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Explanation sought from govt; Douglas silent on issue at Romesh de Silva Committee

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North granted land powers:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Myanmar, Prof. Nalin de Silva, has said that the government owes an explanation as regards EPDP leader Douglas Devananda’s recent claim that the current administration granted the Northern Province (NP) land powers in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Responding to The Island report headlined ‘North granted land powers’ published on 19 Feb, Prof. de Silva emphasised the responsibility on the part of the government and Devananda, who holds the fisheries portfolio to set the record straight as far as he was concerned Provincial Councils never received police and land powers.

The NP consists of the administrative districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya. Prof. de Silva challenged Devananda’s claim that the NP had received land powers hitherto enjoyed by other Provincial Councils.

The retired Academic underscored the pivotal importance in establishing whether provinces other than the North exercised land powers before it was granted the same.

According to a missive from Prof. de Silva received by The Island, the academic asked what were the specific land powers granted to the North, did the government act in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and when exactly such powers were granted? Ambassador de Silva pointed out that even in the absence of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution; respective Land Commissioners enjoyed certain powers. Therefore, it would be pertinent to ask whether powers in terms of the 13th Amendment, too, had been granted, Prof. de Silva said pointing out that Devananda had faulted Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera for taking a public stand against the devolution of power to the Provinces.

Prof. de Silva said that the vast majority of the Sinhala community was of the same opinion that if necessary a referendum could be held on the devolution of powers.

He referred to a court ruling that a particular land matter couldn’t be dealt in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The academic turned diplomat questioned the rationale behind the EPDP leader’s claim. Although politicians routinely made all sorts of claims, Devananda’s declaration couldn’t be taken lightly as he was a member of the cabinet of ministers.

Prof. de Silva speculated on the possibility of Devananda’s claim being part of propaganda as he battled with other Tamil political parties based in the Northern Province.

Recently, the Indian High Commission discussed with TMVP lawmaker Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pilleyan and former MP Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka Karuna, both former members of the LTTE, the need for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Referring to the roles played by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in the government and the SLPP, respectively, Ambassador de Silva appreciated the recent decision taken by SLPP constituents to meet under the President’s leadership. He said that the decision should have been taken earlier. Emphasizing that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the leader of the SLPP-led coalition in power, Amb de Silva said that Minister Devananda had quite rightly recognized the ground realities. Prof. de Silva said now that the SLPP constituents would meet once in two weeks, Devananda would get an opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest such as the operation of Provincial Councils system with the focus on land powers.

Amb. de Silva explained that it was important to understand who was in control of the incumbent administration. The mathematician emphasized that the coalition led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in control, not the SLPP as believed by many.

Meanwhile, Minister Devananda on Saturday (20) appeared before the government appointed 9-member committee tasked with formulating a new Constitution. The committee headed by Romesh de Silva, PC is in the process of receiving representations from political parties. Well informed sources told The Island that during Saturday’s representations Minister Devananda didn’t make reference to the NP being granted land powers.

Successive governments refrained from implementing land and police powers though President JR Jayewardene set up Provincial Councils in terms of the 13th Amendment enacted under Indian pressure in the late 80s with those provisions.

All Provincial Councils are defunct due to the failure on the part of the previous government to conduct elections though Governors appointed by the executive run them. Government sources said that a section of the government was opposed to polls before Romesh de Silva’s committee finalized its proposals. Sources said that the proposed Constitution would be ready by April for consideration of the cabinet.



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Embassy officer arrested at BIA remanded

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The Embassy official who was attached to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Oman who is accused of being involved in a human trafficking racket was arrested by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and remanded till the 13th of December when he was produced before the Colombo Chief Magistrate

The official was arrested on his arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) this morning (29 November).

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Easter Sunday terror attack suspect hacked to death

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By Norman Palihawadane

A 38-year-old Easter Sunday terror attack suspect was hacked to death yesterday morning (28) in Mattakkuliya.

The victim, Mohamed Badurdeen Mohamed Harnas, was a resident of Safiya Avenue, Mattakkuliya, police said.

A suspect in the Easter Sunday terror attacks, he had been released on bail.

The suspect was rushed to the National Hospital, Colombo, after three individuals, who arrived in a car around 10. 00 am, attacked him.

Two persons attacked the man while the other was keeping the car engine running, according to eyewitnesses. The attackers thereafter fled in the same car.

Harnas was pronounced dead on admission to hospital.

Further investigations in this regard are currently underway.

The victims family members said that Harnas had been taken into custody, following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, but later released as there was no evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

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Rail service between Mahawa and Jaffna to be suspended for five months

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Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday that the railway services between Mahawa and Jaffna will be suspended for a period of five months in 2023.

The Minister said that operations will be suspended from January 15, 2023.

The Minister said it was to repair work on the railway line.

He said so in response to a question raised by Vanni District MP Selvam Adaikalanathan.

“We are focusing our attention on the request made by you. We have to halt railway operations between Mahawa and Jaffna for five months from January 2023. Train services have been continuously operating to Jaffna, but now we have faced a situation as we have not been able to carry out any repair work thus far,” the Minister said.

Assuring that this issue can be rectified in five months, Minister Gunawardane said that, thereafter, a good railway service can be provided for this route.

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