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20 A: Decision on PM’s committee recommendations awaited

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government should decide whether to accommodate recommendations made by a committee that studied the 20th Amendment to the Constitution presented by Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, to parliament yesterday (22), SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris told a media briefing at the Battaramulla party office.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Education Minister, said that the opportunity to express different opinions on the proposed 20th Amendment underscored the importance of following what the former law Professor called the democratic process.

Prof. Peiris said so when the media asked whether recommendations in respect of the 20th Amendment made by a 9 member committee appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would be accommodated by the government. The committee handed its recommendations and observations to the Premier on Sept. 15.

The committee headed by Prof. Peiris, consisted of Ministers Ali Sabry, Udaya Gammanpila, Nimal Siripala de Silva and Wimal Weerawansa, State Ministers, Susil Premjayantha and S. Viyalendran and MPs Dilan Perera and Premanath C. Dolawatta.

The SLPP Chairman acknowledged that acceptance of their recommendations was subject to government decision.

Minister Peiris said that rescinding the relevant gazette issued on Sept 12 to pave the way for a new gazette hadn’t been an option under any circumstances. Whatever the alterations acceptable to the government could be moved at the Committee Stage, the minister said.

SLPP National List lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga on Sept.13 told a media briefing at the Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Mandiraya, Thunmulla, that the gazette would be rescinded to pave the way for a new draft. The claim was made close on the heels of Cumaratunga along with Manohara de Silva, PC, making representations to the President in respect of the 20th Amendment.

At the commencement of the briefing, Prof. Peiris said that the SLPP throughout its parliamentary poll campaign declared that the 19th Amendment would be largely abolished leaving those sections that needed approval at a referendum intact. Prof. Peiris emphasized that the SLPP retained those sections as the government didn’t want another countrywide referendum in the wake of presidential and parliamentary polls in Nov 2019 and August 2020, respectively.

Pointing out that 113 seats would have been sufficient to govern the country, Prof. Peiris explained the SLPP pushed a for two-thirds majority as the party knew what it was aiming at.

Reiterating the SLPP’s commitment to fulfill pledges given at both presidential and parliamentary elections, Prof. Peiris said that as long as the 19th Amendment remained President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wouldn’t be able to go ahead with his plans.

Prof. Peiris said that those opposed to the proposed 20th Amendment could move the Supreme Court within a week from the day the government presented it in parliament.

Minister Sabry presented it in parliament yesterday.

Prof. Peiris said that the Supreme Court, in terms of the Constitution, would have to rule on the 20th Amendment within three weeks. The SC’s decision would be made known to the President and the Speaker, Prof Peiris said, pointing out that the apex court’s responsibility in that regard was limited to the examination of the 20th Amendment’s constitutionality. The minister explained the SC would examine whether the 20th Amendment contained sections that required approval at a referendum.

Prof. Peiris said that the 20th Amendment was the responsibility of the entire government.

Commenting on diverse views on the proposed piece of legislation, Prof. Peiris said that the alterations could be made at the Committee Stage.

When the media pointed out that the proposed law would deliver a deadly blow to independent commissions due to the abolishing of the 10-member Constitutional Council, Prof. Peiris said that the appointing authority was to be replaced by a five-member Parliamentary Council. Prof. Peiris said that the move was meant to empower the President to make necessary appointments, in consultation with the Parliamentary Council, if necessary, to ensure that the commissions represented the true interests of the public.

Referring to the inclusion of civil society members in the Constitutional Council, Prof. Peiris questioned the absurdity in allowing those who hadn’t been elected to exercise powers of the President. One-time External Affairs Minister alleged that external elements, too, had been engaged in local exercises to undermine the Sri Lankan State.

The Minister dismissed the assertion that abolishing the 19th Amendment meant re-activation of the 18th Amendment. How could that be when the 20th included three key provisions, restriction of presidency to two terms and both president’s and the parliament term 5 years in line with the 19th Amendment.



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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