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Blaming postponement of LG polls on Omicron unacceptable – SJB

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‘PM, SLPP Chairman owe an explanation’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) was frightened to face the electorate, hence the decision to postpone Local Government polls scheduled for late March 2022, top Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) spokesperson Mujibur Rahuman said yesterday (17).

Lawmaker Rahuman said so in response to Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Roshan Ranasinghe’s statement issued yesterday that the elections to 341 Local Government bodies had been delayed by one year. Pointing out that the State Minister initially declared that the Provincial Council polls would be deferred before correcting it that the government intended to put off Local Government polls fearing the Covid-19 spread, lawmaker Rahuman said that the people were being given the booster.

Government representatives and Health Ministry officials have said that the Covid-19 situation was under control, the former UNP MP said. If the situation was under control and the government felt confident to further relax Covid-19 health guidelines, there couldn’t be any justification in putting off scheduled polls on the basis of the threat posed by the global epidemic.

MP Rahuman emphasised that the parliamentary election was conducted in August 2020 in spite of Covid-19 spreading fast at that time. Having repeatedly declared that the ongoing vaccination programme had achieved the desired results, now State Minister Ranasinghe on the instructions of his political masters announced the postponement.

The government owed an explanation without further delay, lawmaker Rahuman said. “Let Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is the leader of the SLPP and the Chairman of the ruling party Prof. G.L. Peiris explain State Minister’s claim the scheduled Local Government polls cannot be held because of Covid-19, particularly Omicron.”

Rahuman said that the government recently allowed a four-nation football tournament and IPL cricket.

Responding to queries, the SJB spokesperson pointed out that the postponement of Local Government polls in the immediate aftermath of prorogation of Parliament meant the SLPP was in serious trouble. The MP explained the government had been beset by deepening turmoil within the parliamentary group over hotly disputed agreement on the Yugadanavi Power Plant.

MP Rahuman asked whether Foreign Minister Prof. Peiris, who had now taken over the finance portfolio, would take the responsibility for the deal now challenged before the Supreme Court. The MP insisted that the postponement of Local Government polls was nothing but political as the SLPP was struggling to cope up with the rapidly deteriorating situation on the political front.

MP Rahuman questioned the rationale in the Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa leaving the country for the US as the US energy deal now threatened the government. Having vowed that a near 2/3 majority in Parliament secured at the August 2020 parliamentary election, the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct 2020 and the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill in May, 2021 would pave the way for an accelerated development programme, the government was now on the back foot, lawmaker Rahuman said.

The crisis caused by introduction of carbonic farming without making adequate preparations and spate of accidents resulted in by LPG gas explosions as well as uncertainty over the supply of fuel had a devastating impact on the population, the Colombo District MP said.

The SJB official attributed the current situation to Sri Lanka having to settle as much as over USD 900 mn in January 2022 to foreign lenders. Pointing out that the foreign reserves had been down drastically amidst foolish attempts to strengthen foreign reserves and attract foreign currencies, MP Rahuman claimed that the SLPP appeared to have decided against facing the electorate. The same applied to the much delayed Provincial Council polls, the MP said.

The yahapalana government, too, delayed Local Government polls and refrained from conducting the Provincial Council polls as it feared the public sentiments. MP Rahman represented yahapalana government.

He said that the SLPP’s political project had gone awry and the top leadership now was shy of facing the electorate.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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