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Efforts underway to hold PC polls soon: Dinesh

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by Saman Indrajith

Leader of the House, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena says that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms wanted to hold elections for the provincial councils expeditiously.

The PSC appointed to Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws and the Electoral System and to Recommend Necessary Amendments has already made a request to the Attorney General’s Department to obtain their recommendations on the steps to be taken to hold the election at an earliest possible date, said Gunawardena who is also the chairman of the PSC.

The minister said so at a PSC meeting held at the parliamentary complex on Wednesday (22).

MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero who testified on behalf of the ‘Our Power of People Party’ (Ape Janabala Pakshaya) said that it would be appropriate to abolish the existing preferential electoral system completely. He also pointed out the need to have a Member of Parliament responsible for each electoral division.

He urged that the representation of minority parties should be ensured and a culture of ideological politics should be created in the country. He added that criteria should be formulated regarding the control of election expenses and that democratic principles should be introduced to political parties.

Speaking at the committee on behalf of the SJB, the party’s chief executive, former minister Ajith. P. Perera, said that the 20th amendment to the constitution had given power to other parties. He also pointed out that a policy of checks and balances should be implemented between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

Perera stated that there is a code of conduct for Members of Parliament and it should be implemented in practice. He also raised the need to formulate a Code of Conduct for Members of Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.

He also said that in all electoral reforms, the right to vote should be guaranteed as a part of the sovereignty of the people and the principles of democracy should be upheld there.

Perera further said that it was very important that all elections be held freely and fairly. He also emphasized in the Committee that Parliamentary, Provincial Council and Local Government elections should be held under the Proportional Representation System.

New laws should be enacted to regulate the financial expenditure of the election campaign and to ensure the representation of youth and women, he urged; and suggested that dual citizen should be disqualified from contest elections and that a system should be set up for the proper registration of all eligible voters.

The SJB representatives pointed out the need for equal distribution of state and private media airtime between the parties contesting the elections.

MP Kabir Hashim said that there should be an election schedule in the country to ensure the right of the people to vote.

Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Douglas Devananda, Wimal Weerawansa, M.U.M Ali Sabry, MPs Anura Dissanayake, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, M.A Sumanthiran, Rauf Hakeem, Mano Ganesan, Madura Vithanage and Sagara Kariyawasam were also present at the meeting.

Officials from the Delimitation Commission and the Attorney General’s Department also participated in the committee. The next meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee is scheduled to be held on Sept 29, said Secretary to the Select Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera.



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Vasu defends constituents’ right to differ

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Prez chairs govt. group meeting:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has strongly defended the right of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) constituents’ to take up contentious issues in public.

Minister Nanayakkara told SLPP parliamentary group meeting at the President’s House on Sunday night (24) that their right to differ on matters of public interest shouldn’t be questioned.

Nanayakkara said so when Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi faulted some constituent parties for dissenting views on certain issues.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was present at the meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The meeting lasted for about two hours.

The SLPP held Sunday’s meet in the wake of some constituent parties of the ruling coalition asking for a discussion on the questionable agreement between the government and the US New Fortress Energy Company over the Yugadanavi power plant, etc. Sources said that initially, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated that the issue could be discussed with the Premier but subsequently arrangements were made for the Sunday’s meeting.

The New Fortress recently announced that a definitive agreement had been executed for the external investment in West Coast Power Limited (WCP).

WCP owns the 310 megawatts Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo. The deal is also for the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo. In terms of the agreement, New Fortress will acquire a 40 per cent ownership stake in WCP. The US energy firm plans to build an offshore LNG terminal located off the coast of Colombo.

Minister Nanayakkara has said it is not unusual for members of a coalition to hold different views depending on the issues as they also represent the interests of the public.

Nanayakkara has pointed out how the left parties remained with the UPFA though they didn’t agree with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to enact the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on 08 Sept. 2010, enabling the President to seek a third term among other things.

The SLPP constituents have differed with the government on several issues such as fuel price increases announced by Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on 12 June as well as the abortive bid to transfer 49 percent of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port to India and Japan.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the constituents’ campaign. He sought an explanation particularly as regards Cabinet approval for the controversial energy deal with the US firm, without a discussion among ministers.

NFF sources told The Island that their leader felt the urgent need to take up the matter to prevent further deterioration of relations among the coalition members.

Several parties including government ally the Jathika Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, respectively against the secretive energy deal with the US firm.

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‘Those who hesitate to get vaccinated pose a threat to others’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said yesterday a significant number of people had not received the Covid-19 vaccine, and posed a threat to society.

“No matter what your age category is, you will be at a higher risk of being infected and spreading it to others. So please get vaccinated,” he urged.

The DDGHS said that a booster shot would be given to people from 01 Nov.

The Health Ministry would carry out the ongoing vaccination drive until everyone got the first two doses, he said.

“However, we won’t keep hundreds of vaccination centres open. Most likely, those who have not got vaccinated will have to go to designated locations to receive the vaccine.”

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School attendance high as parents have faith in teachers – CTU head

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Teachers and principals protested at Colombo Fort yesterday urging the government to rectify their salary anomalies. The protesters marched from the Fort Railway Station towards the Presidential Secretariat but police did not permit them to proceed beyond the Telecom rounadbout. Pic by Nishan S Priyantha

By Rathindra Kuruwita

School attendance was high Despite inter-provincial travel restrictions, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin said yesterday. “The government announced on 22 October that primary sections of all schools would be reopened on 25 October. Despite the short notice the attendance was high, and this is testament to the faith parents have in teachers,” he said.Primary sections of 9,155 schools recommenced yesterday.

“However, we will only teach. Teachers do a lot of additional work instead of teaching and most people who slander us have no idea about this,” he said.

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath urged relevant authorities to provide safe and adequate transport facilities to students. It was vital that those vehicles were ventilated, and social distancing was maintained.

“We urge parents to buy reusable face masks for kids. If your child has any symptoms of COVID such as fever and cold, don’t send him/her to school until you are certain this is not COVID. Teach your child the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. This is the way we can ensure there is no spread in the school system,” Dr. Herath said.

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