Minister Ratnayake addressing the media at Temple Trees
Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake, MP, has stoutly defended the police in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena’s onslaught against them at the last Cabinet meeting.
Addressing the media at the Temple Trees on Thursday (June 6), Minister Ratnayake emphasised that he had fulfilled his responsibilities 100 per cent and was satisfied with the performance of the institutions under him.
The UNPer said so in response to questions regarding President Maithripala Sirisena’s claim that the police had failed in their duty.
Co-Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said he had asked the President to take over those institutions which had failed to haul up at least a single former SLFP heavyweight before courts for bribery and corruption.
The UNP and the SLFP shared defence and law and order portfolios with President Maithripala Sirisena taking defence and Ratnayake receiving law and order in addition to Southern Development.
Minister Ratnayake, who is also the Chief of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s staff, didn’t mince his words when he said that unsubstantiated allegations were being directed at law enforcement authorities.
Temple Trees called Thursday’s briefing to explain the objectives of a three-day SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) meeting in Colombo commencing from July 11.
Minister Ratnayake said that though he was confident that he had carried out his duties and functions properly in the present capacity, he was ready to accept any other portfolio.
Fielding more questions from journalists, Minister Ratnayake said he would call a separate briefing to explain the situation with permission from President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Minister Ratnayake declared that he didn’t have anything to hide and was concerned about his self-respect. The institutions tasked with investigations and the follow-up action had been free to operate without political interference, he added. The government expected them to function independently and as the minister in charge of the portfolio he wouldn’t under any circumstances interfere in their work.
However, the civil society organisation that campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP at January and August 2015 presidential and parliamentary polls, respectively, yesterday backed President Sirisena’s condemnation of the police. However, the grouping rejected President Sirisena’s assertion that he could achieve success within three months in case failed institutions were placed under him.
Gamini Viyangoda of Purawesi Balaya told The Island that the top UNP and SLFP leadership had caused irreparable damage to the yahapalana cause by not heeding their advice.
The National Movement for Just Society (NMJS) and Purawesi Balaya had repeatedly requested President Sirisena to strip Ratnayake and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse of their portfolios, Viyangoda said. Those ministers had interfered in investigations and in some instance went out of their way to protect those who had been in power before, he added. The civil society activist said President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe couldn’t absolve themselves of responsibility for the current sorry state of affairs. Responding to a query, Viyangoda said: “Ministers in charge of law and order as well as Justice are responsible for the inordinate delay in bringing high profile investigations to a successful conclusion. We have requested at least on six occasions to remove Ratnayake and Rajapakse this year.”
Viyangoda said civil society felt that President Sirisena shouldn’t take over those so-called failed institutions, including the Attorney General’s Department. He recalled that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had brought the Attorney General’s department under the latter’s purview.
Viyangoda also pointed out what he called the absurdity of the government accommodating UNP National List MP and former Attorney General Tilak Marapana in the Cabinet in spite of his close relationship with the Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS) under a cloud. He added that yahapalana leaders should be ashamed of accommodating former foreign affairs minister Rohitha Bogollagama. “Having condemned waste and irregularities under the previous regime, the government has appointed Bogollagama the Governor of the Eastern Province,” he said.
The civil society member hailed the recent appointment of Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake as the army commander, Kapila Waidyaratne, PC, and former Additional Solicitor General as the Defence Secretary and experienced civil servant Austin Fernando as the Secretary to the President. “Why on earth, did President accommodate Bogollagama, a person rejected by people at the last general election in August 2015?” Viyangoda said that those rejected by people shouldn’t be accommodated through National List in parliament or given key posts.