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China takes bilateral relations with Lanka to a higher level

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Prez, PM assured maximum support, realization of development goals

By Shamindra Ferdinando

China yesterday (9) reiterated its commitment to supporting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s development objectives envisaged in his 2019 presidential election manifesto.

The assurance was given by senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi, who is a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and the director of its Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, the top policy-making body.

The seven-member Chinese delegation led by Jiechi arrived in Colombo, on Thursday night, for meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Having met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at the Presidential Secretariat, the Chinese delegation met Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees, where they discussed matters of mutual interest. All major Chinese investment projects were launched during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency.

The UNP objected to the visit of the Chinese delegation, claiming that its members had not undergone quarantine unlike other foreigners. Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi acknowledged that the meetings would take place without following quarantine process.

A statement issued by the President’s Office yesterday evening quoted Jiechi as having assured the Sri Lankan leader that China would continuously back Sri Lanka to achieve development. Jiechi also assured that China would stand by Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as well as other international platforms.

The visit takes place amidst fresh corona eruption in Sri Lanka while relations between China and the US and China and India are fragile whereas the US seeks to expand its role in Sri Lanka with the finalization of the MCC Compact, having extended ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) in Aug 2017.

Declaring that bilateral relations were at an extremely cordial level, the leader of the delegation said that Chinese President Xi Jinping considered further improvement of China-Sri Lanka relations a priority.

The Chinese delegation is on a tour of four countries in the Asian region. Sri Lanka was their first destination. They left Colombo yesterday.

President Rajapaksa recalled continuous Chinese support provided to Sri Lanka regardless of the party in power. The President appreciated the support received by Sri Lanka during the war that was brought to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Declaring that China-Sri Lanka relations had seen further improvement in the post-war period, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked China for backing infrastructure development in the country.

Referring to several large Chinese funded projects, including the Hambantota port, Colombo Port City, the Southern Expressway, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dismissed assertions that Sri Lanka had been caught in a Chinese debt trap.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa requested for Chinese help to realize his dream of proving such large scale projects helped improve living standards of the people.

Recollecting he had been to China on 13 occasions before winning the presidency in Nov 2019, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he wanted to achieve Chinese style development especially in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also requested China to increase the volume of imports from Sri Lanka as the trade balance was very much in favour of China.

The statement quoted President Rajapaksa as having said that the Chinese delegation was asked to allow more Sri Lankan products, more Chinese tourists, explore the possible participation in Colombo tea auctions and invest in a specialized university to promote technology education here.

The delegations agreed to resume talks on a free trade agreement and to fully operationalize the Hambantota Industrial Zone.

Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency Wang Xiaotao, Assistant Foreign Minister of China Deng Lee, Hu Wei, Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, Chen Song, Deputy Director General of Department of Asian Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Designate to China Dr. Palitha Kohona were also present at the discussion.



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Jugglery alleged in Constitution making process: SJB, Gevindu make strong case against jumbo Cabinet

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition and Samagi Jana Balavegaya Leader, Sajith Premadasa, says that the current economic crisis shouldn’t be exploited to form a jumbo Cabinet, under any circumstances.

 “The national economy is in such a pathetic state that those struggling to make ends meet shouldn’t be burdened further,” the Colombo district MP said. The growing opposition to further expansion of the Cabinet-of-Ministers is quite understandable, the former UNP Deputy Leader said, urging the government to drop the relevant provisions.

The Opposition Leader said so when The Island sought his opinion on the provisions, pertaining to the formation of a National Government, in terms of the proposed 22 Amendment to the Constitution. Declaring his party has absolutely no intention of joining the government, lawmaker Premadasa warned the public would revolt if the limits on the number of Cabinet Ministers and Deputies/State Ministers were violated.

 The SJB leader emphasized that whoever is in power should adhere to the limit of 30 Cabinet Ministers and 40 non-Cabinet rankers.

Lawmaker Premadasa said that political stability and economic revival couldn’t be achieved by expanding the Cabinet-of-Ministers.

 SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga last week strongly condemned, in Parliament, what he called controversial provisions pertaining to the National Government. Cumaratunga told The Island that he took up the issue at a recent party leaders’ meeting. The provision for Parliament to decide the number of ministers and Deputies/State Ministers would be abused, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama said.

Referring to the inclusion of provisions pertaining to a National Government, in the 19th Amendment that had been endorsed in 2015, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the proposed 22 Amendment interpreted National Government as an administration formed by the recognized political party or the independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in Parliament, together with the other recognized political parties or the independent groups.

The first time entrant to Parliament said that this should be examined, taking into consideration the strength of political parties represented in Parliament. Of the 225 MPs in Parliament, a total of 199 were elected: the SLPP (145/17 National List seats) and SJB (54/07 National List seats)) ticket. The third largest grouping in Parliament belonged to the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK/01 National List seat), the MP pointed out. The powers that be owed the public an explanation how the SLPP backed President Ranil Wickmesinghe intended to form the National Government without having a formal agreement with the second largest party in Parliament.

MP Cumaratunga recalled how the then UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara, at the Committee Stage of the 19th Amendment, asked the then Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa, PC, for an interpretation of national government and was told national government meant formation of an administration by the party securing the largest block of seats and the party with the second highest number of seats. Vasudeva Nanayakkara declared that they wouldn’t support the 19th Amendment unless the government provided an interpretation of the National Government.

However, what had been put to the Speaker for approval was very much different from the assurance given in Parliament, MP Cumaratunga said. The MP pointed out that the difference was instead of the union of party with the highest number of seats and the second highest being the national government, the gazette referred to the party with the highest number of seats and other parties in Parliament as the national government. The section in question is 46 of the 19th Amendment.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the 2015 wrongdoing had been repeated.

Parliament website posted the 19th Amendment with the original clause given below: “If at the conclusion of the General Election held immediately after the coming into force of this Article, the recognized political party or the independent group obtaining the highest and the recognized political party or the independent group obtaining the second highest number of seats in Parliament agree to form a Government of national unity, then, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1), the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the number of Ministers outside of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Deputy Ministers, may be increased up to forty-five and fifty-five, respectively, if Parliament agrees to such increase, within two weeks of the first sitting of such Parliament.”

MP Cumaratunga said that finally the limits had been done away with for obvious reasons. Responding to another query, the Yuthukama leader said that the change of provisions, pertaining to the National Government, surreptitiously could be compared with the jugglery in manipulating the relevant Parliamentary Select Committee’s recommendations as regards the National List appointees.

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CEB again faces crunch situation with another unit at Norochcholai breaking down

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Three-hour daily power cuts a possibility

By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) now had to impose at least three-hour power cuts due to a sudden breakdown of the First Unit of the Lak Vijaya Power Plant Complex at Norochcholai, a senior electrical engineer said.

The second unit there has already been shut down for annual maintenance. Both units account for 540 MW of power with each usually producing about 270 MW.

CEB Chief Nalinda Illangakoon told The Island that he had instructed officials to go for maximum intake of hydro power, instead of turning to fuel powered generation, to meet the shortfall. It is understood that in the event of turning to the latter, the cost would be Rs. 47 per unit.

CEB Chairman Illangakoon said that it would take between 13 and 14 days to rectify the latest breakdown.

Responding to queries, he said that scheduled maintenance of the Second Unit would be further delayed due to some overseas technical experts contracting COVID.

He expressed confidence that the second plant would be restored and connected to the grid in November.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera earlier confirmed the breakdown of Unit 1.

He added: “Technical staff is working to identify the fault. Unit 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance work. Unit 3 will continue to operate.”

However, he said West Coast and other Fuel Power Plants would be used to bridge the supply shortfall.

Meanwhile, the electricity sector regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has given the approval for three-hour power interruptions for the next four days.

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Now Prasanna alleges Diaspora link in SJB, JVP, and FSP

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Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has alleged that the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), the Janatha Vikukthi Peramuna (JVP), its breakaway faction, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) and some civil society groups, affiliated to the Tamil Diaspora, were engaged in a campaign to remove Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmakers from politics.

 The accusation was made at a meeting held in Colombo last Friday (12) attended by SLPP members of Parliament and Local Government representatives, representing the Gampaha District. The allegation coincided with the government delisting several Tamil Diaspora groups and individuals.

 Lawmaker Ranatunga, who is also the Chief Government Whip, claimed that this operation was being implemented, taking advantage of the ongoing protest movement. Minister Ranatunga said that the conspirators wanted to defeat the SLPP’s ideology at the next national level election.

 Acknowledging that the SLPP had suffered a setback, as a result of a protest campaign launched in the wake of the economic crisis, Minister Ranatunga stressed that they still dominated Parliament, therefore no one could ignore the 2020 parliamentary mandate received by the party.

 The Gampaha district SLPP leader said that the SLPP backed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the parliamentary contest to choose an MP to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term because he was the best available choice (SF).

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