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Catholic Bishops’ Conference too comes out against 20A

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference said, yesterday, that the 20th Amendment should not be proceeded with, in its entirety, and what the country needed was a new Constitution.

In a statement titled ‘The mind of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka on 20th Amendment’ and signed by Rev Dr J. Winston S Fernando Bishop of Badulla and Rev Dr JD Anthony Jayakody, Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo said: “In the wake of the change of government following the Presidential and Elections, the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka is constrained to share its grave Concern to protect the sacredness of the State that transcends the mutable political and governing bodies, The 1978 Constitution changed primarily the Westminster type Cabinet Democracy to an Executive Presidency. then 1901 Amendments halve been made citing, various reasons. However, one cannot deny that the main reasons have been to ensure economic growth, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the island nation. Apparently the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution under consideration, does not seem to put forward any other rationale for the move.

“Whether it is an amendment or the drafting of a new Constitution the sovereignty of the people should always be safeguarded and protected. In all probability the contents of the 20th Amendment will find its way into the envisioned new Constitution. It is imperative then to closely examine the proposed 20th Amendment before it is voted upon in the Parliament. The Executive Presidency has been the bone of contention since it was created in 1978. All elected Presidents since 1994 vowed to abolish the Executive Presidency with powers vested in it by the 1978 Constitution and transfer power to the democratically elected Parliament but none had the political will to do so for reasons not Unknown to tire people. We need to emphasize that concentration of power in an individual without checks and balances does not augur well for a Democratic Socialist Republic.

“A two-thirds majority of the members in the parliament based on political parties does not necessarily manifest the true conscience of the people. Therefore, let the entire membership of the parliament appoint an Independent Constitutional Council comprising a majority of men and women of proven integrity from the society who will take care of drafting a new Constitution which ensures transparent democracy, the rule of law and the equality of all citizens It is our view that rules need riot to be changed due to the vagaries and inconsistencies of individual players, but to identify and elect or appoint suitable persons who will abide by the rules to safeguard truth, justice, and the well-being of the country. It is the bounden duty of the democratically elected Parliament to create wholesome governing structures capable of moving this country forward. The drafters must beware to plug the loopholes that lead to multiple interpretations. Greater clarity is needed if the Constitution is to serve the citizenry. Thus the 20th Amendment should not be proceeded with, in its entirety, and instead a new Constitution needs to be the national priority at this moment.”

 

 



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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