Prez, PM assured maximum support, realization of development goals
By Shamindra Ferdinando
China yesterday (9) reiterated its commitment to supporting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s development objectives envisaged in his 2019 presidential election manifesto.
The assurance was given by senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi, who is a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and the director of its Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, the top policy-making body.
The seven-member Chinese delegation led by Jiechi arrived in Colombo, on Thursday night, for meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Having met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at the Presidential Secretariat, the Chinese delegation met Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees, where they discussed matters of mutual interest. All major Chinese investment projects were launched during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency.
The UNP objected to the visit of the Chinese delegation, claiming that its members had not undergone quarantine unlike other foreigners. Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi acknowledged that the meetings would take place without following quarantine process.
A statement issued by the President’s Office yesterday evening quoted Jiechi as having assured the Sri Lankan leader that China would continuously back Sri Lanka to achieve development. Jiechi also assured that China would stand by Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as well as other international platforms.
The visit takes place amidst fresh corona eruption in Sri Lanka while relations between China and the US and China and India are fragile whereas the US seeks to expand its role in Sri Lanka with the finalization of the MCC Compact, having extended ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) in Aug 2017.
Declaring that bilateral relations were at an extremely cordial level, the leader of the delegation said that Chinese President Xi Jinping considered further improvement of China-Sri Lanka relations a priority.
The Chinese delegation is on a tour of four countries in the Asian region. Sri Lanka was their first destination. They left Colombo yesterday.
President Rajapaksa recalled continuous Chinese support provided to Sri Lanka regardless of the party in power. The President appreciated the support received by Sri Lanka during the war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Declaring that China-Sri Lanka relations had seen further improvement in the post-war period, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked China for backing infrastructure development in the country.
Referring to several large Chinese funded projects, including the Hambantota port, Colombo Port City, the Southern Expressway, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dismissed assertions that Sri Lanka had been caught in a Chinese debt trap.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa requested for Chinese help to realize his dream of proving such large scale projects helped improve living standards of the people.
Recollecting he had been to China on 13 occasions before winning the presidency in Nov 2019, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he wanted to achieve Chinese style development especially in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also requested China to increase the volume of imports from Sri Lanka as the trade balance was very much in favour of China.
The statement quoted President Rajapaksa as having said that the Chinese delegation was asked to allow more Sri Lankan products, more Chinese tourists, explore the possible participation in Colombo tea auctions and invest in a specialized university to promote technology education here.
The delegations agreed to resume talks on a free trade agreement and to fully operationalize the Hambantota Industrial Zone.
Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency Wang Xiaotao, Assistant Foreign Minister of China Deng Lee, Hu Wei, Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, Chen Song, Deputy Director General of Department of Asian Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Designate to China Dr. Palitha Kohona were also present at the discussion.
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AG not bound by its recommendations, yet to receive report
PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC is not bound by recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, or presidential directives in that regard, according to authoritative sources.
They said that the AG couldn’t under any circumstances initiate legal proceedings until he had received the full PCoI report.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the PCoI report on Feb 1. The President’s Office delivered a set of PCoI reports to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Feb 23, a day after the report was presented to the cabinet of ministers. The Island raised the matter with relevant authorities in the wake of a section of the media reporting the PCoI recommending punitive measures against former President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujitha Jayasundera, Chief of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen et al over the Easter Sunday carnage.
Sources pointed out that due to the inordinate delay in sharing the PCoI report with the AG, the department hadn’t been able to take preliminary measures required to initiate the proceedings. Sources said that a team of officers would take at least six weeks or more to examine the report before tangible measures could be taken.
With the AG scheduled to retire on May 24, 2021, even if the AG Department received the P CoI it would be quite a tough task to initiate proceedings ahead of retirement, sources said. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, both the AG and the IGP could receive extensions beyond 60 at the President’s discretion.
Dappula de Livera received an Acting appointment as the AG a week after the Easter Sunday carnage whereas his predecessor Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was elevated to Chief Justice.
Responding to another query, sources said that the Attorney General two weeks ago requested Secretary to the President for a copy of the P CoI. However, the AG was yet to receive one, sources said. In spite of the AG not receiving a P CoI copy, the AG had instructed the IGP to obtain a copy of the report when he requested the police to complete investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage. The AG issued specific instructions after having examined police files pertaining to the investigations.
The IGP, too, hadn’t received a copy so far though some sections of the report were in the public domain.
Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage displayed at a live political programme on Derana a copy of the P CoI report he received at the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
Sources said that the Attorney General’s Department couldn’t decide on a course of action in respect of the Easter carnage on the basis of a section of the report. In terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Section 24), the AG enjoyed significant powers/authority in respect of investigations; sources said adding that the Department urgently required both the P CoI report and police investigations report. The Attorney General’s Department has raised the delay in receiving a P CoI report amidst the Catholic Church attacking the government over the same issue.
Sources said that ministerial committee appointed to study the P CoI report couldn’t decide on how to proceed with the recommendations and the matter was entirely in the hands of the AG. Sources pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to release the report had received the attention of sections of the international media, including the New York Times. Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera having met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at the Bishop’s House on Dec 8, 2020 said that the AG would get a copy of the P CoI report once the President received it. Minister Weerasekera said that the CID had handed over the relevant files after having completed investigations into eight blasts. Referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Easter Sunday carnage, the former Navy Chief of Staff said that all such documents would have to be brought to one place and considered before initiating legal proceedings. Acknowledging that there could be delays, lawmaker Weerasekera said that on the instructions of the Attorney General a 12-member team of lawyers was working on the case. The minister vowed to expose the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks. Investigations continued while some of those wanted were overseas, the minister said.
The minister acknowledged that the Attorney General couldn’t proceed without the P CoI report. Minister Weerasekera reiterated that once the President received the P CoI report, it would be sent to the Attorney General. The minister said that there were documents two to three feet high that needed scrutiny. The minister assured comprehensive investigation. The minister said that investigations pertaining to eight blasts had been completed and the reports handed over to the AG. However, the Attorney General had found shortcomings in those investigations.
JVP picks holes in PCoI report
By Saman Indrajith
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday bombings had failed to identify the mastermind of , the JVP said yesterday.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that the PCoI report had levelled accusations against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former IGP and head of intelligence for their dereliction of duty, shirking of responsibilities and not taking action to prevent the attacks and negligence. There were reference to the causes of the terror attacks and actions to be taken to avoid such attacks and the influence of extremist organisations. “However, there is no mention of the mastermind of the attacks, the handlers of the attackers and those whose interests the carnage served. It is also not mentioned whether there has been any foreign or local organisation behind those attacks. As per the PCoI report the attack took place as a result of culmination of extremism.
“According to the PCoI the extremist activities were a result of the prevailing political situation then. The entire nation was waiting to see who was responsible and who masterminded those attacks. The PCoI has failed to identify the true culprits responsible for the terror attacks. The report says that the leader of the suicide cadres killed himself in the attacks and it was a puzzle. That means those who are actually responsible for the attacks are still at large. The report does not provide exact details of the sources of the attacks. The PCoI had sittings for one year and five months. It summoned various persons and got their statements but it has failed to shed any light on the terror attacks. Everybody knows that the top leaders of the government and heads of security and intelligence establishments failed in their duties. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command and he too is bound by the responsibility but the PCoI report fails to identify him as one of the persons against whom legal action should be instituted. The PCoI has treated Wickremesinghe and former President Maithripala Sirisena differently. We are not telling that this report is a total failure but we cannot accept this as a complete report. The PCoI handed over its report to the President on Feb 1. After 23 days it was sent to Parliament. Now, a copy of the report is there in the parliamentary library for the perusal of MPs.”
Herath said that the PCoI did not have powers to take punitive action. “It only has powers to name those responsible and recommend action to be taken against those named.