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Sumanthiran asks Ali Sabry to resign



By Saman Indrajith

TNA Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran yesterday called on Justice Minister Ali Sabry to resign from his post.

“I do not think you can sell your dignity and continue to hold the office of Justice Minister, merely telling the country or your community that you are trying to resign but you are unable to do so. It is a joke. It doesn’t do you any good. So, my plea to you, even in this august assembly I can address you my learned friend, is to stand up straight and resign immediately, if possible, before these sessions are over,” MP Sumanthiran said.

Participating in the third-reading-stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Justice, MP Sumanthiran said the Minister of Justice was very uncomfortable in that post. “I reiterate what I said last year, that the Minister of Justice must be feeling as if he is the minister of ports and shipping of Afghanistan. We saw in the media that the Minister of Justice said that he is trying to resign. It is very strange when a person tries to resign and is unable to resign. A member of the legal profession, he should know how to resign. What is there trying to resign and not being able to resign? That is what we read in the media. The Minister of Justice does not know how to resign. It is very strange. All these point to the fact that the Minister of Justice is uncomfortable to hold that post in the current regime. I do not blame him for that.

“The government, for all its rhetoric, has unashamedly interfered in the process of administration of justice in this country. I read the news that former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda is tipped to succeed former Governor Raja Kollure, who passed away recently. Wasantha Karannagoda is an accused, a suspect in one of the emblematic cases in this country. The case is about the abduction of eleven youth for ransom by naval personnel in Colombo. They were taken to Trincomalee Naval Base and killed. Now, the police, having conducted their investigations, have named several suspects including the Navy Commander at the time.

“Inexplicably, the Attorney General is in a mighty hurry, an indecent hurry, trying to withdraw indictments or has indicated that he would withdraw indictments against Wasantha Karannagoda. The families of these young men have been agitating for justice for so long. It is such a person the government wants to appoint as a governor.

“Not only that, but also many indictments filed during the time of the last government by the then Attorney General, for incidentally who is the Chief Justice today, are being withdrawn by the current Attorney General. As soon as he was appointed to that post, the first thing he did was withdrawing indictments filed against the members of the current government.

“The Attorney General is supposed to be independent in our country. The appointment is supposed to be independent and during his tenure he is supposed to be independent. Unlike in many other countries, we have our own traditions which stipulates that the Attorney General is an independent appointee. Even in Great Britain and India the Attorney General is a political appointee. Yet, in those countries even the attorney generals are political appointees and we find them act independently after their appointments. Here its reverse seems to be true.

“The Minister protested against the appointment of another convict who was pardoned. He was convicted for contempt of court where he was sentenced following a complaint made by a magistrate for disturbing the proceedings in a court. The learned Magistrate complained to the Court of Appeal and after a full-blown inquiry where the venerable monk was afforded a hearing, he was conducted and sentenced. And then he was pardoned. He has another case currently pending before the Court of Appeal where he violated the order in the Magistrate’s Court in Mullaitivu and facilitated the cremation of the body of another monk in the premises of a Hindu temple. Such a person the government finds suitable enough to be appointed to the post of Chairman in a task force. Naturally, the minister protested, also for the reason I suppose he was not consulted. Originally, no Tamil was appointed to this task force, which was a good thing. I do not think any self-respecting Tamil would have served in this task force. But as it often happens, we find every kind of person in any community. And so, the government found three persons who buried their dignity and went and sat in this task force. I say this because this task force is captioned as one country one law. Most people think that this has to do something with personal laws. It is far worse than that.

“The government says it is committed to devolution of powers. It has been saying so to the international community. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was the president assured India repeatedly in three joint statements and in another joint statement with the Secretary General of the United Nations, he made a promise to enhance devolution. If that is the case, then there can’t be one country with one law.

“Even in this broken system under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and this provincial council system which we do not accept, there is legislative power over certain subjects that are devolved to the provinces. The provinces can make their own laws in respect of matters in the provincial council list and even on the matters that come under the concurrent list. We have been saying that the matters that have been devolved to the provinces must be exclusively devolved to the provinces and the provinces must be supreme in respect of those issues. The legislative power that has been given to them must be supreme. The Center ought not to override those powers. But that is not the case, the Center with two thirds majority can override it as we saw in the Divi Neguma case and various other instances. Nevertheless, in our constitution we have legislative powers devolved to the provinces. And the government has promised to devolve more powers to the provinces. While that is the case on one hand, the government has appointed a task force to ensure one country one law. It runs contrary to the current constitutional arrangement and contrary to the various promises you are dishing out to the world that you would enhance devolution. That is why I said that any self-respecting Tamil would serve in that one country-one law task force. For various reasons people would go and sell their dignity. Some Muslims too have been appointed to the task force.

“At the original appointment, no Tamil was appointed to that task force. We were elated that no Tamil has been appointed to that task force. Later some people added – that is afterthoughts. Does it mean that Tamils are afterthoughts of this country? We have been living in this country longer than many other communities. This country belongs to us as it belongs to anybody else. We are not afterthoughts of this country.

“This task force we reject; in fact we do not have to say so because of the caliber of the person who had been appointed to chair it. We do not think you can continue to sell our dignity and serve in this office,” MP Sumanthiran said tod the Justice Minister.

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NGO to move SC against acquittal and discharge of first accused



Welikada Prison killings

‘The BASL should make its position clear now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners, Attorney-at-Law, Senaka Perera, says his outfit will soon move the Supreme Court against the acquittal and discharging of Inspector Neomal Moses Rangajiva, the first accused in the Welikada Prison killings.

The civil society activist, in a brief interview with The Island, over the weekend, said that the relatives of those who perished in the violence in the Welikada Prison compound on Nov 09 and 10, 2012, had requested him to pursue this matter.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar last Wednesday (12) sentenced to death ex-Welikada Prisons Chief Lamahewage Emil Ranjan over the Welikada killings. He was the second accused in the high-profile case, whereas Rangajiva, at that time attached to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), was acquitted and released from all charges.

Lawyer Perera said that as the verdict had been given by a Trial-at-Bar, the appeal would have to be made to the Supreme Court. The Trial-at-Bar bench comprising High Court judges Gihan Kulathunga (President), Pradeep Hettiarachchi and Manjula Thilakarathna was unanimous in its decisions.

The Trial-at-Bar said that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the PNB officer beyond reasonable doubt.

Responding to questions, Senaka Perera said that if it hadn’t been a Trial-at-Bar, his group would have moved the Court of Appeal. Senaka Perera explained: “We intend to write to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, in this regard. We are of the view the AG should appeal against the acquittal and discharging of Rangajiva. However, if the AG refrained from doing so,  the Committee to Protect the Rights of Prisoners will accept the responsibility.”

In terms of the Trial-at-Bar proceedings, the eight prison inmates who were killed in the incident are Kankanmalage Malinda Nilendra Pelpola alias Malan, Attapattu Sangakkara Nirmala Atapattu, Mohammed Wijaya Rohana alias Gundu, Chinthamani Mohottige Thushara Chandana alias Kalu Thushara, Asarappulige Jothipala alias Ponna Kapila, Harshan Sri Manakeerthi Perera alias Manju Sri, Raigamage Susantha Perera alias Mala Susantha, Devamullage Malith Sameera Perera alias Konda Amila.

However, lawyer Senaka Perera said that altogether 27 inmates had been killed after the deployment of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Army inside the Welikada Prison. According to official records, in addition to 27 deaths, at least 43 other inmates received injuries. The then Prisons Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera informed Parliament of the deaths of 27 inmates.

The then Police Spokesman SSP Prishantha Jayakoday said that inmates had triggered violence as the STF was looking for drugs and hand phones inside the prison.

The Attorney General filed indictments against IP Rangajeewa, Lamahewage Emil Ranjan and Indika Sampath, an officer attached to the Prisons intelligence unit under 33 counts, including committing murder, conspiring to commit murder after being members of an unlawful assembly.

The Court proceeded in spite of the third accused Indika Sampath who managed to evade the police so far.

The human rights activist recalled how Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, named a Trial-at-Bar to hear the Welikada case on a request made by Rajaratnam’s predecessor, Dappula de Livera, PC. The latter made the request in late June 2019. Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera in late May 2021.

The Prisons Department and the Justice Ministry couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for ensuring safety and security of those in their care, lawyer Senaka Perera said. Those who had been remanded and sentenced could be serious offenders and some may even deserve a death sentence but the State shouldn’t under any circumstances resort to extra judicial measures, the public litigation activist said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that he believed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) should examine the Welikada case and make its position known to the public. “Perhaps, the BASL, too, should consider moving the SC against the acquittal and discharging of the first accused,” the lawyer said.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that before the former AG made an intervention the progress in investigations had been slow. In fact, real progress was made since 2017, two years after the change of government following the 2015 presidential election, the lawyer said, alleging that the powers that be continuously hindered the investigations.

According to lawyer Perera and other sources, there had been four separate investigations at different levels beginning with the one launched by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) immediately after the Welikada killings. Subsequently the then Prisons Minister the late Chandrasiri Gajadeera named a three-member team to inquire into the Welikada killings. The committee comprising retired High Court judge Bandula Atapattu, retired DIG Gunasena Thenabadu and Prisons Ministry Legal Officer Lalith Andrahannadi produced two reports in Feb 2013 and Nov 2013. There had been two other investigations ordered by the then Prisons Chief P.W. Kodipillai and the Human Rights Commission.

Lawyer Senaka Perera said that the four investigations undertaken during the Rajapaksa administration should be examined. The lawyer emphasized the importance of appraisal of the investigations as the Trial-at-Bar declared that the progress had been made only since 2017.

In addition to those four investigations, there had been another report prepared by the three-member committee comprising retired High Court judge Wimal Nambuwasam, retired Senior DIG Asoka Wijeyatilleke and senior public servant S.K. Liyanage. Appointed on January 22, 2015, less than two weeks after the presidential election, the committee handed over its report to the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, on June 09, 2015 as the latter appointed it.

Lawyer Perera said that the former Prisons Chief claimed that the inmates after having broken into the Prisons armoury seized weapons, including machine guns.

The activist pointed out that the 2012 incidents were the worst since the 1983 massacre of Tamil terrorist suspects. The public have lost faith in law enforcement authorities and the political leadership regardless of the party that held power, the lawyer said. There couldn’t be better example than how the current dispensation handled the then State Minister for Prisons Lohan Ratwatte’s ‘raids’ on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons in September last year.

The report prepared by retired High Court judge Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena into the incidents involving Ratwatte should be made public as the police were yet to at least record the State Minister’s statement, lawyer Perera said.

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China donates shipment of rice to Sri Lanka



By Anura Balasuriya

China will soon send a shipment of rice to Sri Lanka as a donation, a Ministry of Trade spokesman said.

The donation comes in the wake of the 70 year anniversary of the Sri Lanka – China Rubber Rice pact on 1952.

Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardane had discussed the matter recently with a senior Chinese Embassy officia, the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

“The Chinese Embassy in Colombo is already doing the needful. The Trade Ministry has informed China of the varieties of rice that Sri Lankan consumers like,” the Trade Ministry Spokesman said.

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Rating downgrades discourage investors – JVP



JVP MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, on Friday (14) day, said investors were discouraged by the continuous downgrading of the country’s credit ratings.

Speaking at an event in Colombo, MP Amarasuriya said import costs had increased as the country was going through a forex crisis. The President’s agricultural policy had been a disaster and that in the coming months, the government would have to import large volumes of food.

Amarasuriya added that Sri Lanka’s relations with other nations had deteriorated and that too would have an adverse impact on the country.

Dr. Amarasuriya said that international rating agencies were independent and that their ratings were very important for investors to make decisions.

“Investors don’t consult Ajith Nivard Cabraal before investing. Besides, in other countries, it is economic experts, not politicians, who become Central Bank Governors,” she added.

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