Sri Lanka president’s commission slammed for “blatant interference” in judiciary

A commission of inquiry issuing directives halting court proceedings against officers including the country’s top navy commander accused of grave human rights violations, has come under heavy criticism.

The three-member commission - one of the first - appointed by recently elected president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to look into alleged political victimization of public servants when the last government was in office, had directed the attorney general (AG) to suspend the hearing of cases against ex-Navy Commander Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy Spokesman Rear admiral DKP Dassanayake over the alleged abduction, torture and enforced disappearance for eleven people.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera has notified that he is not obliged to follow such orders.

Tamil lawmaker MA Sumanthiran has slammed the commission’s move as a “blatant interference”.

“Blatant interference in the functioning of the #AttorneyGeneral and indeed the #Judiciary itself. Indictments have already been served except on Karannagoda who was curiously absent. Curioser, accused knew beforehand what the #COI was going to say!” the parliamentarian has tweeted.

'No authority over AG'

The commission directive was issued within two days of a three-member permanent high court panel comprising of Justices Champa Janaki Rajaratne, Amal Ranaraja and Navaratne Marasinghe commenced hearing the case over the abduction and disappearance of eleven in Colombo and its suburbs in 2008 and 2009.

Wasantha Karannagoda was not present in court.

Meanwhile, the AG has notified in writing that the commission has no authority to to give him orders.

“We have informed the Commission of Inquiry on Friday that it has no statutory or legal authority to order the AG to refrain from performing his statutory functions in this case,” the AG's spokesperson Nishara Jayaratne told journalists in Colombo.

The order to halt court proceedings has cast doubts over the present government’s assurances of non-interference in judicial proceedings.

"AND WHEREAS, noting that the inquiry under this warrant is, therefore, in addition to and without prejudice to any measures that have been taken or which may be taken by relevant authorities including the Sri Lanka Police, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) and the Attorney General;" said the gazette notification signed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 9 January 2020.

667 indictments

Last November, the attorney general filed 667 indictments against Fourteen naval officers for conspiracy, abduction with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine a person, wrongful confinement for the purpose of confinement, conspiracy to extort, extortion, giving false information and conspiracy to commit murder.

The 11 victims are Kasthuri Arachchige John Reed alias John, Rajeev Naganathan alias Malli, Pradeep Wishwanathan,. Thilakeshwaran Ramalingam, Mohamed Saajith, Mohamed Jamaldeen Dilan, Amalean Lyon, Roshan Lyon, Kasthuri Arachchige Anthony, Thiyagaraja Jegan, and Mohammed Ali Anver alias Hajjiar.

Presidential Commission to look into alleged political victimization of public servants during the period from January 8, 2015 to November 16, 2019 led by former Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne is requested by the president to hand over its findings within six months.



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