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Come hell or high water govt. will deliver what it promised to people, says Johnston



Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says come hell or high-water the government will not stop its development drive but move forward delivering people what it had promised them.

Speaking at the launch of the first phase of the Ruwanpura Expressway on Friday, the Minister said: “We are now passing a very decisive moment because of the pandemic and all have to take utmost care in the circumstances. Opposition leader and his men seem to think that corona is only here in this country. This is a global pandemic. Our government successfully faced its first and second waves and we are confident that we will face the third wave too in an exemplary manner. We have our trust in the President, Prime minister, health authorities and security forces. We have the support of the people and we are sure to win this challenge as well.

“Ours is an opposition that demands to lock down the country and then to re-open it. We as a government have decided to move forward and not to suspend any development project despite the threats from the pandemic. We cannot lag behind because of the pandemic. Even without a pandemic the yahapalana government could not develop this country. They turned this land of opportunity into a wasteland within couple of years under their government. Their nagging was that there was no funds to develop the country. They said that they had to go begging for funds from other countries. We changed that scenario and now the country is again on the fast track to development. We have made the country’s economy stable. We have faced challenges one by one and achieved success. We have re-established national security. At the time they took over the government, our country was second only to China in the growth rate. They destroyed that economy by robbing the Central Bank. They siphoned off money from development projects. After we came to power we changed that culture and now we are again on the path of development.

“We have faced much worse challenges than what we face today. We won the war under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa while the Opposition and its allies kept shouting that we would never win it. The leaders of the Yahapalana government lied to the entire nation. They misled not only the people but the Mahanayakes of the Three Chapters. They have no solid work to show as achievements except lies and allegations.

“The Ruwanpura Expressway will be completed in 30 months. Around 90 percent of work of Kurunegala Expressway is completed. It should have been declared open for the public use six months back but the work is delayed by the sabotage of a private construction company belonging to a Minister of the yahapalana government. That is their concern for this country. They place their political agenda over the development of the country. They try to derail our work but we are confident we can defeat those conspiracies because we have won over bigger challenges.”

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa declared open the construction work of the Rs. 54.7 billion first phase of the Ruwanpura Expressway virtually from Temple Trees, in line with strict COVID-19 guidelines,

The Ruwanpura Expressway from Kahatuduwa to Pelmadulla via Ratnapura (73.9 km) has been divided into three sections for implementation purposes. The Section 1 is from Kahatuduwa to Ingiriya (26.3 km), Section 2 from Ingiriya to Ratnapura (26.2 km), and Section 3 from Ratnapura to Pelmadulla (21.4 km).



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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border




BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals



Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up



State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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