Sri Lanka Brief Fact Sheet 01/2021.
Who’s Who in the “Independent Commissions”
20th Amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka expanded the executive powers of the president allowing him to appoint his nominees to the Independent Commissions. Under the now defunct 19th, Amendment appointments were decided by the Constitutional Council. 20th A. abolished the Constitutional Council and established the Parliamentary Committee which can only make observations of the president’s nominations.
Below SLB provides professional and political details of the persons appointed by president Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to the “Interdependent Commissions” under the 20the amendment to the constitution. Related photographic evidence is attached at the end of this report.
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
Note: HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SRI LANKA ACT, NO.21 OF 1996 says that: 3. (1) The Commission shall consist of five members, chosen from among person having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights.
Chairperson of the HRCSL Dr. Jagath Balasuriya – He has been a full-time politician for decades. Since 1977 he has engaged in active politics contesting at various elections. Served as a member of parliament in 1989-2000 from the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Served as Governor North Central Province (August 2003 – November 2006) and as a Cabinet Minister (2010 – 2015) representing the same political party of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa UPFA. His wife Kumari Balasuriya, also served as the Governor of the Southern Province under the Rajapaksa government and currently private secretary to her Minister son Tharaka Balasuroya. According to SJB MP Mujibur Rahman, Jagath Balasuriya is also the SLPP organiser of the Kegalle district.
No background on working for human rights.
Member of the HRCSL Dr. Nimal Karunasiri: An Ayurvedic physician by profession and currently the president of Ayurvedic Physicians Union of Sri Lanka. During the 2020 general election supported President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intellectual outfit “ Viyath Maga” and tried to get a nomination from Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) for the Kurunagala District. Campaigned for the PM Rajapaksa led SLPP at the general election. (https://www.facebook.com/DrNimal-Karunasiri-104809514403988 ) He has been promoting the unscientific and mythological local concoction “ Dammika Paniya” as a remedy for the new coronavirus. No background on working for human rights.
Member of the HRCSL Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara: University teacher by profession. Contested for the Kandy district from Rajapaksa led UPFA in the 2010 General election and lost. (https://www.facebook.com/vijitha.nanayakkara ) Soon after the general election, he was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of the Open University of Sri Lanka by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. During the 2020 Presidential and General elections actively supported the Rajapaksa led SLPP. In 2019 he applied to register a political party. No background on working for human rights.
Member of the HRCSL Anusuya Shanmuganathan: Former Senior State Attorney
Member of the HRCSL Harsha Kumara Navaratne Weraduwa: Head of one of the largest Sri Lankan NGOs Sawa Lanka Foundation. He has been politically aligned to Rajapaksa’s for a long time. President Rajapaksa had sent Harsha Kumara Navaratne as his trusted envoy to reach an understanding with the LTTE in 2006. No background on working for human rights
Election Commission of Sri Lanka
Chairperson of EC of Sri Lanka:
Nimal G. Punchihewa- A lawyer by profession a former TU leader and a human rights activist. Since 1982 the most senior Additional Election Commissioner was appointed as the Election Commissioner. This is the first time a person outside Sri Lanka Administrative Service appointed to this position.
He was the Director (legal) of the EC during 2015-2020. During 2000-2015 he was the additional legal secretary of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission. At the same time, he functioned as the Chairman of the Land Reform Commission of Sri Lanka. During 1997-2001 he functioned as the Chairperson of Cey-Nor Foundation under then Fisheries Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both these were political appointments. He is considered a Rajapaksa loyalist.
Members of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka:
S.B. Diwarathne- Member of the Presidential Task Force for Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation, appointed by President Rajapaksa. Retired Deputy Secretary to the Treasury.
M.M. Mohommed:- Retired Additional Commissioner of Elections
K.P.P.Pathirana- Former Deputy Inspector General of the Sri Lanka Police. First police officer to be appointed to the EC. He had to allow an unruly mob led by a pro-Rajapaksa politician and MP to agitate in front of the United Nations Office in Colombo on the advice of then defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2010.
Jeewan Thyagaraja- Head of the now defunct NGO named the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies. He was a member of the Sri Lanka government delegation to UNHRC sessions in 2013/2014.
(SLB will look at the appointments to National Police Commission and Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption in the next fact sheet)