President's impeachment: Not yet
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe discusses problems of cohabitation
The new United National Front government has conveyed to President Chandrika
Kumaratunga that it has no plans so far to impeach her.
The government's views were conveyed to President Kumaratunga during
a near three-hour meeting at President's House this week between herself
and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe smothering two months of speculation.
Hardliners in the ruling coalition have been pressing Mr. Wickremesinghe
to impeach the President on alleged grounds of corruption, abuse of power
and intimidation of political opponents, following the UNF's election victory
on December 5 last year.
President Kumaratunga was re-elected in December 1999, and is entitled
to rule till 2005.
The meeting between the President and the Prime Minister took place
to iron out outstanding problems arising from the two month-long cohabitation
administration of Ms. Kumaratunga's PA coalition and Mr. Wickremesinghe's
Ministers Karu Jayasuriya and K.N. Choksy were associated with the Prime
Minister during the talks. President Kumaratunga alone represented the
The President spoke for nearly half an hour on speculation the new government
was preparing to impeach her. The UNP delegation had told her that there
was no decision so far to impeach her.
Some UNF supporters are calling for the impeachment of President Kumaratunga
for alleged violation of the constitution and other activities inconsistent
with her office.
But the UNF hierarchy appears disinclined to move for an impeachment
motion at this stage due to two factors - pressure from the "international
community" to leave her alone and the absence of a two-thirds majority
required for the exercise.
UNF sources however did not rule out the possibility of filing an impeachment
motion against her sometime this year purely to prevent her from dissolving
Parliament when she has the Constitutional powers to do so after the present
parliament completes one year.
At this week's talks, one of the main requests from the UNF side was
the appointment of Agriculture Minister S. B. Dissanayake, a key architect
in the collapse of President Kumaratunga's PA government last year, as
Samurdhi Affairs Minister.
President Kumaratunga has refused to swear-in her one-time confidante,
alleging that he was being investigated for bribery.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Presidential Secretariat said that
"all members of parliament recommended by the Prime Minister were appointed
as ministers in charge of the portfolios proposed".
UNF sources said the statement was not true because the Prime Minister's
recommendation for Mr. Dissanayake to be sworn-in as Minister of Samurdhi
Affairs remained ignored by President Kumaratunga.
During the last general election campaign in December, Mr. Dissanayake
who was Samurdhi Affairs Minister under President Kumaratunga confidently
asserted that he would regain the post immediately after elections.
When Prime Minister Wickremesinghe proposed Mr. Dissanayake's name for
the portfolio, and President Kumaratunga objected citing corruption charges,
the premier had said he would appoint a parliamentary select committee
to probe the charges, and if Mr. Dissanayake was found guilty, he would
ask him to resign.
President Kumaratunga had not agreed to this suggestion.
This week, the UNF delegation had pointed out to President Kumaratunga
that the Bribery Commission had exonerated Mr. Dissanayake, but the President
said she would still have to "consider" the matter.
The UNF delegation had also referred to the recent walk-out from Parliament
by the PA, reportedly instigated by President Kumaratunga herself who was
in her office at the Parliamentary complex at the time.
The delegation had asked what the PA's position was in relation to cohabitation
as there were hardliners in the UNF who were asking for a tougher stance
towards the PA leadership, especially issues relating to the impeachment
of the President, the arrest of one-time Power and Energy Minister Anuruddha
President Kumaratunga had complained that the new government had placed
her under "siege".
She had explained that there appeared to be a witch-hunt against her
party supporters in many constituencies and that she was "caged" in her
own official residence with the near 3,000 man Presidential Security Division
(PSD) that is guarding her under intense criticism and police investigation.
The main target of criticism is aimed at the controversial Senior Superintendent
of Police Nihal Karunaratne, the head of the division.
In the statement on Friday, the Presidential Secretariat defended the
PSD saying the President was "satisfied that the PSD had not been involved
in any wrong-doings or illegal activities".
No evidence against Ratwatte sons - yet
An Army Lieutenant and a group of soldiers are to be indicted by the Attorney
General's Department for the murder of 10 supporters of the United National
Front (UNF) at Pallethalawinne on polls day, December 5, last year. The
move will also see the release of an Army driver from remand custody.
The Sunday Times learns that there will be no indictment on Lohan and
Chanuka, the two sons of former minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, on the grounds
that the evidence against them is inadequate and will not stand the test
of scrutiny before a court of law. But the Teldeniya Magistrate has already
issued a warrant for the arrest of Lohan and Chanuka.
The officer concerned and the men, now in remand have confessed to the
killing of the 10 youth. They have claimed that they were compelled to
open fire in self-defence after they were attacked.
The decision to indict the army personnel was remade at a conference
chaired by Additional Solicitor General, Rienzie Arsecularatne.
He is learnt to have given necessary instructions to the CID.
It was only this week that investigations into the Pallethalawinne killings
were entrusted solely to the CID. This followed a top level conference
chaired by Interior Minister John Amaratunga, where he acceded to a request
by the CID to take over the inquiry. This decision leaves out a police
team from Kandy headed by Superintendent Kulasiri Udugampola who heads
the Special Operations in that Division.
However on the advice of the Attorney General's department, CID investigations
are continuing into Gen. Ratwatte and his sons over a broader conspiracy
charges involving several incidents in the Kandy district during elections.
Both Lohan and Chanuka Ratwatte are in hiding and evading arrest.
Cohabitation on 54th National Day
The first Independence Day under a nominally cohabitation administration
will be held tomorrow with President Chandrika Kumaratunga proclaimed as
the chief guest and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as guest of honour.
Religious ceremonies for the 54th National Day began yesterday with
pirith chanting followed by an alms giving today and special services by
Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims in several parts of the country.
A spokesman for the organising committee said the President and the
Prime Minister would take the salute at the guard of honour but there would
be no traditional message to the nation.
Though President Kumaratunga is the head of state and the government,
Premier Wickremesinghe is known to be virtually in total charge of formulating
national policy. Thus the President did not make the traditional policy
statement when the new parliament where the UNF has a majority held its
first sitting last month.
UNICEF slams Tigers
Child recruitment continuing under cover of ceasefire
The United Nations Children's Fund has expressed deep concern over reports
that the LTTE is continuing the recruitment of child soldiers despite a
cessation of hostilities and plans for peace talks.
"We have had reports that children are still forcibly being taken and
even during the ceasefire period, a lot of pressure is being put on children
to join the LTTE," UNICEF's Colombo chief Colin Glennie said.
"Reports indicate there is intense psychological pressure to join the
LTTE while a few cases of physical abductions were also reported. Older
people are also being taken forcibly," he said.
Mr. Glennie said UNICEF was making representations to the LTTE directly
to adhere to the commitment it made to the UN's special representative
Olara Otunu in May 1998 to refrain from recruiting child combatants. But,
he said, the LTTE appeared to be violating its pledge.
Mr. Glennie said that after the 1998 pledge the LTTE had put up banners
and posters, proclaiming there would be no child recruitment. But these
appear to be largely slogans and the abuse of children was continuing.
Meanwhile, the Government Information Department also said on Wednesday
there were reports that the LTTE was on a recruitment drive in Kiran, asking
every family to send at least one child.
Military spokesman Sanath Karunaratne, however, declined to comment
on the reports.
Mahinda group resumes battle
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The crisis and contradictory claims over the position of opposition leader
Ratnasiri Wickremanayake plunged into more confusion over the weekend with
the Mahinda Rajapakse lobby planning to press its claim again at Tuesday's
parliamentary group meeting.
The Rajapakse group is planning to question the validity of appointing
Richard Pathirana as acting opposition leader and is demanding the appointment
of Mr. Rajapakse as opposition leader, party sources said.
Mr. Rajapakse told The Sunday Times he was aware of the lobby for him
and he also believed the party needed a strong leadership which he could
give but he would not act in any way to divide the party.
Mr. Wickremanayake has gone abroad reportedly for medical treatment
and during the past few weeks conflicting media reports have been splashed
about his resignation and a multitude of disputes over it. Last Wednesday,
the Speaker received a fax message purportedly from Mr. Wickremanayake
saying he was resigning but the authenticity of that message also is being
Meanwhile, the government is refusing to accept the appointment of Mr.
Pathirana as acting leader of opposition, saying the standing orders do
not provide for such a post. Amidst the confusion, the appointment of the
Constitutional Council is being delayed, because the concurrence of the
opposition leader is required for some appointments.