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Controversy surrounds prolonged vacancies in Army’s No. 02, 03 positions

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Maj. Gen. Wanasinghe

Dullas urges govt. not to cause further destabilisation

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Controversy surrounds the inordinate delay in appointing the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army against the backdrop of dissident SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma’s revelation in Parliament that over 27,000 soldiers had left the Army since January 2022.

The former minister said so while participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2024 under the Defence Ministry expenditure heads. The Matara District MP urged defence authorities to pay attention to the developing situation or be prepared to face the consequences.

Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. W.A.S.S. Wanasinghe and Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. G.R.R.P. Jayawardena retired on Oct. 13 and Dec 01, respectively. At the time of his retirement, Wanasinghe, son of former Army Commander Gen. Hamilton Wanasinghe, also served as Colonel Commandant of Artillery whereas Jayawardena was Colonel Commandant of the Sinha Regiment.

The Army’s number two slot had never been kept vacant for so long, sources said, pointing out that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government seemed to have ignored altogether concerns expressed by MP Alahapperuma in Parliament. Sources said that in spite of Wanasinghe widely being tipped to be the next Army chief, he didn’t receive the approval.

The next senior most officer Maj. Gen. Darshana Wijesekara of the Sinha Regiment, currently the Commander of the Volunteer Force, is scheduled to retire on Dec 30, 2023.

The present Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, is on a one-year extension. Ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought in Liyanage in the wake of the May 2022 violence that destabilized his government. Liyanage succeeded Gen. Shavendra Silva. At the time of President Rajapaksa’s ouster and UNP leader Wickremesinghe’s election (by Parliament) as President in July 2022, Lt. Gen. Liyanage served as the Army Commander. The Gajaba Regiment officer received a one-year extension with effect from Dec 31, 2022. Unless he is granted another extension, Liyanage, too, will retire by the end of this month.

MP Alahapperuma yesterday told The Island that of the 27,000 men, the majority deserted while the rest retired. “Of those who retired, some left after completing 12 years in the service,” the former minister said, claiming that State Defence Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon didn’t properly respond to issues raised by him. “Of course I’m speaking on behalf of the genuine Opposition,” the veteran politician said.

Lawmaker Alahappeuma said that the Army was experiencing a situation very much similar to the crisis in the police. “We do not have anything against former IGP C.D. Wickremaratne. But, can anyone justify him being granted four brief extensions before making an Acting appointment to replace him?” MP Alahapperuma asked. If Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon has been appointed Acting IGP for a three-month period with effect from Nov 29, why did he make courtesy calls on various people? the MP asked.

MP Alahapperuma said that President Wickremesinghe, who is also the Commander-in-Chief in addition to being the Defence Minister, should look into this matter. As the President he couldn’t allow further destabilization of a bankrupt country, MP Alahapperuma said. Wickremesinghe comfortably beat Alahapperuma at the election held in late July in Parliament to elect a president to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term. In terms of the constitution the next presidential election has to be conducted by/before Oct 2024 and the new president sworn in by Nov.

MP Alahapperuma said that the SLPP should look into this matter without further delay. The failure on the part of the administration to fill the Chief of Staff’s vacancy for nearly two months couldn’t be justified under any circumstances. The ex-minister said that the all-party Sectoral Committee on National Security should look into this matter. For how long the government intended to delay filling vacancies until the desired person could take over command of the war-winning Army, he asked.

The declaration that the Army would be reduced to 100,000 by 2030 should be examined against the sharp increase in the number of desertions over the past two years, the MP said. The top Opposition MP urged the government to take decisions on solid advice of experts and not to be influenced by various interested parties.



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United Republic Front presents ‘A united step for the country’ to the President

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Leader of the United Republic Front Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, presented the proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe , at ‘Srikota’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo this morning (24).

Speaking at the event President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda for the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debt.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, responding queries about the scheduling of elections, affirmed that the Presidential Election will proceed as scheduled, with the General Election anticipated to take place early next year.

 

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Opp. fears govt. discarding SC recommendations on ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill

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Prof. G. L. Peiris

Prof. Peiris highlights need for ex post facto judicial review

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP, said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s refusal to accept that Supreme Court recommendations hadn’t been accommodated in ‘Online Safety Act No 09 of 2024’, would undermine their faith in the committee stage of a particular Bill.

The dissident SLPP MP said so when The Island sought his opinion on the SC determination on the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Against the backdrop of the continuing controversy over the circumstances under which the Parliament enacted the ‘Online Safety Bill’, the Opposition was seriously concerned about the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government adopting the same strategy in passing the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that the Speaker even ignored the Human Rights Commission advice that SC’s recommendations hadn’t been accommodated. The academic, who recently aligned himself with the SJB, said that the genuine Opposition shared his concerns.

Several parties challenged the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill in the SC in terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution. The determination of the SC as to the Constitutionality of the Bill concluded as—

(a) Clause 3, Clause 42, Clause 53, and Clause 70 of the Bill are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and required a special majority to be passed by Parliament.

(b) However, the SC stated that the said inconsistencies can be ceased if the said Clauses are amended as per the Determination of the Court.

(b) Clause 4 has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination. Clause 72 (1) is unconstitutional and needs to be passed by a Special Majority and a Referendum. The unconstitutionality will cease if this Clause is amended as per the Determination of the Supreme Court.

(c) Correspondingly, Clause 72(2) must be amended in accordance with the Determination.

(d) Clause 75 (3) infringed the Article 4 (c) read with Article 3 of the Constitution and required 2/3 majority and a Referendum. The invalidity will cease 7 upon the amendments suggested in the Determination.

(f) Clause 83 (7) requires a special majority to be passed into law. It has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination.

Further, the Supreme Court has determined that subject to the amendments that have adumbrated to the provisions of the Bill by the Supreme Court, the Bill could be enacted into law with a Simple Majority only if the amendments determined by the Supreme Court are introduced to the provisions.

Prof Peiris said that the crisis highlighted the need for ex post facto judicial review, for which there is at present no provision in Sri Lanka. The position is otherwise in countries like the USA and India where an Act of Parliament can be impugned, even after completion of the legislative process, on the ground of conflict with imperative provisions of the Constitution. Such provision existed in Sri Lanka prior to the First Republican Constitution of 1972.

The former minister said that in the draft Constitution Bill which he presented to Parliament on 3 August 2000 on behalf of the Government of President CBK, appropriate provision in this regard was included. “Unfortunately, the Constitution was burnt in the Chamber of Parliament. This gap in our law should be filled, in my view, when a comprehensive exercise in constitutional reform is undertaken by a new Administration after the conduct of national elections this year.”

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US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma visits Sri Lanka

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Deputy Secretary of State of the United States of America Richard Verma visited Sri Lanka from last Thursday to yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and delegation had extensive discussions with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State also paid a courtesy call on President Ranil Wickremesinghe following the discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, while appreciating the humanitarian and emergency assistance granted by the U.S. to overcome the economic challenges encountered by Sri Lanka, welcomed the recent US$ 553 million development assistance extended by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to the Colombo West International Terminal Private Limited. He also appreciated the U.S. assistance in securing the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) from the IMF.

Foreign Minister Sabry briefed Deputy Secretary of State Verma on Sri Lanka’s priorities as Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the opportunities to foster collaboration in blue economy and maritime security in the region to promote freedom of navigation for all and for the facilitation of trade and commerce. He also apprised the Deputy Secretary of State of the Government’s efforts to further strengthen governance, democracy, and rule of law, as well as to combat corruption.

Deputy Secretary of State Verma while noting the encouraging progress in Sri Lanka following the economic downturn in the last two years, assured continuous U.S. assistance to the country towards economic prosperity.

The Deputy Secretary of State was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, senior officials from the White House National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defence. Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Jauhar and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were associated with the Foreign Minister at the meeting.

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