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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on Sept.13 told a media briefing at the Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Mandiraya, Thunmulla, that the gazette would be rescinded to pave the way for a new draft.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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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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