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Constitution making: SJB won’t make submissions to Expert Committee



Kiriella: Why should we go to reinvent the wheel?

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chief Opposition Whip and senior Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Lakshman Kiriella yesterday (20) said that his party wouldn’t make representations to the government appointed Expert Committee engaged in formulating constitutional proposals.

The Cabinet appointed the committee in early Sept, less than a month after the general election in Aug 2020. Lawmaker Kiriella said so in response to The Island query whether the SJB would make representations to the nine-member committee chaired by Romesh de Silva, PC. The deadline for submission of proposals is Dec 31, 2020.

The top SJB spokesperson dismissed the committee as a government body engaged in a propaganda exercise. When The Island pointed out that as the Justice Ministry had called for public proposals in that regard therefore the breakaway UNP faction could take advantage of the opportunity, lawmaker Kiriella said that the previous parliament comprehensively dealt with the issue. The then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe spearheaded the process.

“Why should we reinvent the wheel”, MP Kiriella asked, urging what he called the SLPP appointed committee to examine the constitution making process undertaken by the previous parliament. Those who now identified themselves as the SLPP fully participated in the process though that grouping was then called the Joint Opposition, MP Kiriella said. The incumbent government couldn’t simply ignore what had been agreed in the previous parliament, the Kandy District SJB leader said.

“Of course, we reached consensus on some issues though there were differences. But, political parties represented in parliament largely agreed on the proposals. Therefore, the work undertaken by the previous parliament could be quite useful and should be the basis for the ongoing effort,” lawmaker Kiriella asserted.

The Justice Ministry recently called for submissions from the public pertaining to 11 subjects namely (1) nature of the State (2) fundamental rights (3) language (4) directive principles of State policy (5) the executive (President/cabinet of ministers/the Public service) (6) the legislature (7) franchise and elections, including referenda (8) decentralization/devolution of power/power sharing (9) the judiciary (10) public finance and (11) public security. The Justice Ministry also welcomed any other proposals specifically not referred to above.

Asked whether the UNP pushed for early Provincial Council polls, lawmaker Kiriella said that the government, in the run-up to 2019 presidential and August 2020 parliamentary polls repeatedly pledged introduce a new Constitution. So instead rushing to hold PC polls, the government should unveil its constitutional proposals as soon as possible, Kiriella said.

“Let us see how the incumbent administration intended to address the national problem. The UNP introduced 13th Amendment to the Constitution to address the grievances of the minorities. Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the war winning President offered 13 plus. Explain what the President, the Prime Minister envisaged in terms of the proposed 13th Amendment,” the former UNPer said.

Kiriella said that the national question couldn’t be settled without sufficient devolution of powers to ensure the minorities felt comfortable and confident living among the majority community. Kiriella, who had served both SLFP and UNP led cabinets, said that during their constitution making process during the previous administration, Chief Ministers representing provinces other than the North and East, pushed for greater powers.

Responding to another query, MP Kiriella said that there hadn’t been a previous instance since JRJ introduced 1978 Constitution, where all political parties participated in a common agenda meant to bring in a new law.

The MP alleged having wasted several months in a high profile bid to secure the passage of the 20 Amendment with a 2/3 majority, the government wasn’t really sure of its strategy.

“Obviously, SLPP is divided over the new constitution making proposals,” MP Kiriella said, pointing out that the SLPP was yet to submit its proposals to its own committee.

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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