Will IGP bring down the curtain on Yahapalanaya?
Back to back protests that rocked Colombo made last week tearful, with Police using tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters who blocked predominantly the Parliament Road, at the beginning of the week followed by university students and labour officers.
That was before Police using tear gas on Joint Opposition members who blocked Parliament Road at Polduwa Junction yesterday demanding the government to hold Local Government elections, soon. This however left former Chairman of the Gampaha Pradeshiya Sabha, Ranjith Gunawardena injured and being admitted to the Accident Ward of the Colombo National Hospital.
For once these protests seem to have been felt by the legislators as the access road to Parliament was blocked for hours several times during the week as the committee stage of Budget 2017 was underway.
He said in Parliament while the government upholds the right to protests, the rights of the Parliamentarians too should be protected. It is a privilege of the MPs to come to Parliament and this right has been ensured by the Privileges Act, he noted.
Exhausted by these back to back protests, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called on the presiding member Ananda Kumarasiri to inform the Court and Police through the Speaker of the incidents that took place earlier this week where a large number of those coming to Parliament had been blocked owing to a protest by Labour Officers.
"Three members complained to me that they could not come to Parliament because of a protest near Parliament roundabout. They could not participate in the budget debate," Prime Minister said so while raising a privilege issue.
TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran sharing the same sentiments said that they too agree with Prime Minister's statement. We have no intention of hindering the protesters. But MPs should be ensured of their right to move freely.
Who is trying to gain?
Meanwhile, the private bus operators went for a strike backed by school van and three-wheeler operators on Friday (2). With incidents of sabotage being reported from several places where Sri Lanka Transport Board buses and three-wheelers being attacked, attention was brought to see who was actually behind this protest.
As if to give a clue, the protesters who came to Lipton Circus in Colombo on Friday morning on whom Police used tear gas to disperse were carrying interesting placards.
Even though the main objective of Friday's strike was to call on the government to either bring down or wrap-up the proposed minimum fines of Rs 2,500 and Rs 25,000, the placards displayed by tuk-tuk drivers and owners was above the common ground. Apart from the slogan 'bring down/abolish Rs 25,000 fine', they also had 'Mawbima anathure' (motherland in danger).
With this, the government started suspecting whether a minor political party who has now joined hands with the Joint Opposition was behind this three-wheeler owners' protest. As if to justify this, the leader of this political party who visited Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, a former LTTE leader turned politician in remand prison, was seen giving statements to the media that the demonstration by three-wheeler owners and drivers was a super success.
Interestingly, sources claimed that a leading man in a three-wheeler association was appointed as the Kurunegala District organizer of this political party just last Monday.
Vice President-elect of the USA, Mike Pence, called President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday (1) night, on behalf of President-elect Donald Trump during which, President Sirisena conveyed his best wishes to the new Administration under the leadership of President-elect Trump.
The conversation focused on measures for strengthening bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and the United States in future. Vice President-elect Pence informed President Sirisena that they will work towards arranging a visit by President Sirisena to Washington DC for a meeting with President-elect Trump.
The objective of both countries is to ensure the progress of relations between the two countries based on common values of democratic governance and Sri Lanka's strategic location in the middle of Asia.
Cooperation directed at securing the safety of sea lanes, countering drug smuggling and working together in disaster management as partners was also discussed.
Maithri to MR
President Sirisena who joined the committee stage budget debate in Parliament on Thursday said, the need of the hour of the country is not political heroes but individuals who can solve the country's issues in a just manner.
He said that the politicians attempting to become so-called patriots and heroes have never attempted to find solutions to genuine issues of the people. He pointed out that these politicians who create problems in the country aiming at votes are committing a national crime that would affect the future generation.
President Sirisena said, at a time when the government was attempting to bring about a new Constitution to solve issues in the country, he was willing to invite politicians, scholars and the intelligent people of the country to join hands to make the endeavour a success.
"If we cannot strengthen reconciliation among all communities it is a massive disaster," he said. "The root cause of many of the wars, conflicts and bloodshed in world history has been mostly language, religious, racial and cast differences".
He said the issue in Sri Lanka has not been something new, but dates back to ages. "Every politician who came to power after Independence used this issue to come into power. The conflict worsened and the development in the North stagnated," the President said. "However we can see how the North and the East, was treated by the number of ministerial portfolios given to politicians hailing from those areas".
The President said Black July aggravated the conflict and the conflict claimed people's lives and even resulted in the attack on the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy.
"Once President J.R. Jayewardene attempted to solve the issue through the Indo- Lanka Agreement but failed," President Sirisena said. "Even today around 100,000 people are living in camps in India as a result of this issue. Even I have been levelled threats on several occasions because of this issue. Nobody has been able to suppress the opinion of dividing the country by the gun. The then government did not attempt to bring about a lasting peace exploiting the victory achieved by the tri-forces".
He added that lasting peace could be established in Sri Lanka on the day when the concept of Eelam was given up, locally and internationally.
"We are attempting to introduce a new Constitution," said President Sirisena. "Discussions are made in that direction and some are trying to point out that the government is attempting to divide the country. They spread baseless rumours among the Sinhalese and the Buddhists. If we could not solve the issue, those spreading false rumours should take the responsibility for the unfortunate incidents that could happen in the future."
He said the new Constitution would include a solution that all Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims would accept.
President Sirisena said he was ashamed of what the former President said on the Constitution that is to be formulated.
He said it was the former President who proposed to even grant more powers than the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
He said there should be a fair devolution of power. "The best representative from the North in solving this issue is with us, he is R. Sampanthan," said the President.
"Finding solutions should not be delayed. When we attempt to solve the issues of the people who lost their houses and land, some say we are dividing the country," he said.
"We need a mechanism that would bring about lasting peace and reconciliation among the communities. We are not solving the issues by the gun as ours is a harmless government. Everyone should join hands with us to find a solution."
The President said patriotism, humanism, creating a healthy society, freedom, democracy, must contribute to a just society. President Sirisena said seeking power instead of solving issues will not help addressing the issue at hand.
Foot in mouth situation
Following a series of allegations against the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara, civil society activists and several other stakeholders of Yahapalana Government are now calling for his removal from office.
President Sirisena who in the previous week reprimanded IGP Jayasundara over the arrest of former STF Commandant, this week directed the IGP to hand over a weekly report to him about the VIP vehicles breaking road rules.
He made these remarks at the Parissamin Gihin Enna (travel safely) National Road Safety Programme, held at the Independence Square.
"We discussed at the Cabinet meeting about the vehicles of the powerful persons which are driven on roads in a reckless manner, and with escorts, even though the fear of terrorists has ended. We should discuss whether the people who travel by those vehicles really are important persons. We discussed about the ways to take legal actions against them", he said.
"After I get the report from the IGP, I will personally attend to this matter by bringing the persons who are responsible for that and question them", the President further said.
The examples on the laws on road safety should be given from top to bottom. The people from all sectors should help to make these kinds of programmes successful, he pointed out.
The President further stated that the people should not be against the actions taken by the government to protect the laws on road safety as the health sector spends a large amount of money for the health services for accident victims. "It is harmful for the development of the country," he said.
However, before President Sirisena could do anything about unruly VIP vehicles, he was compelled to answer questions posed by Opposition members on the behaviour of IGP Jayasundara over a video that went viral by Thursday (1).
He informed Parliament that he would call for explanation from Jayasundara over the latter's recent remarks on taking persons into custody by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division, during a Police commemorative event at Ratnapura.
Soon after President Sirisena completed his speech during the third reading debate on Budget 2017 under the expenditure heads of National Dialogue, National Integration and Reconciliation and Disaster Management Ministries, Joint Opposition MP Wimalaweera Dissanayake demanded to know from the government how the IGP assured that there would be no arrests of a particular person by the FCID even before the investigations.
"We saw on TV the previous night how the IGP was bending the law again. This time he tells a minister over the phone that the FCID would not arrest a particular Nilame (other Opposition MPs shout Neelam, Neelam, not Nilame). I would like to know whether the IGP was referring to the Basnayake Nilame of the Devinuwara Devale Mahesh Gunasekera."
The President responding on behalf of the government said: "I too watched that visual on TV. What he did was completely wrong. I intend to summon him and ask for an explanation."
The Opposition MPs thanked the President profusely for the quick response and thumped their desks in approval.
At this very instance JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake dropped a bombshell accusing the Minister in-charge of Police, Sagala Ratnayake as the 'Sir' referred to by the IGP and challenged the latter to clarify who it was if it was not him who was on the other end of the conversation.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who returned from Hong Kong, in Parliament yesterday confirmed that it had been a minister who inquired into the arrest of the Basnayake Nilame of the Devinuwara Devale from the IGP and assured Parliament that no Police investigations into allegations against the latter have been stopped.
Wickremesinghe responding to a question raised by Chief Opposition Whip Dissanayake, said, he would summon both the Minister of Law and Order and IGP Pujith Jayasundara for a meeting on Monday and would invite MP Dissanayake as well as other Parliamentarians to discuss the matter at length.
The Premier made these remarks while replying to questions raised by the Chief Opposition Whip as well as the Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardana on the previous day, demanding to know who the unknown caller the IGP referred to as 'Sir' and if the government was intervening with Police duties.
"This particular individual has been called before Courts. The question posed to the IGP over the phone was if this individual would be arrested when he appeared before Courts to submit some documents. The IGP responded that as this individual was only summoned to submit documents there was no cause to arrest him. That is all that happened," the Premier said.
The Premier then went on to affirm that the individual, referred to as a Nilame by the IGP during his phone call, was the Basnayake Nilame of the Devinuwara Devale, Dishan Gunasekara.
However, the Premier said that if MPs approached him in such situations he would try to provide some relief.
At this point the Chief Opposition Whip could be heard interrupting the Premier, and asking for a clarification on who the unknown caller was that the IGP referred to as 'Sir'.
"I think it was the Minister who made the inquiry. I'm going to meet him now and I will ask him then. He has not been in Colombo the past few days." (the Premier does not mention a name although it is widely believed that it was Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayake).
"I will invite MP Dissanayake for Monday's meeting as well. It seems this is a problem from within the Devinuwara Devala Dayaka Sabha."
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