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Speaker: PCoI cannot summon COPE Chairman or members over probes they undertake

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday told Parliament that a presidential investigation commission could not summon a chairman or members of parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and question them on matters pertaining to investigations undertaken by it.

 He said so in response to a privilege matter raised by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake on Presidential Commission investigating Batticaloa Campus Ltd summoning former COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti before it.

 MP Dissanayake

said: “I draw your attention to the Section 17 of the Parliament Powers and Privileges Act. The Section states that no member or officer of Parliament and no shorthand Writer employed to take minutes of evidence before the House or any committee shall give evidence elsewhere in respect of the contents of such evidence or of the contents of any manuscript or document laid before Parliament or any committee or in respect of any proceedings or examination had at the Bar or before any committee of Parliament without the special leave of Parliament first had and obtained. Now, former President of the COPE, Sunil Handunnetti has been summoned by a letter dated Aug 21, 2020 to appear before the Presidential Investigation Commission. He has been ordered to appear before the commission to give evidence on his functions as President of the COPE which investigated the Batticaloa Campus Pvt Ltd and the matters pertaining to that. I want to know whether the Presidential Investigation Commission has obtained your permission to summon Handunnetti. The commission cannot question anyone involved in the COPE investigation without prior approval of the Speaker or Parliament.

 Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: We will look into the matter and inform the House of that. I have not been informed of this yet.

 Anura Kumara Dissanayake: Handunnetti has written to the Speaker on this matter. He has sent a letter to you.

Speaker Abeywardena:

We’ll send our response to the Commission.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake:

What sort of letter of response. We want to know its content.

 Speaker Abeywardena:

If privileges are breached we would inform that to the commission.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake:

Let’s put aside the specific issue of Handunnetti. I want to know whether a Presidential Commission could summon COPE chairman or its members before the commission to question on what transpired during the COPE investigations.

 Speaker Abeywardena: No, that cannot be done.

 Anura Kumara Dissanayake: Then, do you accept that this letter sent by the presidential commission is wrong?

Speaker Abeywardena:

That I have to look into. I have not seen the letter yet so do not know its content. I have to go through it first before giving my ruling.

 

 



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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