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Sumanthiran while conceding snags in 19A says that is no reason to throw away its positives

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By Saman Indrajith

Some of the powers that had been vested with Parliament and judiciary by the 19th Amendment are being transferred to the hold of the executive presidency by the 20th Amendment paving the way for an autocracy, Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the second reading stage debate on the 20th amendment, MP Sumanthiran said: A sense of deja vu comes to my mind as I stand up. Ten years back on Sept 8, 2010, when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution moved in this House, I spoke at length and I expressed my dismay. In April, 2015 when the 19th Amendment was brought up I stated that I did not expect to dismantle the 18th Amendment by the very same Parliament which had passed it. Now, today before us is the 20th Amendment and the process has completed its full circle. We are trying to remove the 19th Amendment and going back to the 18th amendment effectively.

“I register my opposition to the bill before us because this is in the wrong direction. Out of the 20 amendments that came to this House and affected the Constitution, there are two amendments that had more than 200 members voting for them. That was the 17th amendment which was passed here with one member abstaining and the 19th amendment that had been passed with only one member voting against it. Sarath Weerasekera voted against it. Although I do not agree with his standpoint then and today, I should respect Sarath Weerasekera for his consistency he had shown in opposing the 19th Amendment then and now. The others cut very sorry figures here today, having raised their hands for propositions that are diametrically opposite, in opposite directions. That is the vicissitudes of politics, they might say, but it is not an honourable conduct. When the 17th and 19th Amendments were passed, why did almost the whole House vote for them. It did not happen with any other amendments. Because those amendments had the total approval of people of this country and their opinion that this country must remain democratic. Messy as it is, democracy was chosen. But that was the right path. Democracy is messy, costly and time consuming in its deliberations but that is the path that we should take. I vividly remember that discussions we had in and outside the Chamber and how the committee stage dragged till midnight with the then Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe led us through explaining the content of that bill. So many amendments were moved from the opposition side by Dinesh Gunawardena, Prof Tissa Vitarana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara. All but one got together and agreed to those amendments. I agree that the incumbent Justice Minister quoted me as saying that I conceded that there were problems with the 19th amendment. Yes, I agree that the 19th Amendment has some snags. It was the first step in the process towards abolishing the executive presidency. There has been a consensus in this country since the mid-1990s to abolish the executive presidency. For a quarter of a century the country had repeatedly granted mandates to remove the executive presidency. The 19th Amendment created two centres of power as it reduced some powers of the executive presidency. But that was only a temporary measure because it was meant to move forward towards democracy.

This country did not give a mandate to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to strengthen the executive presidency. The mandate was given to do away with the 19th Amendment which had problems. Those problems have to be identified, and those ought to have been corrected. You do not have to go in reverse gear; you do not have to travel in the opposite direction of democracy towards autocracy. That is wrong and that wrong is done by this amendment. That is why we oppose it.”

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”

 

 

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Bathiudeen granted bail

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Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions

 

 

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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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