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AG prevents murder convict from attending Pradeshiya Sabha meeting

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MP Premalal’s parnter in crime not so lucky

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya has recently brought to the notice of Justice Ministry Secretary Attorney-at-Law Priyantha Mayadunne, the absence of rules and regulations pertaining to a convicted prisoner being allowed to attend local government sittings.

Upuldeniya, in a letter dated Oct 5, 2020, having pointed out the lapse on their part and sought Justice Secretary’s advice how to handle a request made by Counsel for Kahawatte Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Mannika Waduge Vajira Darshana Silva, sentenced to death in addition to 47-year prison term over a killing in Kahawatte police area in January 2015.

Silva contested the last Local Government polls in Feb 2018 on Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) ticket.

According to Upuldeniya’s missive, Silva had been remanded at the Welikada prison since July 31, 2020 pending hearing of his appeal against the verdict given by the Ratnapura High Court.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, told The Island yesterday that the Prisons Chief’s request had been forwarded to the Attorney General.

State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, who is also the Attorney General’s Coordinating Officer, citing relevant sections of Local Government Statute as well as the Criminal Procedure Code, told The Island that the person concerned was not eligible to take part in local government proceedings whatsoever. She pointed out that the Court of Appeal proceedings had resulted in the suspense of the implementation of death penalty whereas he/she remained disqualified either to participate or vote under any circumstances.

According to the existing laws, a person convicted of murder couldn’t be elected as a member of local government body, participate in proceedings or vote, Jayaratne said.

Legal sources told The Island that Kahawatte PS Chairman Silva had been convicted together with Premalal Jayasekera over the killing of Dodangodage Susil Perera alias Shantha Dodangoda in the run-up to January 8, 2015 presidential election.

In spite of AG’s recommendation, Jayasekera successfully moved the Court of Appeal and was able to take oaths as an MP.

The Ratnapura HC sentenced former Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council member Nilantha Jayakody in addition to Jayasekera and Silva. The then Deputy Minister Jayasekera and a group of persons attacked supporters of common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, while they were engaged in decorating a stage. Sources said that the Attorney General’s opinion as regards Jayasekera and Silva attending Parliament and Pradeshiya Sabha, respectively, similar except in the case of the latter the disqualification is under the local government statute.

Sirisena re-entered parliament from Polonnaruwa on the SLPP ticket at the Aug 2020 general election.

Justice Ministry Secretary Mayadunne told The Island that three committees had been appointed to examine the ways and means of updating existing laws, rules and regulations as part of overall measures to improve the judicial system. Acknowledging the shortcomings pointed out by Commissioner General of Prisons, Mayadunne said that committees headed by Shavindra Fernando, PC (criminal), attorney-at-law K. A. Lasitha Kanuwanaarachchi. (civil) and Kaushalya Nawaratne (commercial) would make recommendations.

Mayadunne explained efforts made by the Justice Ministry to improve and streamline the system.

 Commissioner General, Prisons, Upuldeniya, too, acknowledged the urgent need to amend laws, rules and regulations to face the current situation. Upuldeniya said that Kahawatte PC Chairman hadn’t been taken for Thursday, Oct 8 sessions.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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