The JVP is absconding from its responsibility to remain watchdogs against corruption and abuse of power by standing up to the executive in Parliament, allowing a corrupt judge and even a major human rights violator to sail through committees tasked with scrutinising these appointments, Colombo Telegraph can reveal.
Nearly three months since the election the JVP remains as inactive as ever, and political analysts are concerned about whether the party has been threatened into silence.
As recently reported in the Colombo Telegraph, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s first major judicial nomination was Court of Appeal Judge Abdul Hameed Dileep Nawaz. The new President nominated Nawaz as President of the Court of Appeal. Nawaz is the first sitting justice to have been charge sheeted by the Bribery Commission for corruption during his time at the Attorney General’s Department. Mohan Pieris who usurped the Chief Justice chair after the illegal impeachment of Shirani Bandarayake has also been named in the charge sheet under case number 87741/01/18 at the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court. The case is currently before the Supreme Court. It will come up again in the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court by May 2020.
Justice Nawaz has been charged with offences which fall under Section 70 of the Bribery Act.
Since he was charged, every President of the Court of Appeal has prevented Justice Nawaz from hearing cases at the Court of Appeal. However, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s first major judicial decision involved bringing Nawaz out of cold storage. Both Nawaz and former AG Mohan Pieris are close associates and confidants of the new President.
When the nomination came up before the Constitutional Council, which had been briefed on the facts of the case against Nawaz, neither Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, UNP nominee and former Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale had raised objections to Nawaz’s appointment as head of the Court of Appeal.
Bimal Ratnayake, who is the JVP representative on the Council, declined to even show up at the crucial CC meeting, Colombo Telegraph learns even though the JVP was also aware of the problematic nature of the attempted appointment. As a result, Nawaz’s nomination was approved by the CC and he has since been sworn in as President of the Court of Appeal.
The JVP is also refusing to engage in its watchdog role at the Parliamentary High Posts Committee which is tasked with vetting all nominees to high government positions, including ambassadors to Sri Lanka’s missions abroad. The recent controversial appointment of Journalist C.A. Chandraprema as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, where the Human Rights Council will take up Sri Lanka’s human rights record in March, has alarmed rights activists. Chandraprema, a former loyalist of the UNP and Ranil Wickremesinghe, was once known as “Thadi Priyantha” a key member of the the People’s Revolutionary Red Army or PRRA, one of many shadowy armed groups working with the military to target suspects during the JVP youth uprising that saw 40,000 killed. PRRA routinely issued death threats to journalists and human rights activists, including staff from Amnesty International, whose reports at the time accused PRRA of being involved in executions and enforced disappearances.
Chandraprema was arrested in Sri Lanka in 2000 in connection with the 1989 assassinations of two human rights lawyers – Charita Lankapura and Kanchana Abhayapala. A senior ex policeman in custody had named Chandraprema as the alleged assassin in an affidavit which is publicly available online. However Chandraprema was released after the Attorney General decided there was no legal grounds to proceed. Since then he has been protected by his links to all the major political parties in Sri Lanka.
Despite the proposed envoy being directly implicated in a brutal crackdown on its own cadres in the past, the JVP decided to be a no-show on the High posts committee meeting to approve the envoy’s nomination last week Colombo Telegraph learns. Both JVP members on the High Post Committee set to vet Chandraprema’s appointment, Bimal Ratnayake and Vijitha Herath did not attend the meeting. It is unclear why the JVP is actively choosing to disregard its role as a watchdog in Parliament against excesses by a ruling Government.
However it is also learnt that Chandraprema did not attend the High Post Committee interview last Thursday, February 6, 2020. His interview has been rescheduled for a later meeting. It remains unclear whether the controversial nominee will be able to take up office as Permanent Representative to the UN before the Human Rights Council sessions in March. (By Chinthika De Silva)