Amid crisis, Sirisena removes top CID cop probing high-profile cases
The Sri Lankan Parliament — which met on Monday following violence and disruption last week — was adjourned minutes after it convened, without a resolution to the ongoing political crisis.
Lawmakers aligned to ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and from other opposition parties in the House, have sought the suspension of state funds to the Prime Minister’s office, now occupied by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose administration they consider illegitimate. The debate on the motion is expected to commence on Friday.
The development is the latest in the series of events since President Maithripala Sirisenacontroversially sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe on October 26, and replaced him with Mr. Rajapaksa. The political stalemate in Sri Lanka’s legislature has been dragging since, because MPs backing the Sirisena-. Rajapaksa combine continue opposing a vote in the House that could test claims to a majority.
Last week, Mr. Wickremesinghe’s front, with support from opposition parties Tamil National Alliance and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna proved its majority through a voice vote thrice, braving the chaos and violence caused by Mr. Rajapaksa’s MPs. However, Mr. Rajapaksa’s side has rejected the vote citing “breach of parliamentary procedure’, a claim that the opposition has since countered.
In a bid to resolve the complex political quandary, Mr. Sirisena convened an all-party conference Sunday evening, where he urged MPs to go for a vote by name or by the electronic system. “We offered offer to take a vote by name or by the electronic voting system today, but it was once again prevented by the members of the purported government who are illegally holding onto power. Clearly, they fear that they will be exposed without a majority,” Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader and parliamentarian Rauff Hakeem, aligned to Mr. Wickremesinghe’s front, told reporters on Monday.
Meanwhile, President Sirisena has transferred a top cop from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) out of the role. Chief Inspector Nishantha Silva was probing several high-profile cases, including ones that allegedly involve Mr. Rajapaksa’s family and the military, and is said to have been close to making a key arrest. Mr. Rajapaksa has accused the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration — that recently collapsed — of being on a political witch-hunt, and denied any wrongdoing.
The President’s decision comes less than a month after President Sirisena realigned with his former rival Mr. Rajapaksa, and subsequently took control of the Law and Order Ministry. It raises questions about the future of the investigations, many of which are said to be near-complete, according to lawyers and investigators.
Senior human rights lawyer J.C. Weliamuna said the transfer sent a “strong message” to the investigators, witnesses and victims. “The suspects appear to be getting cover from the highest office and it is telling that this investigating officer’s transfer comes at such a critical time,” he told The Hindu. “We are considering legal action challenging it,” he said.
Mr. Silva was one of the key investigators handling cases such as the assassination of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, the abduction of dissident cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, and the abduction and murder of 11 young men allegedly by a naval officer — all of them between 2008 and 2010, when Mr. Rajapaksa’s administration was in power.