- AG rejects order to stop judicial proceedings against former Navy Commander, other senior naval official
- Says CoI has no statutory or legal authority to order AG to refrain from performing statutory functions
- COI wants case put on hold until recommendations submitted to President
- Navy officials lodge complaint with CoI on 22 Jan, President expanded scope of commission by second gazette notification on same day
- TNA MP Sumanthiran says CoI’s attempts to halt ongoing case “blatant interference in functions of AG”
The Attorney General (AG) and members of a Commission of Inquiry (CoI), appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to probe the alleged political victimisation of public officials and tri-forces personnel under the previous administration, are headed for a showdown after the AG rejected an order by the CoI to halt the case against former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and former Navy Spokesman Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake.
Both men are facing charges related to the abduction of 11 youths between 2008 and 2009.
“The AG informed the commission in writing that the CoI has no statutory or legal authority to order the AG to refrain from performing his statutory functions in the above case,” an official from the department said.
The AG’s response came after the CoI ordered the AG not to not to proceed with the case against Karannagoda and Dassanayake, who had lodged a complaint with the CoI on 22 January, resulting in the case being taken up on the following day.
“The commission has paid close attention to the plaintiffs’ complaint that they are political victims and that the cases against them have been wrongfully filed. The commission has issued the order on the matter, as per the powers given to it by the gazette notification 2157/44 issued on 22 January 2019,” said the CoI.
The CoI wanted the AG to delay the case until it handed over its recommendations to President Rajapaksa, which would be in six months, in keeping with its mandate.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran said yesterday that the CoI’s attempts to halt an ongoing court case amounted to an act that “interferes with the duties of the Attorney General and the Judiciary”.
“This is a blatant interference in the functions of the AG as well as the Judiciary and a violation of the Constitution. This sets a dangerous precedent,” he told the Daily FT.
The President appointed the commission on 9 January and initially wanted the inquiry to target any malpractice, irregularity or non-compliance with or disregard of the proper prudence, norms, guidelines, procedures and best practices applicable in relation to the administration of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), Financial Investigations Division (FCID) or the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of the Police. He issued a second gazette on 22 January to expand its scope to include the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and ascertain if inquiries, investigations and legal proceedings against officers of the tri-forces and police under the last Government affected national security.
The second gazette notification said the President’s decision to expand the scope of the CoI was taken after it was brought to its attention that due to the intervention of a politically influential third party there was a likelihood of prejudice being caused to some party or persons in the administration of the law or administration of justice and action being instituted by the said agencies with regard to the complaints made in relation to officers of the tri-forces and Sri Lanka Police and has had an adverse impact on national security.
The CoI is headed by Retired Supreme Court Judge Upaly Abeyrathne while its other members are Retired Court of Appeal Judge Daya Chandrasiri Jayathilaka and Retired Inspector-General of Police Chandra Fernando.