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Don’t fiddle like Nero as country plunges into a precipice: Karu J

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(Excerpted from remarks made by the Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice Karu Jayasuriya at a press conference held at the Janaki Hotel, Colombo on April 1)

If there is any harm or humiliation to our country, it is the real Sri Lankans who suffer the most. That is why we feel great pain when we see what is happening in the country today. But unfortunately, as our country is rapidly descending into a precipice today, all those responsible are playing the fiddle as Nero did when Rome was burning to the ground. Therefore, we urge them at this juncture to open their eyes and look at this great tragedy that is befalling us and not sacrifice the people of the country at the altar of greed for power and wealth. We call for the country to be saved from this ongoing catastrophe with the support of all parties. That is the plea we are making here today.

Our difficulties today are not only within the country; we are in serious trouble internationally too. The resolution on Sri Lanka passed recently at the UNHRC in Geneva makes this clear. Various views on this are being expressed by the government today. Veteran diplomats have a different view and they have expressed it publicly. Opposition political groups are also analyzing the situation and presenting their own viewpoint. But have the rulers of this country correctly understood the seriousness of the problem we face today? Have we managed to preserve the image, honor and dignity of our country?

We are not saying all this wearing tinted glasses. We conducted an in-depth investigation into the possible consequences of the Geneva resolution and also sought advice from international relations experts including eminent diplomats who have served our country in the foreign service. When we look at all that in depth and without bias, we can very clearly say that those responsible have completely failed us. This failure has been displayed not only within the country but also internationally as well. If that process continues at UNHRC, our country could face serious difficulties. No matter what anyone says, this is the truth. In the end, its suffering will be on the backs of the people.

Why did we have to face such a fate in Geneva? The reason is very clear. It is due to our losing in recent times many of the friendly states that once stood up for us; not only in Asia but also in every part of the world there were many friendly nations that supported us. In the past all those countries respected Sri Lanka as a country that pursued non-aligned policies. But many of them have voted against us this time or abstained from voting. While this is hurtful, we have to understand what happened. We must understand the reality and act accordingly. In the modern world, no country can stand alone. We must always stand with our traditional allies.

There is also a further point that we reiterate as the National Movement for Social Justice – that is that the 20th Amendment was a major factor in weakening our country both nationally and internationally. Every institution that was required to act responsibly in the people’s interest has become a puppet of the rulers due to the 20th Amendment.

As a result, the respect of these institutions for democratic principles have eroded. That is why politicians in this country today have been able to shut down certain police units and transfer senior police officers at will. There is no point in running a Police Commission in such a background. Can free and fair elections be expected in a country where Commissions such as Elections, Public Service, Police and the Bribery Commission are run through political allies?

Will the public service be people-friendly? Will the police service function fairly? Will corruption and bribery be eradicated in such a country? Will there be an independent judiciary in a country that makes decisions above the courts especially on the basis of reports obtained using notorious individuals? This situation has contributed not only to the massive decay that is taking place in our country today but also to some of the issues that have been raised in Geneva.

Also, according to social surveys conducted, 81% of the people in this country do not approve of the 20th Amendment. The vast majority of religious leaders representing all religions in this country do not accept it and it must therefore be repealed if Sri Lanka is to be re-energized and democratized. We repeat this consistently. I hope that the government will pay attention.

Another unfortunate incident reported this week was the discovery of toxic coconut oil. The people of this country became aware of this thanks to the media. It does not appear that the law is being enforced against those responsible. Re-exporting coconut oil containing this toxin is not the only solution. The law should be enforced against those who exposed the people to this risk and tried to make money out of it. Such national crimes are not possible without the complicity of politicians and officials who call the shots.

There are reports of large scale corruption and fraud, including the sugar scam. COPE, the Finance Committee and the Treasury have acknowledged irregularities in sugar imports. A thorough investigation is essential and this has been suggested to the President on several occasions. In fact, the sugar fraud is bigger than the Central Bank fraud. At least the money in the bank accounts of the accused in the Central Bank fraud has been seized; but what was embezzled in the sugar fraud is already in the pockets of the fraudsters. The country needs only 650,000 tons of sugar annually with about 50,000 tons produced locally. Today the international price of a ton is around $ 465. Accordingly a kilo of sugar should be around Rs. 96. If our requirement is 50,000 tons per month, why did we import hundreds of thousands of tons and waste our foreign exchange during this difficult time? These are matters that need the attention of the Treasury.

One more shameful occurrence must be highlighted. In the 1980s, sugar companies like Hingurana, Kantale, Sevanagala and Pelawatta produced more sugar than they do today. What does that mean? The beautiful country situation painted by politicians today does not exist. High sugar production then was due to the Sugar Importers’ Association, the Sugar Producers’ Association, the Treasury and the Ministry of Trade working in harmony in the national interest. These matters must be brought to the attention of the authorities. It is still not too late to take necessary action.

Today there is a growing interest in environmental destruction in the country. In addition to environmentalists, we see the interest shown by various sections of society as a good omen for the future. Above all, we are happy that school children and young people are enthused on this subject and their commitment is truly fantastic.

But has the government paid proper attention to this subject? Recently, the media quoted the President saying that government officials are responsible for protecting the environment drawing attention to the problem. We must tell the President that there is a powerful political hand behind a lot of environmental degradations. As a result, many government officials, including Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries, are helpless. They have told us about this. If we are to stop this massive destruction, the political pressure exerted on public officials must be stopped. The President can do that.

These are not just our own ideas. We are saying what the majority of the people want. We raise our voices, with no subversive motive, on the basis of confirmed facts adding our own voice to that of the common people. We say this with the utmost sincerity and the responsible authorities must understand that. The country’s future depends on that and we hope that the necessary attention will be paid to these matters. 



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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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

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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

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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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