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Appointment of new EC awaited to take up SJB MP’s British citizenship

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Civil society activist Oshala Herath intends to draw the attention of the new Election Commission (EC) to the failure on the part of the outgoing EC to inquire into his complaint regarding British citizen Diana Gamage’s appointment to Parliament through the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) National List.

Defeated UNP Colombo District candidate at the last general election, Herath told The Island that he would write to the new EC immediately after its formulation this week.

The five-year term of the EC headed by Mahinda Deshapriya constituted in mid Nov 2015 in terms of the 19th Amendment enacted earlier the same year would come to an end this week. In addition to Deshapriya, a career Election Department senior official, the EC included Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

Herath made available a copy of a letter written to the Director, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) requesting for an inquiry into the matter. Referring to two British passports (numbers given)  used by Gamage, in addition to an official Sri Lankan passport  in her possession, Herath requested the CID to probe those who had helped her to procure an official passport and also allowed her to participate in the general election process.

Herath has copied the letter to the Office of the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, SJB leader, the IGP, Attorney General, Controller Immigration and Emigration, Chairman EC and Secretary General Parliament.

When The Island pointed out that no less a person than Chairman, EC firmly stated in response to his inquiries all documents submitted by Gamage as an SJB National List nominee was in order, Herath said that the EC never bothered to conduct a proper inquiry before reaching that conclusion. Herath alleged that the new NL lawmaker hadn’t furnished documents pertaining to her British citizenship to Sri Lankan authorities therefore they didn’t know her status quo at the time she entered parliament.

Gamage, who is also the Assistant Secretary of the party, was among seven SJB lawmakers in parliament. The SJB altogether secured 54 seats in the current parliament.

In the run-up to last parliamentary election, breakaway UNP faction led by UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa clinched a deal with Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP) registered by Diana Gamage’s current husband Senaka de Silva formerly of the Army that enabled the UNP rebels to contest the election. They re-registered AJP as the SJB with Sajith Premadasa as its Chairman, NL MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara its General Secretary and Diana Gamage Assistant Secretary.

Contrary to claims AJP no longer existed, Herath said, alleging that the UNP conveniently turned a blind eye to the UNP rebel group brazenly manipulating the process in place to re-register a political party.  The party leaders’ meetings chaired by the EC, too, ignored the matter and in fact cooperated with the clandestine project, Herath, who served former President Maithripala Sirisena’s media unit, said.

Diana Gamage recently dismissed the SJB threat to initiate disciplinary action against her over voting for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Gamage was among half a dozen SJB lawmakers representing various constituent parties who voted for the 20th Amendment.

 Herath said that the parliament couldn’t ignore accusations directed at MP Diana against the backdrop of Geetha Kumarasinghe losing her seat in the last parliament. Kumarasinghe lost her seat as a result of a case filed against her in terms of the 19th Amendment that barred dual citizens in parliament. The 20th Amendment did away with that provision.

In terms of the 20th Amendment, the EC will comprise five persons. The President will constitute the EC having obtained opinion of the five-member Parliamentary Council (PC) headed by the Speaker. The PC consists of Speaker, PM, Opposition Leader and representative each of the PM and the Opposition Leader.

Herath said that he would take up the issue with the PC if the new EC too ignored the complaint lodged in respect of the SJB lawmaker.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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