An Opposition political grouping has accused the SLPP government of planning to deprive civic rights of several members of parliament and ex-MPs.
Opposition activists former Deputy Minister Karu Paranavithana, Attorney-at-Law Crishmal Warnasuriya, Attorney-at-Law Shiral Lakthilaka and Ananda Lanarolle alleged the government targeted former Prime Miniter and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, SJB MPs Patali Champika Ranawaka, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and TNA leader R. Sampanthan on the basis of the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into Political Victimization.
Public servants implicated in the PCoI report, too, face the possibility of losing civic rights.
The issue was taken up at a press conference called at the National Library and Documentation Services Board on Friday (5).
The PCoI consisted of retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne, retired Court of Appeal Judge Daya Chandrasiri Jayathilake and retired IGP Chandra Fernando. Ms. Pearl Weerasinghe functioned as the Secretary to the PCoI.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the report on January 8. The President appointed the PCoI on January 20, 2020.
The PCoI inquired into alleged cases of political victimization that took place in the wake of investigations conducted by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, FCID, CID and the Special Investigation Unit of the Police from January 8, 2015 to November 16, 2019.
Lakthilaka alleged that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was planning a Myanmar style authoritarian rule. The SJB National List nominee said that the electorate empowered Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Nov 2019 presidential poll, in spite of them repeatedly warning of the looming threat of dictatorship in case the SLPP candidate won.
Alleging that the Justice Abeyratne committee report had been prepared outside the existing law, one-time advisor to President Maithripala Sirisena warned of dire consequences if the government exploited the report to advance its despicable political agenda. Lakthilaka claimed that PCoI project threatened the very basis of the country’s judiciary.
Asked to explain what the Bar Association of Sri Lanka’s role should be, Lakthilaka told The Island yesterday (7) that if the BASL, the Law Commission and the Justice Minister addressed the issues at hand, there was no requirement for them to take it up. Pointing out that the BASL election was around the corner, Lakthilaka said that the primary body representing the interests of the lawyers and the Law Commission couldn’t remain silent on the matter.
Addressing Friday’s media briefing, lawyer Lakthilaka urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa not to abuse and exploit available laws and the follow democratic way of governance.
Karu Paranavithana said that the PCoI process threatened Sri Lanka’s judicial system. Pointing out that the electorate overwhelmingly empowered Gotabaya Rajapaksa with executive powers, the former Deputy Media Minister alleged the President was bent on seeking dictatorial powers. Paranavithana compared what he called judicial crisis in Sri Lanka with Myanmar military seizing executive, parliamentary and judicial powers for a period of one year.
Paranavithana also claimed that the Abeyratne report had created necessary ground situation for an authoritarian administration.
The former yahapalana MP questioned the justification in appointing a Special PCoI to examine the Abeyratne report. The Special PCoI was established by way of a gazette extraordinary, dated January 29, 2021. The Special PCoI will be chaired by Supreme Court Justice Dhammika Samarakoon and will also comprise SC Justice Kumuduni Wickremasinghe and Court of Appeal Judge Ratnapriya Gurusinghe.
Lawyer Warnasuriya asked whether a Special PCoI could be appointed to examine PCoI report appointed in terms of another Act. Warning of calculated efforts to undermine the supremacy of the judiciary, Warnasuriya expressed confidence that those who had been appointed to the Special PCoI, too, would recognize the looming danger. Warnasuriya assured that whatever the challenges; they would definitely stand by the public and do everything possible to thwart the SLPP’s political project.
Ananda Lanarolle urged all members of the judiciary to take a common stand.
Meanwhile, former Additional Solicitor General Srinath Perera told the media that the Abeyratne report if implemented could destroy the public faith in the judiciary. Perera explained how the government sought to exploit the report to its advantage at the expense of all democratic institutions and cleared those near and dear to the administration who had been found guilty of courts or were currently facing proceedings.
Opposition activist Lal Wijenayake yesterday told The Island that the judiciary would be definitely moved against the government in that regard. Wijenayake said that they were in the process of discussing ways and means of tackling the threat and judicial measures would be taken.