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Midweek Review

Push against PTA gathers momentum

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Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith signs a petition demanding the abolition of the PTA. TNA lawmaker Rasamanikkam looks on.

In terms of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) arranged by Norway in Feb 2002, Sri Lanka suspended the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe went ahead with the controversial move, though some sections of the armed forces, and the police, opposed the move. Let me reproduce the relevant section from the CFA: 2:12: The parties agree that search operations and arrests under the Prevention of Terrorism Act shall not take place. Arrests shall be conducted under the due process of law in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law.” The CFA failed to take concerns of the armed forces into consideration. Those who bent backwards to appease the LTTE neglected national security. The Yahapalana government sought to replace the PTA with a new antiterrorism act. Now, the HRCSL has gone further. It wants to do
away with the PTA. Well over a decade after the elimination of the LTTE, the threat of terrorism remains, though the enemy will never regain a conventional fighting capability. But those wielding
political power have to be cautious. Let us not grant something
the enemy couldn’t win militarily.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Political weekly ‘Annidda’, on its front-page (Feb 20, 2022 edition), carried a photograph of Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith signing a petition demanding the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Standing next to the Archbishop was Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) Batticaloa district lawmaker Shanakiyan Rasamanikkam.

According to ‘Annida,’ the high profile signature campaign against the PTA has been spearheaded by the ‘Justice for All’ organisation.

The Archbishop signed the petition before the launch of ‘Thitha’ at the BMICH by Rev. Father Lal Pushpadeva Fernando on behalf of the Catholic Church. The editorial board comprised Maximus Linton Fernando, Dr. Sachitha Mendis and Ajith Mendis. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka assailed the current dispensation with the focus on Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam and the Attorney General’s Department over the handling of the 2019 Easter Sunday case.

Although absolutely no reference was made at the book launch pertaining to the acquittal and release of the then Secretary Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundera charged over the Easter Sunday carnage, to be fair by Rajaratnam, the public shouldn’t forget that the indictments were filed by former AG Dappula de Livera, PC. So will Hemasiri and Pujith go scot-free because of the bungling by the Attorney General’s Department?

The Church owed an explanation as regards its backing for the ‘Justice for All’ project meant to pressure the government to repeal the PTA. The project got underway opposite the Fort Railway station early last week with the participation of several political parties, including the TNA and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. Among those who signed the petition were TNA Jaffna district lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, PC and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem.

Can Sri Lanka do away with anti-terrorism laws? The Easter Sunday carnage, perpetrated by the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) in April 2019, a decade after the eradication of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), underscored the importance of anti-terrorism laws. Sri Lanka cannot, under any circumstances, ignore the constant threats posed by various extremist /terrorist organisations. The devastating NTJ terror project underscored the responsibility on the part of the government to ensure an adequate legal cover for anti-terrorist operations. Unfortunately, political parties here seemed to have treated national security just as a another political issue. Western powers have exploited the political party system and the civil society setup here to advance their cause. The PTA has become an ideal issue for the Western powers to hammer this country, even though countries like the USA and the UK have some of the most draconian laws to fight terrorism. The Homeland Security Act introduced in the USA in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that claimed several thousand innocent lives, for example gave law enforcement there a virtual carte blanche to tackle the problem of terrorism. How is it that the US can still hold people without trial for years at a place like Guantanamo Bay detention centre and the UNHRC simply turns a blind eye to so many such grave violations committed by the Americans there and elsewhere? Then how is it that when the UK passed laws to give immunity to its soldiers who had committed war crimes in West Asia again UNHRC simply swept them under the carpet. Then what has the UNHRC done about the highly publicised war crimes committed by Australian troops also in West Asia? The UK heads Sri Lanka Core Group in Geneva.

The ongoing petition campaign undertaken by the ‘Justice for All’ project underscores the failure on the part of the government to recognize the growing threat posed by the Geneva project. No wonder people keep asking whether our Foreign Service officers, in general, are working for us or Western interests. Do any of them at least write a letter even to a local newspaper defending the country when it is unfairly hounded by the Western funded NGO mafia here, leave alone them taking any measures to counter UNHRC doing a hatchet job against the country on behalf of the West.

The stepped up campaign to get rid of the PTA should be examined against the backdrop of the Easter Sunday carnage and various political developments taking place. The Cardinal’s backing for the ‘Justice for All’ project should be examined, carefully. Why did the Cardinal endorse the petition knowing well the PTA is needed to neutralize threats posed by extremists/terrorists? In the wake of the Easter Sunday carnage, the then government used the PTA against the NTJ and other groups. It might be a case of him getting increasingly carried away by the public spotlight. But, the deterioration of once cordial relations between the government and the Catholic Church over the former’s failure to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that inquired into the Easter Sunday carnage may have influenced the Cardinal. The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for the rift caused by an inordinate delay in implementing PCoI recommendations. Interested parties have exploited the situation.

Shocking TNA declaration

The TNA is the only political party to justify the Easter Sunday carnage. TNA spokesperson Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran did so at the first anniversary of ‘Annidda’ at the Jasmine Hall, a week after the Easter Sunday massacre.

The writer was among the media therein. The event took place amidst security concerns of fresh NTJ attacks. However, except The Island, all other print and electronic media conveniently refrained from reporting lawmaker Sumanthiran’s threat. It was nothing but a threat.

In that background, the Church backing for the repealing of the PTA is certainly questionable. Having recognized the LTTE in late 2001 as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people thereby encouraging the LTTE to declare war, the TNA is waging a different kind of war today.

Addressing the ‘Annidda’ anniversary, Sumanthiran alleged that the Easter Sunday carnage was caused by Sri Lanka’s failure to ensure certain basic values. The MP warned of dire consequences unless the government addressed the grievances of the minorities. At the onset of the programme, Annidda editor Attorney-at-Law K.W. Janaranjana requested speakers Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda, the then Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Deepika Udagama, MP M.A. Sumanthiran PC, J.C. Weliamuna PC, and then Constitutional Council member Attorney-at-Law Javid Yusuf and filmmaker Asoka Handagama to take the Easter Sunday carnage into consideration. They dealt with the topic ‘Sri Lanka beyond 2020.’

Top law academic Dr. Udagama functioned as the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) at that time. Among those who had been present on that occasion were the late Professor Carlo Fonseka, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, then Minister Mano Ganesan, then MP. Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, then MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, one-time MP Lal Kantha and a large group of civil society activists, including Ven. Dambara Amila Thera, Gamini Viyangoda, Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Saman Ratnapriya, Chandragupta Thenuwara and Sandya Ekneligoda.

The Archbishop of Colombo, however, strongly rejected MP Sumanthiran’s claim that the failure on the part of successive governments to address the grievances of minorities over the past several decades had led to the Easter Sunday carnage. The Archbishop was responding to the writer at a media briefing jointly called by the Catholic Church and the Buddhist clergy at the Bishop’s House, Borella. The Buddhist clergy was represented by the Most Ven. Ittapane Dhammalankara Nayaka Thera, of the Kotte Sri Kalayani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha of Siyam Maha Nikaya.

When The Island sought Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s response to lawmaker Sumanthiran’s claim, the Catholic leader asserted that the situation had been wrongly interpreted. But, the Church has ended up backing a TNA-led project. The PCoI never bothered to secure an explanation from the TNA heavyweight Sumanthiran. Terrorism cannot be justified under any circumstances. There shouldn’t be any dispute over that. The ‘Justice for All’ project perhaps has no concern for those who had perished in the hands of terrorists.

HRCSL takes controversial stand

The HRCSL caused quite a controversy recently by calling for the repealing of the PTA. In a statement dated Feb 15, issued by its Chairperson Rohini Marasinghe, the HRCSL declared that terrorism should be dealt in terms of the Penal Code. The five-member outfit stressed the need for a new definition for terrorism.

The HRCSL asserted that terrorism should be investigated under the General Law of the country with necessary amendments. The announcement was made following consultations between the HRCSL and a section of the Colombo-based diplomatic community. The consultations seemed to be in line with the overall government policy in dealing with post-war accountability issues. Those who propagated the view that Sri Lanka didn’t require PTA should be asked to explain whether they can guarantee there wouldn’t be any further terrorist attacks. The NTJ struck a decade after the successful conclusion of the war against the LTTE. The NTJ succeeded in carrying out a near simultaneous coordinated suicide bombing campaign. The LTTE never managed to stage a similar mission though it targeted individuals (both political and military).

Acknowledging the importance of the HRCSL role in the post-war scenario, it would be necessary to point out that the outfit has taken a position contrary to that of the government. The HRCSL’s push for repealing of anti-terrorism law comes as the government seeks consensus with other political parties and the civil society as regards the amendments to it suggested by the government.

Extremely tough security laws are required to meet severe challenges. Countries threatened by terrorism (domestic and backed by external powers) have no option but to adopt laws which sometimes hinder and undermine civil liberties. The PTA that had been introduced in 1979, a couple of years after the crushing of the first JVP-led insurrection was required to meet the northern terrorist challenge (1983-2009) as well as the second JVP insurgency (1987-1990). The PTA was required again when the NTJ mounted suicide missions in Colombo, Katana and Batticaloa. Now, an influential section of the political setup, Western-funded civil society outfits, the Tamil Diaspora wanted to do away with the PTA. The HRCSL backing for the far reaching project appeared to have caught the government by surprise. Perhaps, the government hasn’t consulted the HRCSL as regards the amendments it proposed to the PTA.

Interestingly, the civil society is also sharply divided over the ongoing consultations between the government and a section of the civil society as regards post-war national reconciliation. The group that had been engaged in a dialogue with the government recently received an opportunity to have one of its members in the HRCSL. Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera is the civil society group nominee. The Ven. Thera succeeded prominent civil society activist Harsha Kumara Navaratne, who received appointment as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Canada.

The project to repeal the PTA seems to be gathering momentum. There is no point in denying the fact that successive governments, including the current dispensation, had used it for political expediency. Anti-terrorism law should never have been used against political opposition or to suppress those pursuing a different line. Instead of diluting the law, the political leadership shouldn’t exploit the PTA for political purposes.

Member of the nine-member team, tasked with drafting a new constitution, Manohara de Silva, PC declared that the HRCSL had absolutely no right to interfere in national security matters. The civil activist’s stand should receive the appreciation of people enjoying a country free of terror, notwithstanding the Easter Sunday carnage.

The senior lawyer said so when the writer sought his opinion on the HRCSL’s call for the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The outspoken lawyer said: “That’s not their business. If there is any clause which is against any UN convention on human rights, including the UN declaration of HR, the HRCSL can point them out. Enacting legislation is a sovereign right of the people of Sri Lanka. Not only that we have a right to enact legislation against terrorism, it is our duty to do so to free the world of terrorism,” he said.

Referring to the HRCSL call to include provisions against terrorism in the Penal Code, the PC emphasized that the outfit had been obviously influenced by those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s triumph over LTTE terrorism.

Tamil Nadu terror project

The TNA and the GTF recently issued a comprehensive statement on its expectations and objectives. The statement titled ‘Chief Minister Stalin is heralding a new era of pride and optimism among global Tamils’ dated Feb. 18 sought the guidance and support from India and Tamil Nadu. Having published the entire joint statement in the Feb 21, 2022 edition of The Island, it would be necessary to highlight the circumstances leading to the assassination of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, on the night of May 21, 1991.

Having praised CM Stalin’s father, the late TN Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi for his initiatives for the benefit of Sri Lankan Tamils, the TNA-GTF grouping stated: “We are also conscious that the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) support for the Tamil cause continued despite many challenges it faced in the Indian Union, including the dismissal of the DMK government in 1991 relating to the Tamil people’s problems in Sri Lanka.”

The alliance now seeking fresh impetus from India, has conveniently forgotten how Tamil Nadu, with the backing of the Indian government, destabilized Sri Lanka. The assassination of Gandhi by the LTTE, a group that had been trained, financed, armed and deployed against a smaller friendly country, took place a few months after India dismissed Karunanidhi’s government. India dismissed the TN administration on January 30, 1991. The LTTE blew up Gandhi on May 21, 1991. Did the LTTE decision to eliminate their one-time benefactor had been influenced by Karunanidhi’s dismissal? Had there been any consultations between DMK elements and the LTTE at any level as regards the Sriperumbudur assassination that shocked the world? Only thereafter the UK banished the Tiger International Secretariat from London. So the British too cuddled the terrorist outfit claiming that it had not violated UK laws. And they continue to do so through more subtle means. Can anyone imagine how London would have treated us if we had given the IRA an opportunity to even open an office in Colombo claiming they have not violated our laws?

The alliance’s reference to 1983 anti-Tamil riots and the late Karunanidhi’s role in support of the Tamil community here should be examined keeping in mind that it was no one but the current CM’s father who paved the way for the massive destruction in Sri Lanka. If not for Indian trained terrorists killing 13 soldiers at Thinnaveli, Jaffna, in July 1983, there would never have been a Nanthikadal situation. The TNA-GTF alliance has also forgotten how Indian trained terrorists killed Tamil lawmakers. They can ask lawmaker Dharmalingam Siddharathan (PLOTE) why he alleged TELO (another Indian trained terrorist group) of killing his father, V. Dharmalingham, ex-MP and M. Alalasunderam, ex-MP.

Dharmalingam Siddharathan has alleged that TELO assassinated them in early September 1985 at the behest of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The TNA and the GTF should be reminded that Karunanidhi and decision-makers in New Delhi created an environment necessary for Indian military intervention. The project ended in disaster with India losing nearly 1,500 officers and soldiers as the LTTE turned its guns on the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) deployed here under the Indo-Lanka Accord forced on the JRJ government by New Delhi, while nearly twice that number received injuries.

Sri Lanka should at least now set the record straight. Successive governments failed to do so in spite of a section of the international community taking advantage of accountability issues to abolish Sri Lanka unitary status. The abolition of the PTA should be considered with the failed bid to introduce a new Constitution during the yahapalana administration. That bid had the backing of the then Joint Opposition, now the largest group in Parliament with a near 2/3 majority. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is its name.



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Midweek Review

Ranil takes premiership amidst BASL bid for all party-consensus

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A smiling Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe reacts to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after receiving the premiership. Gamini Senarath, Secretary to the President looks on. Mrs Maithri Wickremesinghe was present at the brief ceremony at the President’s House, Fort last Thursday evening (pic courtesy PMD)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe, in her current capacity as the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), directed the police to provide adequate protection for the President and the Prime Minister while protecting the freedom of speech and assembly through necessary and proportionate measures.

Justice Marasinghe, who received the appointment in Dec, last year, would never have believed she would be compelled to issue such a statement.

The HRCSL statement, issued on April 26, 2022, over a month after the eruption of violent protests at the private residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at Pengiriwatta, Mirihana, that lasted for several hours, didn’t name the President and the Prime Minister.

Mahinda Rajapaksa quit Temple Trees on May 10, less than 24 hours after he announced his resignation, in the wake of unprovoked violence directed at those demanding the resignation of both the President and the Prime Minister and the so-called peaceful protesters who lay siege to his official residence Temple Trees virtually making, him a prisoner therein.

The first protest, targeting President Rajapaksa, was held at Pangiriwatte, Mirihana, on March 31, 2022. What began as a peaceful protest in the vicinity, quickly turned violent after the crowds made attempts to advance towards the President’s private home. The deployment of the Army, in support of the beleaguered police, failed to bring the situation under control.

Protesters set ablaze several vehicles, including two buses that brought Police and Army reinforcements to the scene of the unprecedented confrontation. Therefore, it would be pertinent to discuss the circumstances, Justice Marasinghe called for sufficient protection for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, over two weeks after the launch of the protest campaign, in front of the Presidential Secretariat, on April 09, 2022.

Perhaps, the HRCSL should have also advised the Army, as well as the Special Task Force (STF), regarding adequate protection for the President and the Prime Minister. The Army and the STF play an integral role in the protection of key leaders. The HRCSL cannot be unaware of the involvement of the Army and the STF in the protection of the President and the Prime Minister.

Justice Marasinghe called for ‘necessary and proportionate measures’ to meet the threat on the two leaders as those who had been demanding their resignation stepped up the campaign.

The HRCSL consists of five Commissioners, namely Justice Rohini Marasinghe (Chairperson), Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara and Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan. The President constituted the HRCSL in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Dec. 2020. Justice Marasinghe and Ven. Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera were brought in Dec. 2021 in the wake of the resignation of HRCSL Chairman Jagath Balasuriya and NGO, guru Harsha Kumara Navaratne taking up the post of Sri Lanka High Commissioner to Canada.

Did HRCSL make an assessment before Justice Marasinghe issued instructions to the police? The HRCSL intervened in the wake of the erection of a new protest site, opposite Temple Trees, as the government struggled to cope up with an unprecedented political-economic-social crisis that brought the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to its knees.

The writer, over the last weekend, sought a clarification from Justice Marasinghe. The HRCSL Chief said that instructions were issued as access to the residences of the President and the Prime Minister had been blocked. The HRCSL was also informed of possible threats to their lives, Justice Marasinghe said, adding that the issue at hand should be examined on the basis of equal protection of the law.

In spite of HRCSL’s instructions, the police, and at least an influential section of the SLPP government, appeared to have been caught napping. Was it due to the fear of the wrath of the HRCSL or they being under the so-called international community spotlight? In fact, the law enforcement authorities had contributed to the rapid deterioration of the situation to such an extent that mobs took control of roads. Had the police top brass realized the gravity of the situation, in the first week of May, they would have definitely advised the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa not to summon several hundreds of his supporters to Temple Trees. The failure on the part of the police to advise the ousted Premier was nothing but a monumental blunder.

In fact, the police appeared to have been part of a political project meant to dismantle those who had been protesting against the government, while laying siege to both Temple Trees and the Presidential Secretariat. The operation was meant to regain control. Therefore, a primary objective was to silence those who had been asking Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to step down.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, too, has been of that view, in the wake of about one-third of the SLPP parliamentary group demanding Premier Rajapaksa’s resignation to pave the way for an all-party interim administration.

PM, family take refuge in SLN base

Just two weeks after HRCSL asked the police to ensure protection of the President and the Prime Minister through ‘necessary and proportionate measures’ the latter had to move out of Temple Trees, under heavy security escort. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to authorize the deployment of SLAF assets to evacuate the ex-Prime Minister and some members of the family. They took refuge at the strategic Eastern Naval Command premises, Trincomalee.

By then, Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the ousted PM’s second son and Chief of Staff and his wife, Nitheesha Jayasekera, had left the country. Interestingly, Yoshitha left for Singapore at 12.50 am on May 09 on Singapore Airlines flight SQ 469 several hours before SLPP activists started arriving at Temple Trees.

Yoshitha Rajapaksa couldn’t have been unaware of the meticulous plans underway to bring in hundreds of supporters from all parts of the country to Temple Trees where the Prime Minister was to address them. Those who believed Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa was to announce his resignation were proved wrong. Instead, lawmaker Johnston Fernando and the then Premier Rajapaksa created an environment conducive for an ‘operation’ to evict those who had been protesting against the Prime Minister and the President. The operation boomeranged. The end result was the Prime Minister having to take refuge in the Trincomalee Navy base.

Two days later, the Fort Magistrate’s Court issued a travel ban on Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Namal Rajapaksa and 16 others. They are Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Johnston Fernando, Sanjeewa Edirimanne, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, C.B. Ratnayake, Sanath Nishantha, Kanchana Jayaratne (Pavitra Wanniarachchi’s husband), Sampath Athukorala, Mahinda Kahandagama, Renuka Perera, Nishantha Abeysinghe, Amitha Abeywickrama, Pushpalal Kumarasinghe, Dilip Fernando and Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon. The Senior DIG had been present at the time, SLPP goons broke through the police line, near the Galle Face hotel, to demolish the Galle Face protest camp.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on seven others who had been wounded during the violence on the fateful Monday or were eye-witnesses to the attacks.

President of the Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association Lakshman Perera told the writer that the Attorney General‘s Department moved the Fort Magistrate’s court amidst preparations made by his outfit to move the court. Speaking on behalf of the Association, Perera underscored the pivotal importance of ensuring the safety and security of all, regardless of whatever the accusations directed at them.

For how long would the ex-Premier have to live under the protection of the Navy? In response to media queries, Defence Secretary retired General Kamal Gunaratne told a hastily arranged press conference, at the Battaramulla Defence Complex, that as a former head of State Mahinda Rajapaksa was entitled to required security. When would the ex-PM be able to move freely as protests demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation continue amidst traffic disruptions on main roads, especially over shortage of cooking gas? The situation remains extremely dicey.

Politically-motivated mobs destroyed many properties belonging to the Rajapaksa family. Mobs set ablaze the Rajapaksas’ ancestral home at Medamulana, Hambantota, and did not even spare the memorial built for their parents also at Medamulana, while the former Premier’s home in Kurunegala, too, was destroyed.

Properties belonging to elder brother, Chamal Rajapaksa and his son, Shashendra were also destroyed.

Gangs set fire to Green Ecolodge, situated very close to the Sinharaja rain forest. The hotel, situated close to the UNESCO heritage site, is widely believed to be owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who recently warned JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake of legal action against the accusations made in respect of Green Ecolodge. But the JVP instead of backing their accusations regarding that prized eco-property (torched by the politically-motivated mobs early last week) with facts, issued a veiled threat to expose Yoshitha on some other issues if he dared to go to courts. Comrade Nalinda Jayatissa told the media that they would raise his fake qualifications, how he managed to enter the famed British naval college Dartmouth, etc., if he ventured to challenge them in court.

Well organized mobs also looted and set fire to properties of over 50 MPs, mainly of the government, across the country. They and their families were left with only the clothes on their backs.

Politicos under threat

The government should do everything possible to prosecute those responsible for incidents of violence, regardless of their status. Destruction of lawmakers’ properties should be denounced and punitive action taken against all those responsible. Who would take the responsibility for killing SLPP Polonnaruwa District MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale and his police bodyguard at Nittambuwa? The slain MP was on his way home, after attending the Temple Trees meet earlier in the day. Did Atukorale open fire on those who blocked his path? Did his police bodyguard, too, open fire? The post-mortem revealed the MP had been lynched and contrary to initial reports there were no gunshot injuries. The post mortem also set the record straight that the MP didn’t commit suicide with his own weapon as initially claimed by interested parties over the social and mainstream media. Having allowed SLPP goons to go on the rampage, the police pathetically failed to intervene when the public retaliated. Politically-motivated groups obviously took advantage of the situation. At an early stage of the ongoing protest campaign, German Ambassador in Colombo Holger Seubert tweeted: “I’m impressed with how peaceful the proud people of Sri Lanka are exercising their right to freedom of expression. It reminds me of German unification back in 1989 when we experienced how powerful peaceful protests can be. Wishing all parties involved the strength to remain peaceful.”

During the second JVP inspired-insurgency, the then JRJ government issued firearms to members of Parliament. Some lawmakers formed their own death squads. The government accepted extra-judicial killings as part of the overall defence against the JVP/DJV violence perpetrated against the UNP and those connected with that party.

Members of the SLPP raised security issues at a meeting they had with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House last Saturday (14). The government shouldn’t expect normalisation of the situation until tangible measures are taken to stabilize the national economy. Lawmakers wouldn’t be safe as long queues for diesel, petrol and cooking gas exist with the vast majority of the electorate struggling to make ends meet. The government should be mindful of interventions made by foreign powers and other external and internal players hell-bent on exploiting the situation to their advantage.

Recent demonstrations near the Parliament compelled the police to close several roads for traffic on May 05 and 06. The police closed the section from Diyatha Uyana junction (Polduwa junction) to Jayanthipura junction and from Jayanthipura junction to the Denzil Kobbekaduwa road to deter mass invasions by well organised demonstrators. The police asserted that closure of the roads were necessary, in spite of the inconvenience caused to the public, to prevent hindrance to lawmakers entering and leaving the parliamentary complex.

The police closed down the same sections of the roads yesterday (17) to facilitate parliamentary proceedings. Trade unions combine and the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) have vowed to lay siege to the Parliament. The warning that had been made several days before the May 09 mayhem should be reviewed. The trade union grouping and the IUSF affiliated to the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), the breakaway JVP faction, should be mindful of the crises the country is experiencing.

A tragedy

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa having to take refuge in the Trincomalee SLN base is a tragedy. Mahinda Rajapaksa gave resolute political leadership to Sri Lanka’s war effort at a time the vast majority of lawmakers felt the LTTE couldn’t be defeated. Therefore, many accepted peace at any cost. They were prepared even to give up Sri Lanka’s unitary status in a bid to reach a consensus with separatist Tamil terrorists mollycoddled by Western powers. Mahinda Rajapaksa had the strength and political acumen to take on the LTTE. The country should never forget how President Rajapaksa, in spite of strong objections from the military, flew into Kebitigollewa on June 15, 2006, in the immediate aftermath of a claymore mine attack on a passenger bus. The blast killed over 60 men, women and children. Having visited the survivors, President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave an assurance that the terrorism would be eradicated. The promise was made two months before the LTTE resumed large-scale offensive action in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful end in May 2009. But, the President, who restored peace, has ended up virtually running for his life and had to seek refuge in a military installation for the time being as post-war policies and strategies take their toll with interested parties taking advantage of the tragedy facing the country.

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Midweek Review

Up for Grabs

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By Lynn Ockersz

It’s the Horse Trader’s hour once again,

And fierce bargaining unfolds on Stage;

Creatures stomping with iron hoofs,

Displaying teeth of menacing length,

And merciless whips for tongues,

Are receiving top most billing,

By ‘Strutting and Fretting’ business Heads,

Trying now to sit in saddles under siege,

But in a hitherto nodding land,

That’s suddenly come rudely awake,

These are risky sleazy deals to make,

For, the moment has already arrived,

Wherein hunger has turned Ploughshares,

Into Spears of divisive hate and vengeance.

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Midweek Review

Possible link between TID head’s arrest and Easter Sunday massacre baffles retired DIG

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Retired DIG Priyantha Jayakody, one-time police spokesman, last Saturday (07) advised the police on how to deal with the current wave of protests. Jayakody addressed the media in the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declaring a State of Emergency following police crackdown on protests near the Parliament. The retired top cop urged his former colleagues not to give into illegal orders, under any circumstances. Jayakody is the first retired top cop to declare his support for the ongoing countrywide campaign for political reforms.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Actor Jehan Appuhamy carried a life-sized cross on his shoulder from Katuwapitiya, in the Katana electorate, to the entrance of the President’s Office (Old Parliament), Galle Face, where a high profile ‘Go Gota Home’ campaign was underway.

The three-day trek began at the St. Sebastian Church premises, on April 19, where exactly three years ago Achchi Muhammadu Muhammadu Hasthun detonated his suicide device, killing over 100. Hasthun is widely believed to be one of the bomb makers, responsible for six suicide blasts, in the space of 20 minutes, beginning at 8.45 am on that particular day. The first detonation occurred at the St. Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo, Kochchikade, at 8.45 am. Other blasts ripped through Kingsbury, Colombo, at 8.47 am, St. Sebastian’s Church, Katuwapitiya, also at 8.47, Shangri-La, Colombo at 8.54, Cinnamon Grand, Colombo at 9 and Zion Church, Batticaloa at 9.05.

In addition to those planned blasts, there were two explosions – one at the Tropical Inn Guest House, Dehiwela, where one terrorist triggered his explosive device, and the last blast at Dematagoda, where Fatima Ibrahim, the wife of Inshaf Ibrahim (the Cinnamon Grand bomber), blew herself up, killing three police commandos. The blast also claimed the lives of her three young sons and her unborn child.

Actor Appuhamy’s endeavor received the blessings of the Catholic Church, campaigning for justice. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference has repeatedly demanded that the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday massacre, as well as those who failed to thwart the conspiracy, due to sheer negligence, or some other reasons, be punished, regardless of their standing in the society.

Appuhamy completed a 25-mile long journey, on April 21, on the 13th day of the ‘Go Gota Home’ campaign. A group of Catholics joined a protest launched opposite Temple Trees, three days later, demanding justice for the Easter Sunday carnage. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference members, and the Archbishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, has pledged their support for the ongoing campaign, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the entire Cabinet-of-Ministers, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Quite a number of Catholics displayed placards, demanding justice for the Easter Sunday victims, an issue that has sharply divided the country, experiencing the worst-ever post- independence economic-political and social crisis.

Retired Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Priyantha Jayakody, in an open letter, addressed to Defence Secretary, retired Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, published in Annidda, in its May Day edition, has questioned the failure on the part of the incumbent dispensation to bring the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday massacre to justice. Jayakody also queried the inordinate delay in completing the high profile investigations, launched during the yahapalana administration, into the alleged attempts to assassinate the then President Maithripala Sirisena and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the incumbent President.

The current dispensation couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for not adequately addressing the grievances of the Catholic Church, Jayakody told The Island. It would be a grave mistake on the government’s part to believe the issues, at hand, would be forgotten in a couple of years, therefore the current protests could be ignored. Jayakody, who had served the Police Department for almost 40 years, retired in late April 2021.

Namal Kumara affair

Ex-DIG Jayakody asserted that the arrest of DIG Nalaka Silva, the head of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) on Oct 25, 2018, over his alleged involvement in an attempt to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena and incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (then an ordinary citizen) may have facilitated the Easter Sunday suicide mission. Declaring that at the time of Silva’s arrest, the officer had been tracking the would-be Shangri-La bomber, and the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran Hashim, Jayakody questioned whether the investigator was falsely implicated in an alleged assassination plot to clear the way for the dastardly suicide attacks.

Jayakody emphasized that the conspirators had intervened when the investigation reached a crucial stage. Did the government pay sufficient attention to the unwarranted delay at the Attorney General’s Department, in respect of its failure to deal with Zahran Hashim’s file? The National Catholic Committee for Justice, in a missive, dated July 12, 2021, addressed to President Goabaya Rajapaksa, referred to the conduct of the Attorney General’s Department. The Committee pointed out to the President, the PCoI (Presidential Commission of Inquiry) recommendation to the Public Service Commission (PSC) that disciplinary action be taken against State Counsel Malik Azees and Deputy Solicitor General Azad Navavi (PCoI Final Report, Vol 01, p 329).

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Silva after having questioned him over a period of five days. At the time of his arrest, Silva had been suspended on the instructions issued by the National Police Commission (NPC).

Jayakody pointed out how within 24 hours after the TID Chief’s arrest, President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the Cabinet-of-Ministers, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. In spite of Mahinda Rajapaksa being sworn in as the Prime Minister, he couldn’t prove a simple majority in Parliament. A disappointed President Sirisena had no option but to dissolve Parliament, on Nov 09, 2018, and set January 05, 2019 as date for parliamentary election. But, the Supreme Court intervention restored Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership. Thus President Sirisena’s plan for January 05, poll was thwarted; thereby the stage was set for scheduled presidential election.

According to Jayakody, the arrest of the TID Chief, over alleged assassination plots, automatically crippled the unit. Those who had been attached to the TID were looked down, both by other police officers and men, as well as the public.

The retired top cop questioned the role played by the media, particularly the television channels, in propagating claims made by police informant Namal Kumara, as regards alleged plots to assassinate President Sirisena and incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Pujith Jayasundera, who had served as the yahapalana IGP, is on record as having told the PCoI that Namal Kumara was paid by the Presidential Secretariat. Jayasundera quoted Dr. Saman Kithalawarachchi, the then Chairman of the Presidential Narcotics Bureau, as having told him that Namal Kumara served as a lecturer and was paid by the Presidential Secretariat.

Jayakody, in his open letter to Gen. Gunaratn, asked for the status of the investigation launched, following Namal Kumara’s unprecedented claims. “The people have a right to know. The government, under siege over the economic fallout, should come clean,” Jayakody stressed, adding that the ongoing countrywide protests reflected the crisis the country is in today.

Key issues

The Police Department owed an explanation to the public regarding the status of the investigation into the disgraced TID Chief’s alleged involvement in planned political assassinations. DIG Jayakody said that the incumbent dispensation, having repeatedly assured justice for the Easter Sunday victims, was yet to bring a critically important investigation into the Namal Kumara affair, to a successful conclusion. The need for a thorough investigation into the constitutional coup, perpetrated by President Maithripala Sirisena immediately after DIG Silva’s arrest, cannot be ignored. Would Zahran Hashim have gone ahead with the attacks if the constitutional coup succeeded? DIG Jayakody raised the following unresolved accusations leveled by Namal Kunara:

* DIG Silva dispatched a police hit squad, that had been assigned the task of carrying out VIP assassination, to Batticaloa

* DIG Silva sought special weapons used by snipers

* DIG Silva conspired with the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

* Involvement of Thushara Peiris, a person living overseas, in the assassination conspiracy

*Conspiracy to involve ‘Makandure Madush’ in the conspiracy

Suspected drug baron, Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha, alias ‘Makandure Madush,’ was shot dead in the early hours of Oct 21, 2020. Madush was killed, under controversial circumstances, while being in police custody. At the time of the incident, Madush had been in the custody of the Colombo Crime Division (CCD). The police claimed that Madush received gunshot injuries at the Lakshitha Sevana apartment complex at Applewatta, in Maligawatta. Madush was brought to Colombo on May 05, 2019, from Dubai, where he was arrested on February 05, 2019.

Jayakody questioned the rationale in Namal Kumara’s accusations, TID Chief’s arrest and delivering a crippling blow to investigations into Zahran Hashim’s outfit. Finally, the wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had been the alleged target of a police assassination attempt, won an opportunity to contest the 2019 presidential election, on the SLPP ticket. Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the mandate of 6.9 mn votes whereas the other claimed target, Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the SLFP leader, contested the 2020 General Election. Sirisena re-entered Parliament having contested the Polonnaruwa electoral district. The SLFP group, in the current Parliament, comprised 14 lawmakers, including one National List MP. Except for Angajan Ramanathan, elected on the SLFP ticket (Jaffna District), the remaining 13 entered Parliament on the SLPP ticket.

Ex-DIG Jayakody said that in the wake of the SLPP victory, they expected rapid progress, not only in the Easter Sunday massacre probe, but also investigations into the Namal Kumara affair. Jayakody compared the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks, and the Namal Kumara affair, with that of the 1962 coup attempt meant to remove the then Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike from power. Jayakody recalled how top military personnel, who had been accused of the bid to assassinate Premier Bandaranaike, were dealt with the following investigations. Unfortunately, investigations into Namal Kumara’s disclosure hadn’t been completed, even over three and half years after the arrest of TID Chief.

In his open letter, Jayakody posed the following questions to Gen. Gunaratne: (i) Would you disclose the current status of the investigations into claims made by Namal Kumara (ii) Would you explain why cases hadn’t been filed in court against ex-DIG Nalaka Silva or other suspects involved in the alleged assassination attempts (iii) Have the investigators succeeded in verifying the claims made by Namal Kumara? If the accusations could be verified, what delayed all suspects being arrested? In respect of those who had been arrested so far, what caused the delay in the government moving court against them? (vi) Have the investigators realized that there is no basis for Namal Kumara’s accusations? If so, why a case hadn’t been filed against the former police informant over making false accusation and finally (vii) Could you explain the failure on the part of the government to conduct investigations speedily in spite of one of the two main targets of ex-DIG Nalaka Silva, as alleged by Namal Kumara, is serving the incumbent administration as the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and the other leader of a constituent party and a lawmaker.

Cardinal’s stand

The government should be mindful of the consequences of further delay in bringing the investigations into a conclusion. The widely held belief that the incumbent dispensation deliberately delayed, or undermined the investigations, may cause quite a serious situation, particularly against the backdrop of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) taking up the issue last year. Sri Lanka Co Chairs at the UNHRC, too, have taken up the issue.

Jayakody warned that unless the government, at least now, dealt with the Namal Kumara affair properly, the public would believe it was related to the Easter Sunday conspiracy. According to Jayakody, the public are gravely suspicious of Namal Kumara ‘drama’ being the precursor for later developments. Jayakody questioned Gen. Gunaratne’s response to Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s repeated demands for justice. Referring to Gen. Gunaratne’s recent response to the Cardinal’s public criticism of the handling of the Easter Sunday investigations, Jayakody asserted that the Defence Secretary’s advice to the Cardinal that he should inform the CID of any relevant information without making public statements sounded like a challenge. Jayakody emphasized that the Cardinal had taken the issue beyond the CID against the backdrop of growing suspicions that justice couldn’t be expected under the current dispensation.

Jayakody, identifying himself as a Catholic, drew the government’s attention to the Cardinal’s fight, both here and abroad, that has attracted the attention of the international community. The retired top cop stressed that the government hadn’t so far been able to counter the spate of issues raised by the Catholic Church regarding the Easter Sunday massacre. Instead of challenging the Catholic Church, the government should answer pertinent questions.

Responding to The Island queries, Jayakody emphasized that he didn’t want to issue a character certificate to DIG Nalaka Silva. Jayakody said the issue at hand is whether Namal Kumara, at the behest of some interested party/parties, directed a spate of allegations, at the then TID Chief Silva, to create an environment conducive for law enforcement authorities to move against DIG Silva. Had Silva received the wrath of the powers that be, as he pursued the now proscribed National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) responsible for the Easter Sunday massacre?

The Easter Sunday massacre created an environment that undermined the yahapalana administration. The public responded to the SLPP’s assurances to ensure security in the run-up to the 2019 Presidential Election. Three years later, those who vowed to deal with extremism and terrorism are under fire over the failure to unravel the Easter Sunday mystery.

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