<b>Baddegane Sanjeewa was top security officer cum famous criminal during PA regime — Rajitha</b>
Kesara Abeywardena - The Island
The opposition presented a no-confidence motion on Interior Minister John Amaratunga citing harassment of opposition party activists using the law enforcement machinery.
However the government side maintained an edge over the opposition during the debate. They lashed out at the PA revealing many malpractice and illegal activities that had taken place during the past seven years using the state machinery.
Opening the debate Nimal Siripala de Silva (PA Badulla) charged that the UNP after six months of coming to office have begun a witchhunt on opposition members.
"Today there are countless charges concocted against opposition members to stifle their actions. There is violence unleashed against opposition activists. We are going to raise this with the visiting Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the visiting British Parliamentary delegation".
He said that the no-faith motion was presented with no personal grudge against Minister Amaratunga but for the lack of interest shown by him in bringing culprits to book in order to establish law and order in the country.
"Minister John Amaratunga has kicked the law aside and is behaving in a manner totally unsuitable for a minister. The citizens of this country are fast losing confidence in the administration of law."
Citing a case in the Supreme Court he said the court had ruled that Minister Amaratunga has violated the human rights of "sand lifters" in Wattala. He said that soon after Minister Amaratunga assumed office he had removed the existing "sand lifters" to be replaced by those favoured by him.
"The minister has gone to the extent of even violating the rights of innocent people and the Supreme Court has given a ruling against him."
He charged that over 3500 incident of violence against opposition members during the election were reported but they were not investigated. "We met the Prime Minister on this issue. Then a committee was appointed headed by Minister Karu Jayasuriya. But nothing materialised. The minister said they cannot be responsible for the wrong doing of grassroots level members of the UNP in the villages."
He said a report had been complied by a team of lawyers from the SLFP collecting all complaints during election time. That report, he said has been sent to many international lobbies.
He added that Pradeshiya Sabhas in Ja-Ela, Wattala and Atakalampanna were disrupted by government soon.
"In one instance the minister had himself interfered in the sessions of a Pradeshiya Sabha," he said.
Further, he said that the police service is fast becoming politicised and promotions are bring given not on merit but on how well police officers serve government politicians.
Countering the opposition Rajitha Senaratna (Minister of Lands) pointed out that facts and statistics are in contrary to what is cited in the no-confidence motion.
"According to the report on crime in Sri Lanka the crime rate has decreased when compared with the previous year. The number of murders and abductions have seen a 10% and 15% decrease when compared from January to June in 2001 and 2002".
He rejected any form of political victimisation in work places. "Until last week the director board of the Kalutara bus company was the one appointed by the PA regime. We were not able to change it till last week. Where does this victimisation exist", he questioned.
Moving on to political violence he charged that former Minister Mangala Samaraweera had ordered his security to shoot at the supporters of Sagala Ratnayaka during the last general election campaign. "In Udathalawinna 10 youths and supporters of SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem were murdered in cold blood. This is violence and a breakdown in law and order."
"In Maturata officers of the PSD were arrested with a large haul of weapons including a grenade launcher and with vehicles bearing fake number plates." He said that the OIC of the Mathurata police was threatened with death and called a dog by PSD Chief Nihal Karunaratne.
Lashing out at the opposition he reminded how a UNP protest in Town Hall was attacked by the PSD. "The journalists who came to cover the event were attacked and their cameras smashed. The cellular phone of one of the photographers were later found with the former PSD officer and underworld figure Baddegane Sanjeewa."
Speaking on attacks on the media during the previous PA regime, he said that Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunga and his wife were attacked in 1995. He said that those involved in the attack had gone back to Temple Trees after carrying out their task.
He said that people could not even play cricket during the PA regime. "Nihal Karunaratne told CID that the attack at the Board of Control for Cricket election was executed on the orders of the President. "Baddegane Sanjeewa was the highest security officer and the biggest criminal during the seven years of PA rule. ‘Satana’ editor Rohana Kumara was murdered. Was a single person arrested? It didn’t stop at that. Even the artistes were not spared. Rukantha and Chandralekha were abused and Anoja Weerasinghe’s house burnt."
He produced the application of Baddegane Sanjeewa to the post of police sergeant. "In this he has given the telephone number of his residence. When I saw this telephone number I found it familiar. This telephone number belongs to 62, Rosmead Place, Colombo 7. Then who has he mentioned as his guardian. It is Chandrika Kumaratunga".
This is how things happened during the last seven years. Prominent lawyer and my good friend Kumar Ponnambalam was murdered. The investigations are now pointing towards former Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte’s son for harbouring the assassinators.
He noted that the no-confidence motion against Minister John Amaratunga has boomeranged on the opposition. He called on the Minister to immediately bring all those responsible of criminal activities during the last seven years to book.
Focusing on the North-East conflict and the peace process R. Sampanthan (TULF Trincomalee) said that most of the issues listed in the no-faith motion have come into being due to the war that has prevailed in the country over the past two decades. "The political culture that has prevailed over the country during the last few years is responsible for the ruinous state of the country today."
He asked the PA to clearly spell out their stand on the peace process without conniving, colluding and collaborating with hard-line elements. "Present government received a mandate to find a just and honourable solution to the Tamil National question."
Sunil Handunnetti (JVP Colombo) called on the government to establish the four independent commissions without any delay. "They UNP pledged to depoliticise the police service after they came to office, but after coming to office they have created a separate ministry for the police force."
He charged that the police is used by the government to stifle opposition forces. "The police force has become a junta under Minister John Amaratunga".
Gamini Lokuge (Minister of Tourism) said that it was the UNP that launched the idea of having an independent police commission with the other three commissions. He said that the PA had objected an independent police commission when they were in office but are now talking about politicisation of the police service.
"This no-faith motion was present because Minister Amaratunga is investigating all the criminal activities of the past government. Minister John Amaratunga was appointed to carry out the investigations with a straight spine. The UNP will not stop a single investigation."
R. Yogarajan (CWC, National list) said that it is unfortunate that the opposition has brought this motion to waste the time of the house. "Those days, every month during the emergency debate we had to criticise the government even while being in the government, because our people were being harassed at checkpoints. That is not there any more. Today our people are free."
He said that actually a vote of confidence should be brought for the minister "He had done a better job than anyone in the past."
Appathuray Vinayagamoorthi (TNA — Jaffna) said: "It is true that crime rate has increased. But who is responsible for the increase in the crime rate? Some PA politicians who have an intimate connection with the underworld thugs are also responsible for the increase in the crime rate. Nearly 45,000 army personnel have deserted the army and when you investigate into every serious crime committed you find an army deserter at the bottom of it. Even on Sunday at Anuradhapura a family of nearly 6 or 7 members died as a result of an army deserter exploding a bomb. The Government and the former Defence Minister who are responsible for recruitment of personnel to the army should also be held responsible for the increase in the crime rate. The increase in the crime rate is mainly due to the army deserters.
What happened to our leader Kumar Ponnambalam? He was shot dead at Ramakrishna Road on 5-01-2000. According to the Lakbima paper of 8th March 2000 Mr. Ponnambalam had been killed by persons in the underworld with the knowledge of a powerful politician. It is said that notorious leading criminals in the underworld namely Army Ranjith and Moratuwa Saman alias Kulasinghe were suspects in this regard. It was also stated in that paper that Moratuwa Saman and army Ranjith were staying safely at a house in the Kandy area belonging to the son of a powerful politician. The son of the politician had come to know Moratuwa Saman through a police constable by the name of Ranasinghe. It is further said in the paper that the son of the politician with the knowledge of his father had given the contract of killing Ponnambalam to Moratuwa Saman through the police constable Ranasinghe. This information was available to Mr. Wickremasinghe who was the Director of CDB, who was in charge of the investigation and Mr. Wethasinghe who was in charge of the CDB at Colombo 7 and no sooner I was informed about what appeared in the Lakbima paper of 8th March 2000 I went to the office of the CDB and told Mr. Wethasinghe the OIC about what appeared in the paper. I also told him that Moratuwa Saman at that time was in the custody of Mt. Lavinia police station.
I don’t think any action was taken by the CDB. CID carried out the investigation into the killing of Kumar Ponnambalam. The investigation was handed over to Mr. Show Wickremesinghe by the President. I think this was probably done not to investigate but to cover up the activities of those suspects who were responsible for the assassination of late Mr. Ponnambalam. In this connection Show Wickremesinghe the Director CDB seems to have sent a communication in September 2001 to the President informing her the details of the investigations and the particulars of the suspects. I regret to note that so far no action has been taken against the assassins whose identities are known to the police.
Under these circumstances I should have brought a no confidence motion against the former Defence Minister who was in charge the police and the President for not having taken action. I also expect the sponsors of the so called no confidence motion to reply to matters I have referred in my speech."
-The Island -