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



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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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving



Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest



By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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