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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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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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