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Debate on Port City Bill will be held when SC conveys its decision – Govt.



By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando told Parliament yesterday that the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill would be taken up for debate when the Supreme Court conveyed its decision thereon to the House.

“The Supreme Court decision has not yet been conveyed to the Speaker. Therefore, the party leaders’ meeting decided to put off the debate and to debate the prevailing situation and the pandemic instead on Wednesday. It was also decided to debate the Port City Bill on the first available day after the Supreme Court informs the Speaker of its ruling. The Supreme Court is bound to give its decision within 21 days,” Minister Fernando said.

Fernando said that there was no point in taking the matter up for debate without knowing the Supreme Court ruling.

Whenever a Bill was challenged in the Supreme Court its parliamentary process was delayed until the ruling of the court was conveyed to the House. “This is the tradition. The Opposition Leader and his MPs should know that. The Bill will be passed only after the debate. Today, you are asking us to conduct the debate without the Supreme Court ruling. It is sub judice until the court’s decision is conveyed to the House. In addition, what do you intend to say in the debate without knowing the Court’s ruling?”

Minister Fernando said: “There are many MPs and ministers in the government rank to speak on the Bill and to permit time to them we have decided to postpone questions time. We have also decided to hold the session from morning to 8.00 pm. Therefore, do not make wild allegations that we are running away from the debate. It is we who brought the Bill and we are ready to debate it. We are also awaiting to expose the lies of the Opposition in the debate. You have been lying about the Port City since 2015. You have been accusing us of a building a Chinese colony. The JVP said that not even the stones of the Sigiriya rock mountain would be sufficient for the Port City. That was in the same manner they raised allegations that the Southern Expressway was being built for the Rajapaksa family to bring curd to Colombo. Now, all those lies have been exposed. In the same way, we need this debate to prove you are wrong. We will hold the debate and will pass this Bill.”

The party leaders’ meeting chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (04) decided not to hold the debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill today (05).

Instead, the adjournment debate on the country’s situation in the face of the Covid 19 would be held from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm without a lunch break, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake said.

Dasanayake said that the decision against holding the debate had been taken as Parliament had not yet received the determination of the Supreme Court with regard to the petitions filed over the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill.

After receiving the determination of the Supreme Court, party leaders would have to take a decision on when the debate should be held, the Secretary General said.

The Committee on Parliamentary Business decided on April 30 to hold this week’s Parliamentary sittings on May 04 and 05 only, due to the prevailing situation.

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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament



Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.



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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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