Flak over Harin, Karuna’s controversial speeches | Sunday Observer

Flak over Harin, Karuna’s controversial speeches

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in a telephonic conversation with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on June 25, commended the efforts by Sri Lanka to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He briefed the President on the latest situation in Pakistan and the steps by the Government to contain Covid-19 and efforts to save lives, secure livelihoods and sustain the economy.

The Pakistan Premier also discussed regional situation, debt relief with the President. The two leaders had also discussed bilateral relations, regional situation and a broad range of other issues.

Prime Minister Khan had said that rather than confrontation, cooperation must be the key dynamic to help realise the true potential of more than 1.5 billion people in South Asia. He said that the goals of sustainable development and prosperity should be advanced through regional cooperation, including the platform of SAARC. The Prime Minister invited the President to visit Pakistan once the Covid-19 situation fades away.

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Government and Opposition lawmakers and the Catholic community condemned the recent controversial remarks by former UNP Parliamentarian Harin Fernado, accusing Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of engaging in politics during the 2019 Presidential Election.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa also tendered his apology to the Cardinal claiming Fernando’s remarks disrespectful and offended the Archbishop. The UNP said Harin Fernando’s recent statement is a political stunt which the Party unreservedly condemns.

Addressing a recent meeting in Medirigiriya, SJB stalwart Harin Fernando said that the Cardinal’s remarks reflected badly on him and alienated the Catholic vote that would have gone to Sajith Premadasa at the last Presidential Election.

The Archdiocese of Colombo expressed grave concern over Fernando’s remarks about Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Fernando said in Medirigiriya that the Cardinal had played a role in depriving Sajith Premadasa of the Catholic vote at the last Presidential Election. The auxiliary Bishops of Colombo called this statement a figment of Fernando’s imagination’ and added that his derogatory comments against the Archbishop of Colombo were unfounded and uncalled for and have been made for cheap political gain.

However, former Parliamentarian Fernando said his remarks on the Archbishop were taken out of context. In a clarification issued, he said the remarks were his own and did not reflect the views of his party. He has criticised the media claiming that his speech was distorted by certain sections of the media. The ex-MP said a 45 minute speech by him at a political rally in Medirigiriya was edited into a one minute clip and released by certain media institutions with vested interests.

“The edited clip distorts my message. I have now made my speech available to the public so that anyone wishing to understand my speech in its entirety can do so,” he said.

Meanwhile, the clashes between two UNP factions have reached the climax as the members in the UNP and the SJB are accusing each other.

UNP candidate A.S.P. Liyanage has alleged that former Foreign Employment Minister Harin Fernando asked him to perform an illegal activity when he was the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Qatar and told that he would be removed if he failed to do it. Liyanage who is contesting the General Election from the UNP for the Colombo district said he informed the former President about the issue. He challenged Harin Fernado to prove if his allegations are false. When asked the nature of the illegal request, Liyanage said it was a matter related to a Sri Lankan School in Qatar.

The main Opposition, SJB, UNP and the JVP were critical on the recent remarks by Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, who is alleged to have said at a public meeting recently that, “he is more dangerous than the Coronavirus because he killed 2,000 to 3,000 soldiers in one night at Elephant Pass.”

Karuna’s statement drew criticism from many parties that claimed that he was trying to glorify the killing of Sri Lankan soldiers when he was an LTTE militant.

The Opposition lawmakers called for action against Karuna and added that the Government should express its stance in this regard.

Former Parliamentarian and SJB candidate Ajith P. Perera called on authorities to arrest and prosecute Karuna Amman as he had admitted the fact that he killed personnel from the legal military body, as part of a terrorist body.

Perera said Karuna was never legally pardoned by the Government and he needs to be prosecuted for admitting to a crime punishable by death. Former JVP Parliamentarian and National People’s Power candidate Sunil Handunnetti said that the people are being misled by fake patriots. The CID summoned Karuna on June 25 over his controversial remarks and recorded a statement from him for about seven hours. A civil activist filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court on June 25 seeking an order directing the Police to arrest Karuna. The petition filed by B. Kalahepathirana wants the Supreme Court to take legal action against Karuna over his controversial statement.

The SLPP, which deplored the statement on the killing of soldiers by Karuna said that it bears no responsibility whatsoever for the statements by him. SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam said that while Karuna was working with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, he gave his fullest support to defeat LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Kariyawasam told the media at the SLPP headquarters that, “The movement now led by Karuna is a different scenario. He is not a part of the SLPP. He is contesting from Digamadulla from an opposing party.”

Kariyawasam said that no discussion had taken place with Karuna regarding a Parliamentary post via the National list. He said that the people change their ideologies when they join the Opposition. He said that, “This country should stand as a unitary state and all our endeavours are to go forward as a unitary state.”

SLPP candidate Prof. Channa Jayasumana said Karuna’s statement was uncalled for as it had brought disrespect to the War Heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for the sovereignty and unity of the country. Prof. Jayasumana said Karuna was brought into the fold at the time, as it was necessary to fight evil with evil. He said over the past decade and a half, Karuna had shown he carries no evil, and if he still carries evil with him, the people should respond to it accordingly.

However, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told the media that Karuna would not be welcome into a new Government to be formed under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after the General Election or given any position in the SLPP or SLFP.

SLPP General Election contender Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa said when former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka had betrayed the country in relation to war crime chaeges, it was saved by Karuna. Rajapakshe told the media at the SLPP headquarters that, “We are not specialists. When there is a war in a country, there are war tactics by which suppression of enemy forces can be eased. Therefore, the leaders of the war had obtained the help of Karuna to destroy the LTTE.”

He said that the Darusman report once had claimed that war crimes had been committed in Sri Lanka. “Before that, it was Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka who had first stated before the press that there were war crimes in our country. At that time, Karuna had stepped in and said, “No, the Sri Lankan Army did not kill civilians, and no war crimes were committed.”

Government lawmakers have raised concerns about the issues created by the 19th Amendment and stressed the need to amend the Constitution if the Government secures a two thirds majority at the Parliamentary election.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told a recent public meeting that the 19th Amendment which was brought about to take revenge from them has now become a joke. The Premier said, “We need to win the election with a two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution and it is the people who have the power to do it.”

He said those who drafted and presented the 19th Amendment are saying that they want to change it.

The Premier said, “Today the public are more aware of politics. Unlike in the past, people are more sensitive and have a better understanding. All of you know what the country’s situation was after we lost the election in 2015. During five years of Yahapalanaya, the country’s economy was completely destabilised.”

Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera in an open letter to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that he is defending the action of the Central Bank against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s accusations of the Central Bank officials.

The President in a hard-hitting speech during a recent meeting with top officials of the Central Bank rapped them for not extending support for the proposals by the Government to revive the economy hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and asked them to explain reasons for their failure.

Former Finance Minister Samaraweera said that the Central Bank has done what was required of them in response to the crisis. Samaraweera said, “They were quick to provide plenty of liquidity and to ensure the integrity of the payments and settlements systems during the worst of the crisis. They have been successful in bringing down interest rates and very quickly articulating the framework for moratoriums that provided breathing space to businesses for the next six months.” He said that the responsibility of driving economic growth and articulating the strategy for economic revival is the role of the Treasury and other arms of the Government.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa said that he would never be a party to a Government that signs the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement. He said, “I will not remain a day in a Government which would sign an agreement of this nature.

Co-cabinet Spokesman, Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana told the weekly Cabinet press briefing that the Government would not sign the MCC agreement. Co-cabinet Spokesman Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said that a committee headed by Colombo University Senior Lecturer Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan was appointed by the President to review this agreement.

Minister Gunawardena said that the Committee has presented its recommendations following a six- month study after considering opinions, views and suggestions by various sectors of the society, including experts, voluntary organisations, public entities and people. Dr. Gunawardena said, “Considering this situation, the Government has taken a decision not to sign any agreement which is in violation of the laws of the country and the Constitution.

The final report of the Expert Committee appointed to review the proposed MCC agreement was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on June 25. Expert Committee Chairman Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan commended the opportunity to compile a report without intervention of any external party. The President has asked Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera to make public the final report on the review of the MCC agreement by the expert committee.

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