Petition against staying of Gotabaya summons before Jaffna court

An application has been filed before the President of the Court of Appeal seeking an order to vacate the Interim Order issued by the Court of Appeal which stayed summons requiring Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court over the disappearance of human rights activists, Lalith and Kugan.

On September 24, 2019, Court of Appeal Justice Deepali Wijesundera issued an Interim Order staying summons requiring Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court on September 27. Justice Deepali Wijesundera had made this order pursuant to a petition filed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa citing urgency and security reasons.

The Court had issued this order in connection with the Habeas Corpus inquiry into the disappearance of two human rights activists, Lalith and Kugan, who went missing in December 2011 when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was serving as the Defence Secretary.

Counsel Nuwan Bopage appearing for the petitioners in the Habeas Corpus inquiry informed Court of Appeal (President) Yasantha Kodagoda that the Interim Order issued by Justice Deepali Wijesundera was bias and it had been made per incuriam (characterized by lack of due regard to the law). Taking into consideration the facts, Court of Appeal Justice (President) Yasantha Kodagoda and Justice Arjuna Obaysekera directed the petitioners that a fresh application to vacate interim order be made before Justice Deepali Wijesundera on October 31.

President’s Counsel Romesh de Silva with Counsel Sugath Caldera appearing for former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa moved to dismiss the application citing that the Court of Appeal President does not have jurisdiction to revoke an order made by another Court Of Appeal Judge.

Senior State Counsel Wasantha Perera appearing for the Attorney General informed Court that he was of the opinion during the previous occasion that court should issue notices prior to issue an Interim Order but his request has not been recorded.

During the previous inquiry, the Court of Appeal had made another order directing the evidence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be examined in terms of summons in the Habeas Corpus inquiry before a competent court outside the Eastern and Northern Provinces. At that time, Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Achala Wengappuli had informed Court that he wishes to recuse from this petition. Gotabaya Rajapksa had stated that he received summons from the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court to give evidence in connection with the Habeas Corpus inquiry. Human Rights and political activists Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan went missing on December 9, 2011.

He had further states that the petitioner in the capacity as Defence Secretary facilitated logistical and strategic support to be obtained through the government to the forces during the war which eradicated the separatist outfit namely the LTTE who operated heavily in the Eastern and Northern parts of Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa had further stated that the said threats continue to loom time and time again, including the most recent occurrence wherein investigations are underway to ascertain of any treat to assassinate the petitioner and several other high-ranking members of the military and in the government.

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