Lankan bishops have urged the government to give up its plan of introducing a “one country, one law” concept in the island nation and called for drafting a new constitution.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last month appointed a presidential task force comprising 13 members under the chairmanship of hardline Buddhist monk, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera to study the concept and prepare a draft law.
The decision was in keeping with an election slogan of Rajapaksa in 2019 when he was elected president with overwhelming support from the country’s Buddhist majority.
According to an extraordinary gazette notification issued by the president, the task force is required to submit reports to the president once a month and the final report on or before Feb. 28, 2022.
Bishop J. Winston S. Fernando, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, has urged the repeal of the gazette notification for the appointment of the task force.
In a statement issued on Nov. 2, the prelate called the leaving out of Tamil, Hindu, Catholic and other Christian minority groups from the task force a lost opportunity.
He further pointed out that “to appoint a person without considering any past records to the chair of the presidential task force is [adding] an insult to injury.”
Ven. Gnanasara Thera is known for his anti-Muslim stance and his Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) was implicated in anti-Muslim riots in 2013.
“The appointment has been made without any consultation of the legislators and it is a disregard for the legislature,” said Bishop Fernando.
He strongly emphasized that the gazette notification “should be repealed and a new constitution should be drafted to ensure that all the citizens are treated equally before the law.”
Muslim organizations too have issued a joint statement strongly condemning the appointment of Ven. Gnanasara Thera as its chairman. It has been signed by 24 leading Muslim organizations.
A hardliner, Ven. Gnanasara Thera was sentenced to a six-year prison term for contempt of court last year after shouting at a judge for holding him guilty of accosting the wife of missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda.
However, he was accorded a presidential pardon within a few months of starting the prison term.
Opposition groups and analysts also criticized the decision of the government.
Jesustoday.lk, a news website, said that “one country, one law” is likely to be a dangerous slogan that will erase diversity and make the will of the majority the only law.
“All citizens should be equal before the law. This is not what is hidden in the slogan,” it said.
The news website further pointed out that the controversial monk heading the task force “has issued hate speeches to a significant number of people in this country.”
SJB MP Harin Fernando said the appointment of someone like Ven. Gnanasara Thera exposes the political interests of the government.
“The task force is governed by someone who has been indicted by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday attacks,” alleged MP Fernando.
Ven. Gnanasara Thera maintained that he hoped to exchange views with all political parties, religious and civil society organizations. “The aim of this task force is to build the environment for all including Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu and Muslim to live together under one law and country,” he said.
Sri Lanka has witnessed strong opposition by nationalist groups in recent years to attempts to introduce Sharia law in the country, saying it would promote Muslim extremism.
The campaign gained further impetus after the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks on churches blamed on the extremist Islamic group National Thowheed Jamaat. (UCAN)
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.
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.
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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