MASERU — Human rights lawyer Haae Phoofolo will tomorrow file a contempt of court charge against Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla for allegedly ignoring a High Court order that was blocking the deportation of his client.
Phoofolo has instructions to file the charge against Lehohla in his capacity as the home affairs minister.
He will also lay the same charge against the Director of Immigration Matšeliso Ramathe and the Commissioner of Police, Kizito Mhlakaza.
Phoofolo will argue that the three had deliberately ignored Justice Semapo Peete’s court order stopping the deportation of Ranil Yapa, a Sri Lankan man who has a labour dispute with China Garments Manufacturers (CGM).
Yapa was deported on Wednesday together with Solanka Arahchige, his father-in-law who is also a Sri Lankan.
The two were deported a few hours after Justice Peete issued an order stopping the deportation.
CGM dismissed Yapa late last year and he was preparing to file a case of unfair dismissal with the labour court when the company sought the deportation order.
Although Yapa had lost his job his residence permit expires at the end of May while the one for Arahchige’s ends on February 28.
The police allegedly told Yapa’s legal team that they had received Justice Peete’s order but they were still going to deport him because they had “instructions from the authorities”.
Phoofolo told the Sunday Express on Friday that contempt of court is a serious offence and “it is sad when committed by people in authority.”
“The government should set a fine example of obeying courts and abiding by orders of the courts,” Phoofolo said.
Advocate Letuka Molati who was instructed by Phoofolo to appear for Yapa said he was shocked by the police’s attitude when he gave them the court order.
Molati believes CGM had a hand in the “unlawful deportation because it knew Yapa was going to sue for unfair dismissal”.
He said the police had told him that “whether there is court order or no court order the two gentlemen will be deported”.
He said he was accompanied by Yapa’s friend Krish Moodley, who is also locked in a labour dispute with CGM, when an assistant commissioner of police said Yapa and Arahchige were going to be deported despite the High Court order.
“Also present was a senior policeman named Seturumane who sat back and kept silent,” Molati said.
The assistant commissioner, Molati added, confirmed that they had received the court order but would go ahead with the deportation.
Moodley also confirmed that the police said they would not obey the High Court order because they had “received instructions from the higher authorities.”
It is not clear who had given the instructions.
“The assistant commissioner who was talking to us apologised to me, saying there was nothing he could do,” Moodley said.
“This was the man Ranil and I had talked to earlier about the unlawful interference of the police in civil matters between us and CGM.”
Moodley alleged that police had earlier been used by the CGM to raid Yapa’s house and confiscate the keys without a warrant.
They only stopped after Yapa’s lawyers intervened, he added.
Moodley said the CGM tried to evict Yapa from the company house and when this failed the company made a report to police that a computer had gone missing from his house.
Yapa, Moodley said, was cited as a suspect.
He said Yapa was attending the hearing of the case at the magistrate’s court on Tuesday when police confronted him with a new allegation.
This time he was accused of dealing in illegal diamonds but Molati said Yapa was never formally charged.
Moodley said he believes the new charge was meant to give the police enough reason to lock Yapa in their holding cell while they planned how they could get him out of the country.
He accused CGM of instigating the deportation.
Molati said despite repeated requests the police never showed him the deportation order.
Molati said he then rushed to get an order from the High Court stopping the deportation but the police ignored it.
He wondered why the state had rushed to deport Yapa when he was accused of a serious crime like illegal diamond dealing.
“Why did the state wait until he has been prosecuted? I don’t see what the state will benefit from deporting a person accused of illegally dealing in diamonds,” Molati said.
On Friday police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said the police were not to be blamed for the deportation because they were merely carrying instructions to assist the immigration department.
Masupha said the police were furnished with the deportation order only but never received the High Court order.
Masupha also said the police had dealt with Yapa’s criminal charges satisfactorily.
“Do not worry about the criminal charges he faced. The police have satisfactorily dealt with them,” Masupha said.
The CGM executive director, Madhav Dalvi said, Yapa was a “thief who stole company property and should be arrested”.
“This company gave him (Yapa) a flight ticked to return to his country, Sri Lanka, but he seems to want to stay here,” Dalvi said.
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