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



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



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




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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