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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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SJB MPs tell Speaker they received death threats

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Vote in House to elect President:

By Saman Indrajith

Three SJB MPs told Parliament yesterday that they were threatened with death on the eve before the recent vote in Parliament to elect the President.

MPs Wasantha Yapabandara, Tilak Rajapaksa and Chaminda Wijesiri said that they had received death threats and demanded to know the legitimacy of the recent election of a new President by Parliament.

Badualla District SJB MP Wijesiri said that votes had been solicited from MPs by offering bribes and those who did not take bribes were threatened and intimidated to vote for Wickremesinghe.

“The votes were obtained by issuing death threats on MPs. Therefore, one has to question the legitimacy of the recent poll held in Parliament to elect a new President,” MP Wijesiri said.

The MP demanded that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena should order an investigation into death threats. “Similarly, the Speaker should inform this House whether the election held in Parliament to elect a new President is legitimate or not,” he said.

Kandy District SLPP MP Wasantha Yapabandara said an unidentified caller had asked him to resign from Parliament or face death. “I have handed over recordings of the conversation to you and I request you to carry out an investigation into this matter,” the MP told the Chair.

Digamadulla District SLPP MP Tilak Rajapsksa also called for an investigation into threats faced by MPs.

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Govt. announces 75% power tariff increase

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Janaka Ratnayake

By Ifham Nizam

The Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) yesterday said that the new electricity tariff hike of 75 percent would be effective from today.

The electricity bill of the consumers who use up to 30 units per month will increase by Rs. 198.

The average monthly electricity bill for those who consume up to 60 units will be increased by some Rs. 200.

Although the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had sought an increase of 276% for the consumers who used more than 90 units, the PUCSL stood firm on sticking to 125%, according to PUCSL Chairman, Janaka Ratnayake, who said that 75 % of the electricity consumers continued to benefit from a subsidy.

Steps had also been taken to encourage electricity consumers to promote renewable electricity generation with the tariff revision decision, he said.

Ratnayake said that the new tariff revision had been formulated to provide relief to the hotel sector and the industrial sector.

“During the last nine years, the value of the dollar has increased by 190 percent. Therefore, the industries in the export sector will not be greatly affected by this electricity tariff revision,” he said.

Instead of the 116 percent tariff increase proposed by the Ceylon Electricity Board for industries, hotels and general-purpose sectors, with low electricity consumption, will get an approved tariff increase of 39 percent for the public sector and 75 percent for the industrial sector.

Only 50 percent of the increase in the approved rates, especially for the tourism sector will come into effect tomorrow. The remaining 50 percent tariff increase will come into effect after another three months as an incentive and relief, facilitating the tourism industry’s recovery, according to the government.

In addition, it has been decided to provide a 1.5 percent discount when electricity bills are paid in dollars as a relief to the tourism and export industries.

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SLPP questions GR’s response to ‘Aragalaya’

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… won’t expect miracles from new Prez

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) didn’t expect miracles from UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe but strongly believed he could meet the growing threat posed by fascists, lawmaker Sagara Kariyawasam, General Secretary of the party, said on Monday night.

Appearing on ‘Salakuna’ a live political programme on Hiru, SLPP National List MP said that the party unanimously decided to back Wickremesinghe’s candidature, at the presidential contest, in the wake of the so-called protest movement destroying properties belonging to 76 lawmakers and those belonging to other party activists and their relatives during meticulously planned and executed ‘operation.’

The protest movement also killed Polonnaruwa District MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale and his police bodyguard, MP Kariyawasam said, emphasizing that their decision was essentially influenced by serious security considerations.

The panel of journalists, comprising Chamuditha Samarawickrema, Madushan de Silva and Kalindu Vidanage, pressed Kariyawasam and UNP General Secretary and ex-MP, Palitha Range Bandara, over their agreement on the SLPP’s support for Wickremesinghe at the presidential contest.

In spite of Kariyawasam and Bandara repeatedly denying a written agreement, or verbal understanding, the Hiru panel sought an explanation how the UNP leader managed to obtain 133 votes other than the one vote exercised by Wickremesinghe himself.

The SLPP won 145 seats, including 17 National List slots at the last parliamentary election in August 2020 whereas the UNP was reduced to just one NL seat.

At one point, a smiling ex-State Minister Bandara asked the interviewers not to portray the SLPP’s backing for Wickremesinghe as another ‘ali koti’ agreement. Bandara was referring to the much-publicized accusations, directed at the UNP at previous national elections, before President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Responding to queries, lawmaker Kariyawasam revealed that in the wake of stepped up protests, against the government, the SLPP advised the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against appointing another member of the government parliamentary group as the PM. The SLPP felt that replacing PM Mahinda Rajapaksa with one of their own wouldn’t have helped to bring the tensions down, MP Kariyawasam said.

UNPer Bandara emphasized that Wickremesinghe accepted the premiership on May 12 after Samagi Jana Balavegaya leader Sajith Premadasa, MP, and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, also of the same party, turned down President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s offer.

Asked whether SLPP strongman Basil Rajapaksa proposed Wickremesinghe’s name, lawmaker Kariyawasam said that a committee, chaired by him in his capacity as the General Secretary, decided to field Wickremesinghe at the presidential contest. Lawyer Kariyawasam said that former Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, attended the meeting, via zoom technology.

According to MP Kariyawasam, of over 30 members of the decision-making body, led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, 23 participated at the meeting. Basil Rajapaksa and SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris had been among those who didn’t attend the meeting.

MP Kariyawasam said that in spite of a Prof. Peiris acting contrary to the decision taken by the party, disciplinary measures hadn’t been initiated. The former Foreign Minister remained the SLPP Chairman, MP Kariyawasam said.

When interviewers sought an explanation as regards Mahinda Rajapaksa’s declaration, soon after MPs overwhelmingly elected Wickremesinghe, as the President, on July 20, that the SLPP fielded Dullas Alahapperuma, MP Kariyawasam asserted perhaps the former Premier said so taking into consideration his personal friendship with the Matara district MP. Lawyer Kariyawasam said that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reaction could be interpreted in different ways.

Lawmaker Kariyawasam asked the interviewers to raise the issue at hand with Mahinda Rajapaksa while reiterating the SLPP took a hard decision and nothing mattered other than electing a person who could overcome the fascist challenge.

MP Kariyawasam declined to name culprits though he categorized a section of the parliamentary group as having conspired against the government.

The SLPP General Secretary questioned President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s failure to meet the threat posed by the protest movement. Declaring the SLPP had been surprised by the President’s decision to leave the country, lawmaker Kariyawasam queried whether the President cum Defence Minister refrained from exercising his powers, or the instructions issued by him weren’t carried out. Declaring that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should have stayed back and faced the challenge, MP Kariyawasam said that the SLPP’s stand on this matter would be revealed later, along with what he called self-criticism of the party.

Asked whether the armed forces refrained from carrying out instructions issued by the President, MP Kariyawasam advised the interviewers to seek a clarification from the former leader.

MP Kariyawasam said the campaign that had been carried out against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be examined against the backdrop of Western powers interventions in Iraq and Libya leading to the execution of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Dec 30, 2006 and killing of Muammar Gaddafi on Oct 20, 2011 at Sirte, Libya. Lawmaker Kariyawasm recalled how the Western powers falsely accused Iraq of having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) before invading that country. Those who couldn’t stomach the eradication of the separatist LTTE were hell bent on taking revenge on the Rajapaksas, MP Kariyawasam said.

When Chamuditha Samarawickrema asked MP Kariyawasam to reveal the number of Colombo-based diplomatic missions that had been involved in the anti-government project, an irate SLPP official, while declining to answer, emphasized that it shouldn’t have been raised with him.

The public would know the truth one day, the MP said.

The contentious issue of handling corruption cases, during the Yahapalana administration, compelled the SLPP General Secretary to strongly dispute the UNP General Secretary.

Responding to the UNPer’s declaration that a team, supervised by Ranil Wickremesinghe, altogether handled 448 cases whereas the other team, spearheaded by Maithripala Sirisena and J.C. Weliamuna, did absolutely nothing, MP Kariyawasam said such claims were baseless.

Ex-MP Range Bandara harshly criticized both Sajith Premadasa and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. Alleging that MP Premadasa never had the guts to take up a challenge, lawmaker Range Bandara issued a dire warning to MP Fonseka over his call to revolt against the government. Declaring that the former warwinning Army Commander couldn’t operate outside the Constitution, the UNPer said that the Gampaha District MP could suffer the fate of Ranjan Ramanayake, who was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to a prison term.

MP Kariyawasam launched a scathing attack on former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over what he called the much publicized claim over an agreement with Oman to procure oil for a period of one year. In spite of such claims, nothing materilized thereby causing major problems for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government, the MP said.

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