By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
The Government yesterday identified the issues of land release, detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), alleged secret detention centers, tragic suicide of a student in Kopai last week as temporary problems that will be overcome by achieving reconciliation.
Delivering a Ministerial statement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera said that the Government, under the leadership of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickeremesinghe, will not disappoint the people.
“One must acknowledge that we, the new Government, have achieved much - perhaps not enough since 8 January when President Sirisena was elected to power. With parliamentary elections held in August and the national unity government formed thereafter, our journey has only begun. Nevertheless, for the people who suffered from conflict and waited for a long, long time for justice and those who have waited for information about their loved ones languishing in detention, every day, every hour, every, minute matters. We are conscious of this fact.”
“The Government, under the leadership of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, is determined to surmount all challenges and obstacles to ensure that justice prevails and to ensure reconciliation, non-recurrence and a durable peace. The Government is also committed to finding a solution to the issue of those detained under the PTA. In fact, subsequent to discussions the Prime Minister had with the Leader of the Opposition, 39 detainees out of 48 have already been released on bail. According to the information I have, the 48 detainees have been convicted and they are serving their sentences, 118 persons are in remand custody with their cases proceeding in courts, while cases are being filed against three people and one is to be rehabilitated,” he added.
According to Minister Samaraweera, UPFA lawmaker Douglas Devananda was a convict released under general amnesty. “Infact, MP Devananda has pointed out quite correctly that in 1971 and in 1989, following the insurrections in the South and in 1987, following the India Sri Lanka Agreement, prisoners held under the PTA and other emergency laws and combatants and persons accused, charged or convicted. Yes, MP Devananda, you are one of them. Granted a general amnesty, under these laws. In fact, I also believe this is something we have to seriously consider, where the President and the Prime Minister are already on,” he said.
“Yet another loss of young life connected to the issue of detainees is very tragic. I agree with MP Devananada that this is a time that all political parties and citizens irrespective of race, religion and language should unite to find solutions to problems no matter how frustrating the process may be. There is a well know saying that the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. It is time that we all unite irrespective of our ideological differences to act with responsibility towards our citizens and work towards finding solutions to problems that have kept this nation divided for far too long since independence. As we have mentioned before, there are no secret detention centers in operation in this country under this government. The Prime Minister has told the world several times categorically that there are no such centers. But if anyone has information on such centers, please give it to us. We will ensure that there is an independent investigation. The Government will not tolerate anyone holding another against the law,” assured Minister Samaraweera.
Police to look for missing arms smuggle report
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
The police will soon be assigned to investigate a top secret report on arms smuggle, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday in response to a question for an oral answer raised by opposition lawmaker Vasudeva Nanayakkara.
“Not only the report, but vehicles which belong to Presidential Secretariat are missing. On behalf of President Mahinda Rajapakse, former Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena has accepted that during the last Parliament, the report was there at the Presidential Secretariat. But citing classified details found in this commission report, he has declined to table it. Now that the report is missing, I will assign the Police to start investigations,” assured PM Wickeremesinghe.
The missing report was prepared by a commission appointed on 26 April, 2006, under the chairmanship of Justice Shirani Thilakawardena.
“According to the file, the commission was to present the report to then President Mahinda Rajapakse at 4.03pm on 28 January, 2008. Now the report is missing from the Presidential Secretariat. Both the Secretary and the Additional Secretary to the President has written to Justice Thilakawardena on 22 June, 2015, about the report. But she has yet to respond,” State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Niroshan Perera said.