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BASL asks govt. to inform SC how it intends to address crisis

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second case before five-judge bench also to be mentioned today

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Amidst economic chaos caused by the disruption of fuel and LP gas supplies as well as severe shortage of food and medicine, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has filed a motion requesting the Supreme Court to take up cases pertaining to alleged violation of fundamental rights due to the deprival of basic requirements of the people. A senior spokesperson for the BASL yesterday told The Island that they would be represented by Dr. Kanag Iswaran, PC, Uditha Egalahewa, PC, Suren Gnanaraj, Pulasthi Hewamanne, Lakshmanan Jeyakumar and Niranjan Arulpragasam instructed by GG Arulpragasam. The cases would be taken up today (04). The BASL is seeking interim relief.

The BASL has acted in terms of Articles 17 and 126 of the Constitution. The motion has been filed in respect of cases over fundamental rights violations under Articles 11, 12(1), 13(4), 14(1)(g), 14(1)(b), and 14 A of the Constitution.

The BASL spokesperson said that the cases were to be taken up today for the Counsel for the respondents to inform the apex court of measures taken to improve the situation. Copies of the motion, affidavit and the annexures have been delivered to the Attorney General.

The respondents are the Attorney General, both former and present members of the Cabinet, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, both former and present members of the Monetary Board, several other officials and three stare enterprises, CEB, CPC and SPC.

Responding to a query, the BASL Spokesperson said that the BASL had amended the affidavit to include those who accepted cabinet portfolios following the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister on 12 May. The official pointed out that a week after the appointment of the new Premier, the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe had declared that Sri Lanka was suspending debt repayment pending negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The BASL has brought to the notice of the Supreme Court several pertinent matters namely disruptions to the supply of petrol, diesel, LP gas, kerosene, electricity and medicine, the inability of the public to engage in income-generating activities owing to the disruptions to public and private transport and health services, food supply and court proceedings, and the likelihood of breakdown law and order.

The affidavit also includes a section of BASL statement issued on 27 June on the continuing fuel shortage and its impact on the people. The BASL has urged the government to inform the public immediately of its plans to ensure the continuous supply of fuel in the short term, present a roadmap for the fuel crisis, and to devise, after proper consultation with the relevant stakeholders, an effective plan to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of fuel to the people taking into account the need to ensure that public transportation and essential services are not hindered.

Referring to contradictory statements issued by those who represented the government, including Sagala Ratnayake, Chief of Staff of Premier Wickremesinghe, the BASL has stated that none of the respondents has so far informed the public of measures to alleviate the suffering of the people.Meanwhile, a fundamental rights violation case in which Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has been named as the first respondent as regards the economic crisis will be mentioned today (04) to fix a date for support. The case will be taken up before a bench of five judges.

Dr. Athula Kumara Samarakoon of the Open University, Sri Lanka, Soosaiappu Neavis Morais and Dr. Mahim Mendis have petitioned the Supreme Court. The application filed in terms of the Articles 17 and 126 of the Constitution has named the entire Cabinet of Ministers, including former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa and Ali Sabry, PC as respondents. Among others named are former presidential secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, ex-CBSL Governors, Prof. W.D. Lakshman and Ajith Nivard Cabraal and ex-Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle.

Members of the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption), too, have been made respondents; the petitioners have in a letter, asked the CIABOC members to investigate the mismanagement of the economy by former members of the Monetary in violation of Section 70 of the Bribery Act as well as lawmakers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa. The petition cited the controversial decision taken to reduce a range of taxes in terms of SLPP presidential election candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto titled, ‘Vistas of Prosperity’ as one of the major causes of the current crisis.

The petitioners have stated that as at April 2022, the price of essential goods had increased from the previous year as follows: (a) The price of Petrol increased by 85%; (b) The price of Diesel increased by 69%; (c) The price of a cylinder of Liquid Petroleum Gas increased by 84%; (d) The price of turmeric increased by 443%; (e) The price of bread increased by 433%; (f) The price of rice increased by 93%; and (g) The price of dhal had increased by 171%

The petitioners have cited incumbent CBSL Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe’s statement before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on 25 May in support of their argument. Dr. Weerasinghe was quoted as having told COPE that the government lacked foreign currency reserves to pay its foreign debt or buy essential imports, and the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and foreign nations was required.

The petitioners have also quoted statements made by ex-Finance Minister Sabry to underscore the crisis created by what they call the wrong policies of the then government. They cited President Rajapaksa’s unilateral decision to prohibit the use of chemical fertiliser and agrochemicals as another reason for the crisis. Issues such as the government using foreign reserves to prevent the depreciation of the rupee have also been raised by the petitioners. Statements made by Dr. Ranee Jayamaha and Sanjeeva Jayawardena PC, two appointed members of the Monetary Board, before the COPE were also cited in support of the petition. They were quoted as having said that they received instructions to use dollar reserves to hold the rupee as Rs. 203 in spite of their strong objections



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United Republic Front presents ‘A united step for the country’ to the President

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Leader of the United Republic Front Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, presented the proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe , at ‘Srikota’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo this morning (24).

Speaking at the event President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda for the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debt.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, responding queries about the scheduling of elections, affirmed that the Presidential Election will proceed as scheduled, with the General Election anticipated to take place early next year.

 

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Opp. fears govt. discarding SC recommendations on ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill

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Prof. G. L. Peiris

Prof. Peiris highlights need for ex post facto judicial review

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP, said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s refusal to accept that Supreme Court recommendations hadn’t been accommodated in ‘Online Safety Act No 09 of 2024’, would undermine their faith in the committee stage of a particular Bill.

The dissident SLPP MP said so when The Island sought his opinion on the SC determination on the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Against the backdrop of the continuing controversy over the circumstances under which the Parliament enacted the ‘Online Safety Bill’, the Opposition was seriously concerned about the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government adopting the same strategy in passing the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that the Speaker even ignored the Human Rights Commission advice that SC’s recommendations hadn’t been accommodated. The academic, who recently aligned himself with the SJB, said that the genuine Opposition shared his concerns.

Several parties challenged the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill in the SC in terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution. The determination of the SC as to the Constitutionality of the Bill concluded as—

(a) Clause 3, Clause 42, Clause 53, and Clause 70 of the Bill are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and required a special majority to be passed by Parliament.

(b) However, the SC stated that the said inconsistencies can be ceased if the said Clauses are amended as per the Determination of the Court.

(b) Clause 4 has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination. Clause 72 (1) is unconstitutional and needs to be passed by a Special Majority and a Referendum. The unconstitutionality will cease if this Clause is amended as per the Determination of the Supreme Court.

(c) Correspondingly, Clause 72(2) must be amended in accordance with the Determination.

(d) Clause 75 (3) infringed the Article 4 (c) read with Article 3 of the Constitution and required 2/3 majority and a Referendum. The invalidity will cease 7 upon the amendments suggested in the Determination.

(f) Clause 83 (7) requires a special majority to be passed into law. It has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination.

Further, the Supreme Court has determined that subject to the amendments that have adumbrated to the provisions of the Bill by the Supreme Court, the Bill could be enacted into law with a Simple Majority only if the amendments determined by the Supreme Court are introduced to the provisions.

Prof Peiris said that the crisis highlighted the need for ex post facto judicial review, for which there is at present no provision in Sri Lanka. The position is otherwise in countries like the USA and India where an Act of Parliament can be impugned, even after completion of the legislative process, on the ground of conflict with imperative provisions of the Constitution. Such provision existed in Sri Lanka prior to the First Republican Constitution of 1972.

The former minister said that in the draft Constitution Bill which he presented to Parliament on 3 August 2000 on behalf of the Government of President CBK, appropriate provision in this regard was included. “Unfortunately, the Constitution was burnt in the Chamber of Parliament. This gap in our law should be filled, in my view, when a comprehensive exercise in constitutional reform is undertaken by a new Administration after the conduct of national elections this year.”

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US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma visits Sri Lanka

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Deputy Secretary of State of the United States of America Richard Verma visited Sri Lanka from last Thursday to yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and delegation had extensive discussions with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State also paid a courtesy call on President Ranil Wickremesinghe following the discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, while appreciating the humanitarian and emergency assistance granted by the U.S. to overcome the economic challenges encountered by Sri Lanka, welcomed the recent US$ 553 million development assistance extended by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to the Colombo West International Terminal Private Limited. He also appreciated the U.S. assistance in securing the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) from the IMF.

Foreign Minister Sabry briefed Deputy Secretary of State Verma on Sri Lanka’s priorities as Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the opportunities to foster collaboration in blue economy and maritime security in the region to promote freedom of navigation for all and for the facilitation of trade and commerce. He also apprised the Deputy Secretary of State of the Government’s efforts to further strengthen governance, democracy, and rule of law, as well as to combat corruption.

Deputy Secretary of State Verma while noting the encouraging progress in Sri Lanka following the economic downturn in the last two years, assured continuous U.S. assistance to the country towards economic prosperity.

The Deputy Secretary of State was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, senior officials from the White House National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defence. Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Jauhar and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were associated with the Foreign Minister at the meeting.

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