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Drafting New Constitution: Wijeyadasa wants PSC to handle the process

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SLPP lawmaker, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, has questioned the appointment of an expert committee to formulate a new Constitution.

The former Justice Minister has, in a letter dated Oct 12 to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, alleged that the nine-member committee couldn’t fulfil the aspirations of the President and the country’s population.

Romesh de Silva, PC, heads the committee appointed by the Cabinet of ministers in the first week of Sept. 2020. The committee includes Gamini Marapana, PC, Manohara de Silva, Sanjeewa Jayawardena, PC, Prof. Naseema Kamurdeen, Dr. A. Sarveshwaran, Samantha Ratwatte, PC, Prof. Wasantha Seneviratne and Prof. G.H. Peiris.

SLPP Chairman and Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris recently said that the committee was engaged in the constitution making process. Prof. Peiris has said the draft proposal could be prepared in 2021.

Rajapakshe emphasised the MPs were responsible for formulation of new laws and ensuring financial discipline. Parliament couldn’t devolve its responsibilities, Dr. Rajapakse said. If the Justice Minister couldn’t undertake the constitution making process, a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be entrusted with the task. The PSC could secure the services of experts though the process couldn’t be handed over to them, under any circumstances.

Strongly countering accusations that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2015 undermined national security, lawmaker Rajapakse alleged the conduct of yahapalana leaders had caused the crisis. The former minister explained that the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe had exercised the power to appoint ministers whereas President Maithripala Sirisena was constitutionally empowered to allocate subjects. Lawmaker Rajapakshe alleged that it was the primary reason for their clash. Pointing out that there couldn’t be any issue between the incumbent President and the Prime Minister, lawmaker Rajapakse questioned the undue haste to enact proposed 20th Amendment instead of taking tangible measures to introduce a new Constitution as promised in the run-up to 2019 presidential and 2020 general elections.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakse switched allegiance to Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election, having entered parliament in 2015 on the UNP ticket.

In his letter copied to Mahanayaka Theras, Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders, the Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Opposition Leader and leaders of all political parties, Dr. Rajapakshe made several suggestions as regards the proposed new Constitution. Among the suggestions are (1) uniformity in the conduct of parliamentary, provincial councils and local government polls (2) an alternate system for Provincial Councils, strengthening of Local Government system et al.

The Lawmaker warned of dire consequences in the event the US and China turned Sri Lanka into a battleground in the backdrop of rapid deterioration of the national economy. The former minister, while acknowledging the fallout caused by the corona epidemic, pointed out the catastrophe caused by massive loans obtained since 2005 in extremely unfavorable terms. Dr. Rajapakshe said that the foreign debt had surpassed Rs 13,000 bn.

MP Rajapakshe warned against a political battle over 20th Amendment at a time the country was in dire straits economically. He felt the need to issue a public statement as in spite of SLPP members calling for a meeting at Temple Trees last Friday, Oct 9, to discuss the current situation they were deprived of an opportunity to take up the 20th Amendment, the MP said.

Lawmaker Rajapakshe urged the President not to ignore growing protests against the 20th Amendment. Referring to a statement made by SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris at the onset of the meeting, lawmaker Rajapakse emphasized that there was no basis for the Education Minister’s claim that the 19th Amendment deprived the President of an opportunity to remove the IGP. Lawmaker Rajapakshe insisted that the removal of the IGP and the AG was dealt with the Removal of Officers (Procedure) Act (No 5 of 2002). Therefore there was no connection between the 19th Amendment and the failure on the part of the President to remove the IGP, the former Minister said.

MP Rajapakshe also pointed out that contrary to the views expressed by Prof. Peiris with regard to Appointment of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Economic Management under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe following the 2015 general election was irrelevant as far as the 19th Amendment was concerned.

Former Minister Rajapakse, has again reminded the government of major faults in the proposed 20th Amendment with the focus on moves to cripple the state auditing process (SF)



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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