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NPP claims AG letting those in government off the hook

By Pamodi Waravita

National People’s Power (NPP) lawyers yesterday (17) raised concerns about the independence of ongoing legal procedures against high-powered individuals, claiming that members of the government or close associates of its leaders are being released from charges by the Attorney General’s (AG) department on almost a weekly basis.

NPP Attorney-At-Law (AAL) Sunil Watagala said that the NPP is concerned following the latest such incident, where Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa was released from his charges regarding the “Divineguma” case last Friday (15). Rajapaksa and former Divineguma Director General Kithsiri Ranawaka were accused of misappropriating Rs. 36.5 million state funds to purchase and distribute GI pipes prior to the Presidential Elections in 2015. 

“The AG’s department has released a number of individuals, including Rajapaksa, Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando, and Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage, from charges filed by the previous AG. A thorough investigation usually occurs prior to charges being filed against anyone. A massive amount of state funds are used to investigate complaints and file charges after a very rigorous process. It is difficult for us to comprehend how the AG’s department suddenly withdraws charges, even after such a rigorous process occurs,” said Watagala.

Watagala claimed that these actions are directly in contradiction to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” and added that the President is directly responsible for the breakdown of law in the country. 

He questioned whether Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and his cousin, Thirukumar Nadesan, the latter of whom was named in the recently released Pandora Papers, will also be released from their charges of using public funds to build a villa in Malwana.

In 2016, when Basil Rajapaksa was accused of using public funds to build a villa in Malwana, Nadesan was also charged with embezzlement in connection with the incident. Although the pair has since denied any wrongdoing, the legal case into the matter is still ongoing.