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EC proposes tough measures, seeks additional powers



… MPs skipping sittings to lose seats

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Election Commission (EC) has recommended unseating of lawmakers who failed to attend at least one third of the total number of sessions in the first two years of the five-year term without justifiable reasons.

The unprecedented subject matter is among eight far reaching proposals Commissioner General of EC Saman Sri Ratnayake recently submitted to Romesh de Silva, PC, heading the ninemember committee, tasked with formulating a new draft constitution.

The EC emphasised that lawmakers unless suffering from some illness, or specific justifiable reason, should attend the stipulated number of parliamentary sessions or face the consequences. Major political parties have repeatedly admitted parliamentary attendance is low. On a number of occasions during yahapalana administration, sittings had to be suspended due to lack of quorum.

The five-member EC chaired by attorney-at-law Nimal G. Punchihewa include S.B. Diwarathne, M.M. Mohommed, K.P.P. Pathirana and Jeewan Thyagaraja.

Punchihewa said that their recommendations in respect of issues at hand and matters that required urgent attention were submitted to the constitution making body. The Election Commission Chairman said so when The Island sought an explanation regarding the UNP deliberately delaying the filling of its National List slot for eight months. The issue was raised at a workshop organized by the EC at its Rajagiriya headquarters on March 16.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, expanded the EC from three to five members.

The EC at a meeting held on January 29, 2021 decided the following as part of constitutional measures to improve the political environment (1) inclusion/acceptance of the right to vote as a fundamental right (2) Categorized Local Government and Provincial Council polls in addition to Presidential and Parliamentary polls to be included in the Constitution (3) Empower the EC to unseat elected members who failed to furnish accurate information regarding funds received and campaign expenses within 30 days after the release of results. In the case of defeated candidates, to deal with them on the basis of having committed an election violation (4) Elected lawmakers to lose their seats in case they failed to attend at least one third of total number of sittings within the first two years of their five-year term (5) Introduce necessary amendment/amendments to expand the provisions in respect of Referendum to pave the way for obtaining public opinion as regards some sections of a particular Act. In terms of the 1978 constitution a referendum can be conducted to ascertain public opinion on a particular matter (6) Empower the EC to take tangible measures to unseat lawmakers, Provincial Council and Local Government members in case they are convicted by a court of law after having examined the relevant cases (7) Authorize the EC to fill National List vacancies in terms of National Lists submitted by political parties along with nominations if a particular political party failed to name its appointed members within seven days after the declaration of results and (8) Provision for specific percentage for women members in parliament, Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.

Authoritative sources told The Island that in the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa calling for much delayed Provincial Council polls as soon as possible relevant authorities were discussing ways and means to finalize consensus on formula. Sources said that in the absence of consensus various interested parties pushed for different agendas. Sources said that it was not yet clear whether an agreement could be reached on 70:30 (70 per cent elected and the remaining 30 chosen from the defeated candidates).

The EC hasn’t received an opportunity yet to make representations to Romesh de Silva’s team though written submission was made several weeks ago.

Asked whether the recommendations that had been submitted to the expert group received the blessings of political parties represented in parliament, sources said that the matters therein were taken up with political parties, both in and outside parliament, in addition to polls monitoring groups. Sources said that a meeting with the expert group was necessary to explain some matters. Responding to another query, sources said that perhaps the third recommendation should be expanded to cover campaign financing received by political parties at presidential and parliamentary elections.

In spite of a section of the media and some lawmakers raising foreign funding made available for political parties at presidential and parliamentary polls, the EC was yet to take tangible measures, sources acknowledged.

In fact the former US Secretary of state John Kerry even crowed about spending several hundred million dollars to ensure leadership changes in several countries, including Myanmar and Sri Lanka after they were carried out to fruition. In the latter case the toppling was engineered in January 2015.

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Abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony to achieve spiritual and worldly success – President




President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his Hajj message emphasizes that to achieve spiritual and worldly success, individuals must abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony. It is with this noble aim in mind that Muslims celebrate the Hajj festival each year.

On this occasion, Muslims from around the globe gather at a single place of worship, united in purpose, to pray for communal values that embody the hope of humanity. The Hajj celebration fosters feelings of equality and brotherhood among all people, delivering a profound message for world peace.

I extend my heartfelt wishes to the entire Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world for a meaningful Hajj celebration, where everyone comes together to fulfill the aspirations of humanity.

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Justice Minister goes ahead with SLFP election campaign



… attends Karandeniya meeting with MS

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who calls himself the SLFP’s presidential candidate, launched the SLFP’s election campaign yesterday (16) in spite of restraining orders the Colombo District Court has issued against him and former SLFP Chairman Maithripala Sirisena.

Minister Rajapakshe attended the SLFP meeting at Karandeniya, the main meeting of the Galle District. Former President Sirisena was also present at the meeting organised by former monitoring MP of the Foreign Ministry Sajin de Vas Gunawardena.

Restrictions imposed on Sirisena and Rajapakshe are effective until June 19 and June 25, respectively.

The Election Commission on May 09 announced by virtue of the powers vested in the Commission to fix the date for the Presidential Election, it will hold the Presidential Election between 17 September and 16 October 2024.

The group headed by Sirisena decided to go ahead with the campaign, especially in the wake of the other section forming an alliance with a group of SLPP rebels to back Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the forthcoming Presidential Poll. However, Sirisena and Minister Rajapakshe, both elected to Parliament on the SLPP ticket, couldn’t represent the party, in any capacity, sources say.

Meanwhile, Chief Government Whip Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (16) disclosed that the ruling SLPP wouldn’t field a candidate of its own and would throw its weight behind a candidate in the fray instead.

When he was asked, after a meeting in Minuwangoda, whether the SLPP would field a presidential candidate, Minister Ranatunga said it would support a candidate in the fray. Minister Ranatunga reiterated that the incumbent President was the best to lead the country therefore he believed he should be supported. The Minister said that the support would grow for Wickremesinghe after he officially declared his candidature.

Minister Ranatunga said that though he didn’t like Wickremesinghe the current crisis had compelled him to back him.

Another Minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchci, widely believed to be a staunch Rajapaksa loyalist, declared on Saturday (15) though the SLPP and President Wickremesinghe differed on policy for the sake of the country such differences had to be sunk. Wanniarachchi said so in Embilipitiya.

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NMSJ calls for proper use of IMF funds



Karu Jayasuriya

Former Speaker and the National Movement of Social Justice (NMSJ) Chairperson Karu Jayasuriya, yesterday stressed the critical importance of effectively utilising the third tranche of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package.

Jayasuriya has, in a media statement, said steps must be taken to ensure proper use of the funds. The IMF released the third tranche of $ 336 million from its $ 2.9 billion bailout package.

Full text of the statement: “We believe that the release of the third tranche by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is crucial for Sri Lanka’s restructuring programme and is in the nation’s best interest. It is our national responsibility to allocate and manage these funds towards the country’s development. Given the current economic challenges and the significant sacrifices made by the people, it is imperative that every penny received is used responsibly and effectively.

“Our foremost concern is the urgent need to combat waste and corruption, consistently highlighted by the IMF.

“Additionally, rehabilitating neglected ancient tanks, totaling approximately 15,000, for modern agricultural use is essential. This initiative can be supported by international funds, friendly nations, the private sector, and the military, promising transformative outcomes.

“Another major task is to immediately accelerate the export sector. In the 1990s, a significant programme under the theme “Export or Perish” was launched, including the highly successful international trade fair “Expo 92,” which attracted 5,600 foreign buyers. The concept of Export Villages was successfully implemented, resulting in high incomes for people in selected villages. Given the current situation, we can establish special export villages by leveraging the support of the supermarket chains that are currently operating successfully.

“The Export Development Board (EDB) should be given the necessary resources and powers to strengthen its capabilities. With advanced communication technology, Sri Lanka can be promoted as a country with rapidly increasing exports, even without the need for traditional exhibitions.

“At the same time, it is crucial to support the development of small and medium-scale entrepreneurs (SMEs). This can be achieved by providing subsidized interest rates and basic infrastructure facilities. We should take inspiration from the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who created new opportunities for India’s youth through the development of the IT/BPO sector. This concept can be easily popularized in Sri Lanka, offering similar benefits.

“The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) urges immediate action on these fronts, expecting responsible leadership to address these pressing issues.”

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