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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groups, the National Joint Committee (NJC) and Yuthukama that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution would be rescinded to pave the way for a new draft.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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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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