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AJBP NL: Disqualification of Ven. Gnanasara thera explained



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara thera couldn’t have received the National List slot secured by Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya (AJBP) at the Aug.5 general election though he was on its Kurunegala District List, Election Commission (EC) Chairman Nimal Punchihewa told The Island yesterday (23).

Attorney-at-law Punchihewa said that Ven Gnanasara thera wasn’t eligible to receive NL appointment under any circumstances. Such an appointment would have been contrary to both the Constitution and the Parliamentary Election Act No 01 of 1981, the EC Chairman said.

Punchihewa said so in the wake of the EC’s acceptance of Ven. Athureliya Rathana as the AJBP NL member.

Ven. Rathana thera failed in his bid to enter Parliament from the Gampaha district.

The five-member EC consists of N.Punchihewa, S.B. Divaratne, M.M. Mohamed, K.P.P. Pathirana and Jeewan Thyagarajah. In terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in October, the EC now comprises five persons instead of three under the 19th Amendment.

A public battle between former lawmaker Ven. Rathana and Ven. Gnanasara for the NL slot divided the party, with a section quitting the movement.

EC Chairman Punchihewa explained that only those who had been included in the original NL submitted by a particular political party to the EC or a contestant could be considered for NL.

In Ven. Gnanasara thera’s case, the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) hadn’t actually contested the last general election as the AJBP list that contained him was rejected by the Chief Returning Officer, Punchihewa said. The Court of Appeal rejected Ven. Gnanasara thera’s writ application filed in respect of the Chief Returning Officer’s decision.

In addition to the Kurunegala list, AJBP nomination lists for Colombo, Moneragala and Kalutara were rejected on technical grounds. Altogether, AJBP fielded about 30 monks.

Responding to another query, the EC Chairman explained in terms of the applicable laws Ven. Gnanasara hadn’t contested the last general election and therefore he was not eligible to receive the NL appointment. Contrary to criticism, the appointment of defeated candidates is within the law, according to EC Chairman.

Asked whether the law prohibited designation of anyone outside the district list and NL of a particular political party, Punchihewa said in case the person who received the original appointment, the party could accommodate outsiders.

The EC could accept Ven. Rathana’s appointment as the warring AJBP factions had settled their differences with a court case filed in respect of the NL vacancy withdrawn. The AJBP managed to secure 67,758 votes from countrywide.

Punchihewa said that soon after the allocation of NL slots, the then AJBP Secretary Vedinigama Wimalasara thera nominated himself as their member of Parliament. Wimalasara thera, in a letter dated Aug 7 addressed to the EC, asserted that he appointed himself pending resolution of the crisis caused by both Gnanasara and Rathana theras demanding the NL slot.

Punchihewa said that there had been other developments relating to the AJBP’s NL issue, however they finally agreed on Ven. Rathana thera’s appointment.

Asked whether the EC felt that there should be a stipulated period to finalize NL designations, lawyer Punchihewa explained in the absence of specific provision in respect of such appointments, political parties could hold up the process. “In other words, political parties can refrain from making NL appointments. EC cannot intervene at all,” the EC Chairman said, acknowledging the need for remedial measures.

Punchihewa assured that the EC was in the process of examining the entire gamut of issues in relation to electoral process. “We will certainly take up these issues with relevant authorities,” lawyer Punchihewa said.

The EC Chief said that representations would also be also made to those in the process of formulating a new Constitution.

 Punchihewa pointed out that the EC couldn’t do anything about the UNP holding up the appointment of its solitary NL member. The lawyer said that the issue hadn’t received sufficient attention, hence the current law being silent on a crisis situation such as a party not being able to decide on its NL nominee. Punchihewa pointed out that law could be amended to pave the way for the EC to name the first person on NL submitted by a particular party in case agreement couldn’t be reached within a given period.

 The Parliament remained one short of stipulated 225 at the time 2020 sessions ended with the passage of 2021 Budget on Dec 10.

 The Parliament is scheduled to meet on January 5.

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




(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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Foreign News

US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China




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



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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