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.
DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL
by PRIYAN DE SILVA
The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.
The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.
The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).
The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.
Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969
The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.
Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.
“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.
Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.
“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.
The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.
“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.
The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.
“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.
Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.
“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.
JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?
By Rathindra Kuruwita
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.
“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.
Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.
“They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.
Strong winds over Eastern, Uva, Western, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in Galle, Matara, Mullaitivu, Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts.
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