By Shamindra Ferdinando
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in terms of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report on the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage has issued specific instructions to the Police/Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and other relevant authorities to expedite investigations, SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday.
Addressing the regular SLPP briefing at the Waters Edge, Prof. Peiris, who is also the Education Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa intervened on behalf of the government whereas the Attorney General proceeded with own actions.
Prof. Peiris said that the entire set of PCoI volumes was handed over to the AG recently to enable him to proceed. The SLPP Chairman emphasized the pivotal importance in taking tangible measures to secure the arrest of those suspects living abroad.
Prof. Peiris said that as part of the overall investigations law enforcement authorities had been instructed to probe the alleged FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organization aka the Gulen movement) links to the Easter Sunday carnage. Prof. Peiris explained that the proscribed Turkish organization had provided funding to some persons named in the report and a thorough inquiry was called into foreign involvement in the attacks.
The PCoI revealed that the previous government had turned a blind eye to information provided by Turkey regarding FETO activities in Sri Lanka. FETO leader Gulen has secured US protection.
Reiterating the government’s commitment to bring Easter Sunday perpetrators before court, Prof Peiris revealed the arrest of 99 persons in connection with the attacks and also efforts to secure the extradition of 35 others. However, the Minister didn’t explain the status of the extradition process pertaining to those 35 living overseas.
Prof Peiris said that the 36 separate investigations into various aspects of the Easter Sunday attacks had been completed. The police were directed to hand over the relevant files without delay, the minister said.
Appreciating the services rendered by the PCoI, Minister Peiris said that specific information hitherto not available were now with authorities and quite useful in the investigations.
The former top law academic also discussed the Wanathavilluwa detection made by the CID in the run up to the Easter Sunday attacks. Making reference to three wounded persons in custody, Prof. Peiris said that the police were directed to conduct thorough investigations into their alleged involvement.
Archbishop of Colombo Malclom Cardinal Ranjith moved Court of Appeal regarding the recovery of swords and daggers in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. The SLPP spokesperson said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued specific instructions as regards the detection of some 1,440 swords and daggers. The academic explained the judiciary addressing the Easter Sunday issues while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued directives to expedite the overall process.
Prof. Peiris censured the previous government over allowing extremist elements a free hand. The minister pointed out how foreign preachers were allowed in without any scrutiny. Dismissing Opposition and civil society criticism of planned prohibition of burqa, Prof Peiris emphasized the right and the responsibility on the part of the government to take tangible measures to neutralize the threat.
Blaming the previous government for issuing visa on arrival to dangerous foreign elements, Prof Peiris explained how irresponsible and foolish conduct of the previous administration created an environment for extremists to destroy Buddha statues at Mawanella. If the government of the day properly inquired into Mawanella incidents, including the attempt to kill the then Minister Kabir Hashim’s coordinating secretary, the Easter Sunday carnage could have been averted, the minister said.
Minister Peiris also questioned the rationale in one-time Western Province Governor Azath Salley’s declaration that his community wouldn’t care about laws of the country and would abide by Muslims law. The minister said that no one would be able to take such a stand under any circumstances.
Commenting on PCoI recommendations and findings, Prof. Peiris said that 54 persons living abroad were categorized as wanted in connection with the Easter Sunday investigations. Of them, 50 had been already extradited and were under investigations whereas actions were being taken to bring down the remaining four in foreign custody.
Minister Peiris said that the government would soon request Australia to inquire into some persons who had been arrested in Qatar in Oct 2020 and subsequently sent Down Under.
According to Minister Peiris, the PCoI called for the establishment of a separate unit at the AG’s Department to handle terrorism cases, bring in amendments or introduce new laws in parliament as regards foreign funding matters, extradition and money laundering et al, setting up a National Intelligence Organization by way of a parliamentary act, restrictions on setting up of private organizations by lawmakers and special court to hear Easter Sunday case and any other case related to it.
Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill
… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory
Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law
By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.
Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.
Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.
The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.
Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.
Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.
The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties
Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.
Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.
Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander
An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.
Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.
“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.
The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.
“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.
Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”
Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period
Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.
Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.
DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.
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