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AG’s submissions to SC on 20 A:

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Govt. ally, NFF, protests against dismissal of its proposals

By Shamindra Ferdinando

General Secretary of the National Freedom Front (NFF) S. Wijayasiri, on behalf of its leader Wimal Weerawansa, in a letter to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has warned of dire consequences, if the government went ahead with the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution regardless of growing public opposition.

Colombo District MP Weerawansa said that his party wouldn’t accept responsibility for political fallout if the government refused to heed advice.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) parliamentary group comprises five NFF lawmakers, including one National List member.

Referring to Attorney General Dappula de Livera’s assurance to the Supreme Court regarding amendments that were to be made to the 20th Amendment at the Committee Stage in Parliament, the NFF pointed out that none of those critically important recommendations made by Weerawansa to a 9-member committee appointed by the Premier were accommodated by the Attorney General.

The NFF expressed serious concern over what the party called the following three vital points ignored by the government (1) Depriving the Auditor General of his right to examine accounts of those enterprises in which the government held controlling shares (ii) re-introduction of urgent bills and (iii) paving the way for dual citizens to contest parliamentary polls instead of extending the prohibition to those receiving diplomatic postings and other senior public sector appointments.

Appreciating Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa being sensitive to concerns raised by constituents of the SLPP as well as the public, the NFF said that refusal on the part of the government to heed such criticism would be detrimental to the administration.

The NFF assured the Prime Minister that it would take into consideration the ongoing anti-Sri Lanka and anti-government project in progress while deciding its stand on the 20th Amendment. In spite of sharp differences over the proposed piece of legislation, the NFF reiterated its commitment for the protection of the government and the mandate received from the people.

Weerawansa was represented in the 9-member committee that was led by Education Minister who is also the Chairman of the SLPP Prof. G.L. Peiris. Nimal Siripala de Silva and Udaya Gammanpila represented the SLFP and the PHU, respectively in the committee appointed by the PM that drew up some changes to the proposed 20A.

Weerawansa is the first party leader to publicly express concern over the government refusal to take their concerns as well as those of the public amidst the ongoing Supreme Court hearing of petitions filed against the 20th Amendment. Hearings commenced on Sept 29. The Supreme Court is constitutionally responsible to rule on the petitions by or before Oct 12. Among those 39 petitions filed against the 20th Amendment was one by Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, member of the Election Commission (EC).

The NFF appreciated efforts made by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa to reach consensus among SLPP constituents on the proposals made by the NFF and other members of the Prof. G.L. Peiris’ committee.

Meanwhile, PHU leader and attorney-at-law Gammanpila told The Island that there was no basis for speculation that the government was having talks with the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) to secure its backing for the passage of the 20th Amendment. Gammanpila said that there were no negotiations with ACMC leader Rishard Bathiudeen whatsoever. The minister said so in response to The Island queries as to whether his party would change stand taken jointly with the NFF in the run-up to the general election that they wouldn’t accept Bathiudeen in the cabinet under any circumstances. The Island sought an explanation from Gammanpila how the public perceived Internal Security Minister Chamal Rajapaksa meeting Bathiudeen in Vavuniya close on the heels of the former minister’s brother Riyaj who had been held in custody for more than five months under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in connection with his alleged involvement in 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

ACMC parliamentary group consists of four elected on the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) ticket at the 2020 August general election.

Opposition political parties, civil society and other interested parties have sought the Supreme Court intervention expecting a referendum in addition to 2/3 majority in parliament as proposed by the Attorney General.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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