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China, Lanka in upbeat mood

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Colombo seeks Beijing’s help to boost foreign investment

China and Sri Lanka yesterday (28) reiterated their commitment to building stronger relations between the two nations, during separate talks the visiting Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe had with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

A brief communique issued by the President’s Media Division quoted General Fenghe as having said that bilateral discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were extremely fruitful and the relations were further strengthened by the visit.

Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong, Deputy Chief of staff of Joint Staff Department under the China’s Central Military Commission Lieutenant General Shao Yuanming, Major General Ci Guowei and Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera participated in the discussion.

A top-level delegation led by the Chinese Defence Minister arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Tuesday night (27). Defence Secretary Gen (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne, Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne and Air Force Chief of Staff Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Payoe welcomed the delegation. Ambassador Qi Zhenhong, too, was there to welcome the delegation.

At the onset of talks with General Fenghe, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa appreciated China going ahead with the visit in spite of the fresh Covid-19 eruption. Having thanked China for donating 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine and Personal Protective Equipment, PM Rajapaksa assured that in spite of the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the Government wouldn’t declare countrywide lockdowns due to the impact such lockdowns would have on the economy and society.  

The Prime Minister’s Office quoted the PM as having told General Fenghe: “I’m sure you’ll agree that there is still a lot that needs to be done for post-pandemic economic recovery. One of our main priorities in this effort is to attract investments from around the world. I look forward to your support in rebuilding investor confidence in Sri Lanka.” 

Among those ministers present were Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris. 

Both statements issued by the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s didn’t make reference to the biggest China funded project in Sri Lanka, Colombo Port City. 

The Supreme Court over a period of five days beginning April 19 heard 19 petitions filed against the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill. The SC is expected to inform the President and the Speaker of its ruling soon, as per constitutional requirements. 

General Fenghe’s visit follows high level talks senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi had in Colombo in the third week of October 2020. Jiechi was followed by then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who asked Sri Lanka to decide whether it wanted to continue relationship with China as if in an ultimatum. (SF)



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Parliament prorogued

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by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA

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By PRIYAN DE SILVA

Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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