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‘Amendments to proposed Amendment highlight continuing chaos’



20 A: SLPP’s assurance as regards revisions to SC victory for Opp. – SJB MP

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Attorney General having had to assure the Supreme Court that amendments would be moved to the proposed 20th Amendment during the Committee Stage revealed the chaotic way the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led coalition undertook high profile political project, Matale District Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne said.

There couldn’t be any other explanation, MP Kaviratne said, pointing out the absence of proper consultations within the SLPP parliamentary group proved beyond doubt sharp differences within the coalition. The lawmaker acknowledged that the SJB led Opposition had rallied around the 20th Amendment and was pursuing a common strategy, both in and outside parliament. “Whatever the circumstances, the government’s submissions to the Supreme Court is a victory for the Opposition,” the lawmaker said.

Moving the Supreme Court against the proposed amendment had been in line with the overall Opposition project, MP Kaviratne said, asserting the government seemed to have suffered quite a setback.

Responding to another query by The Island, MP Kaviratne faulted the way the cabinet cleared the 20th Amendment draft for the issuance of the gazette on Sept. 2 and then assured the Supreme Court of amendments at the Committee Stage. The SJB member emphasized that the government’s assurance as regards amendments to the new piece of legislation was irrelevant as cases now heard were against what was now in the public domain.

Referring to a public meeting Ms. Kaviratne recently addressed at Kaikawala where she explained the status of the proposed amendment, the Matale District MP said that of the 57 sections in the 20th Amendment, 32 were to be altered. Those who had prepared the original and proposed amendments to the 20th Amendment bungled the whole project, she said.

MP Kaviratne faulted Viyathmaga for the 20th Amendment project. The former UNPer asked how the SLPP government considered verbal instructions issued by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as circular having failed in bid to introduce the 20th Amendment.

Lawmaker Kaviratne said the SLPP owed an explanation as regards the recommendations made by the nine-member Prime Ministerial Committee headed by Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris as well as concerns expressed by the National Joint Committee (NJC) and the Federation of National Organizations (FNO) as those groups backed the SLPP at both presidential and parliamentary polls. Did the government take their recommendations and concerns into consideration before the Attorney General made submissions to the Supreme Court on behalf of the government? MP Kaviratne asked.

Lawmaker Kaviratne also welcomed the fresh initiative launched by civil society grouping National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) to thwart the SLPP project. The former UNPer said that the opposition to the 20th Amendment was growing with even the UN Human Rights Chief raising serious concerns at the onset of Geneva sessions. Obviously, the SLPP never expected the parliamentary Opposition et al to swiftly reach consensus on a common programme in the wake of presidential and parliamentary polls defeats, the MP said.

The SJB member asked whether the SLPP really commanded 150 votes in parliament though on its own the SLPP won 145 seats at the general election. “They won 145 seats. In addition to them, there are three more – one each from the SLFP, Sivanesanthurai Chandrakanthan and A.L.M. Athaulla. Still they are short of 150,” MP Kaviratne said.

The SLPP seemed to have believed that it could take advantage of unprecedented victory at the general election to go ahead with the controversial project, she said. The 20th Amendment however had caused so much turmoil, the government was already on the back foot, the SJB MP declared.

She said that the Opposition received a huge boost thanks to SLPP’s muddled political operation. The SLPP caused itself immense damage by seeking to do away with State auditing as well as the procurement process meant to curb waste, irregularities and corruption. The SLPP could have justified the President’s bid to take over the defense portfolio in the wake of Easter Sunday attacks, the MP said. The government could have avoided a lot of trouble if the ruling coalition consulted constituents and the Parliamentary Opposition, she said. Now the matter was before the Supreme Court, MP Kaviratne said, expressing confidence the judiciary would take remedial measures.

Commenting on the AG making submissions on behalf of the government having declared that the 20th Amendment needed to be approved by 2/3 majority, MP Kaviratne pointed out that the Court of Appeal allowed Premalal Jayasekera to attend parliament contrary to the position taken by the AG.

The AG gave the opinion that Jayasekera sentenced to death by Ratnapura High Court over the killing in January 2015 couldn’t take oaths as an MP.

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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