Parliament | Daily News


It is illegitimate if SL Forces were involved against unarmed civilians or combatants

The Sri Lankan forces fought the war on behalf of the Government to eradicate the LTTE. They were carrying out the directions of the government. But beyond that, if the security forces were involved in acts against unarmed civilians or unarmed combatants, if they had disappeared after they had surrendered to the security forces, then that could not be put on the same basis that the SL forces were engaged legitimately in the conduct of the war as per the policy decisions of the State, said Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan.

Sampanthan said so, joining the Second Reading debate of the Bill for the protection against enforced disappearances in Parliament yesterday.

Referring to a comment by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapone that this law would only be applicable to the future and not to the past, Sampanthan said that he was unaware why that was so.

“If the Security Forces went beyond legitimate means and took into custody civilians or unarmed combatants, they must be dealt with and such crimes should be prosecuted. If not, it would imply be that such crimes were being sanctioned by the State. I don’t think that is acceptable.”

He accepted that this law fills a vacuum that existed in our legal system for a long time, but the government must ensure that the law is enacted in such a way that was fair to all.

“Persons suddenly disappearing in this country had existed for a long time. During the JVP insurrection during the 70s and 80s, several tens of thousands of youth disappeared. As a matter of fact, Mahinda Rajapaksa who was an Opposition Member of Parliamentat that time, on behalf of those people, even travelled to Geneva to the UN with documents to explain what was happening to the International Community in regard to people of this country. This was a matter that had been going on for a very long time and having had a war in this country for several decades, which ended in 2009, both during and after the war came to an end,” he said, adding that there had been a wide spread complaint by the people of this country, particularly from the North and East, that a large number of Tamil people had disappeared.

“Over the past several years, the next of kin of the disappeared have been demonstrating demanding that they be made aware of what happened to their next of kin, many of them who had surrendered to the Police or the Army. I think it was a very legitimate demand which must be addressed, while the Sri Lankan Government was moving to enact a law to bring into operation the international convention, pertaining to enforced disappearances prescribing the several offences that could or have been committed under that law,” noted Sampanthan.

He pointed out that there seemed to be an impression sought to be created by some people in the country that the International Community was interfering somewhat unnecessarily in the affairs of this country and that it was not acceptable. Such action on the part of the International Community impinges on the sovereignty of this country. “We all wish for the sovereignty of our country be protected, while there was no question about that. But, if you talk in terms of sovereignty, it does not mean that one could do whatever one likes by violating all international conventions, treaties, violate commitments made to the International Community and say that we are sovereign and we could do what we wished, while no one else could talk about what we do. But that is not acceptable and not in keeping with either domestic or international law and is something outrageous.”

In addition, he said that it made out to look like the International Community was against the Armed Forces and is supportive of the LTTE. “But nothing could be further than the truth as we all know that the LTTE was engaged in a war, good or bad or both good and bad they fought the war for over 30 years. They gave the State a bit of a run, there was no question about that, but eventually, they were defeated.

However, what must be remembered is that the International Communities, particularly India, completely backed the Sri Lankan Government with regard to the conduct of the war against the LTTE. The LTTE was banned in all those countries and their efforts to muster support for the war in that country in various ways, was impeded, hindered and prevented. Many countries provided intelligence support, in particular with regard to the movement of arms by the LTTE. Countries such as India, completely helped Sri Lanka completely eradicate the LTTE. The government made it out that the LTTE was a hindrance to political resolutions.

Those countries were of the belief that Sri Lanka would keep to its commitment.

However, the fact of the matter was that up to date, nine years have lapsed since the end of the war and even after 2 ½ years since the new Government came into power, although we have seen some progress, we have not yet been able to achieve a political resolution to the conflict despite the commitment made to the International Community,” he said. Sampanthan noted that the country was able to win the war primarily because of the support received by the International Community.

Yet, the misconception that the International Community was seeking to punish Sri Lanka for defeating the LTTE, must be gotten rid of. If not, he pointed out that it would not be helpful in the movement in the right direction towards bringing about a political resolution of the conflict.

Therefore, he called on the government to rethink this decision to make this law only applicable for the future and not for past actions.

To find solution for volatile situation in country: Dinesh wants meeting convened of Party heads

Joint Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena rising to a point of order in Parliament yesterday, request Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to convene a meeting of all political party heads and seek a mechanism to control the volatile situation in the country.

He said the situation in the country was very serious and a State of Emergency had been declared. Normally, civil officers could not control the situation.

That was the reason the President had declared a State of Emergency.

Hence, as public representatives, we urge the Speaker to mediate in calling for a meeting with all party leaders and discuss measures needed to bring this situation under control. Sharing the views expressed by MP Gunawardena, MP Wimal Weerawansa said there was curfew being imposed in Kandy at present. “Both the Sinhalese and Muslims in the Kandy district, currently live in fear. Even Government Ministers blame themselves and the Police. But the Government is allowing this situation to prolong and simply watching without taking action to stop it.

This was similar to a national tragedy, while not allowing this to ignite and spread. The news we hear today was not good news. Hence, if there is a semblance of a government left, then please stop this destruction.

If you are unable to do it, then kindly hand it over to someone who could do the job and stop the spread of violence.”

He accused the government of allowing the people to take the law into their own hands and take up swords and weapons and attack each other, while the government simply watched on with folded arms. “This is not a private issue, but it is our society that was being destroyed.

He said having a whole lot of ministers, there wasn’t a single responsible minister in Parliament to take responsibility,” he said.

In response, the Chief Organiser of the UNP, Minister Gayantha Karunatillake, said the Cabinet had discussed the country’s situation on Tuesday morning, while summoning the Security Forces heads and discussing with them too, the current situation.

He noted that the government would not hesitate to implement the law.

Karunatillake said relevant ministers and security forces and Police responsible officers had also been present at the Cabinet briefing held yesterday, to notify the country of the current situation in the country and measures taken to bring the volatile situation under control.

He noted that as a government, every effort had been taken to prevent the situation from escalating out of control.

Party with third largest number of members entitled for Opp. Leader post

Parliament yesterday, turned down a request by the Joint Opposition to include in the Standing Orders of Parliament that the person who holds the post of Leader of the Opposition, must command the majority support of Opposition benches.

When Parliament took up the committee stage of the revisions to the Standing Orders, JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena moved an amendment seeking to apply the principles of selecting the Prime Minister to the Opposition Leader as well.

“This is not a matter of any individual, but a matter that affects all future Parliaments as well.

The Opposition Leader has huge responsibilities and he is an ex-officio member of the Constitutional Council, which is the apex body handling important appointments. The Speaker must accept the person who wins the majority support in the Opposition as the Opposition Leader,” he said.

Standing Orders Committee member and State Minister Ajith P Perera, however did not accommodate JO’s proposal maintaining that the proposed revisions to the Standing Orders were drafted after a careful study of traditions in other countries too.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya too endorsed the same position.

Intervening at this point, NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa argued that the current Opposition Leader has no majority support and the people’s mandate had been distorted in Parliament.

TNA MP M A Sumanthiran replying to this concern said, “This Parliament has only six recognized political parties, while two of those parties are in the Government. Therefore, the party that has the third largest number is entitled to the post of Opposition Leader. ”

OMP meets CC headed by Speaker to discuss future action

The newly appointed members of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), met with the Constitutional Council (CC) headed by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday, subsequent to their appointments and discussed their future course of action.

During the meeting, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya assured the members of the Office of the Missing Persons and those of the Constitutional Council, that he would instruct the Ministry of Public Administration and the Treasury to provide necessary funds and infrastructure facilities for the setting up of offices for the OMP.

The Speaker gave this assurance when he met with the members of the OMP and CC at the Parliamentary Complex yesterday.

The Speaker said during the meeting that the OMP’s primary task was to uncover the truth with regard to missing persons and notify their families of the results of the findings.

Among those present at the meeting representing the CC, were Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, MP WDJ Seneviratne, Dr AT Ariyaratne, Shibly Aziz PC and Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy and from the OMP, its Chairman Saliya KM Pieris PC, Dr Sriyani Nimalka Fernando, Mirak Raheem, Kanapathipillai Venthan, Maj. Gen. Mohanti Anotenette Maltidevi Pieris, Punyamoorthy Jeyatheepa, SK Liyanage, Chandima Wickramasinghe (Senior Assistant Secretary, Presidential Secretariat), Ibrahim Ansar (UN International Affairs Coordinating Unit), Tharaka Hettiarachchi (UN International Affairs Coordinating Unit), V Sivagnanasothy (Secretary to the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation), J J Ratnasiri (Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and Management), Nalani Amaratunga (Director, Department of National Budget), H G Sumansinghe (Director General, Department of Management Services, Ministry of Finance) and A Vaidehi (Director, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation).

House approves revised set of Standing Orders, Code of Conduct for MPs

Parliament unanimously approved the revised set of Standing Orders of Parliament and the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, yesterday.

The final drafts of the new Standing Orders and Code of Conduct for MPs were tabled in Parliament by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in November last year, after months of deliberation and a day’s debate on them were taken up on February 19.

Opposition members Dinesh Gunawardena, M A Sumanthiran and Tharaka Balasuriya, actively contributed to the last minute amendments to them at the Committee stage and the Government accommodated those proposals as much as possible.

The set of Standing Orders previously in use was formulated in 1979 and was last revised on February 6, 1993. The modified version has been made with the extensive consultation of all MPs and after taking into consideration the changes to Parliamentary traditions over time.

Change in the sitting time of Parliament, the role of the newly introduced sectoral oversight committees and the recently adopted electronic voting system have been included into the revised Standing Orders.Speaker Jayasuriya said the Code of Conduct for MPs and revised SO, would help uplift the standards of the Sri Lanka Parliament and pave the way for a better political culture. State Minister Ajith P Perera reminded that introducing a Code of Conduct for MPs was a pre-election pledge of the Government.

One specific clause in EDB: No person could be held in detention secretly:Jayampathy

One of the specific clauses in the Enforced Disappearance Bill(EDB) is that no one could be held in detention secretly. This cannot be included in the Penal Code, said UNP-MP Jayampathy Wickramaratne in Parliament yesterday.

He said the OMP Bill was one that had been spoken about, criticised and misconstrued more than any other Bill. “Even those with profound legal knowledge had misconstrued the OMP Bill. One of the common misinterpretations was that the law applies to the past as well.

The 13th Paragraph of our Constitution under fundamental rights, clearly states that a criminal law brought in applies only to the future,” he said, adding that therefore, it was not necessary to mention it specifically as the Constitution was above all.

“However, if we have signed any convention that specifically applies to the past, then, there was provision to include a clause specifying it. Then it needs to be specifically mentioned.

However, this act was taken before the Supreme Court and had there been any room to also include past deeds, then this act would not have been passed.

Then Supreme Court would have determined that a referendum was required. However, that was not required as there was no retrospective clause.

Hence, there is no need to have any doubt about it,” he said.

Wickramaratne noted that Sri Lanka is a duellist country and just because we sign an international convention, it does not become law in this country. However, in countries such as Netherlands, acceding to an international convention automatically becomes law in that country. “But, we are not like that. However, it is ironic that the majority of those who misinterpreted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from the Enforced Disappearance Bill, were those who held higher positions of legal educators.”

Wickramaratne, further focussing on the current situation in the country, charged that hailing from Kandy, he was receiving messages frequently and in many instances, the Police were inactive and looking on without taking action

. “Their excuse was that they did not receive orders. There is no way that the Police could shoot into the air and control such a situation. Emergency is not imposed to simply do nothing. Preventive detention could be used to bring the situation under control.

There is no point in imposing curfew just at night, it should be used during the day too, to prevent the situation from spreading to other areas.”

Parliament passes two Bills with amendments

Parliament yesterday passed the Safeguard Measures Bill and the Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties Bill with Amendments.

The Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties Bill aims to protect local industries and manufacturers from the goods imported to Sri Lanka without control. The Safeguard Measures Bill provides for the conduct of investigations and the application of safeguard measures on products imported into Sri Lanka.

Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties Bill imposes Anti-Dumping Taxes against the introduction of imported goods to the local market at a lower price than their actual value and Countervailing Taxes against the entry into the local market of imported goods at unusually low prices due to the various concessions granted by foreign governments.

The amendments to the two Bills were moved by Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama.



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