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Arrests over Kotelawela Defence University Bill: Kaduwela Magistrate alleges interference



Contempt charge over protest in court premises

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Police say those who had been involved in Tuesday’s unruly protest within the Kaduwela Magistrate’s court premises would be dealt with in terms of the Administration of Justice Law, the Penal Code and the Public Property Act.

Police spokesman Attorney-at-Law SSP Nihal Thalduwa said so after the Registrar of the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court lodged a complaint with the local police regarding Tuesday’s incident. The police are also inquiring whether the protesters caused any damage to the court property.

The particular incident at a court premise was the first since Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera, General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena, was sentenced, in August 2018, for six years after being found guilty of contempt of court over his conduct during a court hearing in 2016 regarding the case of missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda.

Gnanasara Thera was found guilty of four charges filed by the Attorney General’s Department over his behaviour. He was convicted on four counts of contempt of court, receiving terms of four years each on the first and the second counts, six years on the third and five for the fourth, all to run concurrently. Former President Maithripala Sirisena pardoned Gnanasara thera in May 2019. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last month named Ven. Gnanasara, head of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on ‘One Country, One Law’ concept.

Responding to The Island queries, SSP Thalduwa said that those who had been demanding bail for several activists remanded over a violent protest near the Parliament on August 3 behaved in a contemptuous manner.

The Kaduwela Magistrate yesterday (10) directed the police to arrest Duminda Nagamuwa of the breakaway JVP faction, the Frontline Socialist Party in connection with the rumpus. SSP Talduwa said that the police were looking for several persons in that connection.

Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) convenor Wasantha Kumara Mudalige and three others arrested in connection with the August protest had been remanded pending investigations over damaging of public property during a recent protest, have been further remanded until August 17. Those in remand in addition to Mudalige are President of the Sri Jayewardenepura University Students’ Federation Amila Sandeepa, Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Administrative Secretary Chameera Koswatte and party activist Koshila Hansamali.

They were arrested by the Thalangama police on August 5, within 48 hours after OIC Maharagama sustained injuries during a violent protest against the proposed Kotelawela National Defence University Bill.

SSP Thalduwa emphasized the protesters would be dealt with severely. According to the Registrar, the protesters had interfered with the court proceedings.

There had also been serious incidents, even involving lawyers on the day the Colombo High Court delivered judgment on the White flag case though action was not taken at all.

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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials



Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely



By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted



Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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