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Top AG’s Dept. official compelled to retire in spite of court order for her reinstatement

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Tribunal: Senadhipathy trapped SG Wickramasinghe with the help of UNP Minister

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Despite being cleared by the Administrative Appeals Division (AAD), the interdicted Solicitor General Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe hadn’t been allowed to return to the Attorney General’s Department regardless of specific instructions issued in that regard.

The AAD gave the ruling in respect of a case filed by Wickramasinghe against the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The then Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, interdicted SG Wickramasinghe on 25 Sept. 2019 following a leaked telephone conversation she had with Avant Garde proprietor Nissanka Senadhipathi, formerly of the Army Commando Regiment. The conversation was leaked to the media on 20 Sept., immediately after the recording of the discussion.

Wickramasinghe retired on July 30th after reaching the compulsory retirement age. The unprecedented ruling was given by a three-member AAD comprising Justice N.E. Dissanayake, A Gnanathasan, PC and G.P. Abeykeerthi. Justice Dissanayake functions as the Chairman of the highest tribunal empowered to inquire into such appeals.

Wickramasinghe appealed to teh AAD on Oct 5, 2020. The issue at hand before the AAD had been the disciplinary authority exercised by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in respect of the Solicitor General.

The original ruling given on July 14 was amended on July 22 subsequent to the PSC seeking clarification of some matters which the AAD considered important. The AAD acknowledged that the issues raised by the PSC hadn’t been taken into consideration at the time of the issuance of the July 14 ruling.

Attorney-at-law Riad Ameen and Assistant Secretary PSC Srinath Rubasinghe, appeared for Wickramasinghe and the PSC respectively.

The leaked telephone conversation in question was over the controversial case of the Avant Garde floating armoury that divided the previous government with Law and Order Minister Tilak Marapana, PC and Justice Minister Dr. Wijayadasa Rajapakse, PC, striking discordant notes.

Dappula de Livera’s successor, Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, hadn’t, however, allowed SG Wickramasinghe to resume work in spite of the original order nor the amendment ruling given on July 14 and July 22, respectively. A copy of the original order was delivered to the AG’s Office on the evening of July 14.

Rajaratnam succeeded de Livera on May 26 this year.

The AAD ordered (1) Immediate cancellation of PSC directive dated April 06, 2021 that placed SG on compulsory leave pending the completion of a formal inquiry (2) Rescinding of the PSC directive dated October 19, 2020 that sent the SG on compulsory leave to pave the way for her to resume duties (3) Retiring her on July 30, 2021 on her reaching the compulsory retirement age and (4) finalising the much-delayed formal inquiry into the SG’s conduct in terms of Public Administration Circular 30/2019 dated September 30, 2019, expeditiously.

However, the above-mentioned directives were not carried out and SG Wickramasinghe had to retire on reaching the retirement age.

Acknowledging that Wickramasinghe had found fault with the present PSC for the undue delay in finalising the preliminary inquiry and reinstate her, the AAD declared that the PSC failed to ‘exercise its discretion in a justifiable, reasonable and an objective manner.

One-time Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) Wickramasinghe declined to comment on the AAD ruling.

The AAD in its observations in the order pointed out that Senadhipathy had trapped SG Wickramasinghe with the help of the then UNP Minister Vajira Abeywardena, who gave his phone to SG Wickramasinghe, stating that Senadhipathy was on line. According to the proceedings, Abeywardena had received the call at a Colombo hotel while he was having dinner with SG Wickramasinghe and her husband.

Abeywadena is the current Chairman of the UNP. He was not immediately available for comment.

The AAD expressed astonishment at the failure on the part of those who conducted the preliminary inquiry to record Abeywardena’s statement or examine his phone. The AAD noted that Senadhipathy had got to SG Wickramasinghe through the Abeywardena’s phone after Wickramasinghe strongly opposed the minister inviting Avant Garde Chairman to have dinner with them at the Abeywardena’s residence.

The AAD stated that it had the power to take remedial measures in respect of decisions ‘tainted with error in law and fact’ taken by the PSC.

The AAD noted that SG Wickramasinghe hadn’t initiated the call and from the outset she insisted that the recording was ‘doctored, edited and distorted.’ Proceedings have revealed that AG de Livera had first listened to a tape recording that was edited at ten places and Senadhipathy himself admitted having edited the recording but he never submitted the original to the Preliminary Investigation Committee. The AAD pointed out that the AG de Livera at the time he made a statement at the preliminary investigations based his assessment on what the AAD called an edited, distorted and unauthentic version of the recording. In spite of this, the AG subsequently acknowledged that the audio tape he had listened to was distorted. However, a second statement hadn’t been recorded from him. But the PSC deciding to issue a charge sheet dated March 23, 2021 although the Preliminary Investigation team said the audio tape had been tampered with.

PIX SAVED AS DILRUKSHI, NISSANKA and WAJIRA



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President instructs officials to vaccinate kids with Pfizer

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Health Ministry still deliberating pros and cons

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed health officers to inoculate children between the age 15 to 19 with Pfizer vaccine, Army Commander General Shavendra Silva said yesterday.

General Silva added that the President had also instructed officials to inoculate children with special needs above the age of 12, with the Pfizer vaccines. He there are around 50,000 children with special needs.

General Silva said Sri Lanka would receive adequate Pfizer vaccine doses in the coming weeks. During the Presidential Task Force meeting, on Covid-19, it was decided to allow the Department of Motor Traffic, and the Land Registry to operate during the lockdown, which was extended until 01 October. However, a few hours before this statement was made, Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath told the media that no decision had been taken on vaccinating children.

He, however, said that discussions were ongoing about vaccinating children.

“There are a number of discussions on this because this is a serious matter. We have also decided that when we vaccinate the priority will be given to children with comorbidities. Then the rest will be vaccinated based on age groups. But we have not decided on anything else,” he said.

The dates, the brand and other details would be announced once the Health Ministry was done with consultations with experts. Once the decisions were taken the Ministry would prepare guidelines which would then be made available to the public, he said.

“So, I urge the parents not to worry or panic. They can vaccinate their children once we issue guidelines. We will ensure that this will be done safely and with virtually no side-effects or shortages,” Dr. Herath said.

The Deputy Director General of Health Services also urged people not to be misled by claims that those who had been double jabbed and being treated at home were dying in increasing numbers. Some people with serious underlying issues could die even if they were double jabbed, he said.

“However, as we vaccinate an increasing number of Sri Lankans, the deaths and those who need ICU treatment will decline rapidly. Don’t be fooled by various unscientific claims. We are a nation that has universal vaccine rates and we should maintain that tradition with COVID,” he said.

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Sumanthiran demands immediate due process against Lohan

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Immediate legal action including arrest and prosecution must be taken against Lohan Ratwatte and others who were involved in the incidents at Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons, TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said on Thursday. He said Ratwatte’s mere resignation from one portfolio would not do.

“The Presidential Secretariat has issued a statement that Lohan Ratwatte has taken responsibility for the incidents that transpired at Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons. Although Ratwatte is said to have resigned from his post as Minister for Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation, he continues to be a minister in charge of other subjects. This is not something we can accept,” he said.

The TNA MP said that the State Minister should be removed from all his positions immediately and the pistol he carried with him should be taken away from him.

“Otherwise, it’s a grave threat to the public at large,” Sumanthiran said. There had been other incidents where Ratwatte brandished his weapon in public spaces, he added.

The TNA MP said that an independent investigation should be held with regard to those incidents and Ratwatte and others involved in entering the Welikada and Anuradhapura Prisons should be arrested and charged.

“The police have still not taken any action in this regard. The question that must be posed is how he was able to carry his personal firearm inside the prison premises. Prison officials must answer these questions,” he said.

MP Sumanthiran said that given that the prisoners were wards of the state, their security was in the hands of the state.

“Therefore, this is a very serious incident. Action must be taken accordingly,” he said.

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Taking contradictory stand on 2015 Geneva Resolution

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‘Govt. seeking credit for accountability mechanisms set up by previous administration

UNHRC 48th sessions:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney-at-law Sudarshana Gunawardena has alleged that the government’s stand on accountability issues at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council is contradictory to its much publicised opposition to the Geneva Resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by the previous administration.

Sri Lanka co-sponsored 30/1, on Oct 1, 2015. The then Foreign Minister the late Mangala Samaraweera is on record as having said that the UNP-led government had President Maithripala Sirisena’s consent to go ahead with the co-sponsorship.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s media spokesperson Gunawardena yesterday (17) pointed out that the government, at the ongoing 48th sessions of the UNHRC, has reiterated its commitment to key accountability mechanisms set up in terms of the Geneva Resolution.

Civil society activist Gunawardena, who also functioned as the Director General, Information Department during the previous administration said that the assurance given by Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris last Tuesday (14) should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from 30/1 resolution.

Prof. Peiris’ predecessor, Dinesh Gunawardena announced Sri Lanka’s withdrawal at the Feb-March 2020 sessions.

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) owed an explanation, Gunawardena stressed, urging the government to take the public into confidence. “Stop playing politics at the expense of our international relations,” Gunawardena said, underscoring the need for what he called a national consensus on the post-war reconciliation process.

Responding to another query, Gunawardena said that FM Prof. Peiris in his address to the Geneva sessions discussed the progress in what he described as a domestic process in respect of accountability issues. Reference was made to the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the Office for Reparations (OR) and the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR). However, the FM conveniently failed to acknowledge that the OMP, OR and ONUR had been established in keeping with the 2015 Geneva Resolution that covered broader understanding of transitional justice.

The SLPP, while taking credit for the ongoing transitional justice process, continued to publicly reject 30/1, the very basis of the solution, Gunawardena said. “In other words, the SLPP’s actions are very different from their pledges before the electorate in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Referring to the assurance given by Prof. Peiris at the UNHRC that Sri Lanka Human Rights Council was carrying on its mandate, Gunawardena challenged the government to prove its sincerity by allowing no holds barred investigation into SLPP lawmaker Lohan Ratwatte’s raids on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons on Sept 6 and 12, respectively.

The announcement made by the HRCSL regarding its decision to initiate an inquiry of its own in the absence of police investigation received public attention and appreciation, Gunawardena said.

Commenting on the declaration that Sri Lanka was engaged in an integrated process to bring the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in line with international norms and best practices, lawyer Gunawardena urged the government to study the work done by the previous government in that regard. Referring to statements made by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in that regard, Gunawardena said that the then Joint

Opposition quite maliciously rejected the move. “They should be ashamed of theirconduct,” relevant ministers and the Attorney General Department couldn’t be unaware of the agreement on new anti-terrorism law.

Gunawardena said that the SLPP administration shouldn’t hesitate to appreciate the previous government’s achievements. “We are quite pleased that mechanisms accepted by the previous government continue to be in operation even though the progress seems slow. However, the SLPP cannot deprive the UNP-led administration of the credit it deserved,” lawyer Gunawardena said.

Gunawardena urged the government to examine the report of the Committee appointed by then Premier Wickremesinghe to develop what he called the policy and legal framework of the proposed Counter Terrorism Act of Sri Lanka. He said that a politically motivated campaign derailed that effort whereas the Opposition propagated the lie the yahapalana government intended to deprive Sri Lanka of anti-terrorism law.

Asked to comment on the revelation of the SLPP government having talks with a group of civil society activists to explore ways and means to strengthening the reconciliation process, Gunawardena said that a 13-page Foreign Ministry note dated Aug. 31, 2021 addressed to Colombo-based diplomatic missions acknowledged the pivotal role played by the civil society. Having always accused the civil society of being part of a Western strategy, the same lot exposed their duplicity by meeting a group of civil society activists.

Gunawardena was referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ministers, Basil Rakapaksa, Prof. Peiris, Dinesh Gunawardena, Ali Sabry, PC, and Namal Rajapaksa having separate meetings with SLCC (Sri Lanka Collective for Consensus) in the run-up to the Geneva confab. SLCC comprises 16 individuals.

Gunawardena noted the Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, too, in her hard-hitting Sept 13 statement on Sri Lanka referred to President Rajapaksa’s meeting with the SLCC.

Gunawardena said that in addition to the SLCC, another group styled itself as the Civil Society Platform (CSP) in a statement issued on Sept. 13 made its position clear on a range of accountability issues as well as stepped up pressure on the civil society. CSP consists of 30 organizations and 36 individuals.

Responding to declarations by FM Prof Peiris and Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage that external investigations wouldn’t be acceptable, lawyer Gunawardena said that instead of rejecting the investigation the government should furbish whatever information in its hands or had access to the new investigative mechanism. The government couldn’t ignore the fact that the UNHRC authorized the fresh investigative mechanism at the 46th session with an overwhelming majority with 22 countries voting for the resolution, 11 against and 14 missing the vote.

Gunawardena urged the government to take a realistic view as Sri Lanka didn’t have time and space to engage in silly maneuvers. The bottom line was that the March 2020 announcement that Sri Lanka withdrew from 30/1 was nothing but a farce, Gunawardena said.

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