Cases against wrongdoers of previous regime
Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale yesterday stressed that her predecessor Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, had been removed solely due to him violating collective cabinet responsibility in respect of the leasing of Hambantota port to China.
Sri Lanka and China finalized the agreement on a 99-year lease on July 29, 2017.
Atukorale will continue to hold the foreign employment portfolio in addition to Justice.
Declaring that the agreement had been finalized in accordance with the instructions and advise received from the Attorney General, attorney-at-law Atukorale said that one person couldn’t under any circumstances challenge a cabinet decision.
Minister Atukorale said so in response to a query by The Island whether she could confirm the UNP demanded Rajapakse’s removal over him challenging the validity of the Hambantota port agreement and holding up investigations into high profile cases involving the Rajapaksas and those loyal to them.
When pressed for a response to the second allegation, Atukorale stressed that the UNP only faulted Rajapakse for acting contrary to collective cabinet responsibility.
Athukorale asserted perhaps Rajapakse couldn’t have comprehend the terms of the port agreement.
Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was among senior officials who met the new Justice Minister before she addressed the media.
Asked by The Island whether she had at least inquired from her former cabinet colleague to find out what had gone wrong after she received justice portfolio from President Maithripala Sirisena on Aug. 25, Atukorale said that there was no requirement to do so.
SLFP/UPFA MP Rajapakse switched allegiance to the UNP in mid Nov 2007.
Athukorale said that she knew Rajapakse since 1977 and never felt the need to clarify matters from the former cabinet colleague.
Atukorale denied allegations regarding delays and lapses on the part of Attorney General’s Department as well as interference in presidential commission of inquiry into alleged Central Bank-Perpetual Treasuries bond scams.
The first woman justice minister acknowledged the need to inquire into allegations regardless of who made them targeting whom.
Atukorale said the Attorney General couldn’t hastily act in respect of investigations conducted by law enforcement authorities into various cases.
Responding to another query, Atukorale said the setting up of trial at bar to expedite cases could be taken by the Chief Justice on a request made by the Attorney General.
Those who had been severely critical of the Attorney General’s Department today never uttered a word when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa brought it under his purview, Atukorale said. The minister chided the media for not having the guts to take on the previous government though they now enjoyed the freedom thanks to yahapalana policies.
Commenting on National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa’s recent accusation that she had received orders from the government to remand ten Joint Opposition members of parliament in the run-up to next local government or provincial council polls, Atukorale said that gang of thieves called the JO had directed corruption charges at PM Wickremesinghe and several other ministers, including Kabir Hashim, Malik Samarawickrema and herself.
Atukorale alleged that the then Minister Weerawansa had been one of those who took ‘policy’ decisions. The UNPer said that the likes of Weerawansa couldn’t remember the days when decisions regarding the executive and the judiciary were taken at one place.
Minister Atukorale and Secretary to the Justice Ministry Padmasiri Jayamanne refrained from responding to The Island query whether PC Rajapakse got into trouble over an exchange of words with UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson in mid July.
Atukorale said she would discuss and examine accountability issues with her officials before deciding on talks with the Foreign Ministry as well as other institutions, including the Army. Atukorale said so when The Island asked her whether she would take a fresh look at war crimes allegations, including the claim more than 40,000 Tamil civilians were massacred on the Vanni east front in 2009.
Atukorale said that the armed forces wouldn’t be subjected to foreign jurisdiction under any circumstances. The minister said that the government took tangible measures to protect the interests of the armed forces whereas the former President claimed of an attempt to drag him to non existent electric chair.
When The Island pointed out that Geneva Resolution 30/1 that had been co-sponsored by the incumbent government on Oct 1, 2015 made specific reference to foreign judges, including those from the Commonwealth, the Minister said that she would like to see the relevant document.
Wijeyadasa’s deputy sorry minister had to go
Deputy Minister of Justice and SLFPer Sarathi Dushmantha Mithrapala yesterday paid a glowing tribute to the leadership given by former Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, since the change of government in January 2015.
MP Mithrapala said that he was sorry and sad about Dr. Rajapakse having to lose justice portfolio over what he called cabinet controversy. The Kegalle District MP was responding to The Island query as to how he felt about Rajapakse being kicked out.
The Deputy Minister said that during Rajapakse’s tenure as the minister, the Justice Ministry had received the appreciation of the judiciary.
Mithrapala said he was happy new minister Thalatha Atukorale was from his province though he regretted the fate that befell Rajapakse (SF)