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21-A: Proposals from SBJ, SLPP rebels, PM to be submitted to AG

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Prez receives draft Constitution prepared by Romesh’s team

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena says all proposals in respect of the 21st Amendment to be introduced to the Constitution will be submitted to Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam through the Cabinet.

Speaker Abeywardena says that by sending the proposals throught the Cabinet of Ministers, he has sought to speed up the process of introducing the 21st Amendment, as the politico-economic situation is deteriorating.

Meanwhile, a nine-member expert committee led by Romesh de Silva, PC has recently submitted the English version of a draft Constitution to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Well informed sources said that the Sinhala version would be available next week for the perusal of political parties.

In a brief interview with The Island yesterday (24), Speaker Abeywardena, who held several portfolios, including agriculture in the previous PA, and UPFA administrations, said the two proposals received from the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the SLPP rebel group had already been sent to the Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers for consideration. The Cabinet is expected to meet today (25).

According to the Speaker, those proposals would be considered, along with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s proposal for the restoration of the provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The Cabinet of Ministers following deliberations among members of the Cabinet, would submit the proposals to the AG, the Speaker said.

The Speaker acknowledged the dispute over the continuation of the executive presidency as the main difference between the proposals submitted by the SJB and the SLPP rebel group.

The SJB wants to abolish the executive presidency; the SLPP rebels want to retain it; they have demanded that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet resign immediately, paving the way for the appointment of an interim administration.

SJB leader Sajith Premadasa told The Island that his party would push for the abolition of the executive presidency, and it would not compromise that stand under any circumstances.

Referring to the recent talks between the IMF and Pakistan and the advice given by the former as regards the need for an end to political turmoil, Speaker Abeywardena said that Sri Lanka couldn’t ignore the need for political stability to obtain IMF assistance.

Spokesperson for the SLPP rebel group, MP Gevindu Cumaratunga, said that as the newly-appointed Cabinet of ministers was not acceptable to the public, all the ministers including the PM should quit.

Speaker Abeywardena stressed the need to take the public into confidence. “We must apprise them of the actual situation. They should know the financial crisis, as well as the current situation in Ukraine and Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion of the former Soviet territory, has caused serious disruptions to the global wheat flour supply. Faced with an unprecedented forex crisis, we will find it difficult to provide even the basic requirements. We are heading for a food shortage, Speaker Abeywardena said.

There was no point in denying the fact that both food and energy security had been threatened and the country faced the danger of the national economy collapsing unless the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary took tangible measures now, Speaker Abeywardena said. The former Minister warned of dire consequences unless grievances of the public were addressed. The government couldn’t turn a blind eye to those protesting opposite the Presidential Secretariat, the Speaker said.

Responding to another query, the Speaker said that perhaps the vast majority of protesters including those involved in the Galle Face campaign weren’t aware of the pathetic situation the country was facing.

The Speaker said that the country has had to seek urgent financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) to procure medicine, medical equipment. “Have you ever heard of Sri Lanka experiencing such difficulties at even the most difficult phases of the war when out ports were under threat of terrorist attacks?”



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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