Proposed trials at bar: JO alleges govt. functioning as CJ
Posted on August 18th, 2017

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday said former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his family and the Joint Opposition wouldn’t run away in the face of politically motivated ‘judicial’ attempts to target them on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.

Former Law Prof. Peiris was responding to The Island query why those who had been accused of what the JO repeatedly called unsubstantiated allegations were reluctant to face judicial process to clear their names ahead of next presidential and parliamentary polls in 2020. The Island also asked whether it wouldn’t be better for those who had been targeted to clear their names as soon as possible.

The issue came up at weekly JO media briefing at Dr N.M. Perera Centre, Borella, where Prof. Peiris, JO leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena, MP Dallas Alahapperuma and former ministers, Prof. Tissa Vitharana and A.H.M Azwer addressed the recent developments.

Asked why the JO opposed the move to increase the number of High Courts with some of them functioning as trials at bar to expedite what cabinet spokesman Dr Rajith Senaratne called cases held in the Attorney General’s Department against the backdrop of Sri Lanka having Commercial High Courts, Prof. Peiris insisted they opposed establishment of a system to target the Rajapaksa family.

Dr Senaratne has repeatedly alleged that there was a well-planned conspiracy to delay the cases against some members of the Rajapaksa government until 2020.

Prof. Peiris emphasized that those who had been tasked with prosecuting them lacked evidence to prove charges.

The former minister refrained from commenting on The Island observation that some cases involving JO members were heard twice or thrice a year hence the need to take tangible measures to expedite the process.

Prof. Peiris challenged the government to charge the Rajapaksas and those loyal to them if there were charges which could be proved.

The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna said courts at any level couldn’t be allowed to be used as political tools to further interests of the ruling clique.

Referring to several murder cases, including the on-going trial at bar on student Vidya murder case, Prof. Peiris said that trials at bar had been appointed only for murder cases and any attempt to do so to hear cases involving the Rajapaksas should be opposed.

Prof. Peiris said that the cabinet of ministers couldn’t take decisions on behalf of the Chief Justice in respect of setting up trials at bar. Emphasizing that it would be the prerogative of the CJ to decide on the matter of trials at bar,  Prof. Peiris said that only the Attorney General could make a request depending on the situation. Prof. Peiris said that the Attorney General hadn’t made such a request and a decent AG would never do that.

Prof. Peiris posed a question to the media as to why ruling UNP-SLFP coalition was so scared of the Rajapaksas.

MP Alahapperuma said that having declared that the government had ushered a new political culture in the wake of Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s resignation over shocking revelations made at three-member Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI), was taking revenge from political opponents.

Those who had been accusing the previous government of waste, corruption and irregularities had conveniently forgotten that Ravi Karunanayake received finance portfolio in January 2015 in spite of him having faced serious charge in respect of USD 3 mn money laundering case that was set aside on a technicality.

MP Alahapperuma said that businessman A.S.P. Liyanage had been mercilessly targeted soon after he offered his residence for the defeated President Rajapaksa to stay. At the behest of the political leadership, the police dug up his premises claiming the former President had buried gold there, Matara District MP said. Soon after Liyanage withdrew his offer to the former President, the government appointed him Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Qatar, the MP said.

The JO heavyweight flayed a section of the media for giving undue coverage to former first lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and son Yoshitha being questioned over the alleged use of a defender gifted to Siriliya Saviya, an NGO headed by Mrs Rajapaksa in the May 2012 abduction and killing of national rugger player Wasim Thajudeen.

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