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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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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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