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Pujith: Sirisena interfered with police transfers

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena had interfered with transferring of senior police officers from 2018 although an independent Police Commission was established, through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara yesterday informed Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Jayasundara said that towards the latter part of the previous government, there had been confusion in many spheres, and that had prevented them from taking key decisions on national security.

The ex-IGP said that he had been asked not to attend the National Security Council (NSC) meetings in October 2018 and that led to serious issues.

“I was aware that an NSC meeting was to be held on October 23, 2018. Usually, I was informed of such events or on the same morning. I didn’t get a call and I called former Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne to ask whether there was an NSC meeting scheduled for that day. He said President Sirisena had asked him not to invite me. That was very upsetting,”

Jayasundara said he had been invited to the NSC meeting on November 03, 2018 and on that day Sirisena had asked him to transfer former CID Inspector Nishantha Silva because he was handling a case against then Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Ravindra Wijegunaratne and some Army officers.

President Sirisena had asked him to transfer Silva from the CID, but realising that it would lead to an uproar, he had attempted to dissuade Sirisena. He said he had informed Sirisena that former IP Nishantha Silva had faced no prior disciplinary action.

“The President agreed but he didn’t change his mind. Then, he left the country and a few days later former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando called me and said that President Sirisena wanted me remove former IP Nishantha Silva immediately. I then transferred Silva to the Negombo Police station. I also submitted a report to the Police Commission informing that the decision had been at an NSC meeting.”

Jayasundara said Sirisena had asked him after returning from overseas who had ordered the transfer of IP Silva to the Negombo police station. He said he had told the President: “Sir, it was you who instructed me. He got very annoyed and said he had never such an order and disconnected the line.”

The Commissioners asked Jayasundara whether his absence from the NSC had had any impact on national security. Jayasundara said he had not been informed of what transpired at the NSC and that the fact that another senior officer of the Police was invited to the NSC had upset him.

Jayasundara said that the conflict between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had become a serious concern and that when both of them gave contradictory orders, he had chosen to follow presidential directives.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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