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20 A: President ready to submit fresh draft

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GL heads team to advise PM on disputed amendment: Report due tomorrow

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has assured civil society groups, the National Joint Committee (NJC) and Yuthukama that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution would be rescinded to pave the way for a new draft.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave this assurance at a meeting with Manohara de Silva, PC and lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga last Friday (11) evening at the Presidential Secretariat. Manohara de Silva is also a member of a special committee headed by Romesh de Silva, PC, to formulate a new Constitution.

The meeting took place close on the heels of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, on behalf of the Federation of National Organizations (FNO) urging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to alter the 20th Amendment.

Earlier, the SLPP said that changes, if necessary, could be made at the Committee Stage in Parliament.

The SLPP also dismissed the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) threat to move the Supreme Court against the 20th Amendment on the basis the Attorney General cleared the 20th Amendment draft.

Also on the same day, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa named a nine-member group headed by SLPP Chairman and Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris to study the proposed 20th Amendment in the wake of growing protests by even those who backed the SLPP at both 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls. The Premier’s committee includes putative chief architect of the hotly disputed 20th Amendment Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC as well as Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who represents the SLFP. With 13 elected on the SLPP ticket and one on the SLFP ticket, the latter is the second largest in the government parliamentary group.

The Premier has called for their report by Tuesday (15) according to a statement issued by the Premier’s Office under the hand of his Media Secretary Rohan Weliwita.

Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Mandiraya yesterday (13), SLPP National List member Gevindu Cumaratunga appreciated swift response of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa to concerns expressed by them. In spite of the SLPP having a two-thirds majority in Parliament and the means to ensure the 20th passage, the top leadership responded to public concerns. Lawmaker Cumaratunga said.

Cumaratunga said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had declared his readiness to withdraw the present draft 20th Amendment and re-submit a rectified draft. The lawmaker said that in spite of the 20th being a temporary measure to remove obstacles placed by the treacherous 19th Amendment, they were determined to take remedial measures.

In response to a query by The Island, the MP said that the public shouldn’t mix concerns expressed by them with those who still believed the 19th was the panacea for all our ills.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), too, last Friday named a special 14-member group headed by Nihal Jayamanne, PC, to examine the 20th Amendment. The Executive Committee of the BASL and the Bar Council will make recommendations in respect of the 20th Amendment once Jayamanne handed over his report.

Cumaratunga asserted that the decision to submit a fresh draft wouldn’t cause a delay in the process. “We are determined to remove serious hindrance caused by the 19th. It launched a debilitating blow to the presidential system of governance by diluting his/her powers as part of an overall strategy to weaken the state,” Cumaratunga said.

Dr. Amarasekera too appreciated the President’s decision.

Political sources told The Island that the government parliamentary group last Tuesday (8) discussed the urgent need to address issues caused by the proposed 20th Amendment. Members had pointed out shortcomings/mistakes at the meeting chaired by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa though decision to appoint a team led by Prof. Peiris had been taken on Friday, sources said. A section of the parliamentary group had been seriously concerned and disappointed over the way the government expedited the process at the expense of transparency, sources said.

Meanwhile, Industry and Commerce Minister Wimal Weerawansa, addressing a public gathering at Avissawella on Saturday (12), explained Premier Rajapaksa’s decision to table an altered 20th Amendment soon in parliament. According to Weerawansa, who is also a member of Prof. Peiris’s team, said that the leaders of political parties in the SLPP-led coalition decided to submit a fresh draft at a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister. The minister said that examination of the 20th Amendment would begin tomorrow (15).

Minister Weerawansa pointed out that the 20th Amendment in its present form once approved in parliament couldn’t be challenged in the Supreme Court. The National Freedom Front (NFF) leader said such a measure was unfair by the people. The minister pointed out that when changes made in the Committee stage couldn’t be challenged in court. The previous government denied the public chance to challenge 19th Amendment by incorporating changes in Committee stage, the minister said, underscoring the need to allow the public an opportunity to move court even against Amendment/law if they felt a particular Amendment/law violated their rights. There were countries which allowed such public challenge, the minister said. The minister emphasized the need to introduce a new Constitution.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that they couldn’t take the issue lightly especially in the backdrop of the previous administration causing debilitating damage to the existing governance structure. The readiness on the part of the President and the Prime Minister marked the beginning of a new era where the top leadership swiftly and decisively acted on public concerns.

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Mohan Pieris to be appointed as Ambassador to the UN?

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Extensive orientation course for heads of mission deignate

Former Chief Justice, Mohan Pieris, is mentioned as likely to be appointed as Sri Lanka’s new Permanent Representative (PR) to the United Nations in New York, informed sources said.

Ms. Kshenuka Senewiratne, the serving PR, who has been recalled to Colombo is expected to be back by mid-October. A career Foreign Service office, she turned 60-years in June. The Foreign Ministry is retiring career diplomats at age sixty but political appointees beyond that age are being posted.

Eight others to be appointed heads of Sri Lanka diplomatic missions overseas have been summoned to be interviewed by the 18-member High Posts Commitee recently named by the Speaker. This committee is charged with the responsibility of screening uigh appointments including those of ambassador/high commissioner.

The former chief justice is not among them as his name, according to a ighly placed source, came up later.

Those summoned are: Admiral (Retd.) KKVP Harischandra (Afghanistan), Vishramal Sanjiv Gunasekera (Japan), Milinda Moragoda (India), Ravinatha Ariyasinha (USA), Prof. Kshanika Hirumburegama (France) and Palitha Kohona (China).

Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colambage has organized an intensive orientation program for the heads of mission (designate) to be held between Oct. 5 and 15 at the foreign ministry. The innaugural meeting will be addressed by Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardene and Foreign Secretary Colombage who will speak on “National interests and Sri Lanka’s foreign policy perspective.

The other resource persons include Foreign Service veterans holding senior positions in the ministry in Colombo who will speak on subjects ranging from the country’s multilateral relationship, human resource and mission management as well as overseas office management procedures relating to the appointments of heads of mission.

Ministers, senior officials including the Secretaries for the Treasury and Defence, heads of organizations like the Tea Board, the Tourist Board and Foreign Employment Bureau are among those who will address the ambassadors/high commissioner designate.

Media personalities including Mr. Amal Jayasinghe, head of the Agence France Presse Bureau here, Arjuna Ranawana, senior media practitioner and Shihar Aneez who was a Reuters correspondent will public diplomacy from the perspective of a foreign correspondent.

Retired Foreign Secretaries HMGS Palihakkra and Bernard Goonetillake are among the resource persons who will address the diplomats-designate. The group is due to call on the president and prime minister closer to their departure dates.

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Captain of stricken oil tanker MT New Diamond ordered to appear in court

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A Colombo Magistrate has issued notice on the Captain of the stricken oil tanker MT New Diamond to appear before him on September 28, Court reports said.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Dappula De Livera directed the Director of the CID to name the Captain of the Very Large Crude carrier as a suspect in the case filed over the matter.

State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, the Coordinating Officer to the AG in an audio press release said the Attorney General is of the view the Captain of MT New Diamond had committed offences punishable under the provisions of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act, No. 35 OF 2008.

The CID was also directed to report facts against the Captain under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Magistrate’s Court.

MT New Diamond carrying a quarter of a million tonnes of crude oil caught fire on September 3 in Sri Lankan waters as the vessel was travelling from Kuwait to Piradip in India.

Sri Lankan Navy, Coastguard and Air Force, as well as the Indian coastguard, fought the fire over a number of days.

One crew member aboard is missing presumed dead and another injured sailor was brought to shore and is in a hospital in Eastern Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is claiming Rs. 340 million as compensation from the owners of the tanker for expenses incurred by various government agencies engaged in fire-fighting and rescue operations.

(ECONOMYNEXT)

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Saaraketha modernizing Sri Lankan agriculture through Agri Tech

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When we think of greenhouses, we tend to think of the cold hills of Nuwara Eliya, old fashioned English homes and Victorian botanical gardens full of exotic plants. We don’t tend to think high-tech, modern or organic, and we certainly don’t think of Anuradhapura.

This is where Saaraketha, Sri Lanka’s only certified organic fresh fruit and vegetable retailer, has dreamt big and delivered better than anyone thought was possible. They have harnessed the future of agriculture and brought it to reality today, in the form of a greenhouse project that will see the face of Sri Lankan organic agriculture change overnight.

Not only a first for Sri Lanka, but a first for the entire region, the new Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse project has a production capability of half a million square feet of controlled environment, entirely solar powered and completely carbon neutral. Projected to carry over 60 varieties of vegetables, greens and herbs, the Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse Project will be able to deliver stable crops all year round, ensuring a consistent income for farmers and fixed prices for customers.

With global weather patterns constantly changing and becoming more and more unpredictable and unreliable, it is more important than ever to invest in Sri Lanka’s self-sufficiency and improve food security. And with increased understanding and awareness of the damage that pesticides do to both the environment and health, it is also the time to focus on crops and production that is genuinely good for us and planet earth, with no corners cut and with complete transparency.

Saaraketha has always led the way to ensuring traceability and transparency, launching their plant to plate tracing technology in 2019, and now they want to take it a step further.

With their founder Prasanna Hettiarachchi at the helm, they are taking on the impressive task of transforming Sri Lankan agriculture by exploring ways to harness the power of technology to ensure that farmers’ livelihoods are improved and their ability to feed the nation is stabilized.

From day one, Saaraketha has been committed to the farmers of Sri Lanka. It is their stories, their experiences and their ambitions that have inspired Saaraketha to create the platform that they have over the last nine years. And even now the Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse Project is powered 80% by female farmers, all working with Saaraketha to bring excellence to our families while uplifting their own families’ futures.

To date organic in Sri Lanka was considered the privilege of the few, always the healthy but highly costly option. Normal families would prioritise their children and buy organic only for them, but that need not be the case anymore. With the Saaraketha Greenhouse Project, the prices of vegetables, greens and herbs are reducing by 50%.

Not as a one off, or a sale, but for good. From October onwards, internationally accredited, “Certified Organic” produce will be available online at www.saaraketha.com and all supermarket retailers.

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