By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Chairman Prof. G. L. Peiris, yesterday, said, that legal acton against wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in the US, should be viewed against the backdrop of him being widely considered as SLPP candidate at the presidential polls later this year.
Former External Affairs Minister Prof. Peiris said so in response to a barrage of questions at the regular SLPP media briefing at its Nelum Mawatha Office in Battaramulla. The former Law Professor explained how interested parties could move court against Gotabaya Rajapaksa to hinder his efforts to renounce US citizenship.
In terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in April 2015, dual citizens cannot contest presidential or parliamentary polls.
Prof. Peiris confirmed that a case had been filed in the State of California by Ahimsa Wickrematunga, daughter of the slain Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga.
Wickrematunga was killed in early January 2009 in Colombo.
Prof. Peiris pointed out that action had been filed a decade after the assassination though, Gotabaya Rajapaksa almost every year visited the US over the past decade.
Prof. Peiris queried whether judicial system was being abused for what he called collateral purpose.
Summons on Gotabaya Rajapaksa is said to have been served in a grocery store in California.
The UNP led government relaunched investigations into Wickrematunga’s assassination after the change of government in January 2015. Among those questioned in connection with Wickrematunga assassination probe were Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and several members of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) including its wartime head and later Chief of National Intelligence retired Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana.
Ahimsa filed action in the US close on the heels of Lasantha’s elder brother Lal Wickrematunga, Sri Lanka’s Counsel General in Sydney, scotching speculation in Colombo political circles that he was to resort to legal action. Ahimsa has sought a jury trial.
Prof. Peiris discussed what he called legal impediments faced by a popular presidential election candidate. Recently, Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared his intention to contest 2019 presidential election and launch a campaign in support of his candidature.
In addition to Wickrematunga’s assassination, two other senior journalists, namely Upali Tennakoon (Editor Rivira) and Keith Noyahr (The Nation) were attacked during the Rajapaksa administration. The previous administration is also under fire over the alleged disappearance of media personality Prageeth Ekneligoda on the eve of January 26, 2010 presidential election. The DMI has been investigated in connection with all four incidents.
Prof. Peiris also dealt with the SLPP’s reorganisation project with the focus on talks with the SLFP. In spite of the SLFP again squandering an opportunity to undermine the UNP in parliament by collectively voting against the latter at the third reading of budget 2019, the SLPP was determined to explore every available avenue to reach consensus with the SLFP.
Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP would go ahead with the third round of talks with the SLFP tomorrow (April 10).
Responding to a query, Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP programme was on track and the National Convention of the party was tentatively scheduled for August 2019.