…..Radical Centre claims to follow centrist path
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who quit the 2020 parliamentary election in the second week of June, will launch a programme today (6) to protect, what a close associate of his called democratic gains made during the yahapalana administration.
Samaraweera will launch social media-based campaigns, in stages, beginning 10 am. The former minister’s aide told The Island that the carefully arranged project aimed to sustain post-war reconciliation efforts launched in the wake of the change of government in January 2015.
In spite of quitting the contest, Samaraweera yesterday exercised his franchise in Matara.
Samaraweera led the Matara District Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) nominations list. There had never been a previous instance of a senior politician quitting the contest having accepted nominations.
Samaraweera served as foreign and finance ministers alternatively during the previous administration.
Responding to another query, the aide said that the launch of the project coincided with the commencement of the counting of the ballot papers. “The former minister will issue a statement around noon, about two hours after the issuance of new movement’s first statement,” the aide said.
As part of the overall measures in place to neutralize continuing threat posed by the coronavirus, the Election Commission did away with overnight counting. Counting of ballot papers will commence today (Thursday) at 7 am.
Asked whether Samaraweera’s project was aimed at challenging the new government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the aide emphasized it certainly was not the intention.
The former minister, in spite of giving up parliamentary politics was however determined to pursue his political objectives, the aide said, adding that he would closely work with those elected to the new parliament.
The new civil society initiative undertaken by some of those who backed the yahapalana administration was unveiled at an event held at the New Town Hall on July 8. Samaraweera participated in the event though he did not address the gathering.
The grouping styled itself as ‘Freedom: People’s Collective’ vowed to do whatever it took to thwart the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) plan to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Jaffna District candidate M.A. Sumanthiran PC represented the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
Minister Samaraweerra, in a statement under the theme ‘an agenda for true patriots’ issued via a new set up called ‘The Radical Centre’ stated: ‘The ‘Radical Centre’ entails the creation of a centrist middle way where dissenting voices and opinions from every part of the political spectrum would have a place within a democratic framework of decentralized governance. It is a system where diversity in all its manifestations is celebrated; the years of deep mistrust between the different communities must lose its sting within a non-violent, democratic framework where pluralism and secularism flourish. The radical centre should show the intolerant that those they hate are in fact, quite similar to them and have the same dreams and aspirations as well as the same fears and concerns as human beings. The radical centre should be the point where all Sri Lankans can discover their common humanity going beyond the boundaries of race, creed and caste.”
Declaring that democracy, in spite of all its shortcomings remains the best system of governance as we move towards the second quarter of the 21st century, Samaraweera emphasized that an urgent re-commitment to democracy has become the need of the hour as Sri Lanka hurls towards an autocracy with the rapid convergence of the executive, the military and the clergy; the legislature and the judiciary are being turned into mere rubber seals of the executive President.
Commenting on the growing threat posed by narcotics, the former minister said that stringent new laws were required to curb the menace. Samaraweera said: “Many of the big time drug barons have the highest political patronage and drug money is being laundered into the mainstream, formal economy through casinos, stock market, media institutions et al. In the fight against drug abuse, only addicts and low level dealers are brought to book. Stringent new legislation is needed urgently to curb this menace. A three pronged war against extremism and drug abuse is the need of the hour while special rehabilitation programmes must be introduced to treat the addicted youth.”
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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.