Author Archives: srilankatwo

Why do Authorities Fear Right to

Why do Authorities Fear Right to


2018-05-24

Come June this year it will mark the completion of two years after the Right to Information Act was passed in Parliament. The act came into force on 3rd of February last year.   

  • Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is also a highly discussed topic at present.
  • The total amount paid to all officers and other staff of SLC in the form of salaries and other emoluments for the year 2016 was RS 392,359,219
  • At present the Cabinet Secretariat is flooded with so many requests and it is heartening to know that Information Officer Jude Nilukshan promptly attends to requests.  
  • By now several requests have been made from the National Police Commission which have gone unheeded

An international seminar on this subject organized by the Sri Lanka Press Institute is being held these days in Colombo to coincide with the passing of this piece of legislation. Under the heading ‘Gamata Nogiya Thorathuru Panatha’ (The Information Act which did not reach the village) an article appeared in the ‘Truthful Investigation’ Column last year. Up to now more than 100 request letters have been received where their writers are seeking information. This week’s article deals with the institutions that provide information and those who do not wish to do so.

An earlier article under ‘Sathya Gaveshana’ in our sister newspaper Lankadeepa dealt with a request made to the

Commissioner General of Rehabilitation for a list of former LTTE cadres, who had been rehabilitated, and how the chief of that institute had questioned over the telephone the need for such information. It is accepted by many that all information relating to Security and institutions connected to security are strictly confidential. But a major part of that information can’t be considered as confidential. With the passing of the Right to Information Act most of this information can be released. However, as some officers still believe in archaic ideologies, they are reluctant to release such information. This is what happened at the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation’s office. Finally the seekers of information had to obtain relief from the Commission on Right to Information.

With the passing of the Right to Information Act most of this information can be released. However, as some officers still believe in archaic ideologies, they are reluctant to release such information

 

The commission conducting inquiries into complaints consisted of Chairman Mahinda Gammanpila and its members: Justice Rohini Walgama, Attorneys Krishali Pinto Jayawardene, S.G. Punchihewa, Dr Selvi Thiruchandran and Director General Piyatissa Ranasinghe. The Chief of the Rehabilitation Commissioner General’s office was represented by its information officer.

When the Commission inquired as to why the information was not revealed, the information officer replied that as the information was related to National Security he could not. He said that with regard to this request they had called for directions from the line ministry and the Ministry of Defense, for which they hadn’t received a reply. The Commission informed the information officer to clarify as to how statistics pertaining to the rehabilitated LTTE cadres, which the writers had requested, can interfere with the National Security. In reply he had stated that by revealing such information it could affect the personal lives of the rehabilitated LTTE cadres and therefore he couldn’t agree to the release of such information. He however failed to present facts in proof of the strategy he used.

Accordingly, the Information Commission giving its ruling said that by asking for the reasons for requesting information, the Rehabilitation Commissioner General’s office had contravened with clause number 24 of the Act, and sub section 5 and clause under (wE). This clause stipulates that those who wish to seek information with the purpose of connecting with their loved ones in custody need not submit personal details.

After two days of inquiry the commission directed the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation to provide all required information through the Commission on Information.

The experiences of many writers reveal that the Ministry of Education comes under the spotlight as an institute which doesn’t provide information and that letters addressed to this Ministry don’t receive responses. 

Creating a fear psychosis 
There were several reports regarding the queries made requesting information. As confirmed by the Commissioner on Information the person requesting information is not obliged to disclose the reasons for his request for information. In this regard an awareness should be created among the rural people. This is because the questioning in a similar manner by the officers assigned with the task of providing information would create a fear psychosis among these individuals. This could discourage them from seeking information. By this type of action the responsible officers are preventing the public from seeking vital information.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is also a highly discussed topic at present. In addition to this sports body there are many national sports associations which have brought their financial operations under the spotlight. Many are of the opinion that no questions can be asked regarding these institutions. SLC believed that it does not come under the purview of the Right to Information Act. In order to check the veracity of this position writers sought information about the SLC requesting information like; the number of personnel at SLC, the names of executive officers, names of coaches listed under the SLC, the total amount paid as salaries to all the officers and other staffers of SLC for the year 2016 and the salaries paid to the listed coaches of the SLC for the Month of August 2017.

When this request was forwarded to SLC, an officer functioning in the capacity of Legal and Information Officer had stated that the SLC does not come directly under this Right to Information Act. This officer had therefore requested that the information that was sought had to be obtained from the Ministry of Sports.

While this remains so the Facebook page of this officer concerned introduces him as the information officer appointed under the Right to Information Act. Based on this information and mentioning that SLC too comes under the Right to Information Act and quoting the relevant legal provisions, an appeal was made to the officer concerned in the Ministry of Sports. Accordingly the officer appointed, Additional Secretary Siribaddana, instructed the SLC President in writing to provide the required information through the information officer serving the cricket controlling body in the island, as soon as possible.

The information so obtained revealed that the total amount paid to all officers and other staff of SLC in the form of salaries and other emoluments for the year 2016 was RS 392,359,219. By the end of 2017 there had been 17 coaches serving SLC. Now the public can request for information not only from SLC, but also from any national sports body which had not been available hitherto.

The above details refer to two institutions which didn’t respond favourabily when calls were made to obtain information.

When the Commission inquired as to why the information was not revealed, the information officer replied that as the information was related to National Security he could not.

Cabinet Secretariat shows the way 
Going by the experiences of scribes, the Cabinet Secretariat has been rated as the best institution which responds to requests by the public without any hassle. This is an institute where the Right to Information Act is very favourabily implemented. At present the Cabinet Secretariat is flooded with so many requests and it is heartening to know that Information Officer Jude Nilukshan promptly attends to requests.

 

Two letters appeared with regard to the Uma Oya project in the ‘Truthful Investigations’ coverage. At that time a politician in the opposition charged that in 2004 a Cabinet Paper had been submitted by Anura Kumara Dissanayake on the Uma Oya project. In order to obtain the veracity of this statement, a request was made for information regarding this matter from the Cabinet Secretariat. This newspaper was able to obtain the relevant Cabinet Paper.

 

 

 

 

This Cabinet Paper presented, covering a period of 12 years, points out that issues that may emerge by harnessing the water resources in the dry zone of the South East, could be resolved only through the Uma Oya Multi Action Development Project.

Dissanayake, as the then Minister of Agriculture, Livestock resources, Lands and Irrigation had submitted this Cabinet Paper in January 2005.

Those who show interest in the decisions taken by the present Government or past Governments, and those who need Cabinet Papers for legal matters could obtain such information, under the ‘Right to Information Act’.

Accordingly the officer appointed, Additional Secretary Siribaddana, instructed the SLC President in writing to provide the required information through the information officer serving the cricket controlling body in the island, as soon as possible.

The experiences of many writers reveal that the Ministry of Education comes under the spotlight as an institute which doesn’t provide information and that letters addressed to this Ministry don’t receive responses. There have been instances where information seekers have received inadequate replies for the trouble taken to give repeated reminders to the ministry staffers.

By now several requests have been made from the National Police Commission which have gone unheeded. During one instance a complaint too had been lodged regarding the failure to give a reply. The Colombo Municipality and the Disaster Management center too have failed to respond to requests.

Requests for information from the Ministry of Environment, Road Development authority, Ministry of Power, Electricity Board, Central Environment Authority, Forest Conservation Department, Uva Provincial Council, Commission on Procurements, Human Rights Commission, Public Services Commission, Department of Prisons, Ministry of Agriculture, Archaeological Department and Sri Lanka Police have provided favourable responses. The information gathered thus far is in the process of being included in articles that would follow soon. Much of the information gathered has been deemed as unobtainable by many others.

Under the ‘Right to Information Act’ even the nongovernmental organizations are covered. Despite these organisations being included in the training sessions held earlier, whenever information is sought they fail to reveal the required information.

Sri Lanka became the 113th country in the world to have adopted the ‘Right to Information Act’. According to World Rankings the information Act occupies third place. However most of our citizens are unaware of this act and of the benefits they could reap from it.

During an exercise in Kurunegala, carried out with the view of finding out the injustices caused to villagers due to the expressway, these villagers weren’t in possession of documents to prove the type of injustice caused to them. When asked why they have not requested for such documents under the ‘Right to Information Act’ they seemed to be completely unaware of such provisions. They had later obtained the necessary documents from a source. According to the Information Commission the least number of requests for information had been received from Western and Uva Provincial Councils.

As a result of the predicaments experienced by the public, the Information Commission now stays in touch with the relevant ministries to include the Right to Information as a subject of study in schools and Universities. The necessary subject matter is in the process of being included and this process is led by Commissioner General of Information Piyatissa Ranasinghe and Attorney Jagath Liyanarachchi.

Going by the experiences of scribes, the Cabinet Secretariat has been rated as the best institution which responds to requests by the public without any hassle.

However it’s apparent that many people aren’t showing any keenness regarding the implications of the Act and its uses. Given such a situation the Government and Non-governmental institutions should act with responsibility in creating awareness among the public on the importance and the usefulness of this Act.

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Files on Tamil Tigers and MI5 in Sri Lanka erased at Foreign Office

Files on Tamil Tigers and MI5 in Sri Lanka erased at Foreign Office

Destruction of 1978-1980 files means there is no record of UK government’s work at the time
 Soldiers of the LTTE, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka, celebrating Tamil Women’s Day in October 2002. Photograph: Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi/Reuters

Britain’s Foreign Office destroyed almost 200 files on Sri Lanka dating from the start of a Tamil Tiger uprising during which MI5 and the SAS secretly advised the country’s security forces, it has emerged.
The loss of the files means that there is almost no record of the British government’s work with the Sri Lankan authorities at the start of a famously brutal civil war.
The destruction of the files raises fresh concerns about the Foreign Office’s attitude towards handling historic files on sensitive subjects. An official review in 2012 found that the department had destroyed thousands of documents detailing British counter-insurgency operations in Kenya and other colonies as the empire came to an end.
Under the Public Records Act 1958 government departments are obliged to preserve historic records. But, in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Guardian asking for information about the destruction of the files, the Foreign Office stated that it was not required to preserve the documents. It said the files’ content “may be of a policy nature but might also be administrative or ephemeral”.
The Foreign Office has now confirmed that it destroyed 195 files on Sri Lanka, dating from 1978 to 1980, three decades after the country became independent from Britain. The department would not say exactly when, where, or how the destruction occurred.
“Files not selected for permanent preservation would have been destroyed offsite by the company contracted by the FCO for this purpose,” it said. “We understand the files would have been destroyed in line with the FCO’s paper and file destruction contract in force at the time.”

Rachel Seoighe, a criminologist and Sri Lanka expert, at Middlesex University, said: “This discovery is very concerning given the lack of public information available about British involvement in Sri Lankan security practices at the beginning of the civil war.” She has filed a complaint with Unesco, the international body that protects world heritage.

She added: “We know from other contexts, such as Kenya, that official files have been deliberately destroyed to conceal and deny abuse. The public has a right to know the extent to which Britain assisted Sri Lankan preparations for a war that was defined by disappearances, torture and mass atrocity.”

The Foreign Office kept a list of file titles, showing that the destroyed papers would have covered a range of important subjects, from security co-operation and arms sales, to foreign aid and “requests for political asylum in the UK”.

The scale of destruction is such that only three files have survived from 1978, compared to 38 files from the previous year.

The loss of these records is a blow for Tamil historians, who struggled to safeguard records throughout the Sri Lankan civil war. The famous Jaffna library was burnt down in 1981 by anti-Tamil groups, incinerating almost 100,000 documents including irreplaceable ancient texts.

 Sri Lankan military image taken near Mullaittivu, 2009. Victory over the separatist Tamil Tigers was declared by the Sri Lankan president that year. Photograph: HO/Reuters
“The Tamil community is taking strenuous efforts to collect and preserve records on history and the human rights situation in post-independence Sri Lanka,” said Vairamuttu Varadakumar, executive secretary of the Tamil Information Centre, in Kingston, London. “We are horrified to learn that the UK’s Foreign Office has destroyed vital information on the British government’s training and arming of Sri Lankan security forces, which were involved in widespread human rights violations against the Tamils.”

The Foreign Office claim that the information contained in the files was insignificant has caused dismay among Tamil experts. Varadakumar said: “It is improper for the UK government to deceive the public, who have the right to know. It appears that the Foreign Office’s action is designed to cover up the involvement of the SAS and MI5 in the training of Sri Lankan security forces that might be potentially embarrassing to her majesty’s government.”
The Special Air Service visit to Sri Lanka is only mentioned in a handful of surviving files at the National Archives, which were preserved by the Ministry of Defence. Their contents have never been reported on before.
One MoD file reveals that late in 1978 Sri Lanka’s right-wing president, Junius Richard Jayewardene, asked the Foreign Office for a British security expert to visit his country to help counter Tamil militants who were demanding an independent state of their own. However, a Foreign Office file called Sri Lanka: Security Assessment 1978, which could have shed light on the president’s request, was destroyed.
From the surviving defence files, it emerges that an MI5 director, who held racist views, made two advisory visits to Sri Lanka in 1979, under both Jim Callaghan’s Labour government and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative administration. The full facts of these visits are hard to establish because the Foreign Office destroyed a 1979 file named Sri Lanka: Defence Visits from UK.
The MI5 officer was John Percival Morton CMG OBE, better known as Jack Morton, a former colonial police chief in India who had spied on the independence movement there and once wrote that Indians were “a sort of immature, backward and needy people whom it was the natural British function to govern and administer”. He later became a director at MI5 and held various security positions inside Whitehall.
According to a defence file it was on Morton’s recommendation that an SAS team visited Sri Lanka in 1980 to train a new army commando unit. Among the files destroyed by the Foreign Office was one entitled UK military assistance to Sri Lanka, 1980. The SAS visit occurred weeks after Britain’s premier special forces regiment staged the Iranian embassy siege. For the next four months the SAS team secretly trained Sri Lankan army commandos, selecting 60 members to form an elite anti-terrorist force.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The FCO, as with all government departments, reviews all its files in line with the requirements of the Public Records Act before making a decision on permanent preservation.

“The FCO’s recommendations for the preservation or destruction of records take place under the guidance and supervision of the National Archives. FCO decisions are informed by the National Archive’s records collection policy and existing FCO policy.”
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Oh! Justice! What Crimes Are Committed In Thy Name!

Oh! Justice! What Crimes Are Committed In Thy Name!

logoThere have been numerous attacks on the Sri Lankan Judiciary in the recent past with allegations of corruption, partiality, and political intrigue, and listeners and readers of the public appear to gobble them up with much relish. There is a saying that no great civilization can be overthrown from without until it destroys itself from within. We are now midway in the process of proving the truth of that statement. The judiciary is the backbone of every civilized society- tarnish that with random, spiteful attacks on it, and that society will fold up and wither away. 
“Let he who hath no sin cast the first stone”. (Jesus, when the mob tried to murder Mary Magdalene by stoning.) Likewise, one wonders whether those who cast these stones at the judiciary or for that matter at any institution charged with the business of administering justice, are without sin in these same areas and are paragons of virtue…
Of Buffalos And Men
When the noble Brutus slew Caesar he said he did so because Caesar was ambitious. I have always wondered as to who the ambitious one was- Brutus or Caesar. People do nasty things to other people with different motives- leading the list is the craving by some people for public recognition which has mercurially avoided them throughout their murky lives; some others craving for command and leadership which was never theirs to have, nor within their capacities to wield- there is an interesting story about leadership: there was once a leaderless herd of wild buffalos in stampede. A shrewd old buffalo who was quite past his prime with nothing to show for it but was still craving for leadership of anything took a short cut and started galloping in front of the herd. All the buffalos hailed him as the leader. 
You become a hero when it is too late to become anything else.  
“Not Us, Old Boy..”
Another matter comes to mind here on the subject of the judiciary and corruption. There have been numerous instances where in the not too distant past and now, where, when the popular verdict of the people is not delivered by the court that in fact hears the case, black flags start popping up, howls of protests and foul allegations of intellectual, moral, or material corruption spew out like sewage running through the gutters of the city. In reality, the fault here is not with the members of the general public who participate in these unruly demonstrations but with the people who instigate these acts of mayhem whilst taking cover behind bland smiles and bare statements with the universal shrug- ”Not us, old boy”. Most of the active participants probably don’t know what they are howling about. They howl. Period. But the consternation caused within the nation, the damage caused to their own selves by bringing the judiciary into disrepute are immeasurable and irreversible. 
Cry! My Beloved Country! (3)
Oh! Cry! My beloved country! Do you not see your own destruction by the machinations of a few disgruntled individuals who have already lost their race in life and are struggling for their last gasp by attacking that last fortress that holds the nation together? Oh! Justice! What crimes are committed in thy name! 
Sri Lanka is now at the center of international focus in relation to its judicial affairs. One sees the international community exerting its might against this little nation of ours, coercing, cajoling and wheedling to keep the Diaspora at bay. It is heartening to note that on occasion Sri Lanka makes a spurt out of its corner, snarling, spitting and scratching before retreating back into its corner to gather its puny forces for the next confrontation. It is heart rending to see that in this quagmire of serious international political intrigue where the Sri Lankan judiciary is being subjected to severe partisan scrutiny by the international community, unruly elements in Sri Lanka itself, pouring oil upon the troubled waters by their venomous attacks on our judiciary at this crucial juncture and so paving the way for international interference in our domestic affairs, threatening the very sovereignty of the nation.  Judas couldn’t hold a candle to these malicious interlopers. Little do they realize that by doing so they spit into the wind and will end up getting their faces plastered with their own spit.  
The Supreme Court is mainly a court of review with original jurisdiction only in matters of contempt and a few others where it acts on its own. The time has come now for the Supreme Court to face its adversaries and say – “enough!” If not, the mischievous elements will overrun it and goad this nation towards anarchy, bloodshed and the resurgence of the vigilantes. The Supreme Court is the one most powerful institution in any country and is the bulwark that holds the nation together in the face of invasive and destructive forces that threaten its existence. It is the last rampart beyond which is oblivion. Let that power be now unleashed and the people will breathe a quiet sigh of relief.  If not, this Nation will fall while bloody treason flourishes over it.

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Docs declare war on foreign funded civil society groups

Docs declare war on foreign funded civil society groups

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By Shamindra Ferdinando-
Alleging that civil society groups were a threat to the country, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has declared war on Purawesi Balaya and National Movement for a Just Society (NMJS).
They played a pivotal role in January 2015 campaign to oust the Rajapaksa administration.
GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge yesterday alleged that those groups interfered and obstructed legitimate trade unions such as the GMOA and were engaged in a project inimical to the country.
Addressing the media at Professional Center at Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, the GMOA vowed to do whatever it took to thwart anti-Sri Lanka projects undertaken by Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ..
Dr. Aluthge accused the those civil society groups of pursuing what he called arbitrary and covert motives targeting legitimate civil society representatives. The GMOA accused Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ of clandestine operations.
Referring to President Maithripala Sirisena’s speech at the recently concluded armed forces commemoration at Battaramulla, Dr. Aluthge pointed out that those so called civil society groups sponsored by foreign powers and groups were a threat to the entire country not only to the legitimate civil society. The GMOA alleged that those civil society groups couldn’t see the difference between terrorists and armed forces and were hell-bent on destroying existing systems.
The GMOA attacked those pursuing legal action against GMOA President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya as elements pursuing high profile operation against the establishment and legitimate trade unions.
The GMOA said that it had sought information pertaining to registration of Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ, their objectives and Constitution, funding sources, decision making process, office bearers and members and whether they could move court against others and vise versa from the Commissioner General of Labour and Director, Social Service Department.
The GMOA said the information was sought under the Right to Information Act enacted after the change of government.
One of the convenors of Purawesi Balaya Gamini Viyangoda told The Island that the group hadn’t received registration nor would it obtain recognition from any government authority under any circumstances. Viyangoda claimed that the GMOA lacked understanding of how civil society operated and was acting foolishly.
Declaring that Purawesi Balaya hadn’t been structured as a political party or group seeking political power, Viyangoda said that theirs was a voluntary organization built on consensus on issues.
The writer strongly disputed the GMOA’s assertion that only selected professionals and other interested parties could represent the civil society.
The Island sought Purawesi Balaya reaction in the wake of the GMOA issuing statement challenging its right to operate. Viyangoda issued the following statement in response to The Island request: ” The GMOA’s statement shows how narrow-minded these politicized  doctors are. They  think that The Civil Society should consist of formal, registered civil/professional organisations alone. Informal groupings are not eligible for civic activities of social transformation, according to them. Now they have taken into their heads that they should be the ones who call the shot. In fact, they should be sent back to their secondary school education to learn the role civil groupings have played throughout history to change the status quo. They can start from the French Revolution.
“They can go asking for information about Purawesi Balaya, but won’t get anything in return because we are not a registered civil society organisation for a good reason about which I can give them a lecture, if they want to learn some historical lessons of very concept “organisation” when applied to religion, politics, trades, etc. supported by past experiences in the world. Their organisation itself is a good example. It has become a political organisation than trade union organisation.
“I recommend them to read a world famous novel “Messiah” by Gore Vidal which I have translated into Sinhala some 18 years back titled “Galawumkara Isiwaraya” to have a glimpse of what could have happened to a so-called religious movement even, after being formed into an organisation.
“Simply these doctors are stupid. Otherwise they wouldn’t have mentioned about the court case that I and Sarath Wijesuriya have brought against Dr. Padeniya. That shows where there ‘social mindedness’ spring from.
“I am the one who emphasised from the very beginning that we should not have a Leader, President, Secretary etc like in other similar movements, instead we have three co-conveners, namely K. W. Janaranjana, Saman Ratnapriya and myself for organisational purposes. These conveners also can be changed in the future. Apart from that we have a manifesto of basic principles which has been published and in the public domain. In other words, no membership but co-partners as long as they agree on the basic principles.”
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Merger of UNP and JVP with NGOs

Merger of UNP and JVP with NGOs

2018-05-24

Colloquial Sinhala is an exotic dialect when phrases are enunciated in the vernacular with the input of a smattering Anglo-Saxon linguistics that, leads to-‘Broken English’. Sounds more the railcar ‘burgher-ism’ than an outpouring of intones from the Dutch Burgher Union.

  • Parts of the 19th Amendment are on the verge of being dumped (by none other than Ranil–19A champ)
  • JVP is juxtaposed between constitution making and their inadequate proficiency of the English language
  • Who appointed Sripavan to the Board Room at the Commercial Bank (is it the Government nominees?)
  • Every constitution needs a smart dick with a command of English to act as draftsmen

Parts of the 19th Amendment are on the verge of being dumped (by none other than Ranil–19A champ) stealthily with an eye on the Northern vote. Adversaries gave a rousing farewell in multiple languages to the chants of “19A is down the pallam” [slippery slopes]. That’s pigeon’s droppings and/or a long drive from Suddha Sinhala.

In a nutshell the JVP is juxtaposed between constitution making and their inadequate proficiency of the English language and is killing itself softly by overcoming language deficiencies by turning to the NGO/good governance disciples. They are taking the Sobhitha route without visiting the nearest temple – like eating food with their feet.

‘Don’t blame Ranil too harshly –point the finger at the Supreme Court under Justice Sripavan? gloomier than in the era of smart and silly Sarath Silva. Pronounced it constitutional without holding a referendum- by the ultimate dispassionate arbiter? The mother of all faults lies in depriving the people of their franchise for 4 1/2 years and having to watch a game of musical chairs enacted in Parliament, as Ministers shift chairs in the cabinet room. Who appointed Sripavan to the Board Room at the Commercial Bank (is it the Government nominees?) after the crisis that caused a nation disaster/whereas it required a 2/3 majority and a referendum the judgment allowed the Government to steam roll with a majority? Is it worth a Presidential Commission for the harm caused?

Come 2020, does Tilvin or Vijitha know the finer or raw points in constitution making. They are not shy to deny much knowledge in English but here comes the howler

Clandestine operations are at hand – to re-work virtually the same script – by the same writers [good governance folk] in a fresh dressing led by the gang that contributed to the downfall of Mahinda Rajapakse in 2015; bringing forth the strategically splendid workmanship of Good Governance [GG]. It was a doctrine that was never to be functional! These kids seeking a place in the sun were treated flippantly by the present government after rendering yeoman service in setting the foundation for the electoral triumph. Shaken by inelegant hospitality they severed connections with the present government; now are on the mend by public recognition in becoming the constitution makers in ushering the 20 Amendment [20A]. It’s a reward for the good governance kids entrusted to produce such a premier legislation for the UNP via the JVP – an empty paper that creates no impact – will never see light a the end of the tunnel – as no government will dare to bring forth a bagful of muck with an election too close. Bottom line is that the JVP cannot write good English. Fortunately they know it and the upper echelons of government is not their route to achieve their aspirations. Limitations – JVP are aware, makes them good fodder for lesser office in our lifetime. The draft of 2015 is a historical record for Ranil’s posterity – legacy that smells defeat at the polls whoever propels it. None will, as it remains a JVP born in a union with Ranil.

In a well-coordinated move, the UNP handed the constitutional assignment to the JVP, whose knowledge of English is miniscule? Beggars cannot be choosers; limitations are such, encountered in not knowing English – is an inherent defect in the JVP. Let them find wordsmiths to do better than the work that one man did for the19A. Surely not to be alienated to NGOs? Were they always part of the circus, one wonders?


Such material is not easy to find. Every constitution needs a smart dick with a command of English to act as draftsmen. In 1972 Mrs. Bandaranaike had Colvin R. de Silva and H.L. de Silva; In 1978 J.R. Jayawardane carried brilliant Mark Fernando and able L.C. Seneviratne. Whom did Ranil & Sirisena turn to in seeking advice on the Constitution 2015 – one Jayampathy Wickremaratne emerged a holder of a good certificate issued under the hand of Sarath Silva (If his certificate is of a credible value in the jolly days of Chandrika– if so, JW is indeed a good choice). Come 2020, does Tilvin or Vijitha know the finer or raw points in constitution making. They are not shy to deny much knowledge in English but here comes the howler. They entrusted the assignment to the good governance kids that know a smattering of English but nothing more. Blind leads the blind.
Where have all the good and great UNP lawyers gone? Not gone to seed, surely. Lesser are making the bucks over time, overnight. Others to Commissions and Committees, few to Ministries. Really good and genuine, and indeed the great are at home not hogging the limelight. It is just that ‘Ranil and his Merry Men’ cannot distinguish the good from the bad.

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Legislative Excess v. Judicial In-Activism: An Analysis Of Weerawansa v. Attorney General & Others

Legislative Excess v. Judicial In-Activism: An Analysis Of Weerawansa v. Attorney General & Others

logoWho judges the judges? Between the harsh spotlight of the fourth estate, the apathy or vitriol of the court of public opinion, the hindsight of posterity, and the cat and mouse game pertaining to the checks and balances involving the Executive, the legislature and the judicial branches, the safest bet is with the brethren of judicial peers. Yet, is the Supreme Court, which is tasked with making special determinations on the constitutionality of bills, in erring on the side of caution when it comes to preserving the interests of national security which are inevitably pitted against the need to protect the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution, hamstrung by Constitutional impediments or by judicial in-activism? If it is a case of the latter, what if it serves to perpetuate injustice on a systematic and gross scale, beyond any reasonable interpretation of proportionality? This is the challenge that Weerawansa v. Attorney General and Others (SC Application No. 730/96) continues to pose. 
The facts of the case
On the surface of it, the facts of this case which involved an arrest of a person by a Police officer for alleged unlawful activity (in this case the illegal importation of explosives) and detention by way of a Ministerial order, both under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 {PTA}, and an order for the remand of a suspect by a Magistrate under the Customs Ordinance, are typical of cases involving the draconian PTA. In this instance, the apex Court, in a judgment penned by Justice (J) Mark Fernando with Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe J. and Ranjith Dheeraratne J. concurring, held that the requisite preconditions for an arrest and detention to be valid had not been met, and that therefore the petitioner’s fundamental rights under Articles 13(1) {which holds that no one should be arrested except in accordance with the procedure set out in law and that the person arrested should be informed of the reason for the said arrest} and 13(2) {which states that anyone in custody, detention or one who has been deprived of personal liberty should be brought before a judge of the nearest competent court according to the procedure laid down in the law and that the said person may not be held thus any longer sans a judge’s order made in conformity with the lawfully established procedure} of the Constitution, had been infringed and violated. Case closed. 
Not quite. 
Fernando J. further states thus. “When the PTA Bill was referred to this Court, the Court did not have to decide whether or not any of those provisions constituted reasonable restrictions on Articles 12(1) {the right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law}, 13(1) and 13(2), permitted by Article 15(7) (in the interests of national security and/or public security), because the Court was informed that it had been decided to pass the Bill with a two-thirds majority (from all 225 Parliamentarians including those not present – a special majority). The PTA was enacted with a two-thirds majority, and accordingly, in terms of Article 84, the PTA became law despite any inconsistency with the Constitutional provisions.” 
The applicable legal regime and a critical analysis of the reasoning of the Supreme Court in its judgment
A question arises at this juncture. Does the continued enforcement of a law which patently flies in the face of the Constitution, in this case the PTA, not constitute a violation or denial of Article 12(1), specifically the clause about the right to the equal protection of the law? Moreover, if one construes thus, that indeed Article 12(1) does get breached, does this not then at the very least undermine (if not abridge or curtail or limit by way of altering or destroying by way of revoking) the basic structure of the Constitution? 
What is the basic structure of the Constitution? The concept originated from German jurist Prof. Dietrich Conrad’s ‘implied limitations of the amending power’ theory, which he explained as “Any amending body organized within the statutory scheme, howsoever verbally unlimited its power, cannot by its very structure change the fundamental pillars supporting its constitutional authority.” The basic structure doctrine (concerning the basic, essential, fundamental features of the Constitution) subsequently evolved out of Indian jurisprudence in Supreme Court cases such a dissent in Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, then I.C. Golaknath v. State of Punjab (which reversed Shankari Prasad v. Union of India), before reaching its ultimate form in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of KeralaIndira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain, and Minerva Mills v. Union of India. The Pakistani Supreme Court has since taken to terming the principle as the salient features doctrine. In the Golaknath case, Hans Raj Khanna J. held that “The power of amendment under (a particular Article) does not include the power to abrogate the Constitution nor does it include the power to alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.”, adding however that subject to the retention of the basic structure, the power of amendment is absolute and includes within itself the power to amend Articles of the Constitution, including those relating to fundamental rights as well as those which may be said to relate to essential features. 

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Adverse weather: Casualties rise up to 11, more landslide warnings issued

Adverse weather: Casualties rise up to 11, more landslide warnings issued

 MAY 23 2018

The Disaster Management Center (DMC) says that nearly 84,943 people in 14 districts have been affected due to the heavy monsoon rain and strong winds across Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile the death toll due to the severe weather condition has also risen to 11, the DMC said in its latest update.

National Building Research Organisation has issued red notices to Rathnapura, Kegalle, Nuwara Eliye, Kaluthara, and Galle warning of potential landslide activity.

A total of 84,943persons belonging to 18,542 families are affected by the prevailing disaster situation in the country.

The DMC said that 27,621 persons from 7,526 families have been displaced and that they have been provided shelter at 194 safe locations.

The Ratnapura District is the worst affected with 24,625 people affected while 22,673 are affected in Gampaha District. People in Puttalam District (12,760) and Colombo District (7,482) have also been affected significantly.

The Department of Irrigations says that although the water levels of rivers have started to recede, if rains continue the risk of floods would return.

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Presidential Elections Both sides saddled with challenges in deciding on candidates

Presidential Elections Both sides saddled with challenges in deciding on candidates

2018-05-24

A momentum has built up in view of the next presidential election though it is not yet around the corner. The recent ‘Viyath Maga’ programme, a confab of intellectuals, business leaders and politicians with a nationalist bent, served as the virtual launching pad of a presidential election campaign.

  • A premature poll campaign is now in the making in that sense, though the elections are scheduled to be conducted at the end of next year, as per the Constitution
  • The experiment of a common candidate was successful in 2015
  • Many believe former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who chaired the Viyath Maga programmme would be the chosen presidential candidate

A premature poll campaign is now in the making in that sense, though the elections are scheduled to be conducted at the end of next year, as per the Constitution. But, a premature enthusiasm, created in this manner, has resulted in the two opposing political camps volleying charges against each other, targeting the individual personalities of likely candidates.
For the anti-government political force, many believe former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who chaired the Viyath Maga programmme would be the chosen presidential candidate. As such, he is subjected to early political assaults by those in the government, averse to his possible candidacy.

The candidate from the UNP-led political force is not yet identified though a couple of Ministers insisted that it should be none other than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Whoever it may be, the UNP candidate is still aloof from political vilification because he is not yet identified in the broader sense.

After the Viyath Maga programme, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera was the first to make a detailed response to the event, in fact, calling it ‘Vipath Maga’ (path of destruction). Now the stage is set for political debate on the presidential election in this manner. And, some people, eagerly awaiting a presidential poll, keep posting on the social media sites, expressing themselves.

Be that as it may, either political camp is saddled with issues in deciding on the candidate. As far, the political forces led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa are concerned, some leaders have publicly uttered that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa should be the candidate while the others such as MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara proposed former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa to candidacy. It is rumoured that former Minister Basil Rajapaksa also harbours presidential ambition in this regard. Nevertheless, no one has made any public announcement to that effect.

So, for that matter, the forces aligned with the Joint Opposition have to reconcile differences before deciding on the next candidate. According to political sources from the Joint Opposition, certain MPs such as Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Bandula Gunawardane remain adamant that it should be Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who should seek presidency.

For the UNP, it is a challenging situation this time. Last time, the UNP forged ties with the political parties, groups and individuals with diverse opinions to field President Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate. It was done for a purpose. The experiment of a common candidate was successful in 2015 in this manner. Those who stood together, had a set of targets to be achieved. In retrospect, these targets could not be realized. As such, it is now a challenging task to unite all those parties, groups and individuals again for the concept of common candidate, which was tested and failed in the opinion of those who stood for it. It is, therefore, a herculean task for the UNP-led political camp to unify all the forces for a common candidate. If it is difficult, the party will be compelled to field its own candidate. Against the backdrop, both the sides have issues to be resolved in deciding on their best bets for the presidential election. Alongside, there are those with presidential ambitions serving in the UNP at the moment.

SLPP skeptical about SLFP move 

There is a new dimension to opposition politics hitherto led by the Joint Opposition, after 16 MPs of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) left the government and decided to sit in the opposition. The group, functioning as a separate group in the opposition, launches frontal attacks on the UNP-led government. As such, opposition politics, so far dominated by the Joint Opposition as the main force opposed to the UNP, is sought to be shared by the SLFP group.

This has irked some members of the Joint Opposition, particularly those having links with Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). They perceive this as a ruse by the SLFP to carve out its niche in the collective public opinion building up against the government. Actually, President Maithripala Sirisena gave his blessings to this group to sit in the opposition though his party has not officially decided to quit the unity government with the UNP. The President, it seems, has understood that his party was relegated to a poor third at the local government elections on February 10 because of its alignment with the UNP in the unity government for the last couple of years. The SLFP is now planning to decide as a party to leave the government. Yet, it is questionable how far the SLFP will succeed in efforts to emerge as a formidable force to reckon with, in the opposition.

The SLPP, which won the local polls, is skeptical about the move by the SLFP group. The SLPP also faces pressure from its rank and file not to accommodate these SLFPers. As such, its chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris announced at a press conference that it would contest all future elections under its lotus bud symbol and the leadership of the former President. He tried to drive home the message that the SLFP, if it wanted, could become a party to a broad alliance led by the SLPP under the lotus bud symbol in the future. In other words, the SLFP can only become an appendage to the SLPP at future elections.

Those who stood together, had a set of targets to be achieved. In retrospect, these targets could not be realized. As such, it is now a challenging task to unite all those parties, groups and individuals again for the concept of common candidate

Talks are actually underway for such a broad electoral front in the future. In a step towards this, the group was to meet with former President Rajapaksa last evening.

In the meantime, the leaders of the political parties in the Joint Opposition met with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss, among others, steps for a series of protest rallies against the government. The Joint Opposition will mount such a campaign to protest against the government over the rising cost of living, the fuel price revision, the postponement of the Provincial Council Elections etc.

Amidst talks about the possible candidates for the next presidential elections, the public attention is being drawn to another move – the exercise to abolish the executive presidency.

The JVP, a party commanding the support of six MPs, is working it out to be presented to Parliament as a private member’s bill.

It is learnt that the bill is drafted in collusion with some in the government. The end target of this exercise is to avoid the next presidential election, enabling the election of the President through Parliament only.

The country is experiencing a unique political development in that sense. On one hand, there is enthusiasm for the presidential election in some quarters. On the other hand, efforts are underway to abolish the executive presidency.

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Unity best Unity best sooner

Unity best Unity best sooner

Picture by Hirantha Gunathilaka
Picture by Hirantha Gunathilaka
Thursday, May 24, 2018

It is an understatement to say that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is in crisis. It is a peculiar predicament that the party finds itself in, given that it is in power and its leader, Maithripala Sirisena is Executive President and Head of State of the country. Ironically though, President Sirisena does not appear to have the same degree of control over the political party he heads.

The SLFP has seen and survived much political turmoil in its history, most notably in the ’80s when there was a leadership squabble between Sirima Bandaranaike and Maithripala Senanayake. However, most of these disputes have arisen when it was in the opposition. Indeed, even the United National Party (UNP) went through a series of internal power struggles when it was in the opposition between 1994 and 2014. What makes the current impasse in the SLFP unusual is that it is happening when it is in government.

Last week, it was reported that President Sirisena had instructed the sixteen parliamentarians who recently left the government and sat on the opposition benches in Parliament to decide when the SLFP would quit the national unity government it has forged with the UNP.

The reason for the current state of affairs in the SLFP could be attributed at least in part to the circumstances of President Sirisena’s election to office. After being the longest serving General Secretary of the SLFP and having held that office for fourteen years, he quit the party to take on the seemingly invincible Mahinda Rajapaksa as the ‘common candidate’ of a broad coalition that was headed by the SLFP’s arch rivals, the UNP.

SLFP parliamentarians

Once in office, President Sirisena became leader of the SLFP. He then had a difficult balancing act to perform, managing his role as SLFP leader in a government which he headed but was dominated by the UNP. In doing so, he found that a significant proportion of SLFP parliamentarians still remained loyal to Rajapaksa.

That number has been steadily increasing. At the August 2015 general election, the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) of which the major stake holder is the SLFP returned 95 MPs. Of them, 51 were loyal to Rajapaksa while 44 pledged allegiance to President Sirisena. Those 44 MPs, along with the 106 MPs from the UNP gave the government a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The tally now stands at only about 23 MPs supporting the President with about 72 UPFA MPs supporting Rajapaksa. That is after 16 MPs including ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers left the government in the aftermath of the unsuccessful motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. In the process, the government lost the two-thirds majority it enjoyed.

The SLFP has been at the centre of several politically significant events in recent months. In February, it came a distant third in the local government elections, arguably the party’s worst ever showing in terms of the percentage of votes it polled. That was after a campaign personally spearheaded by President Sirisena where he criticised the Rajapaksa camp as much as he castigated the UNP.

Thereafter, President Sirisena has hinted that he may contest the next presidential elections. That came in the form of an announcement at this year’s May Day rally in Batticaloa where he said that he had no intention of retiring from politics after 2020, the year presidential elections are due. However, the President didn’t specifically state that he would be running for office again.

Then, following in the footsteps of the UNP, President Sirisena has also announced that the SLFP would be ‘restructured’ extensively and all official positions of the party would be reviewed. The restructuring is due to be finalised by early next month. This comes in the wake of demands from the ‘group of sixteen’ who defected to the opposition to replace SLFP Generally Secretary Duminda Dissanayake and UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera, both staunch loyalists of President Sirisena.

This is where President Sirisena finds himself in a difficult situation. Both Dissanayake and Amaraweera supported the President at the cost of incurring the wrath of the Rajapaksas. Dissanayake in particular was one of those who quit the Rajapaksa government in support of the President when he resigned as Minister of Health in 2014 to contest the Presidency. Therefore, even if there is a reconciliation between the warring factions of the SLFP, the President must ensure the political futures of the likes of Dissanayake and Amaraweera.

At a meeting of the SLFP’s highest decision-making body, the Central Committee last Thursday, President Sirisena is reported to have expressed his desire to see the remaining 23 SLFPers in the unity government leaving it “sooner rather than later”. This was conveyed to the media at a briefing by former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara. Jayasekara’s comments have not been denied or disputed so far.

Sirisena and Rajapaksa factions

It appears that the SLFP now believes that remaining in government is political liability. That is because, with its currently depleted numbers in the Cabinet, it only has a few ministerial portfolios but will still be held accountable by the voting public for the actions of the UNP-led government. If anything, the outcome of the recent local government elections suggested that being in government had hurt the SLFP more than it had hurt the UNP.

The ‘group of sixteen’ is reported to have formulated a strategy for the future direction of the SLFP. Jayasekara claimed that this strategy, which included a plan for both the Sirisena and Rajapaksa factions of the SLFP to contest as one entity was accepted by the President.

However, how this reconciles with President Sirisena’s plan of ‘not retiring from politics in 2020’ and the Rajapaksas plan to promote a presidential candidate of their own- with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa the front runner at this stage- remains to be seen.

Indeed, it is accepted in SLFP circles that most of the ‘group of sixteen’ left the government with the intention of joining the Rajapaksa faction of the party or the new political party formed by them, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Some among this group, such as S. B. Dissanayake, who previously repeatedly proclaimed President Sirisena as the next presidential candidate, are not surprisingly silent on this issue now.

A compromise reconciliation between the two warring factions of the SLFP cannot be ruled out because, with the ‘group of sixteen’ leaving the government, there has been more dialogue and discussion between the two groups. In fact, the ‘group of sixteen’ was scheduled to meet Rajapaksa yesterday for formal talks.

Proposed party reforms

However, many details will need to be worked out. Chief among them would be the political futures of President Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa is constitutionally debarred from contesting the Presidency but President Sirisena is not. If he insists on running for that high office again, it could stall any agreement between the two factions before it gets off the ground.

As such, any potential consensus is only possible in a compromise where one faction of the SLFP agrees to support the other faction, which will then run for President. That is why reconciling the two camps remain such a daunting task.

The coming month- when the proposed party reforms in the SLFP will come to the fore- will be crucial in determining the party’s future political direction. For better or for worse, it will also determine whether the next presidential election will be the traditional tussle between the UNP and the SLFP or whether it will, for the first time, be a three-way contest.

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Steering with Maithri, Brakes & accelerator with Ranil – they pull in opposite directions

Steering with Maithri, Brakes & accelerator with Ranil – they pull in opposite directions

 by

Despite Maithri having the steering wheel, the brakes and the accelerator of the vehicle are with Ranil and the two of them try to drive in opposite directions just like when the buffalo and the cattle are tied to a plough says JVP Member for Uva Provincial Council Samantha Vidyaratna adding that the duo cannot go straight but pull on either direction. He said that is why the cabinet had to be amended four times.

Mr. Vidyaratna said this at a meeting held at the auditorium of Uva Provincial Council to apprise the public regarding the development proposal of the JVP for Badulla District from the allocations from JVP Members’ fund.

Speaking further Mr. Vidyaratna said, “People thank the President, the Prime Minister or Ministers for allocating funds for various projects. However, it is not necessary for none of the Ministers, nor the President nor the Prime Minister spend their money for the projects. It is the people’s money that is spent for all the projects carried out by the government and other bodies. Rs. 42 from every Rs.100 spent is levied as tax by the government and it is part of this money that comes for projects from the Treasury. Hence, it is the people who spend for all these projects.

Every year, a provincial Council Member gets Rs. 5 million and a Parliamentarian gets Rs. 15 million to carry out various projects in their areas. This money is from the people – the money collected as taxes. Hence, it is not necessary to thank politicians for spending people’s money. It is the people who should be thanked.
However, this incorrect way of thanking politicians for work done with people’s money has been occurring throughout history. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and other politicians have got their names on plaques of projects carried out with people’s money. The JVP would never mention any names for projects carried out with its allocations.
Today, we would allocate Rs. 5 million received as the Member’s allocation for various projects in the District. We don’t need any thanks for it. What is necessary is to use the money correctly and complete the work.

Very often, in our country, money allocated for various projects go missing. Certain big shots have been caught recently trying to get bribes. The Chief of Staff of President Sirisena and the former Chief of Staff of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga were caught attempting to take a huge bribe. The Chief of Staff of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the head of the Central Bank appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were caught for fraud. It seems that the biggest crooks in the country are with heads of political parties.

This country cannot be made an amicable one as long as the present decaying political system exists. This system must be changed.

Today, Ranil and Maithri cannot attend to the issues of the country. They have to work hard to protect their leaderships in their parties. They have got themselves caught in a leadership crisis.

To change this situation the political system that has been followed for 70 years must be changed. The country should go on a new path. We ask the people to give us power.”

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