President’s Counsel Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, yesterday, giving evidence before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating political victimisation under the last government, said Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Sarath Fonseka, Arjuna Ranatunga and JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake had tried to have Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrested over the Avant-Garde controversy.
Testifying before the PCoI chaired by former Supreme Court judge, Upali Abeyratne, former Justice Minister Rajapakshe said a Cabinet paper had been submitted seeking approval for stripping the members of Rajapaksa family of their civic rights. That Cabinet paper had been signed by Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Arjuna Ranatunga and Sarath Amunugama, Rajapakshe said.
Rajapakshe said that, on all those occasions, he had pointed out to the then Cabinet of Ministers chaired by former President Maithripala Sirisena that Avant Garde was not an illegal entity and that there were no constitutional provisions for setting up a Criminal Justice Commission on the basis of trumped up charges.
The President’s Counsel said that the then President Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had listened to his explanation but a section of members in the former cabinet including Rajitha Senaratne was furious and had launched various campaigns against him for blocking their move.
Rajapakshe said an Anti-Corruption Front had been set up before the previous government came to power and he, too, had been a member of that outfit. The ACF did not operate according to its stated objectives to fight against corruption; it had launched a witch-hunt against the Rajapaksas.
“Their target was to put at least one member of the Rajapaksa family behind bars every week,” Rajapakshe PC said.
“A meeting was held in February, 2015 at the residence of Rajitha Senaratne with lawyer J.C. Weliamuna to discuss ways and means of having Gotabaya Rajapaksa jailed. I received a call from a police officer of the CID. He told me that the CID had received a letter from the Department of the Attorney General instructing it to take nine persons including Gotabaya Rajapaksa into custody over the Avant-Garde controversy. The AG’s letter had been sent following the meeting at Senaratne’s residence. The letter to the CID had been signed by Deputy Solicitor General Wasantha Navaratne Bandara.
“I called on Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath and inquired of the aforementioned letter. He said that shouldn’t have happened because he was in charge of the Criminal Offences Section in the Department of Attorney General, and a decision to instruct the CID on arrests could not be taken without his consent. He said that the Attorney General should be informed of such a decision and promised to call me back in five minutes after consulting the Attorney General.
“Suhada Gamlath contacted me and said there was something related to the allegation but the Attorney General was not fully aware of the case. He said that there had been a file referred to the department and it had been sent to Wasantha Navaratne Bandara to study. Navaratne Bandara, instead of studying the content of the file, had issued a letter of instruction to the CID calling for the arrest of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and nine others.
“I acted fast and contacted the then President, Prime Minister and the former IGP and pointed out to them that the move to arrest Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be stopped immediately. It told them it was also bad for the government to resort to such action. The move was stopped. Thereafter, those who were behind the failed move branded me a stooge of Gotabaya. They said that I had secret deals with Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Nissanka Senadhitpathi.”
Rajapakshe said Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Arjuna Ranatunga had settled political scores with Avant-Garde.
(Source: The Island – By Saman Gamage)