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‘Amendments to proposed Amendment highlight continuing chaos’

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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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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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