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Cardinal criticises utterly corrupt parliamentary system

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… underscores AG Rajaratnam’s responsibility to Easter Sunday victims, families

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Archbishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has questioned the rationale behind the country continuing with the costly and utterly corrupt parliamentary system of government.

Cardinal Ranjith found fault with all political parties represented in post-independence parliament for the crises over the years leading to absolute despair among the populace.

Alleging the country was in a perilous state and further irrevocable damage being inflicted by the government,

Cardinal Ranjith said desperate voters asked why they exercised their franchise at elections. The Church called a media briefing at the Archbishop’s House in the wake of the fishing community losing their livelihood as a result of massive ecological damages caused by X-Press Pearl fire.

Insisting on the accountability on the part of 225 members of Parliament, Cardinal Ranjith declared that the situation was so bad the people questioned the very basis of the electoral process.

 

“Do we need an electoral system?” Cardinal Ranjith asked while dealing with several contentious issues ranging from severe shortage of fertilizer to an unprecedented threat posed by fuel leak in sunken X-Press Pearl.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference – the episcopal conference of Sri Lanka yesterday (3) threw its weight behind the Archbishop of Colombo. Responding to The Island query, the leader of the grouping Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando, Bishop of Badulla, emphasized that as the statement made at the Archbishop’s House reflected the actual situation there couldn’t be any issue with it. Bishop Fernando pointed out that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, too, from time to time commented on contentious issues.

At the onset of the briefing, Cardinal Ranjith said that the people overwhelmingly elected a new administration with high hopes. Unfortunately the public expectations had been dashed by those at the helm of political power.

Cardinal Ranjith said that the country lacked the required financial strength to carry out an inoculation drive to save the public from rampaging Covid-19 epidemic.

The country was in such a desperate situation, the Catholic church leader said that he couldn’t help saying whether even nature was opposed to those in power. “Is this a curse?” Cardinal Ranjith asked.

In an obvious reference to the recent passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, Cardinal Ranjith flayed the government over giving in to foreign dictates, under controversial circumstances.

Cardinal Ranjith questioned the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government’s foreign policy having opposed the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact during the previous administration. The Archbishop of Colombo emphasized the government couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for ensuring the country’s interests. Cardinal Ranjith emphasized that the selling of national assets shouldn’t be considered development.

He explained how political failures and strategies pursued by those in political authority caused uncertainty.

Commenting on the inordinate delay in the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, Cardinal Ranjith insisted that newly appointed Attorney General Sanjaya Rajaratnam, PC, was responsible for prosecuting the suspects.

The Cardinal recalled former AG Dappula de Livera, PC’s, declaration that the Easter Sunday massacre was a high profile conspiracy. Now that President’s Counsel de Livera was no longer at the helm of the AG’s Department, his successor Rajaratnam should bring the investigations into a successful conclusion.

Referring to the appointment of a six-member group comprising cabinet ministers to examine the CoI report and make ruling on CoI recommendations, Cardinal Ranjith strongly criticized the government for not executing the original recommendations. The Church leader questioned why tangible action hadn’t been taken so far in respect of former President Maithripala Sirisena, now an SLPP lawmaker and the then head of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.

Accusing the government of staging what he called media circus meant to deceive the public, Cardinal Ranjith alleged that the incumbent government and Muslim political parties entered into a deal ahead of the vote on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in late Oct 2020.

Cardinal Ranjith lambasted the government over its handling of the fire on board X-Press Pearl anchored off the Colombo Harbour.

A grave looking Cardinal said that as he was addressing the media, alongside Rev Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, parish priest of Kurana St. Anne’s church, the container carrier went down. Warning of dire consequences if the vessel started leaking oil, Cardinal Ranjith declared his readiness to give leadership to the fishing community facing unprecedented economic hardships. The Cardinal pointed out that those who had been struggling to make ends meet due to the epidemic were now affected by the pollution of the sea.

Cardinal Ranjith said the government’s explanations in this regard should be contemptuously disregarded.

The Church leader said that the government couldn’t be allowed to pursue authoritarian policies and engage in silly games whereas decisions were taken for the benefit of the high and mighty and foreign powers at the expense of the masses.

Cardinal Ranjith urged the government to change its direction without further delay. Commenting on various projects undertaken by the Urban Development Authority (UDA), Cardinal Ranjith said that the people didn’t hand over the country to the UDA at the last presidential and parliamentary elections. The people elected political leadership that should bear the responsibility, Cardinal Ranjith said.

Alleging that successive governments had betrayed the people and national interests, Cardinal Ranjith urged religious leaders to spearhead a campaign to save the country.



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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