Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Ready to listen to protesters, says SL’s newly-elected PM Gunawardena

Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Wednesday said the government is ready to listen to the demands of democratic public protesters, but denounced acts of terrorism, calling it the “greatest threat to democracy.”
Gunawardena, 73, an ally of the Rajapaksas and a school friend of the newly-elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe, was sworn in as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister last week amid an unprecedented economic and political crisis.
Addressing Parliament on Wednesday, Gunawardena said the Sri Lankan government is ready to listen to the democratic public protests, but they could not accept acts of terrorism.
“Terrorism was the greatest threat to democracy, and the Parliament which upholds democracy would not support such acts of terrorism,” the Daily Mirror newspaper quoted him as telling the lawmakers.
“There could be different political ideologies but the Parliament should work in unison to address the issues faced by the people,” he added. Sri Lanka’s security forces forcibly evicted anti-government protesters camped outside the presidential office in Colombo in a pre-dawn raid on Friday on the order of President Wickremesinghe that left more than 50 people injured. The assault on the protesters evoked widespread criticism, including from foreign envoys stationed in Colombo. At least nine persons were arrested in the incident at Galle Face protest site where several key government offices are located.
On July 9, anti-government protesters occupied the residences of former President Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe after storming into their premises and setting fire to one of the buildings protesting the government’s handling of the unprecedented economic crisis.
Wickremesinghe said he respects the rights of the protesters to peacefully undertake their demonstrations, but he asserted that he will not allow another government building like the Presidential Palace or the Prime Minister’s private residence to be occupied.
Protesters were camping outside the presidential office for months, demanding the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country on July 13, and Wickremesinghe, a key Rajapaksa ally.

SL’s former prez to extend stay in Singapore: local reports

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Singapore, Jul 27 (IANS): Sri Lanka’s former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will extend his stay in Singapore, as his short-term visit pass has been extended by another 14 days, local media reported.
Sri Lanka’s cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said on Tuesday at a press conference in Colombo that Rajapaksa is expected to return to the country from Singapore, the Straits Times reported on Wednesday.
Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore from the Maldives on July 14, and he was issued a 14-day visit pass when he arrived at the Changi Airport. He initially stayed at a hotel in the city centre but is believed to have moved to a private residence, Xinhua news agency reported quoting The Straits Times.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on July 14 that Rajapaksa had not asked for asylum and neither had he been granted any asylum.
The ministry added that Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum.
Sri Lanka’s Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced the official resignation of Rajapaksa on July 15.

SL’s Prez Wickremesinghe discharged from court proceedings

Ranil Wickremesinghe

Colombo, Jul 27 (PTI): Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Wednesday discharged from court proceedings by the Supreme Court in a case seeking legal action against 39 individuals allegedly responsible for the mismanagement of the country’s economy that has led to the unprecedented economic crisis. The apex court, however, named former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as a respondent in the fundamental rights petitions, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.
Gotabaya, who fled the country after anti-government protesters stormed the presidential house as well as office on July 9, was named as a respondent since presidential immunity does not apply to him following his resignation from the post of the President and his escape to Singapore in the face of the worst economic crisis in the history of the island nation since its independence in 1948.
The petitions filed by at least three university academics, Sri Lankan swimmer and coach Julian Bolling, former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chandra Jayaratne, global civil society organisation Transparency International, and entrepreneur Jehan Canaga Retna urged authorities to take legal action against the main culprits responsible for the current economic crisis.
The petitioners had named 39 individuals, including then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, former Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, former Governors of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal and W.D. Lakshman, and former Ministry of Finance Secretary S.R. Attygalle as respondents.
The protesters widely blame the erstwhile Rajapaksa family for mishandling the worst economic crisis in the island nation.
The President’s Counsel Chandaka Jayasundere, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, informed the court that the suppliants were not expecting to seek a relief against Wickremesinghe although he had been named as a respondent in the petition.
A five-judge-bench headed by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya terminated the court proceedings against Wickremesinghe and discharged the president from the case proceedings pertaining to these Fundamental Rights petitions.
Earlier on Tuesday, the country’s top court also said Fundamental Rights applications filed over the Easter Sunday Attacks naming Wickremesinghe as a respondent could not be carried forward as he enjoyed presidential immunity.
Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.
Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.


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