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Sumanthiran asks Ali Sabry to resign

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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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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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