Delays of police investigations into serious cases of fraud, corruption, drug trafficking and the current security situation figured in Parliament during the Committee stage debate yesterday, of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Law and Order. Speakers from both the Government and Opposition, expressed their views at the debate . Law and Order [...]


MPs question delays over probe on corruption cases

Committee stage debate on Defence and Law and Order MinistrIES

Delays of police investigations into serious cases of fraud, corruption, drug trafficking and the current security situation figured in Parliament during the Committee stage debate yesterday, of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Law and Order.

Speakers from both the Government and Opposition, expressed their views at the debate .

Ruwan Wijewardene

Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake said, “In other countries, police resort to advanced and sophisticated methods to conduct investigations, but in Sri Lanka, despite its limited resources, we have been able to complete investigations on several grave crimes.”

He said, “Compared with 2014, the number of cases of grave crime decreased by 37%, from 50,000 cases in 2014 to 36,000 last year.

Mr Ratnayaka said that in the last 10 months, only 30,350 cases of grave crime had been reported, while the number of cases resolved too had increased. He said, of some 19 high profile murder cases investigated, 17 have already been sent to the Attorney General’s Dept for further action.

State Minister for Defence, Ruwan Wijewardene said all MPs should set an example to the nation and ensure that separatism and communalism is not promoted.

He said, “At times issues are raised about the country’s security situation, but there has been no threat to the security situation in the past three years.”

“Issues have been raised about removal of a camp in Iranamadu, but nothing of that nature has taken place as claimed by MP Wimal Weerawansa. A bungalow of the Irrigation Dept has been handed over to them. It was during the previous government that the entire Defence Ministry was removed from Colombo,” he said.

Wimal Weerawansa

“The former government released as many as 11,000 LTTE suspects, some of them who were involved in attacking the Bandaranaike International Airport,” he added.

Rural Development Minister Sarath Fonseka asserted the need to hold a comprehensive investigation to identify and punish any military personnel who had committed crimes during the war.

“How can anyone say crimes were not committed? Crimes did occur. If any Army Commander says no soldiers committed crimes, he is not helping the forces. He is simply allowing wrongdoers to act with impunity,” he told Parliament.

He noted that, because there was no investigation, former officers such as himself, as well as those still serving, were denied visas to visit certain Western nations. “I’m not being given a visa to visit the US. But, their senior officers are invited here as chief guests at our Defence seminars,” he added.

However, the Minister insisted that major Army camps in the North will not be closed down and soldiers withdrawn, as alleged by sections of the Joint Opposition (JO).

Sagala Ratnayake

Pointing to the communal unrest reported from Gintota on Friday night, Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) Leader and JO MP Wimal Weerawansa insisted it was essential to find if a hidden hand was behind the incident. He queried if this was an attempt to divert attention from topics currently dominating the news cycle that were embarrassing for the Government.

“Such incidents cannot occur, if those involved were not encouraged by a powerful hand. This is the same situation that led up to the events of Black July in 1983,” he added.

Mr Weerawansa said one of the main reasons for such incidents was that the law and order situation in the country had deteriorated to an appalling level. This is especially prevalent in the North, where armed gangs are running amok. “Ordinary people in the North are living in fear,” he stressed, adding that, the Province’s police had been weakened to such a level that officers could hardly step out and conduct raids.

Meanwhile, in the South, intelligence officers who played an integral part in the successful war effort, are being hunted and jailed over false charges. “Their main aim is to arrest Gotabaya Rajapaksa, using these war heroes,” he claimed.

Sarath Fonseka

He also accused the Government of attempting to purchase an old Russian vessel for the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), that had been rejected by multiple committees appointed by the Navy, as well as former Navy Commander Travis Sinniah.

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara defended the deal to purchase the Russian Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for the SLN, insisting that President Maithripala Sirisena was right to recommend its purchase on a credit line. Minister Jayasekara stated the SLN needed new vessels to patrol the country’s waters. He pointed out that vessels already in service are ageing, and claimed the Russian-made vessel will be an asset.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Nalinda Jayatissa said the Government’s crimes, including the Bond scam, are making it look as if the previous regime was clean.

He urged that crimes of the Rajapaksa administration be investigated, adding that, it seemed as if probes concerning the alleged crimes of the Rajapaksa family are moving at a snail’s pace or, had ground to a halt. “Presidential immunity should not be interpreted as immunity for the Rajapaksas,” he said.

He also pointed out that many of those responsible for murders, disappearances and assaults on journalists during the previous regime, had still not been brought to justice. Thirteen journalists were killed, 87 were assaulted and 20 arrested during that period, while several media institutions were attacked. “Those responsible must be brought to justice, to ensure that anyone would think twice in future, before placing their hands on the media.”

JO MP Kanchana Wijesekara too brought up the controversy surrounding the Russian vessel. He queried how the vessel priced at US$ 70 million three years ago, during the Rajapaksa administration, came to be valued at US$ 158 million now.

He also questioned whether the law was being enforced differently in the North and South. “In the North, the President grants meetings to those who are engaging in protests. By contrast, in the South, JO MPs and ordinary citizens who protest against the sale of the Hambantota Port are arrested and remanded,” he alleged.

Anura Kumara Dissanayaka

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva reiterated the country’s Constitution did not permit foreign judges to sit on local tribunals, and insisted the Government would stand by its obligations to protect war heroes.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka meanwhile, observed that MPs accused of having had contacts with Arjun Aloysius, while being members of the COPE, were now raising questions regarding Parliamentary privilege, after being exposed.

“This is a blatant attempt by the corrupt to hide behind Parliamentary privileges,” he emphasized, adding that the scale of the revelations exposed just how far corruption had spread in the country.

United National Party (UNP) MP Ashu Marasinghe, raising a privilege issue, questioned how phone records of MPs presented to the Bond Commission, had been obtained by the CID, and claimed an investigation was needed to determine if their phones had been tapped.

Dayasiri Jayasekara

Leader of the House, Lakshman Kiriella rose at this point to claim that the incident was a violation of MPs’ privacy and it should be probed.

Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala said he would raise the issue with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

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