Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday expressed serious concerns about not getting an early opportunity to reply to allegations leveled against him in the FR petition filed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa before the Supreme Court.
Commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision to fix October 6 as the next hearing date of the FR petition filed by the former Defence Secretary, the Prime Minister said the President could seek opinion from the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association and other legal divisions in this regard.
“President Maithripala Sirisena is not only the President of Sri Lanka, but also the current chair of the Commonwealth,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said speaking at the National Consultative Summit on Media reforms at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute yesterday.
“As Sri Lanka works within the Commonwealth framework it was feasible to seek the opinion from the organisation through the Commonwealth Secretariat on the above issue,” he added.
While noting that the former Defence Secretary – as any other citizen of the country – had the right to file a fundamental rights case, the Premier said that his concern was about not getting an early opportunity to reply to the allegations levelled against him and the Cabinet.
The Premier said he could easily and adequately reply to the issues raised in the FR case if given the opportunity.
The Premier said that a lot of people were making various suggestions and some were even saying that the case could be reffered to a full Bench and added that however he was of the opinion that it was best to seek the legal opinion of the Commonwealth experts.
The Prime Minister said a speedy determination by the SC could have provided early answers to hotly debated issues such as the legality of the FCID and whether their investigation on the former defence secretary was the result of a mere political witch-hunt, as some claim it to be.
While noting that when a fundamental rights case was filed it was feasible to provide relief at the earliest the Premier questioned: “Doesn’t Gotabhaya has a right to know quickly whether his fundamental rights have been violated or not? Don’t we have the right to reply to the allegations at the earliest? Don’t the people have a right to know whether the law has been violated or it is a mere political witch-hunt?”.
While noting that it was through the media that he came to know about the details related to the case, Wickremesinghe said that he was yet to receive a notice from courts.
The Premier said that the decision of the two Judges of the Supreme Court who heard the case to give a date as far back as October to hear the petition also raised the question as to who would be answerable to the charges at the time as their might be a new Cabinet of Ministers and a Prime Minister as the President had said there would be a general election in September.
Replying to allegations related to setting up of the FCID, the Premier that the FCID has been set up legally and its investigations are conducted in consultation and with concurrence of the Attorney General.
While referring to a fundamental case filed against one of his secretaries in March, the Premier said that a determination was given within a month by courts despite having April holidays and a determinate on the 19th Amendment.
In his petition to the court, former Defence Secretary Rajapaksa has challenged the legality of the establishment of the FCID which is probing serious financial fraud and irregularities and asked the court to null and void the unit. The respondents in Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s FR petition include Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Cabinet of Ministers, Secretary to the President, Inspector General of Police, Deputy Inspect General of Police (FCID), Director of the CID, and the Attorney General.
The event was attended by Opposition Leader Nima Siripala de Silva, JVP Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath, many other political, civil society leaders, intellectuals and a large gathering of journalists, both local and international. The Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the other political leaders also signed a public declaration on media development adopted at the Summit. An international media assessment mission which visited Sri Lanka from May 8 to 14 also handed over their report to the Premier. The event organised by the Sri Lanka Press Institute was chaired by Dr. Pradeep Weerasinghe.