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EC suggests minor amendment to pave the way for PC polls



Sri Lanka’s Amb. in Myanmar calls for scrapping of PCs

SLPP reiterated its commitment to fresh elections

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission Chief attorney-at-law Nimal Punchihewa yesterday (16) said that the government could easily pave the way for Provincial Council polls by effecting a simple amendment to the Provincial Councils Act.

Punchihewa said so in response to The Island query whether the EC was making preparations for PC polls in the wake of its five members meeting Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Punchihewa said that as a new Act in respect of PCs had been endorsed in Parliament during the previous administration, polls couldn’t be held in the absence of a delimitation process.

Therefore, the polls couldn’t be conducted in terms of the new Act in the foreseeable future, the EC Chairman said. The only feasible strategy was to introduce an amendment to suspend the new Act pending the conclusion of polls in terms of the previous Act, the lawyer said.

Asked how fast the EC could move in case they secured the parliamentary approval as suggested by him, a confident Punchihewa said that arrangements could be finalized within 10 to 12 weeks.

Punchihewa said that the required amendment could be approved with a simple majority.

The top official explained that the PC system had been fully functional though elections weren’t held for any of the nine councils.

“In spite of the absence of elected representatives, respective Governors and relevant officials operate the system,” Punchihewa said. The EC Chief dismissed the much-touted claim that the PC system had collapsed for want of elections.

Punchihewa emphasized that the decision on PC polls rested with the government. The official expressed the view that the continuation of the Governors reflected the actual situation.

However, some of those who backed the SLPP at the 2019 presidential and 2020 general elections were strongly opposed to PC polls.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Myanmar Prof. Nalin de Silva has called for scrapping of what he called an utterly wasteful system. Ambassador de Silva declared that in the absence of elected PCs, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution had been automatically abolished. Therefore, the much controversial 13th plus proposal, too, had been done away, Ambassador de Silva said, declaring there was no basis for assertion that democracy could be achieved by way of implementation of the PCs system.

Ambassador de Silva also questioned the proposed PC polls against the backdrop of the government undertaking a high profile project to introduce a new Constitution.

The retired Professor said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t bend backwards to appease India hell-bent on pursuing its despicable strategy here though it failed to implement the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.

 Against the backdrop of India’s failure to disarm the LTTE within the stipulated time, there was no point in talking about the so called Indo-Lanka Accord, the academic said.

Declaring that the PCs didn’t serve any purpose, Ambassador de Silva pointed out that the PC system accommodated hundreds of politicians and paved the way for some to enter Parliament.

Referring to Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kutani leader C.W. Wigneswaran’s entry into parliamentary politics, Ambassador de Silva pointed out how the former Supreme Court judge exploited his position as the Northern province Chief Minister to launch a political party.

The Ambassador urged the government not to succumb to Indian pressure as the 13th Amendment lacked any legal status in the absence of functioning PCs.

SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, explained that as long as the 13th Amendment remained part of the Constitution, elections would have to be conducted and PCs empowered fully to serve the people. National List MP Kariyawasam pointed out that the government allocated a significant amount of funds for the PCs through the annual budget. Pointing out that funds had been allocated through the 2021 budget to PCs, too, lawmaker Kariyawasam emphasized that functioning PCs couldn’t be indefinitely run by Governors and officials, therefore polls would have to be held.

MP Kariyawasam stressed that the SLPP’s position on PCs was clear. There was absolutely no ambiguity in respect of the SLPP’s desire to conduct PC polls as quickly as possible to ensure proper public participation in the process.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre



By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments




The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.


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