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20A: Govt. to implement SC recommendations besides amendments submitted by AG

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman and Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (12) said that, in addition to amendments proposed to the 20th Amendment during the Supreme Court hearing of the petitions filed against the new piece of legislation, the government was ready to introduce additional amendments in line with the Supreme Court ruling.

Altogether 39 petitions were filed against the proposed Amendment submitted by Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC.

Addressing the media at the SLPP Office, Battaramulla, Prof. Peiris said that the government would comply with the SC recommendations to avoid a referendum. Asked to explain the SLPP’s stand as well as that of the government regarding electronic, print and social media reports on the SC ruling, Prof. Peiris said that he couldn’t comment as it was yet to be officially announced. The one-time External Affairs Minister emphasized that he couldn’t vouch for those reports as SC delivered copies of the ruling to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Prof. Peiris said that once the Speaker presented the SC ruling to parliament on Oct 20, dates could be agreed on for debate and vote on the 20th Amendment.

Authoritative ministerial sources told The Island yesterday the media reports were accurate though SC ruling shouldn’t have been in public domain until official announcement was made. Sources said that in addition to the President and the Speaker the document had been received by few high officials for ‘compliance and advice’ the President.

Well informed sources told The Island that the envelope containing the SC ruling received by the Speaker last Friday (9) was yet to be opened.

The SLPP Chairman emphasised that the government would go along with the SC ruling to secure passage of the proposed Amendment with 2/3 majority. The SC in its ruling disagreed with Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, that the 20th Amendment in its present form could be passed with a 2/3 majority. In its ruling, four of the five judge-bench of the SC declared that four clauses required approval at a referendum. The SC ruled that restoration of presidential immunity, including denying the public right to file fundamental rights cases against the President, doing away with the President’s responsibility to ensure conditions required to conduct free and fair elections as requested by the Election Commission, dissolution of parliament one year after general election and constitutional responsibility on the part of government officers to obey instructions received from the Election Commission.

Prof. Peiris, while declining to comment on media reports pertaining to SC ruling said that there was consensus as regards the SC recommendations.

When the media pointed out that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa and Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, had expressed serious reservations as regards the 20th Amendment, Prof. Peiris said constituent parties of the SLPP led coalition as well as its members could express views though the government expected the entire group to take a common stand in parliament at the second and third reading stage.

The SLPP Chairman stressed the pivotal responsibility of all members of the government to throw their weight behind the proposed amendment.

In addition to them, SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga, too, submitted a set of constitutional proposals on behalf of civil society organization, Yuthukama.

Asked to comment on President’s Counsel Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s warning that the proposed 20th Amendment could be used against the incumbent President at a later stage, Prof. Peiris said that it wouldn’t be fair to take a jaundiced view of all things.

Prof. Peiris expressed confidence that the process could be brought to a successful conclusion. “We are confident of a 2/3 majority,” Prof. Peiris said the SLPP received two overwhelming mandates in Nov 2019 and Aug 2020.

The Island sought views of several experts on the leaking of the SC ruling ahead of official announcement in Parliament. Sources said that in terms of Standing Order 55(2) (c) “upon receipt of the determination of the Supreme Court it shall be announced to Parliament by the Speaker and no debate shall be permitted on such announcement”.

Sources asserted that the determination of the SC should have been announced in Parliament. The rule appeared to mean that the Speaker should have announced the determination on the first available opportunity, so that the Parliament and thereby the people would have been made aware of the determination at the earliest opportunity. “The rule does not contemplate the Speaker being empowered to announce the determination at his personal convenience or on a future day, month or year,” sources said.

A top lawyer said: “The invocation by a citizen of the constitutional jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in respect of Bills placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, for instance under Articles 120 & 121 of the

The Constitution is in the exercise of the sovereignty vested in the people under Article 3 and that people or the citizen who had exercised his constitutional right should not be deprived of his right to be made aware of the determination of the Supreme Court by the Speaker not duly announcing the determination to Parliament. A delayed announcement bypassing the earliest opportunity to make the announcement can be considered as an infringement of the people’s right to know and the citizen’s right to be duly appraised of the determination. The Supreme Court has no duty under the Constitution to disclose the determination to anyone except the President and the Speaker.”

 

 

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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