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Two lawmakers join civil society bid to highlight Maj. Prasanna’s case

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two SLPP lawmakers, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera and Gevindu Cumaratunga have expressed serious concern over failure on the part of retired Maj. Ajith Prasanna, who is also an attorney-at-law, to secure bail pending court proceedings in respect of contempt court charges filed by the Attorney General.

The police arrested one-time Southern Provincial Council member Prasanna on January 24th, 2020 for making allegations regarding the conduct of the judiciary.

Colombo District MP State Minister Weerasekera and National List MP Cumaratunga backed the move in their capacity as the Convenor Jathika Sanvidana Ekamuthuwa and Chairman, civil society organisation Uthukama, respectively.

Shyamendra Wickramaarachchi, executive director, Global Sri Lankan Forum told The Island several nationalist  groups based in the UK, UAE, Scotland, Italy, Canada, Qatar, France, Japan, Myanmar, Monaco and the US backed the move to highlight the retired officer’s plight.

Prasanna, who served in the Sinha Regiment, suffered injuries in an LTTE attack in the Jaffna peninsula in the early 90s. Subsequently, he joined the Army Legal Directorate and launched his political career after retirement.

The civil society outfit said that Prasanna had played a significant role during yahapalana administration in support of the Joint Opposition campaign. Unfortunately, he had been conveniently forgotten by those who were aware of his tremendous contribution at a time the previous government brazenly suppressed dissent.

Their statement has referred to the continuing plight of Prasanna’s wife, Sudarmika and two children. Wickramaarachchi said that in his capacity as an attorney-at-law Maj. Prasanna appeared for several military personnel charged in courts.

The grouping, in its public statement alleged that those who had ridiculed and played politics with the law during the previous administration were continuing in public life without hindrance.

The police arrested the retired soldier in the wake of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) deciding to move the Supreme Court against him over controversial comments on a live political programme. The Bar Council took a unanimous decision in that regard at a meeting on Dec 14, 2019 presided over by BASL President Kalinga Indatissa, PC, its main office at Mihindu Mawatha, Hulftsdorp.

The Bar Council found fault with Major Prasanna for being critical of several senior members of the Attorney General’s Department, Magistrates as well as law enforcement officers as regards four cases – disappearance of media personality Prageeth Ekneligoda (2010), alleged abduction and disappearance of 11 persons by the Navy (2008), abduction and torture of Deputy Editor of The Nation Keith Noyahr (2008) and attempt on Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon’s life (2008).

Ajith Prasanna is the second attorney-at-law to face SC proceedings following complaints received in respect of a lawyer’s conduct. The SC in March 2019 barred public litigation activist Nagananda Kodituwakku from practicing law for a period of three years following a contempt of court charge.

A three-member bench, comprising then Chief Justice Nalin Perera, Justices Sisira de Abrew and Prasanna Jayawardena issued the order in respect of a defamation case filed in 2015.

The Bar Council announced its decision to haul Major Prasanna before the SC following representations made by three lawyers. Attorney-at-law Prasanna was also present at the meeting chaired by Kalinga Indatissa, PC. Prasanna altogether named five Magistrates, three AG’s Department officials and law enforcement officers, including highly controversial Inspector Nishantha Silva, who secured political asylum under mysterious circumstances in Switzerland last November.

Major Prasanna was initially represented by juniors of attorney-at-law Maithri Gunaratne, then Anil Silva, PC and now Shavendra Fernando, PC.

A bail application filed by counsel for Major Prasanna requesting bail was refused by the Court of Appeal last September. The move was made in respect of the former officer remanded by Colombo Magistrate’s Court over allegations that he had intimidated witnesses in a case before Magistrate’s Court at two media conferences. Two Navy personnel Thushara Mendis and K.A. Gamini remanded on the same charge received bail a couple of weeks ago.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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