In the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgement on the Easter Sunday attack, there was a flurry of activity in the Police Department to rearrange the order of succession and the seniority list.

The seniority list had gone haywire after eleven top-level police officers were charged with dereliction.

The Supreme Court awarded a substantial sum of money as compensation to the victims in the fundamental rights case relating to the Easter Sunday attack. Other contributory concerns were also raised by various lawyers and petitioners and brought to the attention of the Attorney General for serious consideration.

Senior Deputy Inspector General of police Nilantha Jayawardena and the other two SDIGs may not be able to compete among themselves to be the next Inspector General of Police (IGP). This situation leaves the door open for other contenders to come forward and compete for this position. The incumbent IGP will retire from service in March this year. His retirement was announced at the farewell accorded to SDIG Nandana Munasinghe, the head of the administrative division of police and the next in line to the IGP.

At the farewell, the IGP disclosed the shameful behaviour of the three SDIGs to grab the coveted position of the IGP.

He said that no one could usurp the position of Inspector General of Police. He said he would assign the most senior officer among them to be the head of the administrative division. This is the stepping stone to becoming the next IGP.

Accordingly, he appointed Nilantha Jayewardene as head of the administrative division. Nilantha’s appointment means that he is in a position to put himself in a prime position to be considered for the role. This is when the current one retires. This reflects the belief that the administrative division is a key stepping stone for attaining the highest rank in the Police Department.

However, the Supreme Court ultimately through its order, set up obstacles to the grand design. It laid a dragnet around some more people who cannot escape responsibility for criminal negligence over the Easter Sunday attack on Catholic churches and several other prominent places.

Senior lawyers who represent the interests of the Archbishop of Colombo have requested that the Attorney General take action against those who ignored the information they received about the disaster.

The conclusion is either the security apparatus is totally ineffective and needs a complete overhaul or the bureaucracy in charge of security has ignored the warnings deliberately. The evidence suggests that security warnings have either been ignored or not acted on in a timely manner. Furthermore, the security apparatus in place appears to be inadequate, as it has failed to prevent these security breaches from happening or identify them quickly enough. This may prompt the Attorney General to take appropriate action under the law against them.

Thus creating a “due process” whereby the accused person has the opportunity to challenge the action taken against them. This effectively sets up a legal framework that helps protect the rights of the accused person. It also ensures that any action taken is done in accordance with the rule of law.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena, who was in hibernation for some time following the judgment, came out to face the press and express his sentiments. He said that he bowed his head to the judgment entered by the Chief Justice and the other judges of the Supreme Court. He said that the judgment clearly indicated that none of the bureaucrats had informed him of the impending catastrophe. However, he claimed he was liable since he directly appointed the Defense Secretary and IGP under his command. Therefore, he was liable for executive action under the principles of the law.

He made these observations in Parliament and outside as well.

President Sirisena had an offensive verbal duelwith Sarath Fonseka that inflicted damage on the reputations of both sides. Referring to the Easter Sunday attack, Fonseka said these things are imminent when those without proper knowledge of statecraft are appointed to higher positions.

This infuriated Sirisena, who also attacked Fonseka, saying that he could not save his own bastion, the Army Headquarters, from a LTTE attack. Even the commander himself was seriously injured, he said. Fonseka was jailed by the Rajapaksa regime and stripped of his rank. He came behind me and requested that his position as field marshal be restored’, said Sirisena.

Elsewhere, he said he is unable to raise 100 million rupees for the quantum of compensation to be paid, and his well-wishers have decided to contribute towards collecting the required money.

He also appealed to the general public to join hands with his well-wishers to contribute to the fund to achieve the collective goal. In fact, a daily newspaper carried a picture of him accepting the money which had been collected.

Some may argue that it is not the responsibility of the general public to contribute to Sirisena’s fine funds. They may say that it is the responsibility of his family or friends to help him out and that the general public should not have to shoulder this burden.

Yet in another development, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Sri Lankan government to pay a full package of compensation to the victims of the terrorist attack on Easter Sunday 2019.

“While no amount of reparation can ever erase the suffering and pain of victims and families, this judgment marks a step forward in the struggle to recognize the harm suffered by victims and their right to establish truth, justice, and reparation,” said OHCHR spokesman Jeremy Lawrence.

Lawrence also reiterated recommendations from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He urged authorities to release into the public domain the findings of earlier investigations into the Easter Sunday bombings without any reservations.

The focus has now shifted from the Supreme Court judgment to the impending local government elections and the politics associated with them.

Local government elections have taken centre stage after the government’s failed attempts to delay them. A case is pending before the Supreme Court where an Army officer has challenged the decision by the Election Commission to hold elections after they were delayed by one year owing to political and delimitation issues. In the latest bid, the government used various administrative ruses, all of which backfired.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa spelt out in parliament, one by one, the dubious moves of the government to put off elections. He said it is a democratic right of the people, which the government was trying to trample on.

He said the government first stated there was a division among the members of the Election Commission about the holding of the elections. They said there was no monetary provision for the elections. They then got the secretary of public administration to send a circular to all district secretaries who act as returning officerswhen an election has been called. The directive was not to accept security deposits from candidates.

The final attempt was a bill to regulate election expenditure. It was passed by parliament after a protracted debate on Thursday. Minister of Justice Wijedasa Rajapakshe had earlier agreed to a moratorium of one month before the bill was put to the House for approval. However, the President and Prime Minister pushed it through parliamentary committees to pass the bill on Thursday amid howls of protest.

The chief opposition whip Lakshman Kiriella alleged in Parliament on Wednesday that the president and prime minister had reprimanded Rajapakshe on the phone. This was because heagreed to put off the bill to regulate election expenditure for a month.

The MP made the allegation when Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that the meeting of the Committee on Parliamentary Affairs that was scheduled for Wednesday had been cancelled. Instead, a special discussion on the second reading of the Election Expenses Regulation Act would be held under the chairmanship of the president.

The parliamentarian who objected said the objective of the government was to postpone the local government elections scheduled for March by using the proposed law.

Criticising the president who has already spoken the most about oversight committees and enhancing democratic ideals, and by suggesting that the parliamentary committees be strengthened, Kiriella said the President had interfered with the legislative process. Kiriella emphasised that that day’s business should be carried forward as agreed the day before by the party leaders on the business of the House.

We want the Committee on Parliamentary Affairs to meet. The Minister of Justice yesterday agreed to postpone the Election Expenses Regulation Act by one month. But numbers one and two have spoken to the minister and found fault with him. They chided him for agreeing to put off the second reading of the bill by one month’, he said.

“The government is now trying to act contrary to what was agreed,” Kiriella said on Thursday morning. But it cannot be done. We are against this. “It is wrong for the President to interfere with the parliamentary agenda,” he declared.

The Justice Minister replied, denying the allegation and questioned, How did Kirella know what was discussed? Was he listening to the conversation on the phone? Wijedasa Rajapakshe rejected the accusation allegedly made by Kiriella.

However, the minister eventually admitted that he discussed the matter with the Prime Minister for more than an hour in the office room and spoke with the President on the phone.

Later, he assured the House that bringing this bill to parliament and passing it would not affect the conduct of the local government election in any way.

After the Speaker attests the bill next week, the Election Commission would need at least one month to draft the regulations, the Minister said.

The opposition pointed out that once the bill is in force, someone could invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and obtain a court order that the elections be held in accordance with the Election Expenses Regulatory Act, which limits the expenses of candidates. The court may issue such an order since it always decides on the merits of the law. Then inevitably, the election gets postponed since the candidates have to provide the necessary information.

As far as the opposition is concerned, they are not opposed to the bill in principle, but more than anything else, there is an issue with timing.

The opposition then suggested that a new proviso be included in the bill. This would mean that the provisions of the bill would not apply in any way to the local government elections in 2023.

However, subject to a few amendments, the Election Expenses Regulatory Bill was passed by parliament with a majority.

Wijedasa Rajapakshe conceded during a speech in parliament that opposition amendments are practical. He said that it would allay fears that the government would use the said legislation to put off elections.

Nevertheless, the amended bill would not be a hindrance to the holding of local government elections in 2023.

Be that as it may, the visit of the External Affairs Minister of India, Dr S. Jaishankar to Sri Lanka at a time when Sri Lanka is looking to restructure its debt portfolio is singularly critical. During the visit, Dr Jaishankar called on the President and Prime Minister and had detailed discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry.

India is one of the three major bilateralcreditors. Indian authorities have already written to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)stating their willingness to restructure the debt portfolio, while Japan may also follow suit. In fact Dr Jaishankar told the Sri Lankans that India was the first creditor nation of Sri Lanka to support debt restructuring and convey financing assurances to IMF in order to clear the way forward for Sri Lanka and in securing the IMF programme. Additionally, the Chinese delegation in Sri Lanka has agreed to help Sri Lanka obtain a 2.9 billion US dollar IMF package, which may help revive its ailing economy.

Dr. Jaishankar’s visit to Sri Lanka will open new vistas for Indian investments in Sri Lanka. The bilateral relationship between the two countries is expected to grow further with many projects being initiated with Indian investments.Dr Jaishankar had assured the Sri Lankan side that India is prepared to go the extra mile when Sri Lanka feels the need and that India will encourage greater investments in the Sri Lankan economy, in several key sectors. He had welcomed the in-principle agreement on a renewable energy framework in the context of addressing Sri Lanka’s energy security challenges.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in a press release said that Dr Jaishankar’s visit provided an opportunity to review the whole gamut of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Dr Jaishankar stressed that his presence in Sri Lanka at a time when the country was going through multiple challenges sends a clear and strong message of continued support from the Government and the people of India to the people of Sri Lanka’, it said.


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