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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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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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