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Constitutional reforms process should be sustained regardless of corona epidemic – Gevindu

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP and Convenor of civil society group Yuthukama, Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (7) told The Island that the sudden eruption of corona cases compelled them to indefinitely postpone planned series of seminars to discuss the proposed 20th Amendment as well as the need for a new Constitution.

 The first seminar was previously scheduled to be held on Friday, Oct 9 from 3 pm at the Public Library, Colombo.

 Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the proposed Yuthukama initiative was meant to enhance awareness among the public about proposed constitutional reforms against the backdrop of diverse views, including within the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). In addition to Cumaratunga, Kalutara District MP Anupa Pasquel represents Yuthukama.

 Assuring that the project would be launched once the epidemic was brought under control, MP Cumaratunga said that Yuthukama invited the Most Ven Medagama Dhammananda, of the Asgiriya Chapter, SLPP MP attorney-at-law Udayana Kiridigoda, Kushan de Alwis PC, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya and Prime Minister of Youth Parliament Pathum Ranasinghe.

MP Cumaratunga was also scheduled to address the Colombo Public library gathering.

 Acknowledging the growing challenge faced by the government in the face of the pandemic eruption, MP Cumaratunga emphasized the pivotal importance of maintaining the momentum on constitutional reforms. The epidemic couldn’t be allowed to derail the SLPP’s primary objective to bring in the 20th Amendment as a temporary measure before a new Constitution could be introduced.

 Responding to a query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that he was among those members of the government parliamentary group, who suggested changes to the proposed 20th Amendment. Acknowledging the need for speedy consensus on the 20th Amendment, lawmaker Cumaratunga underscored the importance of finalizing the now disputed piece of legislation ahead of the budget 2021 presentation in November.

 Asked whether he submitted recommendations in writing in respect of the 20th Amendment, MP Cumaratunga said that he on behalf of Yuthukama handed a set of proposals. According to the newcomer to parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a meeting of the SLPP parliamentary group on Sept 21 advised them to submit proposals, if they were really necessary. The President according to MP Cumaratunga pointed out that as their primary task was a new Constitution, those proposals made in respect of the 20th Amendment should be most essential.

 The SLPP parliamentary group is expected to meet at Temple Trees on Friday (9) to further discuss the matter. At their last meeting on Oct. 5, State Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera emphasized the need to address contentious matters.

 Cumaratunga alleged that some interested parties made despicable attempts to discourage them from pushing for improvements to the 20th Amendment. The National List MP said that among those who had called for changes to the 20th Amendment were Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, Manohara de Silva, PC, and Dr. Anula Wijesundera on behalf of the National Joint Committee, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya on behalf of the National Professionals Front and several leading Buddhist monks.

 As part of a strategy to silence them, attempts had been made to confuse the public by describing those critical of some aspects of the 20th Amendment as NGO operatives, he charged.

 Responding to another query, Cumaratunga said that President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva was not included in the list of speakers as he represented 9 member committee tasked with formulating a new Constitution. Romesh de Silva, PC heads the committee.

 In addition to Yuthukama, the National Freedom Front with six members in current parliament and SLPP Colombo District MP Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa called for alterations to the 20th Amendment.

 Cumaratunga assured that they were committed to bringing in a new Constitution and realized the 20th was meant to neutralize the 19th until a permanent solution could be found. The lawmaker insisted that the public shouldn’t link their initiative whatsoever with those who introduced the 19th aimed at weakening the Sri Lankan state. 

With nearly a two-thirds majority in parliament, the SLPP had the wherewithal to bring the new constitution making process to a successful conclusion.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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