President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday (15) afternoon left for the Air Force camp at Katunayake to attend the ceremony organised to welcome the Donier aircraft that was being gifted to Sri Lanka by India, after attending the annual Kandy Esela Perahera which was opened for the public after a lapse of two years.
The President whilst serving as PM in 2018 had made a request to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to obtain such an aircraft to carry out ocean excavation work.
Though India had agreed to Wickremesinghe’s request, they informed it would take two years to conclude the manufacturing of the aircraft.
The President at the end of the event was hosted to a luncheon at the camp. When the President arrived he was met by a group of Indian Air Force officers.
Wickremesinghe then discussed about Independence Day celebrations of India which had fallen on 15 August.
Wickremesinghe with a smile said, “You had been forced to be in Colombo instead of being at home to mark the Independence Day.”
The Indian Air Force officials stated that they were impressed with the speech delivered by Wickremesinghe and that they were not disheartened at not being in Delhi.
They noted that they learned much about the historical nexus between the two nations thanks to the informative speech by Wickremesinghe.
Before the Cabinet meeting, a discussion involving the Cabinet Sub-Committee was held.
It was attended by PM Dinesh Gunawardene, Ministers NimalSiripala, Bandula Gunawardene and Keheliya Rambukwella.
A group of UNP members then met Wickremesinghe to discuss what plans should be implemented to mark the 76th anniversary of the UNP on 6 September.
UNP National Organiser Sagala Ratnayake informed Wickremesinghe that the party had become a hive of activity for the first time since 2015 and he opined this was due to Wickremesinghe having ascended to the Presidency.
UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara then informed that a few Local Government members against whom the party contemplated taking disciplinary action had realised their mistakes and apologised.
The President then instructed that the party should give preference henceforth to the youth as the country seeks a new political culture.
He then instructed the party officers to look into the party activities as he would have no time for it with current responsibilities.
Afterwards, they discussed about organising the Party Convention. A committee was formed under Ruwan Wijewardene.
Wickremesinghe handed over new appointments to Envoys from Australia and Nepal on Wednesday (17). This is the first credential presenting ceremony since his elevation to the Presidency.
On Thursday (18), the President remained at the Finance Ministry looking into the formulation of the interim budget that is to be tabled by him in Parliament shortly.
On Friday (19) morning the President visited the Colombo National Hospital to look into the wellbeing of well-known artiste Jackson Anthony. Anthony is still recuperating after being seriously injured during an incident on his way home from a film shoot in Anuradhapura a few weeks ago.
Two important orders
Two important orders came from the President last week to heads of the State institutions. One was preventing direct corresponding with the judiciary while the other was on curtailing unnecessary expenses.
Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake has informed all heads of State Institutions that they should desist from having direct correspondence with the Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court, officials of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), officials of the Judiciary, Judges of the High Court and District Court or with Magistrates and Additional Magistrates.
He has conveyed this instruction to Ministry Secretaries, Provincial Secretaries, heads of Departments, State Corporations and those that fall under their authority.
The President’s Media Division, issuing a media release, stated that Ekanayake issued this circular in order to maintain transparency and independence of the country’s Judiciary.
Ekanayake has further advised the aforesaid State officials if they have any issues pertaining to the Judiciary only to liaise with the Attorney General and the officials from the AG’s Department.
He said any other issues should be sorted out directly with the Presidential Secretariat only.
The circular however, does not apply to the day-to-day activities of the Ministry of Justice.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe issued directives to strictly adhere to a circular issued by the Treasury Secretary in April this year, to State institutions to limit their expenses.
Following President’s directives, Secretary to President Saman Ekanayake, on behalf of the Head of State, earlier this week warned that those who fail to adhere would be held personally liable.
Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena on 26 April 2022 issued Circular (No. 03/2022), instructing the Government institutions to limit their expenditure, taking the ongoing economic crisis into account.
Delisting of Tamil organisations
The Defence Ministry, issuing a Gazette Notification, has delisted six international Tamil organisations and 316 persons that were proscribed as terrorist organisations or individuals involved in terrorism, by amending the list of designated persons published in the November 2016 Gazette Extraordinary No. 1992/25.
The six Tamil Diaspora organisations that were delisted include the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), the Tamil Eelam People’s Assembly(TEPA), the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) and the British Tamil Forum.
The Government has decided so to attract foreign investments from the Tamil Diaspora community, as the country is facing a severe financial meltdown. However, due to being proscribed for the second time, these entities have been raising their voices urging the government to pave way for them to invest and develop the North and East among other support.
The Ministry of Defence issued a 30-page Gazette Notification,signed by Ministry Secretary Gen Kamal Gunaratne, amending the list of designated persons under Regulation 4(7) of the United Nations Regulations No. 1 of 2012.
The Listed Persons and Entities, under the United Nations Security Council Resolution, stood at 1,373 with Persons numbering 577 and 18 Entities and the proposed de listing of persons and entities, under United Nations Security Council Resolution.
Also, the proposed entities to be listed from the Designated List are the Dharul Adhar alias Jamiul Athar Mosque aka Dharul Athar Quran Madrasa aka Dharul Aadhaar Ath’thabawiyya, SLISM (Sri Lanka Islamic Student Movement), and the Save the Pearls aka Save the Pearl Society.
The following organisations will remain proscribed in the list of designated persons and organisations; the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), TRO (Tamil Rehabilitation Organization), TCC (Tamil Coordinating Committee), WTM (World Tamil Movement), the TGTE (Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam), the WTRF (World Tamil Relief Fund), the HQ GROUP (Headquarters Group), the NTJ (National Thowheed Jama’ath), the JMI (Jama’athe Milla’athe Ibrahim), the Willayath As Seylani, the NCCT (National Council of Canadian Tamil), the TYO (Tamil Youth Organization), the Dharul Adhar alias Jamiul Athar Mosque aka Dharul Athar Quran Madrasa aka Dharul Aadhaar Ath’thabawiyya, the SLISM (Sri Lanka Islamic Student Movement) and the Save the Pearls aka Save the Pearl Society, the Ministry of Defence said.
However, this move received mixed reactions. While, Tamil Diaspora and affiliated groups welcomed the move, hard-lined Sinhala or nationalist groups looked at the decision sceptically.
The National Freedom Front (NFF) demanded the Defence Ministry to immediately reveal the rationale behind the decision to lift the proscription of six international Tamil organisations that had been banned in the country.
“These organisations had been working against Sri Lanka for a long time. The Ministry of Defence should tell the country on what basis the ban on these organisations was removed,” they said.
Meanwhile, they said that the political parties who behave like YouTube heroes by neglecting their responsibilities should be kicked out at the upcoming elections.
With various groups raising concerns on the decision to proscribe certain individuals and delisting another, President’s Office took measures to clarify the matter.
If an organisation or a person has been included in the list of blacklisted and delisted persons and organisations under UNSC 1373, it is possible to submit an application to the competent authority and make a written request to be removed from the list along with the reasons, the President’s Media Division announced.
Six organisations and 316 individuals have been delisted since they no longer continue to fund terrorist activities, the PMD said, adding that relevant authorities remain vigilant on the activities of the delisted individuals and organisations. The methodology that was implemented regarding the amendments made to the list of persons named under Order 04(7) of United Nations Directive No. 1 of 2012 mentioned in Gazette Notification 2291/02 dated 1 August, sparked controversy.
In a statement, the PMD said the Foreign Minister’s decision is final and aggrieved parties have the ability to challenge the decision by filing a complaint with the High Court.
Further, any person or entity affected by freezing of existing money or funds, asset freezing order or other financial assets or economic resources or other related services has the right to complain to the High Court.
“The final decision of each of these measures will be published by the competent authority through a Gazette. Accordingly, 316 individuals and 6 organisations have been removed from the list by Gazette No. 2291/2 dated 08.01.2022 after a formal and in-depth study based on evidence under UN Order No. 1 of 2012,” the PMD said.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena on Tuesday (16) said the ban imposed on several Tamil Diaspora groups was lifted as a result of observation and careful study over a continuous period of time, not to get aid from the international community.
One of the foremost tasks of the new President is to appoint Governors as his representative to the respective Provinces. Though it has been over a month since Ranil Wickremesinghe assumed the Presidency, he has to date not appointed new Governors to these Provinces.
As per the law, nine Governors will have to be appointed to the nine Provinces. As per the current political situation here it will be difficult for the new President to appoint Governors to Provinces according to his own wishes.
That is due to the fact that the President having to place more emphasis when appointing Governors to those from the SLPP. Under these circumstances, the SLPP has urged the President to appoint Willie Gamage, Lalith U. Gamage and A.J.M. Muzammil as new Governors and to also include the names of Kumari Balasooriya and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene to fill up any vacancies.
It is further said that for the rest of the vacancies around 30 others had submitted their nominations. Among them are John Amaratunga, Navin Dissanayake, Shanthini Kongahage, Palitha Range Bandara, Ashoka Dhanawansa, Upali Samaraweera, and Ex-Governors Rohitha Bogollagama, Azath Salley and Maithri Guneratne. However, the President has been of the view that when granting these portfolios he would prefer to opt for youths than those who are already familiar to the people.
Meanwhile sources from the Presidential Secretariat said that several frontline SJB MPs such as Dr. Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickremaratne and independent MP Patali Ranawaka would receive Chairmanship of several prominent Committees in Parliament such as COPE, COPA during the coming week. Among others in the fray to be appointed to these Committees are, Rajitha Senaratne, Rohini Kaviratne, Gayantha Karunathileke, Mano Ganesan, P. Digambaram and Lasantha Alagiyawanna in the event of them not willing to join the Government.
Meanwhile, the regional politicians of the SLPP has begun to exert pressure on the big wigs of the party urging them to come out of their shackles after the top guns of the party went into hiding being unable to face the wrath of the public. It is said that most of these politicians hail from the Gampaha District which is considered as a stronghold of the SLFP.
During a meeting convened by SLPP Gampaha District leader Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, these regional politicos had conveyed this to him. The Minister too had agreed with the sentiments expressed by the SLPP regional politicians and had insisted that the time has come for the SLPP to charter a new political journey.
However, the meeting had been attended by SLPP Gampaha District MPs Nalaka Godahewa, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle and Lasantha Alagiyawanna. Ranatunga had stated at the meeting that his party had backed the President because they were of the view that the only leader capable of steering the country on the right track would be Ranil Wickremesinghe. He had opined that the conduct of the President thus far had further underscored this fact.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) requested President Ranil Wickremesinghe to facilitate safe return of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the country.
The request was made during a meeting between the SLPP, led by its National Organiser, former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the President at the President’s Office on Thursday.
Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa has said that SLPP will provide full support to the President to build the country by solving the current economic crisis.
In addition, he said that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be given space to return to the island safely. Basil Rajapaksa stated that it is the most important request from the government, including the President of the SLPP.
Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, Sagara Kariyawasam, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Johnston Fernando, Pavitra Wanniarachchi, Namal Rajapaksa and Sanjeeva Edirimanna participated in today’s discussion on behalf of SLPP.
The President’s party MP Vajira Abeywardena, Sagala Ratnayake, Ruwan Wijewardene and Shamal Seneviratne too were present at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, revealed that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will visit Sri Lanka on 24 or 25 August.
He made the statement while exiting the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) where he was summoned to give a statement on a series of matters linked to his MiG fighter aircraft transaction and his role as a former ambassador in that deal.
Weeratunga, who was questioned by the FCID for five hours, said he was detained for 50 days in February 2020 and questioned for 10 days, and that the authorities have now informed Court that they have not obtained all the information from him.
He stated that due to his passport being impounded, he had sought from the Court to temporarily release his passport, so that he could go to Moscow for a tourism exhibition in September. He was questioned again about the MiG deal and whether any fraudulent money had been deposited in his bank accounts. He claims that his bank accounts have been frozen for 87 months.
He also said that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be questioned regarding the deal as it he who personally dealt with the purchase of the aircraft. Weeratunga stated that his bank accounts do not reveal any ill-gotten gains and claimed that having them frozen for over two years was a breach of his rights.
Weeratunga further said that the former President will return to Sri Lanka and claimed that the Air Force paid for his flight to the Maldives.