suspects of moves to bowl him out
The government’s subtle move to reintroduce the Criminal
Defamation Law has left Justice Minister (non-cabinet) Dilan
Perera and his ministry secretary Suhada Gamlath at loggerheads.
Both have traded charges and counter charges over this issue.
However, it appears that Perera, given his political experience,
has checkmated Gamlath, finally.
The whole episode has shaken young Perera who has denied any
knowledge over the cabinet paper that he was asked to read at
the last cabinet meeting.
Perera attended the last cabinet meeting on an invitation
extended to him by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
For the past three weeks Perera has been attending cabinet only
on invitations. Constitutionally non- cabinet ministers ought to
be invited to attend cabinet meetings.
As Justice and Legal Reform minister Amarasiri Dodangoda has
been indisposed for some time, Perera has been invited to attend
It has been Perera’s practice to make his secretary brief him on
any important cabinet paper that involves his ministry. Last
week too Perera approached his secretary Suhada Gamlath for
Gamlath informed the minister that there was no paper regarding
Justice Ministry to be presented to cabinet. Perera further
inquired whether anything regarding his ministry had been
mentioned in the agenda to which the secretary had answered in
A confident minister had then taken his seat along with others.
The cabinet meeting had then commenced with President Mahinda
Rajapaksa in the chair. Matters arising from various ministries
had been discussed.
At the tail end of the meeting President Rajapkasa had pulled
out a cabinet paper from his file and started to read it. The
contents had been regarding judiciary.
The President, who started to read out the paper, had then
looked at minister Perera and had invited him to continue
The President had said: “Ah, when the Justice Minister is
present, why should I go on reading.”
Perera who undertook to read the cabinet paper did not know what
it contained but did on the directives of the President.
The first part of the cabinet paper sought cabinet approval to
amend the penal code and further increase the penalty for
various offences. Then came the bombshell. The second part was
all about the reintroduction of the Criminal Defamation Law (CDL).
Minister Perera realized this was against to his own conscience
but read out the entire paper as instructed by the President.
No sooner he finished reading the paper some cabinet ministers
started reacting disapprovingly. Ministers Sarath Amunugama,
Dinesh Gunewardene, Ferial Ashraff and Rauf Hakeem were among
the others who expressed strong opposition to the reintroduction
of the law.
The President realizing the mounting opposition immediately
postponed the debate for the following week.
Minister Milinda Moragoda had then walked up to Perera and
whispered into his ears saying he suspected him being forced to
read this by the President.
Minister Ferial Ashraff also approached Perera and told him that
it was a ‘good professional performance’ even though he had not
seen the colour of the cabinet paper.
Dilan Perera had quickly responded to Mrs. Ashraff saying it was
an ‘abrupt professionalism’.
A visibly shocked minister had then walked up to the President
who was stacking papers into his file to take off, and asked him
why he instructed him to read the paper when he knew nothing of
An equally stunned President had immediately retorted saying he
had already told the ministry secretary to inform him of this
At this time Perera did not have time to confront the secretary
but left the cabinet room.
It was thereafter that Perera wrote to the secretary and
demanded an explanation.
As this topic turned out to be controversial, the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP) quickly decided to hold a press conference.
SLFP general secretary and Minister Maithripala Sirisena
telephoned Dilan Perera on Friday morning and informed him that
he should accompany him at the press conference.
A few minutes before the commencement of the media conference,
minister Sirisena asked Perera how he was going to answer the
Perera had told him he had not done anything wrong and that he
would find fault with his secretary for not informing him of
this paper. Then Perera had also inquired from Minsiter Sirisena
whether the SLFP was honestly keen to present the CDL.
Minister Sirisena who could not answer this question had
immediately telephoned President Rajapaksa and inquired from him
what he should say at the media briefing. The President had then
told him to tell the media that there was no move to reinforce
the law and to convey it to the press.
The President’s message was later conveyed to the journalists
who were present at the media briefing.
Minister Perera had later told some of his friends that though
for the past nine months minister Dodangoda had not attended
cabinet he was never invited to sit in cabinet.
But the invitation he received from the President to read out a
paper, the contents of which he had no knowledge of, perhaps
might have been to punch him on his nose.
The entire country is aware that Justice Minister Dilan Perera
was not in favour of the CDL. This was amply proved when he
filed civil cases against The Sunday Leader and Ravaya when the
CDL was in operation in the country.