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Diana petitions SC against SJB move to sack her

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‘She switched her allegiance to SLPP by voting for 20A’

By Chitra Weerarathne and Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) National List MP Diana Gamage has sought the intervention of the Supreme Court to thwart a move to expel her from the party.

Gamage says that in case the party went ahead with its decision, she would lose her parliamentary seat.

The SJB says MP Gamage has been expelled because she voted for the 20 A to the Constitution submitted by the government. The controversial Amendment received a two-thirds majority in Parliament in Oct. 2020.

The petitioner has requested the SC to direct the Elections Commission and the Secretary General of Parliament not to take action against her.

Among the respondents are SJB Secretary General Ranjith Madduma Bandara and its leader Sajith Premadasa. Diana Gamage, in her petition alleged that the party deprived her of a fair hearing before her expulsion from the party.

The SJB secured 54 seats at the last parliamentary elections held in August 2020. Gamage was among the seven National List lawmakers appointed on the SJB list. Other than Gamage, the SJB accommodated former UNP MPs on its National List. They are Tissa Attanayake, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Harin Fernando, Mayantha Dissanayake, Eran Wickremaratne and Imthiaz Bakeer Markar.

Gamage joined fellow SJB MPs Ishaq Rahuman, M. Raheem, Nasir Ahmed, Mohomed Harris, Faizal Cassim, Aravind Kumar and M.S. Thowfeek to vote for the 20A.

In the run-up to the 2020 parliamentary polls, the rebel UNP group took over ‘Ape Jathika Peramuna’ formed by Diana Gamage’s husband Senaka de Silva, one-time top aide to General Sarath Fonseka and registered it as Samagi Jana Balavegaya under controversial circumstances. In terms of the agreement between Senaka de Silva and the UNP rebel group, Diana Gamage received a National List slot, in addition to her being named the Deputy Secretary General of the SJB.

Civil society activist and one-time media head of President Maithripala Sirisena’s social media unit Oshala Herath, an unsuccessful UNP candidate at the last parliamentary election, made an abortive bid to thwart the re-registration of Ape Jathika Peramuna as Samagi Jana Balavegaya. The attempt was made before Herath received nomination from the UNP to contest the Colombo District at the 2020 election.

An SJB official told The Island that Diana Gamage couldn’t represent the SLPP at the expense of her own party. She had even attended a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the official said, pointing out that she crossed the line when she voted for the 20 A contrary to a decision taken by the party.

Now that Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP, the SJB had felt the need to bring the matter to a conclusion by removing her, the official said.



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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary

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By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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