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Lawyers protest against Attorney General

A silent protest organised by lawyers was held outside the Colombo Fort Magistrate Court premises today against Attorney General (AG) Dappula de Livera’s order to arrest Embilipitiya High Court Judge Gihan Pilapitiya.

The lawyers also protested against the undue influence of the Attorney General into the independence of the High Court and observed that the Attorney General does not have the jurisdiction to call for an order against Judge Pilapitiya.

The Attorney General ordered the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) to obtain a warrant for the arrest of the interdicted Embilipitiya High Court Judge yesterday (23).

Judge Gihan Pilapitiya is in the spotlight over an incriminating tele-conversation with UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake.

The protesters further questioned as to why interdicted Solicitor General Dilrukshi Dias Wickremesinghe did not go through the same process as Pilapitiya.

The protesters also claimed that a few of the AG’s juniors are responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks and are currently roaming free.

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Speaker tables Central Bank Forensic Audit in Parliament

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya announced that he has decided to table the Central Bank forensic audit report following requests made by opposition Parliamentarians.

The Speaker announced this when the Parliament convened today (21).

The Attorney General had informed the Speaker earlier that it was not appropriate to submit the forensic audit report to MPs.

However, JVP MP Bimal Rathnayaka said there were enough precedents where Parliament had made its own decisions despite the directives given by the Judiciary. Rathnayaka noted that the legislature has the right to make its own decision on the forensic audit.

The Speaker said that he would recommend it not only to the COPE Committee but also to all Members of Parliament.
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Carry out your duties without fear or favour: President instructs Police

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stated that law enforcement officers should carry out their duties without any fear or favour, but their actions should strictly be in compliance with the law.

The President's Media Division (PMD) in a statement said that President Rajapaksa has instructed that any arrests should be carried out only when absolutely necessary and in strict compliance of the law.

As arrest is not part of the punishment and results in the serious deprivation of liberty of citizens and other significant implications such as loss of reputation and standing in the society, arrests are to be carried out only when absolutely necessary and upon a decision taken with utmost care and in strict compliance of the law, President Rajapaksa instructed Acting Inspector General of Police, Senior DIG C. D. Wickramaratne.

President further directed the Police to ensure that any necessity for impending arrests should be made entirely on the professional judgment.

Due respect should be given by officers discharging such duties to the Members of Parliament as representatives of the people and professionals such as Doctors, the PMD statement noted.

"The Police was further directed by the President to apply same equally to all citizens of Sri Lanka without any discrimination whatsoever nature and under no circumstances carried out for extraneous purposes and should not tolerate any undue influence," the PMD said.

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President acknowledges that thousands of war missing are dead

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has acknowledged for the first time that more than 23,500 people missing for a decade since the end of the country's protracted Tamil war are dead.

Rajapaksa, who played a key role in the military campaign that crushed the Tamil separatist rebels, told a UN envoy that steps would be taken to finally provide death certificates for those reported missing, his office said.

"President Rajapaksa outlined his plans to address the issue of missing persons," said a statement on the president's meeting with UN resident coordinator Hanaa Singer.

"He explained that these missing persons are actually dead."

Some 5,000 security forces are among the 23,500 people never accounted for.

The statement said most of the missing civilians had been conscripted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which was crushed in a major offensive that ended in May 2009.

"The families of the missing attest to it. However, they do not know what has become of them and so claim them to be missing," the president said.

Under current law, families cannot access property deeds, bank accounts or inheritances left by missing relatives unless they can conclusively prove they are dead -- an often impossible task.

The last government set up an Office on Missing Persons in 2018 to investigate those never traced after the 37-year Tamil separatist war, as well as during a Marxist uprising.

International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the separatist war, but the government has disputed the figures.

A government-appointed commission established in August 2013 received 23,586 reports of people missing throughout the drawn-out separatist war.

Thousands of people also went missing during a crackdown by security forces and pro-government vigilante groups on Marxist rebels between 1987 and 1990.

Several mass graves containing skeletal remains have been found since, but only a handful have ever been identified. (AFP)

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Coronavirus: Around 40 Sri Lankans stranded in Wuhan

About 40 Sri Lankan students and some workers are stuck in Wuhan following the lockdown of the virus-wracked Chinese provincial city and other cities from Thursday morning onwards, Chinese media reported.
Sri Lanka's Foreign Relations Ministry has directed the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing to contact the 40 Sri Lankan students as well as others employed there and make necessary arrangements to ensure their safety.

Two more Chinese cities were put on lock down by the government on Thursday (23), as authorities in the Chinese gambling center of Macau said they were weighing closures of its casinos, expanding an unprecedented experiment to try to contain a fast-spreading virus that has killed 25 people and infected more than 800.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday declined to declare the outbreak a global public health emergency, citing a limited number of cases abroad and efforts under way to bring it under control.

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Chandrika removed as SLFP organiser for Attanagalla electorate

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party(SLFP) has removed Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga from the post of organiser for the Attanagalla electorate, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera said.

This decision was taken when the SLFP Central Committee convened at the Party Headquarters on Thursday (16).

State Minister of Public Management and Accounting Lasantha Alagiyawanna has been appointed as the acting organiser for Attanagalla electorate.

Kumaratunga was temporarily removed from the Attanagalla Organiser position and was replaced by Alagiyawanna until the 16 Nov Presidential polls.

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Rishad's brother Rifkaan arrested for case already resolved in court

Rifkaan Bathiudeen, a brother of former minister Rishad Bathiudeen who appeared before the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) through his lawyers yesterday (22), has been remanded until June 06 by Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne, today (23).

Bathiudeen, a former Northern Provincial Councilor, was taken into custody for failing to assist the CID in investigations into the alleged sale of 280 acres of land in the Talaimannar area using forged deeds.

President's Counsel Kalinga Indatissa, appearing on behalf of the suspect, submitted to the court that the former Provincial Councilor had purchased 40 acres of the land legally and sold the same plot later on. Indatissa pointed out that there were no charges against Rifkaan Bathiudeen with regard to forging documents which had also been accepted by the Courts previously.

Accused of avoiding CID!

President's Counsel Kalinga Indatissa has requested the court to release him on bail as there is no specific evidence to support that his client is involved in this crime.

After considering the submissions of both parties, the Magistrate ordered the CID to remand the suspect until June 06 as the suspect had not arrived at the CID on a due date.

The case was heard before the same court in 2015 and the two parties in question had reached a settlement. However, court action had resumed following a complaint made recently.  

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New school buildings constructed with Indian assistance handed over

A special event was held on Wednsday (15) at St. Henry’s College, Ilavalai in Jaffna during which new school buildings constructed with Indian assistance in 5 schools in Northern Province were simultaneously handed over to the people of Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission said.

At the event which coincided with the Thai Pongal festival, Governor of the Northern Province P.S.M. Charles and the Deputy High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Vinod K. Jacob jointly inaugurated the new buildings.

One new school building each in J/Ilavalai St. Henry’s College, J/Katheeja Muslim Mahalir Vidyalaym, J/Valalai AMTMS, J/Varuthalaivilan AMTMS (all in Jaffna) and two buildings in Mu/Visuvanathar Primary School in Vavuniya were handed over. Senior government officials, leaders from the region, students and teachers of the schools and local people attended the functions.

These buildings are part of new class room buildings being constructed in 27 schools in the Northern Province at a cost of Rs. 250 million. Of these, 20 school buildings have been completed and inaugurated including the buildings for 5 schools handed over today. The remaining 7 school buildings are expected to be completed shortly.

This project is part of Government of India’s continued people-oriented development cooperation with Government of Sri Lanka. India’s overall commitment of development assistance to Sri Lanka stands at a total of around US$ 3.5 billion and among these, US$ 560 million is pure grant assistance.

Out of the total commitment of 63,000 houses, 47,500 houses have already been built. Besides, various projects undertaken for rehabilitation and resettlement, Government of India has constructed a total of 46000 houses in the region. 1990 Emergency Ambulance Services are operational island wide including the Northern Province. Government of India has also assisted Faculty of Agriculture and Engineering in Kilinochchi campus of Jaffna University with equipment and skill components worth SLR 600 million.

The ongoing development cooperation projects in the Northern Province under Government of India’s grant assistance include construction of Cultural Centre, construction of 3000 Rain Water Harvesting units, construction of 25 model villages consisting of 600 houses, establishing a Business/ICT Incubator Center in Jaffna among others.

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MoD to collaborate with US military contractor GTX for 'Track & Trace' solutions

The Sri Lanka Ministry of Defense (MoD) has placed an order with US military contractor GTX Corp for its global positioning system (GPS) and Track & Trace solutions, the company announced on its website.

TGTX Corp is involved in the manufacture of wearable GPS, people and asset tracking location-based services (LBS) and real-time location systems (RTLS).

The initial test order, which will be sent to the company in the next few weeks, is part of a requirement from the Sri Lanka Army, Disaster Management Centre, and Centre for Research and Development.

Under a Sri Lanka MoD initiative, the country’s personnel and equipment have to be tagged, tracked and located (TTL).

GTX, along with the Sri Lankan Government, has been working for the past year to get approvals for the sales and import of its products.

Approvals for the sales and import of GTX’s products were received after the government confirmed the 2019 annual allocated budget of US$17.5bn.

Within this context, GTX was established as a registered supplier for the year 2019 and has also received renewal notification for the year 2020.

GTX director Andrew Duncan said: "As with most government institutions, things usually take longer than expected but we are very pleased to have received confirmation that the initial order and payment were successfully processed on their end and received on our end."

“We expect to ship this first order of GPS SmartSoles, Take along Trackers and NFC tags in the coming weeks.”

(Source: www.army-technology.com)

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Appointments made overlooking committee's recommendations: Dr. Nalaka Godahewa

Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, a member of the special committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to select qualified and suitable persons to statutory boards and state-owned enterprises stated that certain appointments have been made in spite of the recommendations submitted by the committee.

Godahewa noted that committee can only make recommendations and that they aren't vested with any powers with regard to the actual appointments.
Godahewa made these remarks at a press conference at the SLPP headquarters recently.

Popular rapper Iraj was appointed as a Director of the Tourism Promotion Bureau while the father-in-law of parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa and the mother-in-law of Rohitha Rajapaksa, the youngest son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, were appointed as Directors of the Airport & Aviation (Services) Lanka recently.
Meanwhile, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's travel agent was appointed as the the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. These appointments were severely criticized on social media after the President had pledged to appoint qualified  professionals to state institutions.

However, he said that most of the people are happy with the appointments that have been made so far.

Former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka - Dr. Nalaka Godahewa,  former Chairman of John Keells Holdings - Susantha Ratnayake, former Chairman of the MAS Holdings Group - Dian Gomez, Dr. Prasanna Gunasena, Prof. Jagath Wellawatte and senior civil servant Sumith Abeysinghe round up the six member committee.

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Govt. yet to name a Cabinet Minister of Defence: Vijitha Herath

JVP Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath says that the government is yet to officially name a Minister for the portfolio of Defence. 

Raising questions in Parliament, Herath said that the security of the people was a major topic in the recent past but no cabinet Minister has been appointed for the subject of Defence up to now. 

Responding to MP Herath, MP Sumedha Jayasena said that the Defence Minister’s portfolio has been vested with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

When the JVP Parliamentarian inquired whether that was the official statement of the government, there was no clear response MP Jayasena.

MP Herath went onto note that they saw on the day the Ministers were appointed, that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was assigned the Defence Ministry, however, that has not been gazetted up to now. 

He said the State Ministry has been gazetted to Chamal Rajapaksa, therefore, there is no Defence Minister.

He questioned as to how a Secretary to the Ministry can be appointed without a Minister. He went onto question; “Why has Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa not been given any Ministry. Is there a problem? Are the brother’s suspicious of each other? If there is a problem of this nature, they should tell the people of this country.”

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 Human rights gains in Sri Lanka in grave peril: HRW

Respect for fundamental human rights in Sri Lanka is in serious jeopardy following Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election as president in November 2019, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.
Rajapaksa, along with his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was named prime minister, were implicated in numerous human rights violations during their previous years in power from 2005 to 2015, which included a crackdown on journalists and activists. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who then served as defense secretary, was also implicated in war crimes.

“There is every reason to fear that any progress Sri Lanka has made in recent years in restoring basic rights and rebuilding democratic institutions will be overturned with a vengeance,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The new president seems intent not only to wipe away the Rajapaksas’ past abuses but clear the path for future ones. Concerned governments should make it clear that international crimes cannot simply be brushed under the carpet.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the Chinese government, which depends on repression to stay in power, is carrying out the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades.

He finds that Beijing’s actions both encourage and gain support from autocratic populists around the globe, while Chinese authorities use their economic clout to deter criticism from other governments. It is urgent to resist this assault, which threatens decades of progress on human rights and our future.

Under the outgoing Maithripala Sirisena administration, there was some progress in addressing abuses during the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended in May 2009.

The administration made commitments to the United Nations Human Rights Council and restored some government-occupied land and established the Office for Reparations and the Office on Missing Persons.
However, Sri Lanka failed to keep its pledge in repeated Human Rights Council resolutions to establish an accountability mechanism that included international judges and prosecutors. The new Rajapaksa government has indicated that it does not intend to respect those commitments.

Senior police officers investigating Rajapaksa-era abuses have been transferred, or their security clearance has been withdrawn, and the army has been given increased responsibility for the normal police role of protecting “public safety.”

The newly appointed defense secretary, Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, is implicated in alleged war crimes committed by the 53 Division of the Sri Lankan army, which he commanded. The current army chief, Gen. Shavendra Silva, recently appointed by Sirisena, is similarly implicated in alleged war crimes committed by the 58 Division when it was under his command.

In 2019, Sri Lanka suffered its worst communal violence since the end of the civil war. Islamist suicide bombers attacked churches and hotels in Colombo and other cities on Easter Sunday, April 21, killing over 250 people and injuring hundreds more.

Anti-Muslim mobs, some linked to nationalist politicians and incited by extremist Buddhist monks, attacked Muslim property and vilified Muslims and foreign asylum seekers, putting them at risk of assault.

The government imposed a state of emergency for four months. The authorities detained hundreds of people without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, an abusive law that the government had committed to replacing.

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