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Certain provisions in 20A inimical to rule of law, separation of powers and sovereignty of people – BASL

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A special committee, appointed by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to study the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution and submit a report, is of the view some of the provisions therein are inimical to the rule of law, the administration of justice and the sovereignty of people.

The committee appointed on Sept 14, consisted of LMK Arulanandan PC (chairman), MM Zuhair PC, Prasantha Lal De Alwis PC, Nihal Jayawardene PC, Nalin Ladduwahetty PC, Maithri Wickremesinghe PC, Uditha Egalahewa PC, Mohan Weerakoon PC, ST Jayatunga PC, Priyal Wijeweera PC, Maurapada Gunawansha PC, Jagath Wickramanayaka PC and Shantha Jayawardana (Convenor).

The committee has observed, in its report, that the President being the repository of substantial powers under the Constitution should be held accountable for the exercise of those powers in accordance with the Constitution.

Referring to the Clause 5 of the Bill about the imunity of the President, the BASL committee says no person is above the law and granting absolute immunity from suit contrary to all known principles of the rule of law.

The committee has said it is inimical to the rule of law that the President should have control over the appointment of members of the Financial Commission and the Auditor General.The BASL committee says the appointment of the Attorney General should be made by the President subject to the approval of Parliamentary Council to ensure that the legislature and the executive provide necessary checks and balances relating to the appointment concerned.

About the proposed Parliamentary Council, which is to replace the existing Constitutionl Council, the BALSL committe has said: “The BASL of the view that the composition of the Parliamentary Council proposed by Clause 6 of the Bill is more conducive to the rule of law than the composition of the Constitutional Council contained in Article 41A of the Constitution. The inclusion in the Constitutional Council of persons who are not elected by the people is contrary to the sovereignty of the people and not conducive to the rule of law. The committee noted that non-elected members of the present Constitutional Council are not answerable to an organ of the State.”

The committee opines that it is imperative that the Executive should not have control of the appointment of judges or the members to the Judicial Service Commission. “Indeed, if there is one arm of government that should have control it is Parliament and not the president.”

The BASL is of the view that the President should not have absolute control over the judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. It says these appointments should be made by the President subject to the approval of the Parliamentary Committee.

The BASL says the President as the repository of the executive, power should be able to exercise executive power as a minister of the cabinet.

The BASL says the act of vesting in the President unfettered power to dissolve Parliament is contrary to rule of law, the separation of powers and the sovereignty of people. “The legislative power of the people is exercised by Parliament. The Parliament is elected for a period of five years by the people. The legislature, the executive and the judiciary are co-equal organs of Government. The President as the head of the executive being granted the unfettered power to dissolve parliament at his whim albeit after one year but before the term of office of parliament has expired is contrary to the rule of law and the separation of powers. It is contrary to the sovereignty of the people.”



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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