Gevindu raises questions about US-funded training for judges, others and funding for BASL



demands that govt. adhere to Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Rebel SLPP MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (23) said that Sri Lanka should be concerned about external interventions in the judiciary.MP Cumaratunga told The Island that without any malicious intent, on behalf of the Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa he raised the issue at hand in parliament on Wednesday.

The leader of Yuthukama civil society group urged parliament to provide required funds for judges of the Supreme Court and other courts to receive overseas training. The MP warned against the judges receiving foreign training courtesy USAID against the backdrop of the US development assistance arm being accused of influencing the powers that be.

The National List MP also questioned the influence the USAID had on the Bar Association. Cumaratunga also questioned the amount of money received by the Bar Association from the USAID annually.

The outspoken MP said that if the government felt the necessity to provide foreign expertise to judges at any level it should be at the expense of Sri Lankan taxpayers. The MP raised this issue in the wake of a group of Supreme Court judges receiving US training.

Referring to the happenings during yahapalana administration (2015-2019), MP Cumaratunga recalled the role played by former Lankan Ambassador to Washington and then Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam, who then served as the USAID paid advisor to the then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Referring to the role played by Kariyawasam in the finalization of ACSA (Access and Cross Servicing Agreement) in August 2017, MP Cumaratunga pointed out the then President Maithripala Sirisena is on record as having said that he was not really informed of what was going on.

MP Cumaratunga said that in spite of the country being in such a desperate situation, the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was following the same suicidal policies and strategies. The MP questioned the failure on the part of the incumbent government to adhere to the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Bill enacted in 2003. That law was meant to reduce the budget deficit by 5 per cent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 2006.

When Dr. Harsha de Silva of the SJB pointed out that that law had been violated again, State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe quite unashamedly claimed that was not issue, MP Cumaratunga pointed out. How could the government take such an irresponsible stance at a time the government was in dire straits? the rebel MP asked, while exchanging words with State Minister Semasinghe.

Lawmaker Semasinghe alleged that Cumaratunga lacked understanding of the issues involved and misinterpreted facts to prove his argument.

Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who also holds the State Finance portfolio, said that the government had been able to adhere to the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act only in 2016 and 2018. The Kegalle district MP claimed that it was difficult to follow that law under present circumstances.

MP Cumaratunga warned that Sri Lanka would cease to exist unless the government took remedial measures. How could members of parliament declare that laws enacted by parliament could be violated? MP Cumaratunga asked, the government should take whatever measures necessary to adhere to parliamentary Acts or be prepared to face the consequences.