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Recommendation to deprive sitting and former MPs of civic rights: Gevindu strikes discordant note

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… receives backing of Sabry, Wimal

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga has strongly opposed an alleged move to deprive lawmakers of civic rights on the basis of recommendation made by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into political victimization.

Political sources said that lawmaker Cumaratunga emphasised the government shouldn’t resort to such a course of action at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees early this week.  Sources said that the leader of the civil society group Yuthukama Cumaratunga pointed out that parliamentary power shouldn’t be used to deprive Opposition members of civic rights.

The MP recalled how the UNP admitted that deprival of SLFP leader Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civic rights was wrong.

The Chairman of the Committee, retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne presented the report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on Dec 8, 2020. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a three-member Presidential Commission of Inquiry on January 20, 2020 to determine whether politicians and public servants implicated by the Abeyratne Commission should lose their civic rights.

Cumaratunga has explained that the denial of civic rights of Opposition members was detrimental to the government. Sources said that when Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa inquired from President’s Counsel Justice Minister Ali Sabry’s views on the matter, he, too, said that members shouldn’t be denied civic rights on the basis of the committee report.

Sources said that the National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, too, opposed the move. Sources said that MP Cumaratunga requested the government parliamentary group to assure the parliament on Thursday (22) that members wouldn’t be denied their civic rights regardless of the recommendation.

However, MP Cumaratunga’s stand hadn’t received the backing of the vast majority of the SLPP grouping, sources said, adding that MP Cumaratunga was left sort of isolated with the party pursuing the matter.

Having received Abeyratne’s report, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on January 31, appointed a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to determine whether politicians and public servants implicated by his Political Victimization Commission should lose their civic rights. The commission consists of Supreme Court Justice Dhammika Samarakoon, SC Justice Kumuduni Wickremasinghe and Court of Appeal Judge Ratnapriya Gurusinghe.

The Justice Abeyratne Commission has recommended that the following be deprived of civic rights: Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, R. Sampanthan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Mangala Samaraweera, Ravi Karunanayake, Ajith P Perera, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ranjan Ramanayake, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sarath Fonseka, Rauff Hakeem and Malik Samarawickrema. Some of them are no longer in parliament.

In addition to them, the Abeyratne Commission recommended the following too be denied civic rights: J.C. Weliamuna – PC, ex-MP Jayampathi Wickremaratne, PC, Wasantha Navaratne Bandara, PC, Thusith Mudalige – Additional Solicitor General, AG’s Department, Upul Jayasuriya, PC, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe – PC, former Solicitor General, Janaka Bandara – Senior State Counsel AG’s Department, Shani Abeysekera – SSP, Former CID Director, B.S. Tissera – ASP, Former CID, Ravi Waidyalankara – SDIG FCID, Nishantha Silva – IP, Former CID OIC, Ravi Seneviratne – SDIG, formerly of CID, Ravindra Wijeguneratne – Admiral, Former Navy Commander, J.J. Ranasinghe – Rear Admiral SLN, Prasad Kariyawasam, Ravinatha Aryasinha, Saman Ekanayake, S.A. Khan – Former Ambassador to the UAE and C.A.H.M. Wijeratne – Former Director General Legal, MFA and Ambassador for Sri Lanka to Poland.

Some of them, including Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in early March moved court against the recommendations of the commission appointed to probe the alleged incidents of political victimisation.

SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman told The Island that the government struggling to cope up with growing political crisis and dissent within its parliamentary group seemed to be bent on silencing the Opposition. Pointing out that in spite of having an overwhelming majority in parliament, the SLPP was in the back foot, MP Rahman opined that the Commission on political victimisation was nothing but a fiasco that certainly eroded the confidence the public had in the SLPP as was shown in 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections, both of which it won overwhelmingly.



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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice

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 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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Protests against 13A used to arouse communal feelings – SJB

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Protests against the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution are being used to arouse communal feelings among people ahead of an election, says the main Opposition SJB.

Addressing the media on Saturday, at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip, SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said:

“This country has witnessed many instances in the past. This time, too, the same old slogan of the country being divided is heard again.

“The 13th Amendment is part of the Constitution. All parties have contested elections under the 13th Amendment. The UNP, SLFP, SLPP and JVP have contested provincial council elections. It shows that they have accepted the 13th Amendment. Those in such parties now opposing the 13th Amendment must first explain how they oppose it directly while accepting the same indirectly by sending their members to the provincial councils set up under the 13th Amendment,” Kiriella said.

“The claim of the country being divided by the 13th amendment is made to arouse the communal feelings.

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