People’s issues will not be swept under the carpet – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa | Sunday Observer

People’s issues will not be swept under the carpet – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

28 February, 2021

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan paid a two-day official visit to Sri Lanka on February 23-24 on the invitation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was clearly evident that the Pakistan Premier’s visit would help further strengthen Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations and enhance mutual cooperation in diverse fields.

Prime Minister Khan was accompanied by a high-level delegation, comprising Ministers and senior government officials. This was the first visit by the Pakistan Prime Minister to Sri Lanka since the formation of the new Governments in both the countries, clearly reflecting the warmth and goodwill between the Governments and peoples of the two countries.

Premier Khan received a warm ceremonial welcome from Premier Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers.

Bilateral meeting

The bilateral meeting between the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took place at the Presidential Secretariat on February 24. Both leaders engaged in a lengthy discussion on improving bilateral relations.

The two leaders exchanged views on sharing technical knowhow to promote agriculture in both countries. The President and the Pakistani Prime Minister also paid attention to the steps that need to be taken to promote trade and expansion of investment opportunities.

The Pakistan Premier also met his Sri Lankan counterpart Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on Tuesday (February 23). Premier Rajapaksa during the bilateral discussion said Pakistan Prime Minister’s visit symbolises his and the Pakistani Government’s deep affinity with the people of Sri Lanka.

Premier Rajapaksa said, “You are the first foreign Head of Government to visit Sri Lanka after I assumed office as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka after the General Elections last year. On my invitation, you have chosen to visit Sri Lanka with great friendship, despite great challenges, including Covid-19 risks. I admire your courage and the great leadership that is evident in crucial decisions you have taken at times of crises.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said the Sri Lankan and Pakistani Governments have a people-centric governance agenda which strives towards empowering grassroots level communities and the underprivileged.

Fifteen Members of Parliament representing the Muslim community called on Pakistan Premier Khan in Colombo on Wednesday (February 24). Pakistan Prime Minister during his meeting with Muslim Parliamentarians had expressed confidence Sri Lankan leaders will work to improve inter-communal harmony.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem following the meeting had tweeted that the discussion was “pleasant and fruitful”. Prime Minister Imran Khan also called on Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa in Colombo on Wednesday. The Opposition Leader expressed the gratitude of his party to Premier Khan for his visit to Sri Lanka. He conveyed good wishes for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan under PM Khan’s leadership.

Life in danger

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa who visited Angunakolapelessa Prison to meet SJB Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake, said his life is in danger and the Government should take responsibility if anything happens to him.

Following the meeting with Ramanayake, the Opposition Leader told the media that Ramanayaka was a public figure who was against the drug menace and now he has been imprisoned with inmates who were suspected of drug peddling. This puts his life in a dangerous situation.

Premadasa said, “SLPP MP Premalal Jayasekera is attending Parliament. It is sad to see how Jayasekara and Ramanayake, who were elected to Parliament by the public, are being treated in different ways. The Speaker should be fair and treat all the MPs in the same way without being biased against a particular political party.”

He said Ramanayake should be transferred to a prison in the Colombo area for his safety.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena also responded to the demand by the Opposition Leader and other Opposition lawmakers in Parliament to allow MP Ramanayake who was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment for contempt of court, to attend the Parliament.

The Speaker said as MP Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court for Contempt of Court, there is no Court to appeal against the judgement. He also said that no appeal against the judgement has been filed before the Supreme Court, but only a motion. He added, however, the Opposition which should take the matter before Court is debating it in Parliament.

PCoI report

Final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) which investigated the Easter Sunday terror attacks was released to the media on February 23, revealing a long list of accusations against those it holds responsible for the attack through acts of negligence.

However, bearing a large share of the blame for the attacks, former President Maithripala Sirisena was accused by the PCoI for knowingly leaving the country without appointing an Acting Defence Minister, despite being aware of foreign intelligence warnings beforehand. A score of former senior officials including the former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara and former heads of national and state intelligence services are also among the accused.

However, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), a coalition partner of the Government has decided to reject the final report of the PCoI which investigated the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

The Executive Committee of the SLFP which met on Thursday (February 25) at the party headquarters had taken the decision to reject the report of the PCoI appointed by the former President and SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena. The SLFP said the report was incomplete and not compatible with the Commission’s mandate and the SLFP Executive Committee had no other option but to reject it.

Six-member Committee

Responding to the concerns raised by the Opposition lawmakers on the appointment of yet another Committee, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the six-member Committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to study the report of the PCoI into the April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday attacks, was selected considering factors such as their political maturity, experience and high level of knowledge in various fields.

The PMD in a statement said the Committee has been entrusted with a wide-ranging mandate. It said, “Identifying the overall process including the measures that need to be taken by various agencies and authorities such as Parliament, Judiciary, Attorney General’s Department, Security Forces, State Intelligence services and implementing recommendations as stipulated by PCoI to avert recurrence of a national catastrophe of such magnitude is the prime responsibility of the Committee. These recommendations cannot be successfully implemented by any entity single-handedly.”

Waste of resources

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena addressing the 46th session of the UNHRC in Geneva on February 23 appealed to all member states of the UNHRC to reject any resolution against Sri Lanka, saying that despite Sri Lanka keeping its pledges made before the HRC a year ago and the spirit of cooperation in engagement with the HRC and its mechanism, it is regrettable that elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution based on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Minister Gunawardena said the High Commissioner’s Report on Sri Lanka which the Government of Sri Lanka rejects, has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic in any self-respecting, sovereign country.

The Minister said the extent to which the resources and time of the UNHRC has been used on Sri Lanka is unwarranted adding that it carries a discouraging message to the sovereign states of the global South.

The Minister said the unprecedented decision by the former administration to co-sponsor UNHRC Resolution 30/1 resulted in the compromising of national security which eventually led to the Easter attacks of 2019. He said the resolution carried a host of commitments that were not deliverable and were not in conformity with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the people are suffering due to the endless tug-of-war between officials, respective institutions and the people’s representatives. The President reiterated the need for responsible officials of all key institutions including wildlife, forest conservation, environment and road development to take collective decisions to implement projects.

The President told the 11th ‘Discussion with the Village’ program at the Nelumwewa Community Hall premises in the Puttalam district recently, that the absence of proper planning in land use was not the fault of the people, it is important that officials go to the grassroots to see the real situation, when providing long-term solutions to many rural problems, including land issues. Some people misinterpret policy decisions that are taken for the benefit of the people. He said he will never allow the real issues faced by the people to be swept under the carpet by misinterpreting instructions, as an excuse.

Trade Unionists meet UNP leader

Several trade union leaders not aligned with the UNP had met UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the party headquarters, Sirikotha recently to discuss the current political situation in the country. During the meeting, trade union leaders had pledged their fullest support to Wickremesinghe towards any attempts being made to “rescue the country from the current downfall”. UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywardena had told the trade union leaders that steps will be taken to further strengthen the party restructuring process while disciplinary action will be taken against those who acted against the party.

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament that the final report of the PCoI into the Easter Sunday attacks will be taken up for debate as decided at the next Committee on Parliamentary Business meeting.

Report tabled

The final report of the PCoI into the Easter Sunday attacks was tabled in Parliament on Thursday (February 25) Minister Gunawardena was responding to a request by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella demanding that a three-day debate be held on the issue.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that the matter will be discussed at the Parliamentary Business Committee meeting and a decision will be taken to hold a debate. The Prime Minister reminded the Speaker to hold a debate on this report and that a debate would be held accordingly, Minister Gunawardena said.

Sirisena reappointed

The Executive Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which met on Thursday (February 25) had decided to re-appoint former President Maithripala Sirisena as the Chairman of the party.


The Executive Committee also approved the reappointment of State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara as the General Secretary of the party.

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa were appointed as Senior Vice Presidents.

UNP Balamandala meetings

The UNP Balamandala meetings of Karandeniya, Bentara-Elpitiya, Ambalangoda and Balapitiya in the Galle district were held under the patronage of Party Chairman Vajira Abeywardena.

During the meetings, Abeywardena briefed the party supporters on the future programs of the UNP. As a significant gesture, the UNPers and those who left the party had also participated in these meetings.

Abeywardena said the UNP is a party which has launched its programs targeting to capture power in the future adding that however, it would not act to cater to the interests of the factions led by various individuals. He said as the country would collapse in the future due to poor economic management.

He said it was international conspiracies which prevented Ranil Wickremesinghe coming to power and not because of the people. Former State Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma said he also decided to attend the Balamandala meetings as he has the confidence that UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywardena, is a leader who will never leave the party.

Thewarapperuma said they could witness how those who were loyal and pledged to make any sacrifice on behalf of the UNP left the party a couple of weeks later. However, Vajira Abeywardena never acted to create divisions within the party or leave it. Therefore, I have full confidence in him.

“Don’t insult Speaker”

Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena called upon Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa not to insult the Speaker by levelling allegations against him. The Minister was referring to the Opposition Leader’s claim in Parliament on Tuesday (February 23) that the Speaker “ran away” from the Chair without answering Opposition’s queries.

Minister Gunawardena said, “Do not level allegations against the Speaker and insult him without knowing the facts. All of us have been invited today to participate in the meeting of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association.

“The Speaker had to leave the Chamber because he had to Chair that meeting. The Speaker is representing all of us at this meeting. So do not insult the Speaker without getting your facts straight. Is this the way the Opposition is treating the hand of friendship extended by a neighbouring country?,” he said.