DSG Peiris demands police upgrade their representation in court
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Attorney General’s Department is willing even to consider securing assistance of the military to execute warrants issued by courts following submissions made by the department, if the police are unable to make arrests.
Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) Dileepa Peiris said so addressing the media at the AG’s Department last Friday evening (31). Flanked by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sumathi Dharmawardena and State Counsel and AG Department spokesperson Nishara Jayaratne, DSG Peiris said the police could discuss difficulties experienced by officers in executing warrants, if any, with AG Dappula de Livera, PC.
DSG Peiris said that they could work out a mechanism in this regard. If required, the assistance of the military could be obtained, he said.
At the onset of the briefing, the first ever called by the AG’s Department, ASG Dharmawardena and State Counsel Jayaratne explained the decision to brief the media as regards the ongoing high profile case heard before the Negombo Magistrate court where now interdicted Superintendent of the prison there Anurudda Sampayo and three other employees were accused of cooperating with the drug dealers and the underworld. The AG’s Department swung into action after Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne countered accusations directed at the police on a special television programme.
DSG Peiris questioned the circumstances under which Chief Jailor of the Negombo Prison Upali Sarath Bandara and Second tier Jailor Nishantha Senaratne simply walked into the Magistrate court on July 29 seven days after the issuance of warrants. They were remanded until August 4
In addition to them, the other suspect jailor Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala who had earlier surrendered to the CID was also remanded until August 4 as well.
On the instructions of the AG, DSG Peiris vowed to go flat out against those responsible for building a criminal empire within the Negombo prison. Declaring that the Negombo case was very special and a challenge to the judiciary and the law enforcement, DSG Peiris explained that the exposure of the underworld and Prisons officials nexus as a result of investigation conducted on February 13 and May 11 this year.
Disclosing various contraband including narcotics seized during raids, DSG Peiris pointed out how the Prisons authorities allowed a digital scale in hands of those dealing in drugs for obvious reasons. The second raid led to the recovery of a double door fridge, electric kettle and various other items, including food supplements, DSG Peiris said, adding that it was only the beginning. “We’ll conduct a major investigation. The AG’s Department secured warrants for the arrests of the four personnel after convincing the court of the need to do so.”€
The fourth suspect (Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala) surrendered to the CID before the execution of the relevant warrant, the DIG said, while recollecting the high handed manner Chief Jailor Upali Sarath Bandara and Second tier Jailor Nishantha Senaratne walked into the witness box. The top official questioned how two wanted men arrived at the Negombo Magistrate court after having evaded the police for several days. DSG Peiris said that the police owed the AG and the public an explanation why the two suspects couldn’t be tracked down before they reached the court premises.
DSG Peiris said that the pathetic failure on the part of the police to execute warrants sent wrong signal to the public. Recent threats directed at the President, the Secretary, Ministry of Defence as well as the Commissioner General of Prisons by a criminal held at the Boossa prison should be examined against the backdrop of the alleged nexus between the underworld and those supposed to ensure law and order. The DSG emphasized the need to ascertain how criminal held in maximum security prison enjoyed such exclusive power even to challenge the President.
Responding to a query, DSG Peiris stressed that they didn’t have any problem with the Acting IGP and other law enforcement officers.
The DSG said: “The AG’s Department enjoyed excellent working relationship with the police. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to what was going on.â€
DSG Peiris rapped police headquarters for not assigning senior officers to represent the department in high profile cases such as the Negombo prison and the alleged involvement of a group of Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) sleuths dealing in heroin.
DSG Peiris asked why a Senior DIG, DIG or IGP himself couldn’t represent the police in high profile case as he in his capacity as the DSG represented the AG in the lowest court. The police top brass should provide the required leadership in the battle against the underworld. DSG Peiris said that a group of five represented the AG’s Department at the Negombo Magistrate court whereas the police were represented by an ASP.
He Peiris emphasized that they couldn’t allow the unacceptable situation to continue under any circumstances. If the police couldn’t carry out court directives, the police top brass should explain the difficulties so remedial measures could be taken, in consultation with relevant parties.
Responding to allegations that the AG’s Department had been in an unnecessary hurry and too hasty in criticizing the police, DSG Peiris said that they weren’t engaged in what the critics called media shows. DSG Peiris reiterated that Acting IGP should be held responsible for the failure on the part of the police so far to arrest Sampayo as well as other accomplices now in remand after having walked into the Negombo Magistrate’s court.
DSG acknowledged the services rendered by law enforcement officers even at the risk of their lives whereas a minority among the 87,000 strong police department bring the entire service into disrepute.
Responding to another query, DSG Peiris compared government authorities securing the custody of Dubai-based Makandure Madush in May 2019 and Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP in August 2009 with Sampayo arriving at Hulftsdorp court complex to sign an affidavit, after the issuance of warrant for his arrest. The DSG pointed out that Sampayo had been represented by a President’s Counsel and 15 other lawyers. Where were the police, an irate DSG asked.
The Acting IGP should explain what was going on and his department’s failure to execute the relevant warrant.
Referring to Negombo prison and PNB cases, DSG Peiris said that those genuine crime fighters lacked real friends and required backing whereas the underworld received unhindered support and assistance of the majority. DSG Peiris asserted that it was a very unfortunate situation.
The DSG said that his department would go all out to find out who provided refuge to Sampayo and his assistants as the exposure of those providing cover to wanted men was as important as apprehending the fugitives. DSG Peiris said that there was provision in the law to move court against law enforcement officers who failed to execute warrants.
The Deputy Solicitor General explained that the AG enjoyed the power to initiate an inquiry of his own even without receiving a complaint. He praised the role played by both print and electronic media in highlighting the Negombo case. If not for the media, those interested parties could have easily suppressed the case, the DSG said, urging the media to continue with their good work.
Responding to another query, DSG Peiris said that no one was above the law while emphasizing the need to inquire into alleged involvement of some elite Special Task Force (STF) personnel with the underworld.
Regardless of the consequences, the AG’s Department was determined to bring those high profile cases to a successful conclusion, DSG Peiris said, pointing out that he could have simply allowed the police to ask for additional time from the Negombo Magistrate when the case was taken up on July 22. Alleging that was the norm, the DSG said that the AG’s Department felt the need to take a tough stand â€œon this issue as our very existence was at stake.
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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.
TNA MP faults govt. for delay in answering questions, gets under Johnston’s skin
By Saman Indrajith
It did not matter whether the MPs were wearing pressed clothes or had travelled long distances when their questions were answered, Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday.
The Minister said so in response to a complaint by Batticaloa District TNA MP Shanikyan Rasamanikkam, who expressed his dismay for government taking time to answer a question raised by him.
MP Rasamanikkam has raised a question whether the Minister of Health is aware that the Dikkodai ospital, located in the Batticaloa district is not used for public purposes and the patients who visit the hospital for receiving services, face inconveniences, owing to that. On behalf of the Minister of Health, the Chief Government Whip and Minister asked for additional two weeks time.
MP Rasamanikkam: I come to parliament from Batticaloa, which is 422 km away. To attend Parliament we take great care including pressing our clothes. After taking so much trouble to come there braving the pandemic threat we do not get answers. There is a Health Minister and Acting Health Minister and neither of them is here. I saw Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle in the House this morning. She too has gone out. I travel more than 800 km. We could attend to many other problems. It is because the government does not give answers we are conducting protest marches, but when we do so we are hauled up before courts.
Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: Every MP comes here wearing pressed clothes. But that has nothing to do with questions and answers here. I have been requested by the subject minister to ask for two weeks’ time. The MPs have a right to ask questions and in the same way the ministers have the right to ask for time. On the other hand, whether you cover 400 km to reach parliament does not matter. The majority of MPs travel 200 to 250 kilometers to come to Parliament. It is for that purpose they contest elections and get elected. Once elected the distance is not an issue you have to come to Parliament. The government has answered all your questions. This is the first time the Minister has asked for additional time. It is unfair for you to level charges. A more responsible conduct is expected of you as an upcoming political leader.