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Disciplinary probe over voting for 20 A: Diana warns SJB of dire consequences

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CID inquiry into MP’s citizenship takes a new turn, court informed

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Election Commission yesterday (4) said that a political party once re-registered couldn’t be forcibly taken back under any circumstances by those who gave up its possession.

Authoritative sources emphasized that such a move wasn’t realistic. The EC said so when The Island sought a clarification as regards Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) National List MP Diana Gamage’s recent declaration that tangible measures would be taken to bring the re-registered party under its original leader, her husband Dr. Senaka de Silva and the decision making Working Committee of the Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP).

Lawmaker Gamage issued the warning to SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, in a letter dated March 25, 2021 after the National List MP was asked to show cause as to why she voted for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution last October contrary to a decision taken by the party. However, several others representing the SLMC and ACMC who contested the general election, too, voted for the new law.

In a hard-hitting three-page letter, MP Gamage demanded that proposed disciplinary measures in respect of her decision to vote for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution should be terminated forthwith or face the consequences. The new entrant to the parliament cautioned SJB chief Premadasa that he might lose the Opposition Leader’s Office as their party’s position was challenged as the main opposition.

The SJB secured 54 seats, including seven National List slots at the last general election in August 2020. The SJB accommodated Gamage, the former General Secretary of the AJP on its National List. She also received the post of the Assistant Secretary of the SJB in accordance with the understanding between the top SJB leadership and Dr. Senaka de Silva, formerly of the Sri Lanka Army and one-time aide to General Sarath Fonseka at the time he contested the 2010 presidential election under the swan symbol.

Re-registration of AJP as SJB took place in early 2020 under the guidance of the then EC Mahinda Deshapriya between the last presidential and general elections in Nov 2019 and Aug 2020, respectively. At that time the EC comprised Deshapriya, Nalin Abeysekera, PC and Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment enacted in Oct 2020; the EC has been expanded with attorney-at-law Nimal G. Punchihewa as Chairman. The other current EC members are M. M. Mohamed, S.B. Diwaratne, K. P. P. Pathirana and Jeevan Thyagarajah.

MP Gamage, in her letter, a copy of which is available with The Island, stressed that the AJP originally registered by her husband was offered to the then UNP faction led by Deputy Leader of the party without any financial compensation. However, some of those who hadn’t been involved in the process of re-registration of the party and formulation of new party constitution were now trying to take control, Gamage said.

She challenged the SJB to prove what section/s of the constitution she violated by voting for the 20th Amendment.

Lawmaker Gamage reiterated she backed the 20th Amendment as she strongly believed in giving President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilateral political authority at the expense of her party. The MP emphasized that only those who followed petty political agenda considered her action as a violation of party discipline.

Last month MP Gamage joined SLPP lawmakers at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara yesterday told The Island that the party would proceed with the planned disciplinary measures against the MP. The veteran politician dismissed what he called lawmaker Gamage’s empty rhetoric.

Lawmaker Gamage flayed those SJB members who called her a prostitute despite knowing the role played by her in building up the new outfit.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiring into a complaint lodged by defeated UNP Colombo District candidate Oshala Herath over lawmaker Gamage not being a Sri Lankan citizen at the time she contested the last general election in August 2020 has informed the Colombo Chief Magistrate court that Gamage obtained Sri Lankan passports by furnishing false information to Controller, Immigration and Emigration. The police had filed a ‘B’ report in the court.

Herath has lodged the complaint on Nov 2, 2020 regarding Gamage securing two passports, including an official passport.

Investigations have revealed the official passport has been issued following interventions made by the then Additional Secretary (administration), Media Ramani Gunawardena and Finance and Media Ministry Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga. Among those who had been questioned in this regard were Deputy Controller, Immigration and Emigration Dinushan Ramawickrama, Jinani Kusumawel Athukorale, also of the same institution, Chalani Weerakoon of Registrar of Persons Department, former Finance and Media Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Ramani Gunawardena, retired Additional Secretary (administration), Media, Jeewani Karunaratne, additional district registrar, Divisional Secretariat, Thimbirigasyaya, Mangalika Fernando of Divisional Secretary’s Office, Dehiwela and Padmini Sriyalatha Yapa, grama sevaka.

The police have informed the Magistrate of their move to seek clarification from the British High Commission in this regard.

In terms of the Constitution foreign passport holders cannot enter parliament. Geetha Kumarasinghe a couple of years ago lost her Galle district seat for being a dual citizen at the time she contested on the then UPFA ticket. However, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution has paved the way for dual citizens to enter parliament.



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Aircraftsman sets swimming record with flying colours

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Leading Aircraftman Roshan Abeysundara of the Air Force yesterday set a new Asian record by swimming from Talaimannar to Dhanushkody in Rameshwaram. During his preparation for the event, Abeysundara renewed the national open water swimming record twice. He has also created a new record by swimming a 25 km distance from Matara to Koggala on 03 Jan, clocking 10 hours and 37 minutes, and went on to surpass the record by swimming a distance of 49Km from Matara to Hikkaduwa and back to Unawatuna on Feb 27 in 23 hours and 10 minutes.

He started swimming from Talaimannar at 2 am on Saturday and reached Dhanushkody and returned to Talaimannar around 7 am yesterday by completing 59.3 km in 28 hours 19 minutes and 43 seconds, breaking a 50-year-old Asian record set in 1971 by V.S. Kumar Anandan’s, who took 51 hours to swim across the Palk Strait. Abeysundara also set a new Lankan record by swimming from Talaimannar to Dhanushkody in 19 hours and 31 minutes.

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JVP women raise fears about cost and safety of food for New Year

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By Saman Indrajith

The JVP women’s wing led by Women for Rights says that exorbitant prices of food and fears over their safety will make the forthcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year a miserable affair.

“The prices of essential food items are at unprecedented highs. In addition, there are fears in the minds of the people about the quality and safety of food items being sold in the market. There were no such fears and doubts whether the food items in the market were fit for human consumption in the past as it is now,” Secretary of the WFR Samanmalee Gunasinghe said addressing a press conference held at the party headquarters in Pelawatte Friday.

Gunasinghe said that all those issues with regard to food prices and their standards and safety were about food security of the country. “Food security is a prerequisite for national security which this government promised to achieve. Food security no longer exists in this country and, worse, people are worrying about food safety.”

She said that social media was full of posts expressing people’s concerns about food safety.

“They are afraid because the government is putting their lives in danger not only by permitting coconut oil imports with high levels of aflatoxin but also allowing the adulteration of other food items. Some months ago, they brought down container loads of canned fish past shelf life and released them to the market. There are fears that milk, chilli powder and packaged food items contain various toxins. Scientists make statements to the effect that the fertilizers being used for paddy cultivation contain huge amounts of arsenic.”

President of the WFR Saroja Savithri Paulraj said that children of the country had not been able to celebrate the last Sinhala and Tamil New Year because of the COVID pandemic and now the people were gripped by fear of toxic food and their prices. Price of kilo of green grams is now Rs 850-1000, cowpea Rs 1,200, Undu (urid) Rs 1,700, chicken Rs 800, Chillies nearly Rs 1,000.

“This government has no answers for the problems created by the Easter Sunday terror attacks even after two years. The forests are being cleared and no responsible action is taken to prevent them. Women who become victims of micro-credit schemes are staging protests. Farmers staging protests in various places in the country. It is with those problems that people this time are compelled to mark the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.”

Exco member of WFR Prabhashini Wickramasinghe also addressed the media.

 

 

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Govt. claims SLPP-SLFP relations remain strong

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… admits Easter Sunday carnage a contentious issue

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (11) strongly denied reports that a section of the ruling party coalition, led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), was on a collision course with it. Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage insisted that in spite of some minor disagreements among coalition members there was absolutely no threat to the government.

Participating in a newly launched live SLBC programme, the Kandy District MP accused the bankrupt Opposition, that was struggling both in and outside Parliament of propagating lies.

Acknowledging that a section of SLPP lawmakers had met at the SLFP Office at Darley Road, under former President Maithripala Sirisena’s chairmanship last Thursday (8), Minister Aluthgamage said that members of a coalition administration could hold diverse positions on a particular issue.

The Minister was responding to interviewers, Himananda Rajapaksa and Inusha Weebedde on ‘Kannadiya’ produced by Sudarmika Wijeratne. Rupavahini and The Island were represented by Vijaya Dissanayake and Shamindra Ferdinando, respectively.

Referring to what he called a contradictory position taken by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Minister Wimal Weerawansa in respect of some contentious issues, Minister Aluthgamage said that the stand taken by the former JVPer on the East Container Terminal (ECT) proved right. Minister Aluthgamage appreciated the cancellation of the proposed agreement on the ECT following protests by a section of the government. Earlier the government announced plans to transfer ECT’s controlling shares to India’s Adani Group.

The minister said that the consensus on the ECT should be compared with the previous administration handing over the controlling shares of the strategic Hambantota port to China.

Minister Aluthgamage also dismissed claims that the SLFP led group was planning to conduct a separate May Day rally. The minister insisted the coalition was still strong regardless of issues – a situation experienced by coalition administrations in the past. Aluthgamage asserted that divergent views among coalition members were helpful in facilitating a better stand on a particular issue.

The programme was told difficulties experienced by the government should be examined against the backdrop of former President Maithripala, one of those named by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday carnage now being a member of the SLPP led government.  The SLMC and the ACMC flayed over the Easter Sunday massacre switched their allegiance from UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the breakaway UNP faction recognized as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).

It was also told that the break-up of the coalition was unlikely though in political turmoil.

Top SLFP spokesman and Minister Mahinda Amaraweera confirmed the stand taken by his ministerial colleague, Aluthgamage. Declaring the role played by the SLFP in helping wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa win the 2019 presidential election, Minister Amaraweera reiterated their commitment to the government.

The SLFP group in the government consisted of 14 lawmakers. The government parliamentary group comprised 145 members.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (ret.) Sarath Weerasekera explained how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government handled the Easter Sunday issue.

Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadeera, Presidential Secretariat Director General – Legal Affairs said that the government’s response was three-fold. “We provided relief, punishment to those responsible and remedial measures to prevent similar attacks,” Rohanadeera said.

Dismissing accusations as regards the ongoing investigations/process, Rohanadeera pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa having consulted the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith retained the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) appointed by the then President Maithripala Sirisena.  The lawyer underscored the government determination to implement the CoI report along with the recommendations of the Sectoral Defence Oversight Committee.

The Presidential aide explained the need to address issues without being diverted by political factors. The official rejected assertions that the CoI was meant to delay justice to those killed and their families.

The interviewers raised issue over SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera reiterating concerns that the person recently named as the mastermind wasn’t so and there were other powerful interested parties bent on destabilizing the country.  The programme was reminded of former UNP lawmaker and one-time Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, warning of Western destabilization projects as long as the Hambantota port remained in Chinese hands.

The previous UNP led government finalized the deal on Hambantota port in 2017.

The programme was told the high-profile Western intervention at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) largely influenced by the ongoing battle for supremacy between the US and China. However, almost all political parties represented in parliament had been in one way or another implicated in the Easter Sunday violence.

Near simultaneous Easter suicide attacks claimed the lives of 270. Over 500 received injuries.

The mystery of India infiltrating the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ), too, was raised though there was consensus Sri Lanka should be grateful for intelligence provided by India in the run-up to Easter blasts. The interview was asked of the need to be wary of foreign intelligence services operating in Colombo.

 

PIC SAVED AS MAHINDANANDA

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