Parliament

Recovery of Damages for Death of a Person Bill : Act ensures loved ones compensation - Thalatha

Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Athukorala opening the debate on Recovery of Damages for the Death of a Person Bill and Order under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act yesterday in Parliament said that through this bill, a parent or parents, a child or children, a sibling or siblings, a grandparent or grandparents or guardians jointly will be able to claim damages from any person whose wrongful act, omission, negligence or default caused a death of their loved one.

“The main reason of bringing the Bill is to make society aware of the value of life. We all have loved ones and need their love and affection. According to the Roman Dutch Law, there are provisions to claim compensation for a person’s death. But we cannot claim compensation for the mental stress caused by the death of a loved one, even when it is a result of negligence of someone. But this Bill would make provision for the next-of-kin to recover damages for the death of a person caused by a wrongful act, omission, negligence or fault of another,” Minister Athukorala said.

The Minister said the applicants will be able to claim for damages for the loss of love, affection, care and companionship and the mental suffering they have to endure.

The provisions of this Act will be in addition to and not in derogation of any other right or remedy provided by any other written or unwritten law. Minister Athukorale said the Act has been amended according to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.


Influencing police to release drug smuggler: Sumanthiran denies allegation

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran denied that he had influenced the police to release a youth who was in the police custody for having cannabis as reported in certain newspapers.

He was speaking on the Order under the Mutual Assistance in the Criminal Matters Act yesterday in Parliament.

Sumanthiran responded to an allegation made in Parliament yesterday by United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Wimal Weerawansa that Sumanthiran’s driver’s brother had been arrested with Kerala cannabis and Sumanthiran had influenced the police to release him.

The issue was published in a gossip column in a leading Sunday newspaper and subsequently in its sister paper on January 6 and 7.

“The papers did not report directly that it was me but the news articles suggested it. On January 3 night around 8.00 pm, a vehicle in the Championpattu area was running up and down and several youth of the area noticed it. It was in this area a few years ago an attempt was made on my life which is a matter of a high court case where the AG has indicted five people in HC 242 of 2018 and the matter is now pending in the HC,” Sumanthiran said.

“I had a school event next morning and as two attempts were made on my life earlier, the youth in the area were suspicious when the vehicle with men in civil clothes was circling the area. They had stopped the vehicle and had asked the men for their IDs. They had refused to show their IDs but pulled out their pistols, got into the vehicle and fled. The youth had given a chase on their motorcycles and one of them had informed to an army checkpoint that a suspicious vehicle was coming that way and asked them to stop the vehicle. The army had stopped the vehicle. However, it was found that they were from the vice squad under the directions of the DIG of the area. Thereafter, they made allegations that these youths had assaulted them and four youths were taken into custody. That was what happened and there was no cannabis that was taken into custody nor a raid. It was a case of mistaken identity because of the extra vigilance of the youths in the area,” he said.

Sumanthiran said he had spoken to the DIG for his own security and explained what happened. “I did not ask for the release of anyone, but the DIG said he would look into the matter and take appropriate action. I heard that he had released these four youths the next morning.

Now they say I have interfered and released drug smugglers. This is far from the truth and it is a matter of regret that two reputed newspapers to have reported such a news item,” the MP said.


Mahinda rejects PRECIFAC report

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said he does not accept report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) as it has a political background.

An exchange of words ensued between Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament on Thursday over the PRECIFAC case relating to the ITN.

Minister Samaraweera, referring to the PRECIFAC final report, said that it had held former President Rajapaksa and several others responsible for a loss of Rs. 102 million to the ITN during the 2015 Presidential Elections.

Opposition Leader Rajapaksa said hose who gave evidence during that case were of the view that the ITN should make him a payment.

“I don’t accept the PRECIFAC report as there was a political background to it. However, the witnesses said that the ITN should pay me,” Rajapaksa said.

“You should have said it to the President, as he is now your best friend. This was not our report and we were not involved in its making,” replied Samaraweera.

“I said that before and I do so even now,” Rajapaksa said.

“Say it to the President when you meet him next. I am referring to the content in the report. Look at the injustice done to Common Candidate Sirisena. The ITN has charged double the amount for Sirisena’s advertisements while telecasting Rajapaksa’s advertisements for free. This is unfair. The friends must be treated equally. I propose that we refund the overcharged money to Sirisena,” Samaraweera said.


CMA applies only to ordinary crimes – PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, countering the claims of NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa on the Order under the Mutual Assistance in the Criminal Matters Act (CMA), reiterated that the legislation has nothing to do with “war heroes” and applies only to ordinary crimes.

The legislation was moved for debate by Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Athukorala in Parliament yesterday. MP Weerawansa, taking the floor, charged that it provides the space to try the war heroes in foreign courts over war crimes allegations.

The Prime Minister, stressing that it does not relate to “war heroes”, said his Government has never filed any case against war heroes over war crimes allegations and that it does not intend to do so even in a foreign country.

“You were in the Government for 51 days. Why did not your Government repeal those pieces of legislation if those contained such provisions?” he asked from Weerawansa.

“It was not me who promised this to the ambassadors of Western countries during the crisis period. I know who did so. I met them only twice and that was also not alone,” the PM went on.

Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Athukorala also said the legislation does not relate to foreign courts or ‘war crimes’. The Minister refused the claim that the legislation allows foreign courts to punish Sri Lankans for acts which are not considered offenses under the Sri Lankan law.

She said the “Central Authority”, who is responsible in implementing the law, has to be appointed by the President and therefore Weerawansa could ask the President to appoint a trustworthy person to that position.

The Bill was presented for the first reading on June 5 last year. It broadens the scope of the Mutual Assistance in the Criminal Matters Act. The Act has provisions to combat transnational crimes and prevent crimes.


Deputy Speaker Kumarasiri, Weerawansa lock horns

Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri and United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Wimal Weerawansa had a heated exchange of words in Parliament yesterday over the meeting of the Constitution Assembly to be held today (11) at 10.30 a.m.

After Deputy Speaker Kumarasiri made the announcement about the Constitutional Assembly meeting, Weerawansa raising a Point of Order said, “This Parliament agreed to a certain procedure regarding a new Constitution earlier. Accordingly, the House should be informed about a meeting of the Constitutional Assembly before three days. But you suddenly notify that the meeting would be held. This is a violation of agreements initiated by the House.”

Deputy Speaker Kumarasiri said, “We discussed it during the Party Leaders’ Meeting on January 9. We agreed to hold the meeting on the 11th during that meeting.”

Thereafter, Weerawansa inquired from the Deputy Speaker if the Party Leaders’ Meeting was more powerful than Parliament.

Joining the debate, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, “We discussed this during the Party Leader’s Meeting. This is not a new thing. We have done this before with the agreement of the Party Leaders and the House.”

UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena said, “According to the Standing Orders of the Sri Lanka Parliament, the Constitutional Assembly cannot meet in a hurry. The House should be informed about it before three days as Weerawansa said. There is no formal Party Leaders’ Committee right now because the Prime Minister is yet to appoint it. It means that the Party Leaders are meeting informally without a Business Committee. So, calling a meeting of the Constitutional Assembly in this manner cannot be accepted. We should respect the Standing Orders. Otherwise, Parliamentary business will become a joke.”

Deputy Speaker Kuamarasiri said that before coming to the Party Leaders’ Meeting the MPs had discussed this. The Final decision was made after that. This is the decision of the Chair and therefore, they had to act accordingly.

Weerawansa said that if the Chair can do whatever he wants, there is no point of having Standing Orders and asked that the Standing Orders, then be abolished.

Deputy Speaker Kumarasiri taking a firm stand retorted, “This is my decision and you have to follow it. If you do not like it, please make a complaint with the Speaker once he returns to the country.”

The Constitutional Assembly met at 10.30am today with Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri presiding.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled the expert panel report, which contains the draft constitutional proposals during the sitting. The views of political parties were also given in the report and the report is available in all three languages.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is the Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly. Since he is not in the country, the Deputy Speaker chaired the sittings.

Once the report was tabled, the floor was opened for party leaders to express their views. The Constitutional Assembly continued till 12.30pm and Parliament commenced at 1.30pm.

The members of the Panel of Experts included Prof. Suri Ratnapala, Prof. Austin Pulle, Prof. A.M Navaratna Bandara, N. Selvakkumaran, Prof. Camena Gunaratne, Prof. Kapila Perera, Suren Fernando, Niran Ankatell, Asoka Gunawardena and Chamindry Saparamadu. They were nominated by different political parties in the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee had conducted about 80 meetings since its first meeting on April 5, 2016.


Party in dispute cannot inquire into it - Sumanthiran

A party involved in a dispute cannot inquire into it, and they need an independent arbiter to conduct that inquiry and there are no laws in this country yet to address international crimes or war crimes, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran said.

He was participating in the debate on Recovery of Damages for the Death of a Person Bill and Order under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act yesterday in Parliament

He blamed the government for their failure to take action over the past four years in this regard and alleged that the government is unwilling to bring the perpetrators to book. He said he was not afraid to accept that both parties engaged in the war had committed crimes, even though he would come under fire by his people and urged the government to admit that such crimes occurred and initiate an investigation with independent arbiters.

He said that despite the killings and disappearances of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Wasim Thadjudeen and Prageeth Ekneligoda being spoken about, nothing has been done regarding these cases to date. “It’s been four years since you came into power but you only come and mouth these words and go. You haven’t taken any action and the killers have not been apprehended. They have not been brought to justice. You haven’t done a thing. Year after year, session after session, you all say these names, but you are complicit with the previous regime in covering up these crimes. It’s only words and nothing else,” he said.

“I attended Lasantha’s funeral back then and its true that four years ago the regime changed, but why has there not been any progress. Recently, several governments and oppositions spoke about the independence of the judiciary but one swallow does not make a summer. I too salute the judiciary for their stand on the attempted coup against the government. But that is just one instance. We are talking about the murder of journalists. We are mentioning names, but can the members in the government benches even mention the names of Tamil journalists who were killed during this period? Do you even know one name? At a recent debate, I said 14 Tamil journalists were killed in the past 20 years. But someone had done a fact check and said that may not be 14, but nine Tamil journalists were killed in the 10 years from 1999 to 2009. But has anyone even mentioned them? No investigation has even commenced. When it is a Tamil journalist, no one has even started an investigation and you have the gall to come and say you have independent institutions. You are bold enough to assert that there is no necessity for international involvement, but I am glad that two days ago in several speeches made in this house at least all of those speakers conceded that there must be a judicial mechanism to hear allegations of war crimes,” he said.

Sumanthiran said that as there has not been any action taken for killing Tamil journalists, it is clear that there should be neutral umpires. “When we are talking about a war that had been fought by the Government of Sri Lanka against another armed group, the Government of Sri Lanka cannot be an arbiter. We don’t have laws in this country to address international crimes or war crimes. So we must make those laws with retrospective effect because these are crimes recognised as international crimes by civilised nations,” he said.

He said that by complying with such international standards the sovereignty of our nation would not be compromised in any manner.


Harsha condemns protest against media institutions

Public Distribution and Economic Reforms Non Cabinet Minister Dr Harsha de Silva in Parliament yesterday condemned the protest of several civil society groups against several media institutions.

The minister said the protest amounted to “intimidation of the media”.

“I express my opposition to this protest. I do not belong to a party which says one thing when in the Opposition and acts differently when in the Government. We defend the freedom to protest peacefully. But in this instance, media personnel were intimidated by protesters who were wearing black and covering their faces except their eyes,” he said.

“We may not always like what the media institutions report. They can attack us but as politicians we must bear them. Otherwise you should not do politics. Anyone could complain to the Press Council if a media report tarnished his image,” he said.

 



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