Opposition’s claim is hilarious - Udaya Gammanpila | Sunday Observer
Security issue

Opposition’s claim is hilarious - Udaya Gammanpila

12 December, 2021

Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said that there is no truth whatsoever in the allegation levelled on the delay to bring the masterminds of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks to book.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the efficiency of Sri Lanka’s investigations should only be assessed in comparison with other countries. He said five suspects of the September 11, 2001 USA suicide terrorist attacks were prosecuted only on February 11, 2008, while 20 suspects of the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks were prosecuted on September 8, 2021.

“In the Sri Lankan case, the suicide terrorist attacks took place on April 21, 2019, but we prosecuted the suspects on August 10, 2021, just after two years and four months. Although Sri Lanka lacks the latest technology, we have acted efficiently in comparison with the USA and France. The Minister said nobody should rush to file criminal charges because the basic principle of criminal law is that the benefit of the doubt should be given to the suspect. If there is an unnecessary rush in prosecution, the benefit of that rush would go to the suspects not to the victims,” Gammanpila said.


Q: How do you view the two-day protest conducted by the main Opposition SJB outside Parliament demanding to ensure their security in the House?

A:  It is hilarious to claim that they don’t have security in the Chamber. The proceedings in the Chamber are recorded with cameras from all angles. On the other hand, they could enjoy the delicious foods at the Parliament cafeteria. If they have a security issue, they are more vulnerable at the cafeteria than in the fully screened Chamber as the cameras are not operating at the cafeteria. If you can’t take a risk, you are not fit to be a public representative. During the tenure of the former Yahapalana Government, they arrested and slung mud at us. We were subjected to all sorts of harassments and torture, but we never gave up our cause. The main Opposition is displaying that they are not fit to be politicians.

Q: As reported by the media, the SJB has lodged a complaint with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Commonwealth Parliament Union (CPU) over the alleged assault on SJB Parliamentarian Manusha Nanayakkara.

A: They never claimed that he was attacked. They said that there was an attempt. When you say an attempt, it is subjected to interpretation. If somebody has been attacked, of course, that MPs rights should be protected and there is no doubt about it. However, in the the manner the Opposition behaves, we have serious doubts about the allegations levelled by them. 

Q: A serious concern has been raised on the brutal killing of Sri Lankan Manager Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana by an extremist mob in Sialkot, Pakistan. What action has been taken to mete out justice to the victim and ensure the safety of other Sri Lankans in Pakistan?

A: The Pakistan Government has shown its seriousness to the world by arresting over 120 persons within 24 hours. They have screened those down to 15. They have been remanded. The inquiry is monitored by the Pakistan Prime Minister. The majority of the nation denounces the attack. They have expressed their shame and commiserated with Sri Lankans. The Pakistan Government’s prompt reaction has boosted confidence in the Sri Lankan Government as well as Sri Lankans who live in Pakistan. As the guardian of the Sri Lankan people, the Government is watchful of the events in Pakistan.   

Q: Do you think the perpetrators of this barbaric act will be brought to justice?

A: They must be brought to justice. We are patiently and vigilantly looking at the action by the Government of Pakistan.

Q: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the inaugural address at the Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) in Abu Dhabi stressed the need for proper international coordination to combat religious extremism and terrorism in countries in the region. Would you like to comment?

A: It is the bitter truth that religion based violence has frequently taken place in our part of the world. In a way, it is a demonstration of the immaturity of our society. We have noticed in the recent past that there is a transboundary movement of religious extremism. Sometimes, religious extremists in one country act on the instruction and inspiration by the religious leaders in another country. Regional cooperation is a must to curb this kind of religious extremism and violence.

Q: It has been revealed that over 2,000 recommendations by the parliamentary watchdog committees, Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) to prevent corruption in public institutions have not been implemented by the state agencies and officials. Your views?  

A: The Ministry Secretary as the chief accounting officer and the Minister as the person in charge of the Ministry should be accountable to Parliament as well as the public with regard to the implementation of the recommendations. If they can’t implement the recommendations, they should tell the public as well as Parliament. That kind of a mechanism should be implemented. Naming and shaming is another technique used by the parliamentary committees to compel the top brass of the institutions to implement the recommendations.

Q: State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said gas companies should bear the responsibility for the adverse consequences of using domestic gas reported recently.  Will the investigations find those who are responsible for the incidents of explosions owing to gas leaks?

A: I predicted the lower concentration of mercaptan which gives a strong smell in gas leakages would be the main reason for the explosions. That has now been confirmed by the experts. There is also an allegation that the composition of the gas cylinders has been changed. These irresponsible acts are committed by the management of the gas companies. They should have ensured the minimum standards that should be followed before releasing gas cylinders to the market. They are responsible and must be punished for their negligence.

Q: The SLFP has suggested holding the Provincial Council elections expeditiously under the former electoral system at least limited to this election alone. Would you like to comment?

A: Sri Lanka has other priorities than holding Provincial Council elections at this moment of crisis.

Q: Jathika Jana Balawegaya MP Vijitha Herath has said that a national alliance under the leadership of JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake supported by several political parties will be formed considering the current situation in the country.

A: This political force could secure only three Parliamentary seats at the last Parliamentary election one and a half years ago. However, if they can form a political alliance, we wish them good luck. 

Q: Sri Lanka has confirmed its first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Does Sri Lanka have accurate understanding regarding the spread of the new variant?

A: Just because we are having Omicron, we don’t have to take any additional precautionary measures because the precautionary practices are the same as to be taken for other Covid-19 variants. We have to get ready for work. Of course, the public has a great responsibility to look after themselves. The Government can only warn the people, but complying with the health guidelines is their responsibility.

Q: What are the remedial measures taken to overcome the huge losses incurred by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC)?

A: As we don’t have cost reflective pricing, incurring huge losses is unavoidable. Unless the Government doesn’t permit the CPC to revise prices, the Treasury should compensate the loss by way of a subsidy. Unfortunately, the Treasury doesn’t give any of these.

Q: Various sections including Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith have raised serious concern on the delay to bring the masterminds of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks to book. Would you like to elaborate your views?

A: There is no truth in it whatsoever. We should admit the fact that when there is a suicide attack, the main suspects have already dead. As a result, it is difficult to find out who has supported or encouraged them to commit the terrorist attacks. Because of this reason, investigations and prosecution of a suicide terrorist attack are difficult tasks. Efficiency of the investigations in Sri Lanka should only be assessed in comparison with that of other countries. On September 11, 2001, there were four suicide terrorist attacks in the USA. Five suspects of the terrorist attack were prosecuted only on February 11, 2008. It means six years and five months after the attack. There was a suicide terrorist attack in Paris, France on November 13, 2015, but 20 suspects were prosecuted on September 8, 2021 after five years and ten months.

In the Sri Lankan case, the suicide attacks took place on April 21, 2019, but we prosecuted the suspects on August 10, 2021, just after two years and four months. Although Sri Lanka lacks the latest technology, we have acted efficiently in comparison to the USA and France. Therefore, this allegation is baseless. Nobody should rush to file criminal charges because the basic principle of criminal law is that the benefit of the doubt should be given to the suspect. If there is any technical discrepancy in charges or inconsistency in evidence, the suspects would be discharged. Therefore, if there is an unnecessary rush in prosecution, the benefit of the rush would go to the suspects, not to the victims.

Q: Is there any conflict of ideas among the coalition partners of the Government regarding the Yugadanavi power plant issue?

A: There is a difference of opinion which we have openly expressed. Three Cabinet Ministers have filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court challenging its own Cabinet decision for the first time in world history. We are a coalition of 16 political parties. We reach a consensus only on “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” national policy framework and have differences of opinion for everything else. That is natural for a coalition. The smallest organisation in this world is the family which consists of only two members. If you can find differences of opinion in such a small organisation, how can you expect unity for every single issue in a complex and complicated mass organisation such as the governing coalition?

Q: How do you view the proposal by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella who requested the Government to allow Members of Parliament to enter Law College and state universities for higher studies without an examination?

A: There should not be a shortcut to the Law College through Parliament. However, educating Parliamentarians about basic laws of the country is useful.

Q: The Government recently granted permission to the private sector to import chemical fertiliser. Has the Government been able to sort out the fertiliser issue of the farmers?

A: The decision to grant permission to import chemical fertiliser was taken recently. It may take some time to make chemical fertiliser available in the market.