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Electoral reforms: EC yet to receive invitation from expert committee  

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Election Commission (EC) hasn’t received an opportunity to appear before the nine-mmeber committee tasked with formulating a draft constitution.

Well informed sources told The Island that the EC submitted an eight-point proposal regarding electoral reforms to the committee, chaired by Romesh de Silva, PC, following a meeting held on January 29, 2021.

Sources said that although several parties, including those represented in Parliament, had been invited to make submissions, the EC was yet to discuss its proposals with de Silva’s committee.

Responding to another query, sources revealed that the same set of proposals, in addition to other required information, pertaining to the issue at hand, had been submitted to the recently appointed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms.

The 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 recommendation is among eight far reaching proposals Commissioner General of EC Saman Sri Ratnayake has made on January 29, 202.

The EC emphasised that lawmakers unless suffering from some illness, or specific justifiable reason, should attend the stipulated number of parliamentary sessions or face expulsion.

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.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted 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.



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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