Sri Lanka President asks UNP to deliver or depart
ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena has virtually declared a three-month deadline for his coalition government to prosecute those responsible for high profile murders and corruption, or risk losing its hold on power.
Sirisena told the cabinet meeting on Tuesday that he was extremely uneasy about alleged backroom dealings between two members of the UNP-led government and key figures of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration.
“The President said he was aware of those who have cut deals to either delay or scuttle some of the ongoing investigations,” a ministerial source said. “This is unacceptable.”
The president told his cabinet that high profile cases would have been completed in three months if he controlled the law and order ministry, as well as the attorney general’s department.
In a clear reference to Sirisena’s displeasure, Law and Order minister Sagala Ratnayaka issued a statement on Thursday defending his record and at the same time saying he was ready to go if the President was unhappy with his performance. (see story here)
Senior police and state attorneys have told the authorities they were under political pressure to go easy on some of the suspects under investigation although much evidence had been gathered and they were about to file action.
“If the Rajapaksa regime is back, there will be no problem for UNP ministers,” the President had said. “But the first people to be persecuted will be me and my family. Nothing will happen to the Prime Minister too.”
After unusually blunt accusations against the UNP-led group of the coalition, the president and some UNP seniors, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, sat down for a special closed door meeting to address Sirisena’s concerns.
“The agreement is to fast-track at least the 10 most serious cases in the next three months,” the source said.
He said fingers were pointed at police Inspector-General Pujith Jayasundara for the inordinate delay, while seniors at the AG’s department were also seriously criticised, but the President focused on political interference.
It has now become an open secret that the President wanted changes at the ministry of Law and Order and Justice during the May reshuffle, but Wickremesinghe’s resistance prevailed.
However, after the latest outburst on Tuesday, Sirisena has effectively put the entire government on three month’s notice to show tangible progress in the Lasantha Wickrematunga and Wasim Thajudeen murders, and mega corruption cases. Members of the former first family are said to be linked to both cases.
(COLOMBO, July 7, 2017)