External interventions in GR’s ouster: Manohara challenges HRC’s stand

President’s Counsel Manohara De Silva says the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has to inquire into alleged foreign interventions in Sri Lanka, as they amount to failure on the part of the government in power to safeguard the country’s national security.

Pointing out that the Speaker had disclosed not only foreign interventions but also death threats to him, de Silva said that such a failure was tantamount to the government’s ‘inaction’ to perform its constitutional obligations, and the HRC and the courts could inquire thereinto.

“Such a failure is a violation of people’s sovereignty and therefore an infringement of people’s fundamental rights,” de Silva said.

The President’s Counsel said so regarding the HRC Chairperson Justice L. T. B. Dehideniya’s recent declaration that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s claim of foreign interventions could be inquired into only if he received a complaint. Justice Dehideniya was responding to The Island queries, at its first media briefing since appointment last July.

De Silva pointed out that The Island had raised a pertinent issue as the HRC was already inquiring into SLPP goon attacks on the ‘Aragalaya’ protesters on 09 May2022 and a spate of counterattacks carried out in the immediate aftermath of the failed attempt to chase out those who had been occupying Galle Face.

Responding to another query, the President’s Counsel said that the Speaker had revealed direct foreign interventions in the overthrowing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa 20 months after the regime change. But the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government and the Opposition had remained silent though some MPs raised the issue in their individual capacity, he said.

Declaring that HRC could intervene on its own concerning issues of national importance, Justice Dehideniya asked whether the disclosure made by the Speaker could be considered as such.

Another top lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained the need to examine whether the alleged intervention made by external powers could be considered an offence under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He said that in terms of the Article 14 of the HRC Act, the HRC on its own could investigate an alleged infringement or imminent infringement of FR. However, such violations must be by either administrative or executive actions, he said, pointing out that third party foreign interventions weren’t covered by that particular Act.

Dissident SLPP lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga told The Island yesterday having disclosed foreign hand in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster, Speaker Abeywardena had apparently cold feet.

MP Cumaratunga said that he had written to Speaker Abeywardena seeking clarifications on 02 April following the latter’s denial of foreign intervention on the previous day.

The MP acknowledged that he had made a mistake when he raised the issue at hand with Speaker Abeywardena on 01 April. MP Cumaratunga said that when he asked the Speaker Abeywardena to name foreign embassies that had been involved, the latter said there was no embassy involvement at all. Acknowledging that Speaker Abeywardena in his controversial 21 March statement to Parliament after the SLPP defeated a no-confidence motion that had been moved against him didn’t make any references to embassies, MP Cumaratunga, in his letter, has requested the Speaker to disclose what he called external powers.

The government owed a comprehensive explanation to the public regarding the status of investigations into incidents that were reported during the March 31, 2022-July 20, 2022 period, MP Cumaratunga said. Chief Government Whip and Minister Prasanna Ranatunga is on record as having said that he was not satisfied with the progress in the investigations, he added.