Lost public confidence in the judiciary must be restored - Minister Johnston | Sunday Observer

Lost public confidence in the judiciary must be restored - Minister Johnston

Chief Government Whip and Roads and Highways, Ports and Shipping Minister Johnston Fernando

Commenting on the controversial ‘revelations’ by UNP Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio clips, Chief Government Whip and Roads and Highways, Ports and Shipping Minister Johnston Fernando said the UNP has almost damaged the country’s judicial sector but the blame cannot be just passed on only to Ranjan Ramanayake. The UNP and the entire Yahapalana Government should be held responsible for it.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the attempt by the former Yahapalana Government to take revenge from one particular family and to grab power has paved the way for the serious damage caused to the judiciary. Immediate steps should be taken to rectify this situation and ensure the complete independence of the judiciary. He stressed that action should also be taken to remove those who are alleged to have committed wrongdoings in the judiciary for the benefit of the judicial officers who render an honourable service to the country.

Q. Could you explain in detail UNP MP Ranjan Ramanayake’s recent revelations and its serious impact on political life and especially the judiciary of the country?

A. The UNP has almost completely damaged the judicial sector but its blame cannot be just passed on only to Ranjan Ramanayake. The UNP and the entire Yahapalana Government should be held responsible for it. The UNP is responsible for damaging the entire judicial mechanism. What the UNP and the Yahapalana Government said in 2015 was that the then Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was removed by interfering with the judiciary. Actually, it was done in accordance with the powers vested in the Constitution.

That is why it has not been challenged before the law. However, the UNP wanted to give a wrong impression that the Rajapaksas interfered with the judiciary and removed the legally appointed Chief Justice.

It is very obvious that the UNP and the Yahapalana Government have exerted undue influence on the judiciary by making use of a senseless politician like Ranjan Ramanayake who doesn’t know how to respect the supremacy of the judiciary, Police and the CID. The former Yahapalana Government through such interference with the judiciary remanded their political opponents and sentenced some of them to gallows.

They unofficially used the CID, FCID and the Bribery Commission to remand and punish some prominent Buddhist monks and opposition politicians and even sentenced some of them to gallows. They earlier remanded former UPFA MP Duminda Silva and former Eastern Province Chief Minister ‘Pillayan’ and they are in prison custody still.

The Yahapalana Government also remanded former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, MP Namal Rajapaksa and his brother Yoshitha Rajapaksa. They were framing charges against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa before the Presidential Election and attempted to take him into custody. They remanded so many Joint Opposition MPs such as Wimal Weerawansa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, D.V.Chanaka and Prasanna Ranaweera.

The former Government also remanded many Buddhist monks, Intelligence officers, Police officers and some top Government officials. All this has been done by the Yahapalana Government and this has become a very serious issue. It is very clear that the former Government had given bribes and put undue influence on some judges and these have been revealed by Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio clips. The former Government used its power and connections to take revenge from opposition politicians. The CID has completely destroyed the reputation enjoyed by various state institutions. Actually, there is no use in repeating the word ‘Ranjan’ again and again putting the entire blame on him. The UNP Parliamentary group, all leaders of the Yahapalana Government and all Party Leaders representing it should be held responsible for this catastrophe.

Q. Apart from being an MP and a State Minister, what was Ramanayake’s actual role within the Yahapalana Government?

A. It shows his ignorance in his resorting to resort to such absurdities. The other thing is he has been misused by others. Ranjan Ramanayake is only just a person.

There are so many others who have spoken in such a manner like MPs Rajitha Senaratne, Champika Ranawaka and Ajith P. Perera. We are investigating that as well. We remember at one time Rajitha Senaratne said that a particular person would be remanded on such and such a day. How did he know that? Even the JVP made similar statements.

All these were the people who were there at Temple Trees. It is not only Ranjan Ramanayake but all of these people have links to this. Therefore, all of them should be investigated especially, the damage they have caused to the judiciary. It is time for the President, Prime Minister and the Government to give priority to restore the lost public confidence in the judiciary.

Q. According to ‘revelations’ how has the Yahapalana Government damaged the prestige of the judiciary and the Police Department, especially the CID?

A. During the tenure of President J.R.Jayewardena stones were pelted at courts. It went viral internationally and gave a ‘black mark’ to our country. The damage caused by these audio clips revelations is massive. That the people have lost their confidence in judiciary is a serious problem.

The people might think most of the judgements given have been fixed and even those who are in jail will also get the idea whether their cases were also fixed. Therefore, mistrust has been created about the judiciary which is a very unfortunate situation.

The attempt made by the former Yahapalana Government to take revenge from one particular family and to grab power has paved the way to destroy the entire judiciary. Immediate steps should be taken to rectify this situation and ensure the independence of the judiciary. Action should also be taken to remove those who are alleged to have committed wrongdoings in the judiciary for the benefit of the judicial officers who render an honourable service to the country.

Q. Would you like to comment on t former CID Chief Shani Abeysekara’s ‘alleged connections’ to politician Ranjan Ramanayake as revealed by the audio recordings?

A. We feel that Shani Abeysekara has acted not as the Director CID. but has descended to the level of a chairman of the UNP branch organisation in a village. This is not because of his personal friendship with Ranjan Ramanayake but he has acted as a member of the UNP. This is not a conversation which happened fortuitously. He is also an officer who helped bring the Yahapalana Government into power.

He has taken those wrong decisions and filed cases to defend that Government. This looks like a film! He had written the script and extracted false evidence by intimidating some people and has submitted them to courts.

He has misled the court. The Ranjan Ramanayake’s audio clips also proved that some judges had also allegedly helped him. It is not worth calling Shani Abeysekara the Director, CID. In the past, the CID was regarded as the place which fulfilled its duties honestly and independently. Shani Abeysekara has tarnished the image of the CID. Therefore, it would not be an easy task to restore the good image earned earlier by the CID.

Q. Why did the Yahapalana Government, especially the UNP leadership keep mum when Ranjan Ramanayake interfered with the Police, CID and judges?

A. The UNP leadershhip has made use of this actor-turned politician and ‘sawdust hero’ who has no understanding of politics to realise their narrow political objectives. Even former CID Director Shani Abeysekara in one of his telephone conversations with Ranjan Ramanayake had said that he would not even mind washing pots and pans in his kitchen! Even Ranjan Ramanayake himself has also done a similar thing to the UNP and the Yahapalana Government. We see him as an ignorant person and he has had always the desire to take revenge. Likewise, he has so many other desires as well!

Q. Will not the Government take action against those judicial officers with whom MP Ramanayake is alleged to have had illicit dealings?

A. Definitely. This is what the people expect irrespective of any political differences. Otherwise, if the Government Ministers attempt to act in such manner, both the judiciary and the country will have to face serious repercussions.

These incidents should be investigated thoroughly to prevent their future recurrence. The law should be enforced impartially. Otherwise, it would be difficult to rebuild the lost confidence of the judiciary.

Q. It appears that some judicial officers had failed to complain to the Police about Ranjan Ramanayake’s interference with judicial issues. How do you explain this?

A. They had posed threats to some judicial officers by using their power. We just only saw the audio clip of Ranjan Ramanayake. There are so many unseen people behind these incidents. Perhaps, their telephone conservations can also be traced back by using the modern technology. Ranjan Ramanayake is just one person only but of course, we believe there are many more. The question is as to why the judicial officers didn’t complain regarding this. Then a question arises whether some of them have also got involved in these activities. Otherwise, they were afraid to complain as they were aware of the true nature of the Yahapalana Government. Various Government officials actually worked under fear. False evidence was concocted by force.

When listening to voice cuts of some judicial officers, it is obvious that they had extended their support to file those cases. This is massive damage made at the cost of the country.

Q. In the light of Ranjan Ramanayake’s alleged conversation with then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, are there grounds for Ramanayake to be prosecuted for his alleged assassination attempt on Parliamentarian Mahindananda Aluthgamage?

A. Definitely. A complaint should be made and it should be investigated immediately. It is not only Ranil Wickremesinghe but also Sajith Premadasa who used Ranjan Ramanayake. He was one of the key speakers at Sajith Premadasa’s election campaign. When this kind of damage has been done to the judiciary and the CID, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa didn’t utter even a single word in Parliament to condemn it.

He failed to tell the House at least that they would look into this and take disciplinary action. It seems that Opposition Leader Premadasa too indirectly supported this.

Q. Some say it was unethical to release these audio tapes to the social media. What is your comment?

A. According to some people what Ranjan Ramanayake and the Yahapalana Government did was unethical. Whether the audio tapes were exposed or not, is not the problem.

The issue is that Ranjan Ramanayake has done it. If those audio tapes were not released nobody would have been aware of this. In fact, we should look into whether what Ranjan Ramanayake did was right or wrong.

Q. As reported by the media, has the Government Parliamentary Group requested the appointment of an independent Presidential Commission to probe the can of worms opened up by the telephone recordings of Ranjan Ramanayake?

A. We have already discussed this at the Party Leaders meeting. Requests had also been made to appoint a Presidential Commission to probe this incident.

Q. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa in Parliament on Tuesday (January 07) assured the support of all the MPs to the Government if the President’s Policy Statement is implemented soon. Your comments?

A. It is only a joke! We don’t need their support at all. In order to cover up their issues, they just say that they would extend their support to the Government. At present, the UNP has been split and they are attempting to expel Ranil Wickremesinghe from the party leadership. Now, Ranil Wickremesingh’s camp and Sajith Premadasa’s camp are far apart. UNP frontliner MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara had said that if they cannot remove Ranil Wickremesinghe from the party leadership, they would contest under a separate alliance. At present, the UNP is in a massive crisis.

That is why they even moved that Adjournment Motion on the President’s Policy Statement to cover up their issues. We would like to tell Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa if the UNP wants to genuinely support the Government they should ensure two thirds majority to the Government to dissolve Parliament and go for fresh elections by allowing the 6.9 million people who voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to form a solid Parliament. The UNP merely says that they would support the Government not for any other purpose but to delay and cover up their issues.

Q. How do you look at the current confusion within the main Opposition UNP?

A. Sajith Premadasa secured the presidential candidacy by attacking the party and its leader. He spoke against his own party. He thought he could win the election but he had to suffer a humiliating defeat. Sajith Premadasa’s political speeches and conduct proved that he is not a mature political leader. He said “he is not scared to die even on the street. He would visit each and every village and he also said that he is the most energetic candidate in the election campaign.” However, none of these utterances were believed by the people.

He was defeated by the people with an overwhelming majority. Each speech he made brought more votes to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. His knowledge is far below that of even some of the UNP MPs. That Sajith Premadasa secured the presidential candidacy and became the Opposition Leader is the biggest victory achieved by us.

Despite Sajith Premadasa becoming the Opposition Leader, the UNP will not be able to recover from its setback at all. The UNP has been divided at leadership, parliamentary and village levels. The entire Opposition more or less was not in attendance during the Adjournment Debate held on January 07 and 08. The 5.5 million votes obtained by the UNP at the Presidential Election would come down to a mere 3 to 3.2 million at the next parliamentary election. When an immature politician becomes the Opposition Leader and when a division occurs within the UNP, it becomes a good advantage to the Government.

Q.With the advent of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President, a new political culture is in the offing for the country. Your comments?

A. Earlier the people had lost their memory over the significant victories achieved. They forgot the war victory within almost four years. While those who were defeated at the war still remember it, the victors have completely forgotten it. The 2015 electoral defeat taught a very good lesson to the people. The people thought that the new President and the Government which came to power would certainly develop the country more than what former President Mahinda Rajapaksa did. However, the people were misled. Later, the people took to the streets to rectify that mistake.

The people, especially the professionals in various sectors welcomed the Presidential Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa fielded by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The people in their thousands joined hands to ensure the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Even the youth rallied round and decided to extend their full support to Gotabaya Rajapaksa and towards his efforts to beautify the country.

The people began to think in a fresh manner. The President through his actions and outward appearance delivered a message to the country that he is a very simple President. He functions as President who goes to the people to sort their issues. Nearly 500 vehicles at the Presidential Secretariat were removed by the President while his staff was reduced to approximately 200.

At the same time, the President took prompt action to curtail unnecessary expenditure as the country’s economy is in a bad way. The UNP attempted to create a wrong impression about the President but none of the baseless allegations were accepted by the people. The President has proved that he is well disciplined and law-abiding.

The President has turned some of the traditions upside down! At present, the President and the Prime Minister are working in unison to put back the country on the right track. The President has already given a series of tax concessions to the people. A clean administration has been restored in the country and unlike in the past bribery and corruption are not rampant in the country today. The best leader of the decade has become the President of the country. Those who couldn’t vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa are disappointed today.

A massive number of new votes were added as Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the President. The people appreciate very much a down to earth President like Gotabaya Rajapaksa who visits them to look into their grievances and provide immediate solutions to them. What the people really desired were a working President, Government and a Cabinet of Ministers. Today the people are very happy as they have won all of them.

Q. Could you narrate any large scale frauds and malpractices during the tenure of the former Yahapalana Government?

A. Some malpractices of a massive scale have perpetrated during the former Government. In addition to the Treasury Bonds Scam, a massive level of malpractices have taken place in several ministries. The Government is now in search of vital documents of those illegal transactions. However, the Government would not give priority to such issues. We would give utmost priority to strengthen the economy and develop the country. The people are of the view that the Government would dispense justice and bring the culprits who had committed those malpractices to book.

The people are also hopeful that those responsible for Easter Sunday attacks will also be brought to book. What the former Government did was a political witch-hunt to imprison their political opponents and some of the top Government officials. Those days we were taken to courts in Police vehicles after being handcuffed. The opposition politicians arrested are now allowed to take their selfies and even post them on Facebook.

This shows the humanity on the part of the Government and the Police as well. When we were in jail, we were not allowed to bring in even our clothes. Our Government will enforce the law to the very letter without any political interference at all.