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Security for protecting records and productions in court houses most inadequate

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by Nihal de Alwis

It is time that the Government and agencies like the Justice Ministry, AG’S Department, Legal Draftmans Dept. and the Police, form a committee and take appropriate measures to prevent (1) Sabotage by corrupt court house staff. (2) Organisations and individuals aimed at destroying evidence against them. (3) Fire. (4) Theft and (5) Burglary.

PREVENTION IS KEY

During the hours the courts function there is visible security intended to prevent disturbances, a pandemic or entry of persons carrying firearms etc. which is done at random or with no proper search as some in the legal profession detest this being done by an “ordinary security guard.” This is what I would call an “eyewash”!

A proper study must be done of the extent of threat and vulnerability posed to enhance security measures in force. The best would be a team comprising of senior police officers, STF Commandant, senior officer From THE AG’s dept, senior officer from the courthouses and a retired senior judge of the Supreme Court/ Appeal Court/ High Court who could chair it. A chief Inspector of the Pettah (or relevant) Police is a must in such abody as they know best about the environment and crime in the area etc

 

MEASURES

Following measures are recommended. (1) Security must be provided 24×7 to all courthouses (2) The perimeter must be tightened limiting entry and exit after proper security checks in the form of screening and adequate staff must be provided to ensure these are carried out without delay as it can cause other problems. (3) The approach to courthouses must be declared High Security Zones (HSZ) (4) All points must be covered with CCTV cameras with the monitoring being done by at least two persons competent to read them and take action.

They must be provided with communication walkie-talkies and an alarm to be sounded in an emergency where there will be a response squad and an ambulance available. Of course security on non-working days can be relaxed but adequate staff must be present guarding and monitoring the cameras with communication with a “response squad” being available in an emergency. The HSZ should be enforced even on non working days as a preventive measure. (5) Access to chambers/record rooms and production rooms must be on a ‘Need To Go’ basis and all such officers should use their thumb print on a machine permitting them entry (the latest method is retina identification). All must be covered by CCTV. (6) All such places must be well secured with a combination lock used by two persons at least. (7) these places must be well protected from fire with fire resistant material and fire alarms and sprinklers with adequate provision made to use a water tank in an emergency. (8) Software records must be protected with additional measures and valuable evidence duplicated and stored in vaults which the courts should posses in a HSZ provided for such measures.

Even now the courthouses do not have adequate facilities to protect productions as they are haphazardly stored with minimum security, leaving room for corruption and negligence. (9) Most court houses have dilapidated buildings built haphazardly with no proper security incorporated into them. The wiring is very old and will definitely be blamed for any fire that occurs.

 

CONTINGENCY PLAN

None of the courthouses have taken appropriate measures to ensure a contingency plan is in place in case of a disaster. No preparation has been made despite our long war to face a disaster in terms of a fire, sabotage, violence, floods etc. Nobody will know what to do! The poor policemen will have to come to the rescue. Fire squads must be installed at each police station plus public places like courthouses so that they are there when required as every minute counts in a fire. Having a contingency plan will not solve all issues, but the staff including the police must rehearse the necessary drills (perhaps on weekends) as practice makes perfect.

 

ACCESS TO COURT HOUSES

While complainants, family of suspects, witnesses etc. have to be accommodated in courthouses, a different approach must be adopted to ensure effective security by limiting the number of such persons allowedadmission. They should be made to come at least one and a half or two hours before court commences sittings. They must be discouraged from bringing, parcels bags etc and they must be videoed to enable future tracing if required. This will certainly act as a deterrent to various crimes. All entrances and exits must be covered by CCTV. Even lawyers must be discouraged from carrying their mobile phones into a courthouse as they are are not above the law and no exceptions should be made. All lawyers should wear their identity card and it will be better if they are required to swipe them at the entrance to enable entry

Trust this will receive the attention of the concerned authorities.

 

(The writer, a former intelligence officer, is a graduate of the Institute of International Security, UK, and past president of the Industrial Security Foundation (Incorporated by Act No 51 of 1999)

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Features

Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Features

Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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LET’S DO IT … in the new normal

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The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.

 

 

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