Sri Lankan Co-Cabinet Spokesperson, Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne has said on Wednesday that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa can be prosecuted over his admission to having given the order to distribute ‘Sil Redi’ (sil cloth) during his election campaign in 2015.
Former President and current Kurunegala District MP has accepted that he violated election laws during his campaign leading up to the 2015 Presidential Election by claiming that it was on his orders that his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and the former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Anusha Palpita acted to distribute ‘Sil Redi’ to temples.
Speaking to reporters after visiting his former Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) Anusha Palpita in the Welikada Prison on 11 September MP Rajapaksa said the two officials were punished for following his order as the executive president to distribute ‘sil redi’ cloth just before the 2015 presidential election .
Weeratunga and Palpita were found guilty of misappropriating Rs. 650 million of state funds for the re-election campaign of Rajapaksa. They were each sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment by the Colombo High Court.
Addressing the weekly Cabinet media briefing on 13 September, Minister Senaratne pointed out that Rajapaksa’s statement came in a little too late. He said, “He should have made the statement earlier when the case was heard for 24 days, not after visiting Welikada.”
Rajapaksa’s statement comes at a time when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution removed the Executive President’s immunity from the law, and all former and incumbent presidents are liable for prosecution in a court of law, the Minister pointed out.
Minister Senaratne added that the former president could even face contempt of court charges for questioning the verdict.
Minister Senaratne pointed out that on 11 September 2014 during the Uva provincial elections, the Elections Commissioner had warned the government over distributing various goods to the people, and a special note was made on the distribution of ‘Sil Redi’ on that occasion.
United National Party Nalin Nilantha and current Member of Parliament for Kurunegala District said the former President Rajapaksa obstructed the independence of the election. He said Rajapaksa received 5.8 million votes in the 2015 Presidential Election through the violation of election laws.
Addressing a media briefing held in Colombo on 11 September, General Secretary of National Bhikkhu Front Wakamulle Uditha said that Rajapaksa made the comments only to move away from the legal structure. He pointed out that the law should equally be enforced on all responsible for misdeeds of previous government as well as the present.