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Backbencher contradicting PM worse than Wimal’s statement – Rahman



… seeks explanation from SLPP

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Mujibur Rahman yesterday (17) said that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) owed an explanation how a newcomer to Parliament, Kokila Gunawardena, contradicted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s declaration that burial of Covid-19 victims would be allowed.

Colombo District MP Rahman said that they were quite perplexed how Gampaha District backbencher interpreted Premier Rajapaksa’s response to lawmaker S.M. Marikkar in Parliament on Feb. 10.

Pointing out that Premier Rajapaksa gave an assurance as the leader of the government in Parliament, lawmaker Rahman emphasized that MP Gunawardena’s action was far worse than National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa’s call to pave the way for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s entry into SLPP.

MP Rahman said the SLPP having interpreted Weerawanwa suggestion that he wanted to bring in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the expense of SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa flayed him on several occasions but was strangely silent at the humiliation caused by an MP overruling the PM.

Referring to SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam’s much publicized demand to Weerawansa that he apologize to the nation for making a move against the Premier, MP Rahman challenged the ruling party to set the record straight. Lawmaker Rahman pointed out that twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa never retracted his statement as regards doing away with mandatory cremation of Covid-19 victims.

MP Rahman said that though lawmaker Gunawardena sought to misinterpret the Premier’s statement, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a tweet from Islamabad, soon after the announcement made in the Sri Lanka Parliament, appreciated Sri Lanka ending , thecontroversial policy of mandatory cremations.

SJB MP Rahman asked whether lawmaker Gunawardena had been directed by someone to contradict the PM’s statement. The MP said that they weren’t aware of any previous instance of any MP on Mahinda Rajapaksa’s side disputing a statement issued by him in or outside Parliament.

MP Rahman pointed out that Premier Rajapaksa responded to MP Marikkar amidst an intervention made by the Speaker. The MP asked whether the government was ready to face the consequences of ignoring concerns raised by several governments, in addition to the UN, over discriminatory policy. MP Rahman noted that UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo Hanaa Singer in a letter dated Nov 12, 2020, especially requested for immediate end to mandatory cremations.

Meanwhile, SJB MP Faizal Cassim (SLMC nominee) has told the party high command a group of SLMC lawmakers voted for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution on an assurance received from the SLPP the mandatory cremation policy would be done away with. Cassim said so in the presence of SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem at a meeting at the party headquarters a couple of days ago.

Except Hakeem, all his members voted for the 20th Amendment. All Ceylon Makkal Congress member, too, backed the 20th Amendment in addition to SJB National List MP Diana Gamage. The SLMC parliamentary group consists of five members elected on the SJB ticket.

Contrary to assurances that action would be taken against those who voted with the government, the SLMC has requested them to make a public apology. The SLMC indicated that the party did not envisage disciplinary measures against the dissident group.

Colombo District SJM MP S.M. Marikkar early this week flayed the SLMC dissident group for trying to deceive the public by claiming they did so on an assurance received from the government. The former UNPer said that claim was unacceptable under any circumstances. Marikkar said that helping the government to enact the 20th Amendment couldn’t be justified. The group of Opposition lawmakers who voted with the government included members of the SLMC, ACMC and the SJB.



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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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