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20 A: Govt promises to look into issues raised by nationalist groups

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Co-cabinet spokesman Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday (10) assured that concerns raised by the National Joint Committee (NJC), Federation of National Organizations, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Burma Prof. Nalin de Silva et al would definitely be looked into.

The assurance was given in response to The Island query at the post-cabinet media briefing at the Information Department presided by cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

Minister Gammanpila, who is also the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) acknowledged that the 20th Amendment wasn’t perfect.

Asked whether the government accepted the need to rectify issues/shortcomings pointed out by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, on behalf of the FNO, Minister Gammanpila said representations could be made. The minister explained the procedures the government expected to follow.

There were shortcomings, the minister admitted again. References were made to stand taken by Manohara de Silva, PC, a member of the expert committee headed by Romesh de Silva to formulate a new Constitution.

The Island asked why changes couldn’t be made through consultations among all stakeholders before the Committee Stage. The Island sought an explanation why the 20th Amendment did away with Article 53 of the Constitution meant to ensure members of Parliament did not promote or support a separate State (7th Schedule introduced by the Sixth Amendment)

The FNO asked the SLPP government to establish a mechanism to (1) accept public proposals as regards a new Constitution (11) suspend Provincial Council polls until the enactment of the new Constitution and (111) far reaching alterations to the proposed 20th Amendment approved by the Attorney General before the Government Printer issued the relevant gazette.

The Federation called for what it called rectification of technical and wrongful policy decisions, in addition to members of the cabinet given an opportunity to provide comments, in writing. Having rectified mistakes, the government would have to amend the 20th Amendment and re-gazette it.

The civil society group said that it would be a mistake to bring in amendments at the committee stage as it could create a situation similar to that of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

They also requested the following provisions altered (1) do away with the proposal in the 20th Amendment to reduce the number of days from 14 to seven available for the public in respect of enactment of urgent bills (ii) abolish provisions relating to the enactment of urgent bills as successive administrations abused them (iii) rescind the proposal to amend Article 53 of the Constitution which required members of parliament to take oath against supporting and promoting a separate State (iv) remove proposal to allow dual citizens to enter parliament. In addition to that extend that law to cover the Governor of the Central Bank, Attorney General, IGP, Auditor General, service commanders, judges of the Supreme Court and Secretaries to Ministries and (v) abolish the move to do away with the National Audit Commission and also to ensure no state institution is freed from audit.

Meanwhile, former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka U.R. de Silva, PC, on Wednesday (9) revealed that Justice Minister Ali Sabri had assured that the Article 53 of the Constitution meant to prevent promotion of a separate state would be accommodated in the 20th Amendment. The revelation was made on Derana Aluth Parlimenthuwa. The BASL Chief was responding to query why the SLPP government resorted to such a course of action when the 19th Amendment left the vital provision intact. De Silva acknowledged the need to rectify mistakes/shortcomings in 20 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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