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Dissident SLPP MP asks Prez to give up Finance portfolio

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Gevindu

‘Success of Parliamentary Budget Office depends on non-interference’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dissident SLPP MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (21) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe should give up the Finance portfolio to ensure that the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) could achieve the objectives it was established for.

He said that political interference in PBO couldn’t be prevented as long as the appointing authority, in this case the President, also served as the Finance Minister.

Cumaratunga, who is also the leader of civil society group Yuthukama, said that having declared that the executive shouldn’t hold any ministerial portfolio, other than Defence, President Wickremesinghe has held the Finance portfolio since July last year.

When The Island pointed out that the Opposition had been quite clearly divided over the PBO and seems to be unable to reach consensus on such a vital issue, lawmaker Cumaratunga said he raised the issues at hand during the debate on the Second Reading of the PBO Bill on Tuesday (20). The Bill was passed without a vote.

MP Cumaratunga said that none of the concerns raised by him were addressed as the Parliament enacted the Bill to pave the way for PBO mandated to forecast budgets and also estimate the costs of election manifestos upon request.

According to the Bill:

“The Parliamentary Budget Office shall be an independent body and accountable to Parliament.

(4) The independence of the Parliamentary Budget Office shall be respected at all times.

(5) No person shall cause undue influence, or interfere with the operation and administration of the Parliamentary Budget Office.

“The objectives of the Parliamentary Budget Office shall be to assist –

(a) Parliament in the performance of its public finance responsibilities under the Constitution; and

(b) Any recognized political party or any independent group, through the provision of independent, non-partisan analysis related to the budget, the medium-term economic and fiscal outlook, and the cost implications from a financial, revenue and expenditure perspective of policy proposals as provided for in this Act.

Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Parliamentary Budget Office shall provide analytical assistance to –

(a) any Committee or Member of Parliament on matters related to public finance, including budget proposals, economic and fiscal forecasts and projections, and costing of proposed policies and Bills; and

(b) a recognized political party or an independent group to cost any proposal in its manifesto in the period immediately before an election; and

(c) Parliament, generally, by providing analyses and briefings on matters necessary for or conducive to the objectives of the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Addressing the Parliament on Tuesday, the MP questioned why President Wickremesinghe couldn’t choose one of those MPs who voted in the House last July to elect him as the President to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, as the Finance Minister.

The very purpose of the PBO would be undermined if the President constitutionally empowered to approve the recommendations of the Constitutional Council regarding the two key appointments to the proposed outfit, also served as the Finance Minister, MP Cumaratunga said.

Referring to the significant role the Public Finance Committee played in the overall PBO operation, MP Cumaratunga questioned how President Wickremesinghe intervened to appoint Dr. Harsha de Silva as Chairman of that Committee. The Yuthukama chief alleged that the President shouldn’t have under any circumstances summoned only members of the Public Finance Commission and advised them especially against the backdrop of the relationship between the watchdog committee and PBO.

MP Cumaratunga also expressed serious concern over the PBO receiving direct funding from external and domestic sources at the expense of its independence. Referring to the USAID funding Parliament and the Bar Association, the MP underscored the pivotal importance in the government ensuring sufficient funds for the PBO.

MP Cumaratunga pointed out the contradictory government stand regarding outside funding. The President advised the Archaeology Department against receiving external funds but in the case of PBO it could do so, MP Cumaratunga said.



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“Sri Lankan unity paves the way for rapid national development” – President

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Sri Lanka’s Chief Scout, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his address at the 10th National Scout Jamboree held at the Koneswara Hindu Vidyalaya Stadium in Trincomalee this morning (21), underscored the potential of Sri Lankans to steer the nation towards rapid development and fortify its security for future generations through unified efforts.

The President highlighted that participation in the National Scout Jamboree transcends divisions of caste and religion. He articulated that unity among Sri Lankans, spanning from the North to the South and from Colombo to Trincomalee, is pivotal in accomplishing shared objectives.

President Wickremesinghe pledged his support for the expansion of the Scout Association, noting its role in nurturing responsible citizens essential for the country. Furthermore, he announced the plans to facilitate collaboration between the Scout Association and the Ministry of Technology, underscoring the importance of leveraging interactions across sectors for national development.

(PMD)

 

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SC: Anti-Terrorism Bill needs approval at referendum and 2/3 majority to become law

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Certain sections inconsistent with Constitution

By Saman Indrajith

Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa informed Parliament yesterday that the Supreme Court (SC) has determined that some sections of the Anti-Terrorism Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution and, therefore, the Bill had to be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum.

Rajapaksa said that the Supreme Court had determined that the Sections 3, 4, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 72 (2), 75 (3) and 83 (7) of the draft Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution.

The SC has determined that sections 3, 40, 53, 70, 72 (1), 75 (3) should be passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority and approved by the people at a referendum if they are to become law.

Sections 4 and 72 (2) of the Bill have to be amended as per the SC determination.

Section 83 (7) requires passage by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, the SC had stated that it could be passed by a simple majority if the recommended amendments are accommodated, Rajapaksa said.

Opposition MPs say the Anti-Terrorism Bill is being introduced in an election year to repress Opposition parties.They said the proposed law is a threat to democracy itself.

“This Bill is being presented not at a time of terrorism prevailing in the country but during an election period. The Bill has not defined nor analysed what a terrorist is. Anyone can be arrested,” SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said.

The MP said both the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the controversial Online Safety law were meant to quell democracy.

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Harin’s claim that SL is part of India: Govt. says it is his personal opinion

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Manusha accuses Wimal of having taken parts of Fernando’s speech out of context

By Saman Indrajith

Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa in Parliament to refrain from taking chunks of others’ speeches out of context and misinterpreting them for political mileage.

The Minister said so following concerns raised by Weerawansa over a recent statement by Tourism Minister Harin Fernando on India-Sri Lanka relationships.

Weerawansa said that Minister Fernando had recently stated that Sri Lanka was a part of India. “Was it Minister Fernando’s personal opinion or the government’s official standpoint? Was it the opinion of the Cabinet?”

Chief Government Whip Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said what Minister Fernando had stated was the latter’s personal opinion.

Minister Nanayakkara: “If anyone has read the entire statement made by Minister Fernando this type of question would not have arisen. The Tourism Minister was referring to historical relationships between India and Sri Lanka to ask Indians to visit Sri Lanka.

A distorted version of the speech by Minister Fernando is being circulated on social media. Certain parts have been removed while some words have been introduced to this edited version. Ones should read the statement in its entirety to understand it. We have not discussed this in the Cabinet meeting” Minister Nanayakkara said.

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