I issued a warning to this effect in Parliament.”
Fight against crime
Minister Weerasekera said that the government had launched a campaign to rid the country of fear of criminals. “There is no place in a civilized society for murderers, rapists, extortionists, paedophiles and other such characters. Our duty is to protect the law-abiding citizens. We have defeated the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world. So, we consider ourself equal to the task of combating crime. It is now up to the under underworld figures to surrender to the police or face the consequences. In addition to other measures, we are also in the process of amending the laws to make child abuse and harassment against women grave crimes. We are preventing narcotics coming into this country. They are coming via sea mainly from Pakistan and Iran. We are an island nation so it is easy for anyone to get into a fishing craft and reach some big ships nearby and get the drugs unloaded to their vessels to bring them ashore. That disadvantage is there but even at this moment we are speaking, special operations are underway against drug smugglers. We are also planning to rehabilitate addicts instead of jailing. We have found that 40 percent of criminals are drug addicts. Addicts should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. They must not be kept with other prisoners.”
Memories of war
Rear Admiral Weerasekera recalled how he volunteered to lead a rescue mission to land Army commandos in LTTE controlled Pooneryin in broad daylight with minimum casualties and to rescue some 400 soldiers surrounded by the LTTE – a mission that earned him the Rana Sura medal.
“I also recall my removal from the Eastern Command and being brought to Colombo for defying the LTTE in Trincomalee after they bombed a Buddha statue,” he said.
Following the UNF government’s signing of the peace accord with the LTTE, the terrorists were given full freedom to enter any Army and Navy camp, but Admiral Weerasekera never allowed LTTE to enter Mandativu Island when he was the Northern Commander. He also never allowed LTTE cadres to come in, wearing the cyanide capsule. Soon, he was branded an “anti-peace element. “In 2003, I was the Commander Eastern Naval Area and the peace process was in progress in favour of the LTTE. The Sinhalese in Trinco wanted to replace a small Buddha statue in the town with a large one to mark the Vesak Day, but the LTTE protested and called a hartal. All shops and fuel stations were closed and public transport was stopped. They hurled grenades at the Buddha statue. I was in charge of the sea. The army and the police could not act because they had been ordered not to confront the LTTE. I waited for three days to see whether the ground forces would do something. On the third day I, on my own initiative, took charge of the situation and deployed Navy personnel in the town placed guards around the statue challenging the LTTE to come out. None came and owners opened their shops and buses started to operate and people plied their trades. The following day, at the demand of the LTTE, the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga removed me from the Eastern Naval Commander post, and brought me to Colombo.”
Rear Admiral said the public should remain vigilant as the ISIS threat was still there. “This is the biggest threat against national security at the moment. The fight with the LTTE was easy for it was not hard to identify the enemy. Here in this case, we are fighting with an ideology.
People to get fuel price shock soon
The Cabinet sub-committee on the cost of living had decided to increase fuel prices, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila told the media yesterday (11) in Colombo. He said that the date of the price hikes would be revealed soon.
The Minister said that if they announced the date, it would lead to long lines at filling stations and it would have disastrous consequences during the pandemic.
“We know that things are hard for everyone, that is why we didn’t increase fuel prices for 21 months. But the government can no longer bear the losses. The oil prices in the world market have been increasing. By the end of 2020, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had accumulated a loss of RS. 331 billion. Each year we spend three billion dollars to import oil,” he said.
Gammanpila said that the main sources of income for the country had been affected due to the pandemic and foreign investments and tourism had stopped and a large number of Lankans working abroad had returned, decreasing remittances.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office on May 20 said that a ministerial subcommittee discussed the sharp increase in crude oil prices compared to 2019 and 2020.
The PM chaired the meeting in the Committee Room 8 in Parliament. The Cabinet subcommittee discussed ways and means of addressing the problems caused by the crude price hike.
The PM’s Office said that ministers had discussed how to sustain public relief in the wake of further increase in expenditure. The subcommittee discussed the financial problems of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), among other things. The PM’s Office said that ministers had discussed how to sustain public relief in the wake of further increase in expenditure. The subcommittee discussed the financial problems of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), among other things. (RK)
HRC asks IGP to explain how he intended to stop deaths of suspects in police custody
Report called by June 13
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Human Rights Commission has sought an explanation from IGP C.D. Wickremaratne as regards continuing deaths in police custody.
In a letter dated June 8, 2021, HRC Chairman Dr. Jagath Balasuriya has raised the recent deaths in police custody with the focus on two incidents involving Panadura and Batticaloa police.
HRC Acting Director Research and Monitoring Nihal Chandrasiri told The Island that the June 8 dated letter was the latest missive addressed to the IGP regarding this particular issue since the formation of the new HRC following the last general election in August 2020.
Chandrasiri made available to The Island, a copy of Dr. Balasuriya’s letter addressed to IGP Wickremaratne.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in late Dec 2020 named former lawmaker Balasuriya as the Chairman of the HRC comprising· Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara, Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan and H.K. Navaratne Weraduwa.
Chandrasiri said that the HRC first took up deaths in police custody in the wake of the killing of Dinithi Melan alias Uru Juwa, who had been arrested by the Nawagamuwa police, and Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekara alias Kosgoda Tharaka in the second week of May 2021.
Civil society activist attorney-at-law Senaka Perera told The Island that continuing deaths in police custody should be examined against the backdrop of a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka delivered that the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in police custody violated the right to life, in spite of the absence of an explicit right to life clause in the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
According to Dr. Balasuriya’s letter, reportage of the deaths of Chandana Vidushan and Ali Khan in the custody of the Batticaloa police and Panadura (North) police, respectively, prompted the HRC to take up the matter with the IGP. Declaring that the HRC has initiated an inquiry in terms of Section 14 of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No.21 of 1996, Dr. Balasuriya said that inquiries revealed both victims suffered cruel and inhuman treatment in the hands of the police, leading to their deaths?.
Expressing serious concern over what he called the absence of safety and security of those in police custody, Dr. Balasuriya has pointed out to the IGP relevant sections of the Constitution, in addition to Supreme Court rulings in respect of such matters and two letters dated Oct 21, 2020 and March 17, 2021 that dealt with the issue at hand.
Asserting that continuing deaths in police custody resulted in deterioration of public confidence in law and order, such incidents underscored the threat to what he called public freedom. Having reminded the IGP that the HRC intervened in terms of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No.21 of 1996, Dr. Balasuriya has requested the IGP to submit a report to him of measures he intended to introduce to prevent deaths in police custody by or before June 13.
In the wake of several killings in police custody, Romesh de Silva, PC, recently moved the Court of Appeal on behalf of convicted heroin dealer Gampola Vidanalage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda held at maximum security Boossa prison. President’s Counsel successfully argued against the police taking Wele Suda into their custody.
President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris has appeared in the Court of Appeal on behalf of Janith Madushankar alias Podi Lassi. Having brought to the notice of justices, Sobitha Rajakaruna and Dhammika Ranepola, the most recent killings in police custody of ‘Uru Juwa’ and ‘Kosgoda Tharaka,’ Peiris sought the court’s intervention to ensure his client’s safety and security.
The lawyer has requested that the court direct the IGP to transfer his client from the custody of the CID to another unit.
Health trade union alliance claims their strike a success
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Senior health officials including doctors benefited from the current health crisis, Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA) President Saman Rathnapriya said yesterday commenting on the trade union action resorted to by a number of health sector unions, excluding the GMOA.
Rathnapriya maintained that the strike was a success and non-health sector unions too had supported them because what he called unfair increases in allowances received by doctors affected the entire state sector. The allowance given to doctors had been increased by 78%, from Rs. 41,220 to Rs. 78,120, however other categories had not received any increase in their allowances, he said.
“Our union action was a success, but we are not happy we had to do this. Nurses and other staffers have not received any increase in their allowances although they too are contributing greatly in the fight against COVID-19. The Health Ministry is unnecessarily creating issues by giving a colossal allowance increase to the doctors,” Rathnapriya said.
College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President Ravi Kumudesh said that the doctors held top positions in the Health Ministry and for many years they had been ignoring the salaries and allowances of other employees.
“They not only mistreat us but create new issues, testing our patience. Throughout this pandemic you can see this. They get all the perks and have even their family members vaccinated. They are taking advantage of the fact that we are exercising patience in view of the pandemic,” Kumudesh said.
Kumudesh added that the union action had not affected the anti-COVID-19 programme, cancer, maternity and paediatric hospitals, etc.
“We are not doing this to inconvenience the people. We are trying to ensure that the Health Ministry does not create additional problems,” he said
President of All Ceylon Management Service Officer’s Union, Udeni Dissanayake said that they too supported the trade union action because the actions of the GMOA would have an adverse impact on the entire state sector.
Doctors had received certain perks in recent years, and they had contributed to salary anomalies and inequality of remuneration across the board, he said.
“Doctors were treated with great respect in our culture, and this is being eroded by the actions of the GMOA. They have been receiving allowances increased and after a while those of similar standing in other sectors, too, ensure that they get hikes, but those in the lower grades do not see any increase. Although we are not a health sector union, we fully support this action for two reasons. One is that the cause is just and the other is that the impact of the allowance hike given solely to the doctors will soon be felt by us,” Dissanayake said.
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