(By Shalika Wimalasena | Translated by Akitha Wijayasinghe)
Seniors in the diplomatic field emphasize that appointing accused officials to crucial positions of the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and the Permanent Representative to Geneva, Switzerland, where the UN Headquarters is located, is a serious issue.
At the Committee on High Posts held in Parliament yesterday (3), former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris was appointed as the new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Earlier, the committee had approved the appointment of C.A. Chandraprema, a journalist and political commentator, to the post of Permanent Representative in Geneva.
Relevant seniors emphasize that both these posts are of great diplomatic importance to Sri Lanka. They point out that the positions of the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations are crucial in strengthening relations between the countries of the world as well as in the implementation of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy.
No diplomatic experience
Although all governments have previously considered experience in the field of diplomacy in appointing to these positions, they claim that the present government has ignored this crucial qualification. They point out that through these permanent representatives, a number of tasks of national importance, including planning the operations of the United Nations on behalf of the state, representing various conventions of the organization, and strengthening economic and political strategic relations, are being carried out and it will be a bumpy ride for those who are without diplomatic experience.
The seniors said such appointments could lead to a loss of international support for Sri Lanka, especially in areas such as human rights, at a time when the US and China are embroiled in a strategic conflict over Sri Lanka.
Fiction about Eknaligoda
Speaking before the UN Committee against Torture, former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris had said that missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda was hiding in a foreign country.
‘I am not saying this with any deceitful intentions. We are pretty clear about this. We have received information about this through the media.’
The BBC has confirmed that the making of this statement before the UN Committee is captured in a UN video clearly. Following this statement, Mohan Peiris was named as a witness in the court case regarding the disappearance of Eknaligoda.
After being summoned to the court, Mohan Peiris testified before the court that his statement has been misinterpreted for political reasons. He has also told the court that he had not said that Eknaligoda was alive and that he had told only about foreign asylum based on intelligence information.
Mohan Peiris’ statement has drawn a lot of criticism from lawyers expressing displeasure of the way the former Attorney General and former Chief Justice’s handling of a crime.
Charges regarding Dockyard – LECO
Sri Lanka Customs has also filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court alleging that the government lost more than Rs. 600 billion by removing a case filed against Dockyard during the tenure of Attorney General Mohan Peiris.
In addition, the Bribery Commission stated in a charge sheet that two committees, Siripala Jayalath and Ratnapala Dias, were investigating the purchase of land for the Ceylon Electricity Company Limited. The Bribery Commission has stated that irregularities had taken place in the purchases and that it had been recommended that legal action be taken against those responsible following the investigations carried out by the above committees.
Yet Peiris, who was the Attorney General at the time between December 1 to December 31, 2010, and the then Deputy Solicitor General of the Attorney General’s Department, A.H.M.D Nawas preventing from taking legal action against those responsible for the crime, have committed an offense under the Bribery Act, the Bribery Commission had alleged.
Presidential Election Night
Mohan Peiris is also alleged that he had supported former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to remain in power, who lost in 2015 presidential election. The Bar Association had pointed out that there was a possibility of arresting Mohan Peiris on this charge.
Co-spokesman for the Bar Association, Chandrapala Kumara, had told the media that Mohan Peiris, the then Chief Justice, had no moral capacity to continue in position if he was arrested as only the President of the country has immunity under Sri Lankan law. Former Minister Mangala Samaraweera had also lodged a complaint to the CID in regard with this.
Chief Justice’s tours with the president
Also, joining former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to his visit to Vatican during Peiris’ tenure as Chief Justice was an occasion when he was severely criticized.
Bar organization has emphasized that the participation of a country’s chief justice as a member of a delegation led by a political leader seriously undermines the independence of the country’s judiciary. An official statement issued by the Government Information Department stated that the delegation included the former Chief Justice.
Approved right after coming into power
In February, C.A. Chandraprema, a veteran political commentator, was appointed Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, but was not present on two occasions when the then Acting Parliamentary Committee on High Posts called him to examine his qualifications.
Therefore, the relevant post remained vacant. However, his appointment was unanimously approved by the new Committee on High posts following the parliamentary elections last August.
Batalanda accused to Geneva
The appointment in February of an unacquitted man who had once been arrested in connection with the infamous Batalanda crimes of 88-89 was met with serious criticism in the diplomatic arena.
They emphasize that, in Geneva, where the UNHRC is headquartered, the Permanent Representative is responsible for coordinating all the sessions of the UNHRC sessions on behalf of Sri Lanka.
Chandraprema was accused in connection with several murders at the Batalanda torture chamber in the Sapugaskanda housing scheme. Former SSP Douglas Peiris, who was charged with the Batalanda murders, was arrested at the Katunayake International Airport on August 3, 2000. Chandraprema was also arrested on August 15 of the same year.
The media had reported that Chandraprema was arrested by the CID after investigating the affidavits filed by Douglas Peiris in connection with the murders of Charitha Lankapura, Attorney-at-Law, Kanchana Ambepola, Attorney-at-Law, who worked at the Hulftsdorp Court Complex, Colombo, Nissanka, Attorney-at-Law, Gampaha Court and Perera, who worked at the Kelaniya Tire Corporation. The case was later dropped by the Attorney General.
The Police certificate
Meanwhile, it is mandatory to obtain a police report on persons recommended for approval by the Committee on High Posts. The report on Chandraprema was issued by SSP Laksiri Geethal, who was in charge of the Nugegoda division at the time his name was recommended.
According to the report dated January 29, Chandraprame was a permanent resident of the Nugegoda Police Division since 1990 and no criminal case has been registered against him. It also states that no court action has been taken against him.
‘Do not change my appointments’
However, it is noteworthy that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has responded to criticism of such appointments on a number of occasions.
These names were also recommended by the President for the relevant posts and the President had emphasized on the occasion that he was making all appointments on the basis of patriotism as a qualification and would not press for any change against his appointments.
The President had given the same answer to the opposition regarding the appointment of Milinda Moragoda as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to India by the national organizations that supported him in the election.