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EC Chief says not informed of LG polls postponement

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SLPP Gen. Secy: Cabinet approval awaited; PAFFREL says move disastrous

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission Chairman Nimal Punchihewa, yesterday (24) said that in spite of recent media reports as regards the controversial government decision to put off scheduled Local Government polls, the EC hadn’t been informed so far.

Attorney-at-law Punchihewa said so in response to The Island query whether the EC had suspended ongoing preparations for LG polls scheduled to be conducted before 20 March, 2022.

The EC requires about four months to prepare for LG polls, the Elections Chief said, adding that he recently briefed the Special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms chaired by Chief Government

Whip Dinesh Gunawardena, MP, regarding their preparations for the forthcoming polls.

The EC consists of Nimal G. Punchihewa, S.B. Divaratne, M.M. Mohamad, K.P.P. Pathirana and Ms. P.S.M. Charles.

The EC Chairman acknowledged that he perused statements issued by Provincial Council and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe regarding the polls postponement. However, the relevant State Ministry or the cabinet of ministers hadn’t so far informed the EC of its decision.

Last Local Government polls were conducted on Feb 10, 2018. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna bagged the vast majority of 341 Local Government bodies at that election. Local Government polls are held every four years.

SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, yesterday told The Island that the relevant cabinet paper had been submitted to the cabinet of ministers. Once approved, the EC would be informed, Attorney-at-Law Kariyawasam said.

Punchihewa said that the government enjoyed the constitutional power to put off Local Government polls up to one year. Responding to another query, the former member of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission said that the law permitted the government to postpone Local Government elections.

State Minister Ranasinghe is on record as having said that the growing threat posed by new Covid-19 variant omicron compelled the government to postpone scheduled elections.

Polls monitoring body PAFFREL said that whatever the reasons attributed to the polls postponement it was clear political reasons prompted the government decision. Executive Director, PAFFREL, Rohana Hettiarachchi said that previous administrations, including yahapalana resorted to postponement of elections. Hettiarachchi strongly advised against putting off elections as the country celebrated 90 years of franchise. Such strategies were nothing but an affront to the voting public, Hettiarachchi said, drawing the attention of the government to the importance of knowing public reaction to its policies. The failure to do so would be catastrophic, Hettiarachchi said, recalling how previous postponement of elections destabilized the country.

Hettiarachchi urged the government to face the scheduled elections or face the consequences.

The prominent civil society activist said that postponement of elections at any level would never give an advantage to the party in power.

Political sources said that the SLPP proposal to put off polls hadn’t been discussed among constituent members of the ruling coalition. Sources said that over two years after the last presidential election in Nov 2019 the coalition was yet to set up a mechanism to discuss policy matters and the ongoing dispute between the SLPP and a section of the constituents further deteriorated the situation.

Former Communist Party General Secretary Dew Gunasekera said that the move to put off Local Government polls should be examined against the backdrop of a spate of contentious issues ranging from fertilizer fiasco to Yugadanavi deal. The ex-minister said that the situation was extremely critical particularly due to the unprecedented crisis in debt servicing. The political environment underwent total transformation over the past 18 months, the veteran politician said, asserting that some might have felt election at any level would be disadvantageous to the ruling party.



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Canadian declaration of ‘Tamil genocide’ may influence European parliaments, EU – Maj. Gen. (retd.) Gallage

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‘Counter lies, or face consequences’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says controversial Canadian House of Commons declaration that Tamil genocide took place in Sri Lanka may influence many Western parliaments as well as the EU.

The Gajaba Regiment war veteran said that the recognition of 18th May, the day Sri Lanka defeated terrorism as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day was an affront to Sri Lanka.

The ex-combat officer said that the government owed an explanation without delay. Perhaps, Sri Lanka parliament should remind Canada of deaths of hundreds of native residential school students, who had been literally snatched from their families, the retired officer said, adding that it would be interesting to see whether any political parties, civil society groups or those who issue statements against Sri Lanka at the drop of a hat would question the Canada’s gruesome past. So far unmarked graves of more than 1000 native children have been found on the grounds of such schools run till the mid-1990s, the retired Major General said.

Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, son of veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree presented the motion on Wednesday (18). “Canada becomes the first national parliament in the world to recognize May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day,” tweeted, Anandasangree, the MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park.

The motion states that “this House acknowledges the Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and recognizes May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”.

The House of Commons unanimously accepted the motion.

Gallage alleged that Sri Lanka lacked political will to counter the campaign against the country. Acknowledging the current political-fiscal -social crisis caused by decades of economic mismanagement, he warned that the Canadian declaration would have disastrous consequences. Would the government care to examine how interested parties could exploit the Canadian condemnation of Sri Lanka? Gallage asked.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in the third week of May 2009.

Gallage questioned the responsibility on the part of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries for Sri Lanka’s failure to meet the challenge.

Anandasangaree brought forward the motion on the 13th anniversary of the annihilation of the LTTE fighting cadre at Mullivaikkal.

Retired Maj. Gen. said that those who had failed to throw a lifeline to the LTTE as the military brought the war to a rapid conclusion worked overtime for the realization of the Canadian project.

Responding to another query, Gallage said that declaration of May 18 as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against itself at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in early Oct. 2015 under the yahapalana regime.

Gallage recalled how Australia denied him a visa during yahapalana administration though there hadn’t been specific war crimes allegations against him. Australia also found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009.

Established in Jan, 2008, the 59 Division, deployed on the eastern flank aka the Weli Oya front, fought under the then Brig. Nandana Udawatte’s command for one year to cross the Anandakulam and Nagacholai forest reserves, which served as natural defences for the LTTE Mullaitivu stronghold.

Maj. Gen. Gallage said that the Parliament should respond to the Canadian House of Commons declaration on Tamil genocide. The former senior officer who was always in the thick of combat reiterated that unless tangible action was taken immediately the Canadian motion would cause irreparable damage. The Tamil Diaspora would exploit their success with Canadian political parties to pressure other countries, Gallage said, the coming Geneva sessions would be quite a challenge.

He urged the current military top brass to make representations to the government as regards the damning unfair Canadian indictment of Sri Lanka. “We should ask Canada to share with us information on the basis its Parliament reached conclusion that genocide took place here. The very basis of their declaration is questionable,” Gallage said, adding that Sri Lanka should officially inform Canada of the Indian intervention that led to the deaths of thousands, both before and after the deployment of the Indian Army (1987-1990), killing of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE female suicide cadre and the sea borne attempt to assassinate the Maldivian President in 1989. “We should set the record straight. We should use wartime British High Commission cables now in the public domain to counter lies,” the Gajaba Regiment veteran said.

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Some MPs seek hotel accommodation to attend parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday that a group of MPs had requested that they be provided hotel accommodations for them to attend Parliament sittings.

Speaker Abeywardena said that the request had been made due to the prevailing fuel crisis.

The Speaker said that some MPs who travelled from outstations were unable to return home due to the fuel shortage.

“Therefore, they have requested me to book a hotel for them to stay in Colombo to attend Parliament proceedings,” he said.

The Speaker’s clarification came as reports of MPs being provided fuel at a subsidised rate were raised in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that fuel had not been given at subsidised rates to any MP.

Many government MPs also lost life possessions as their houses were looted and torched by marauding mobs early last week.

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Elder brother says MR should have known when to quit politics

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SLPP MP and former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that his younger brother former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should have retired from politics after concluding his second term as President.

“Nearly 50 years of his outstanding political achievements and journey have been lost at present,” he said.

“If we become greedy for power and positions then we face such consequences as we see today,” he said.

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