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Don’t endanger entire nation for benefit of a few– Karu

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The country was facing the danger of being hit by the third wave COVID-19, as some individuals in high position were concerned about furthering their own interest Chairman of the National Movement for a Social Justice (NMSJ) Karu Jayasuriya, told the media in Colombo yesterday.

Jayasuriya said that the NMSJ had no intention of disrupting or criticising the government’s activities during the pandemic situation. However, as a country that respected democracy, Sri Lanka today had abandoned the exemplary measures once adopted to improve the welfare of the people, he said, noting that the government was now focused on fulfilling the aspirations of a few powerful figures.

“Certain activities that are taking place today under the guise of promoting the tourism industry have placed the entire country before serious health risks.

“Ukraine is one of our most respected allies. But at the same time, we must not forget that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in many other countries, including Ukraine, and especially throughout Europe. Many countries have focused their efforts on mitigating the impact of the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus.

“Sri Lanka needs to address a number of issues prior to attracting tourist. Although Sri Lanka must make the best of its natural and cultural attractions, the government must first and foremost be concerned about the health and safety of our people.

“But what is happening in the country today? According to media reports, even the official tourism authority of the country isn’t aware of the tourists who have been invited from Ukraine.

“The government has taken steps to bring in tourists at a time when many Sri Lankans are stranded abroad having lost their jobs. Many Sri Lankans now wonder why migrant workers, the largest foreign exchange earner, are forced to follow a strict quarantine process, while the Ukrainian tourists are given special treatment.

“Some Sri Lankan women have reportedly resorted to prostitution to earn money they need to return home. What a miserable situation they are faced with. What a painful message for us as Sri Lankans?”

The former speaker also criticised the government for appointing army officers as district coordinators of COVID-19 control initiatives. “The military has objectives and traditions which are different from the public service. Attempts to amalgamate these two result in dictatorships. As a former Army officer, I have a good understanding of the commitment, skills and discipline of the military establishment. The private sector has been able to achieve great results with the help of retired military personnel. But active military service and civil service are two distinct domains. We need to understand that.”

Jayasuriya also said that by repealing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution the government had politicised the public sector again and that it would only hasten the decline of the state sector.



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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