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13 A should be abolished in line with GR’s mandate – Gevindu



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, yesterday (07) said that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution should be abolished.

The SLPP National List MP emphasized that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration to fully implement the controversial amendment, forced on Sri Lanka by India, was not acceptable to the vast majority of people here.

The civil society activist said so in response to media queries, following a meeting of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, at the SLFP office, at Darley Road.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that President Wickremesinghe had conveniently forgotten that over 6.9 mn people voted for SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at the last presidential election, in Nov. 2019, and then gave his party a 2/3 majority to introduce a new Constitution. A nine-member expert committee, that formulated a comprehensive set of proposals, handed over them to the government, MP Cumaratunga said, urging the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa administration to unveil the draft Constitution.

MP Cumaratunga reiterated that Sri Lanka needed what he called a post-war Constitution that reflected the eradication of separatist terrorism. Full implementation of the 13th Amendment would only strengthen the separatist agenda and cause irreversible damage to Sri Lanka’s unitary status, the MP declared.

Recalling great sacrifices made by the armed forces, to bring the LTTE down to its knees, MP Cumaratunga questioned how President Wickremesinghe, who also served as the Commander-in-Chief of armed forces, pursued a strategy that undermined Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE.

Commenting on President Wickremesinghe’s assurance that he wouldn’t betray the Sinhala community and he wouldn’t go beyond the 13th Amendment, MP Cumaratunga said that the UNP leader owed an explanation regarding the utterly reckless constitution making process undertaken by his Yahapalana administration. “We remember what he did with the likes of TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran and UNP National List MP Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne in line with the overall Geneva strategy.”

MP Cumaratunga said that India forced the 13th Amendment on Sri Lanka during the tail end of JRJ’s rule that received an extension by way of an utterly corrupt referendum held in late Dec. 1982 to avoid parliamentary elections. The civil society activist said that seven past Presidents, including JRJ, refrained from granting police and land powers as envisaged in the 13th Amendment whereas Wickremesinghe, who entered Parliament on the National List, after being rejected by the electorate, and was elected President by Parliament ,with the strength of the SLPP therein, but subsequently wanted to split the country.

The UNP leader had no mandate even to contemplate such a course of action. However, President Wickremesinghe could seek a fresh mandate if he really intended to go ahead with full implementation of the controversial law, introduced in late 1987, at a time a foreign Army occupied the Northern and Eastern Provinces and several terrorist groups were on the rampage there.

Perhaps, political parties and groups represented in Parliament should be reminded that the Supreme Court invalidated the merger of the Eastern Province with the Northern Province in Oct. 2006, MP Cumaratunga said.

Commenting on President Wickremesinghe’s declaration that he would grant police and land powers in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, MP Cumaratunga said that then the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) shouldn’t be an issue as it, too, was the current law.

What is the JVP/Jathika Jana Balavegaya stand on the PTA? MP Cumaratunga asked. Pointing out that JJB National List MP Dr. Harini Amatasuriya had declared there was no harm in fully implementing 13tn Amendment due to it being part of the Constitution, MP Cumaratunga asked whether JVP/Jathika Jana Balavegaya would support PTA.

MP Cumaratunga said that contrary to public perception, the JVP cooperated with the UNP on numerous occasions, both in and outside Parliament.

The Yuthukama leader said that he was quite surprised by President Wickremesinghe’s response to his stand at the party leaders’ meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat, on January 01. The President’s assertion that both were National List MPs against the backdrop of him challenging the UNP leader’s right to grant police and land powers is irrelevant, MP Cumaratunga said.

President Wickremesinghe should keep in mind that he was there to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.


SC: Anti-Terrorism Bill needs approval at referendum and 2/3 majority to become law



Certain sections inconsistent with Constitution

By Saman Indrajith

Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa informed Parliament yesterday that the Supreme Court (SC) has determined that some sections of the Anti-Terrorism Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution and, therefore, the Bill had to be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum.

Rajapaksa said that the Supreme Court had determined that the Sections 3, 4, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 72 (2), 75 (3) and 83 (7) of the draft Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution.

The SC has determined that sections 3, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 75 (3) should be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum if they are to become law.

Sections 4 and 72 (2) of the Bill have to be amended as per the SC determination.

Section 83 (7) requires passage by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, the SC had stated that it could be passed by a simple majority if the recommended amendments are accommodated, Rajapaksa said.

Opposition MPs say the Anti-Terrorism Bill is being introduced in an election year to repress Opposition parties.They said the proposed law is a threat to democracy itself.

“This Bill is being presented not at a time of terrorism prevailing in the country but during an election period. The Bill has not defined nor analysed what a terrorist is. Anyone can be arrested,” SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said.

The MP said both the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the controversial Online Safety law were meant to quell democracy.

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Harin’s claim that SL is part of India: Govt. says it is his personal opinion



Manusha accuses Wimal of having taken parts of Fernando’s speech out of context

By Saman Indrajith

Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa in Parliament to refrain from taking chunks of others’ speeches out of context and misinterpreting them for political mileage.

The Minister said so following concerns raised by Weerawansa over a recent statement by Tourism Minister Harin Fernando on India-Sri Lanka relationships.

Weerawansa said that Minister Fernando had recently stated that Sri Lanka was a part of India. “Was it Minister Fernando’s personal opinion or the government’s official standpoint? Was it the opinion of the Cabinet?”

Chief Government Whip Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said what Minister Fernando had stated was the latter’s personal opinion.

Minister Nanayakkara: “If anyone has read the entire statement made by Minister Fernando this type of question would not have arisen. The Tourism Minister was referring to historical relationships between India and Sri Lanka to ask Indians to visit Sri Lanka.

A distorted version of the speech by Minister Fernando is being circulated on social media. Certain parts have been removed while some words have been introduced to this edited version. Ones should read the statement in its entirety to understand it. We have not discussed this in the Cabinet meeting” Minister Nanayakkara said.

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US backs Lankan journalists vis-a-vis Online Safety law



Kumar Nadesan, Chairman Board of Directors of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (left) Elizabeth Allen ( Centre) and US Ambassador Chung (pic courtesy US embassy)

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Elizabeth Allen on Monday (19) declared US support for journalists here against the backdrop of enactment of ‘Online Safety Bill’

She spokes about press freedom and related issues at the Sri Lanka Press Institute Press Club.

A statement issued by the US Embassy quoted Allen as having said the U.S. Embassy is all in on supporting your incredible work. Sure, we might bump heads over a story now and then, but above all, we’re your biggest fans. We’re all in on programmes that hone your skills because we believe in your right to pursue journalism freely and fearlessly.

I want to thank you for protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists here in Sri Lanka and around the world, ensuring all citizens enjoy the right to express their ideas and opinions openly and freely. Even in difficult times, you continue to press forward and ask difficult questions. Your commitment to seeking out the truth and shouting it from the rooftops remains a democratic staple, and I truly appreciate what you do.

It’s only fitting that I begin my remarks this afternoon by telling a story that I think is relevant in light of today’s topic about the media’s role in a democracy.

Over a century ago, American media coined the term “muckraker” for journalists who delved into societal issues, exposing corruption.

Although the term carried a somewhat negative connotation, labeling these journalists as mere “gossip mongers,” today, we honor them as the pioneers of investigative journalism.

These muckrakers played a pivotal role in ushering in the Progressive Era, a time of significant social and political reform in American history.

Even President Theodore Roosevelt referred to them as “muckrakers,” criticizing their focus on society’s flaws through figures like Lincoln Steffens, whose work shed light on corruption and spurred a nationwide call for accountability and reform.

Steffens’ book ‘The Shame of the Cities,’ published in 1904, made him renowned for uncovering corruption within American cities, highlighting the nefarious links between political leaders, businesses, and organized crime.

His fearless journalism raised critical awareness about the urgent need for governmental and corporate accountability. Steffens wasn’t acting as a public relations officer for the government; his role was to uncover the truth; however unpleasant it might be.

Faced with the stark realities Steffens presented, American officials and the public were compelled to confront a pivotal question: ‘Is this the kind of country we aspire to be?’ The resounding answer was no.

Steffens’ work didn’t just expose wrongdoing; it sparked a nationwide demand for reform and played a crucial role in fostering a dialogue about the essential role of investigative journalism in ensuring power remains accountable.

This story showcases how freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not just fundamental human rights, they are also vital contributors to a country’s development and growth.

This brings me to my main point: how the global media space supports democracy and fosters peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

In my mind, the correlation is obvious: When a government constricts the rights and freedoms of its citizens, the future and the development of the country will naturally suffer.

Globally, we’re witnessing serious and escalating challenges to media freedom. The United States stands firmly for the freedom of expression, advocating for press freedom both online and offline, and ensuring the safety of journalists and media workers worldwide. Unfortunately, these essential freedoms are under threat globally, including concerns raised here in Sri Lanka.

When governments intensify efforts to withhold information from the public by restricting internet access and censoring content, we must speak up. Notably, when Sri Lanka’s Parliament passed the Online Safety Bill in January, the United States voiced concerns over its potential effects on freedom of expression, innovation, and privacy.

It’s common to hear arguments against unfettered freedom of expression. Critics claim the media is biased, aiming to embarrass governments and undermine public trust. Others worry that without checks, freedom of expression may fuel the spread of misinformation. Some argue that an unchecked press can incite tension and compromise security. And there’s concern that continuous reports on corruption, violence, and political strife can tarnish a nation’s image, deterring investment and hampering development.

However, the media’s bias should lean towards the public’s interest, acting as a guardian to ensure that leaders fulfill their duties. This principle holds in Sri Lanka, the United States, and globally.

The challenge of negative press, often labeled as “fake news” or “biased journalism,” is not new. For generations, governments and the media have navigated a complex, sometimes adversarial relationship. This dynamic isn’t unique to any one nation; in the United States, for instance, presidents from both major political parties have experienced their share of friction with the press. This tension, a hallmark of democratic societies, plays a crucial role in fostering transparency and encouraging effective governance. It’s a familiar scene: politicians and journalists engage in heated exchanges, especially when leaders feel their actions are misrepresented, leading to accusations of inaccuracies and biased reporting.

The press’s duty is to deliver facts as they stand, shedding light on the government’s achievements as well as spotlighting areas where policies or programs fall short. This transparency not only informs the public but also strengthens the nation as it encourages constructive action and improvement.

And suppressing voices only complicates matters further. Attempting to conceal issues rather than addressing them is akin to hiding a broken tool rather than fixing it. True progress comes from collaborative dialogue, even if it means embracing the messiness of public discourse.”

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