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Expulsion of gold smuggling MP: MNA yet to endorse ACMC’s decision

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Raheem and Bathiudeen

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act No 01 of 1981, Ali Sabry Raheem, MP, in spite of being expelled from the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) over gold smuggling bid in late March this year couldn’t be deprived of his seat unless the Muslim National Alliance (MNA), which fielded him at the last general election, endorsed the action taken by the ACMC.

ACMC leader Rishad Bathiudeen yesterday told The Island that in terms of an agreement between his party and the MNA, its General Secretary M. M. Naimullah had to write to the Election Commission with a copy to the Secretary General of Parliament.

Asked why the ACMC had taken nine months to decide on the errant MP, the former Industries and Commerce Minister said that they had followed proper procedures in this regard though the MP concerned didn’t cooperate. “Therefore, we decided to expel the MP. We conveyed our unanimous decision to both Naimullah and Raheem,” lawmaker Bathiudeen said.

Customs fined him Rs. 7.5 mn after he was detained with undeclared gold valued at Rs. 74 mn along with smartphones worth Rs. 4.2 mn at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). The MP was returning from Dubai.

MP Bathiudeen said that his party and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress had fielded candidates on the MNA ticket thereby preventing a contest between them as they desperately wanted a Muslim elected from the Puttalam district. “We have now cleared the way for Naimullah to take punitive measures against an MP who brought disrepute to the community, his party, and the party which fielded him at the last general election, as well as Parliament,” MP Bathiudeen said.

If the MNA acted in terms of the Constitution and the Parliamentary Elections Act to remove the MP, Raheem would be the second MP to lose his seat in the current Parliament. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the SLMC decision to unseat Batticaloa District MP Nazeer Ahamed for voting with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at the 2022 Budget vote, contrary to a decision taken by the party.

Former Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya explained how a party that had fielded a particular candidate could take action in case he/she was found guilty of an offense by an internal inquiry. Deshapriya, the incumbent Chairman of the Delimitation Committee said that in the case of MP Raheem the possibility of him seeking legal redress couldn’t be ruled out.

Naimullah didn’t answer his telephone or respond to SMS. Lawmaker Bathiudeen alleged that soon after being elected to Parliament, MP Raheem switched his allegiance to the SLPP. In spite of specific directive to all members of their grouping not to throw their weight behind the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, MP Raheem voted for that Bill and backed the SLPP on all other occasions, MP Bathiudeen said. However, Raheem voted with the Opposition immediately after his release from detention in March this year. The MP declared that he voted against the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government as it didn’t intervene on his behalf after his arrest at the BIA.

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration enacted the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct. 2020.

At one point MP Raheem declared himself as the leader of the MNA, MP Bathiudeen said, alleging that he was among the favoured. “MP Raheem voted with the SLPP throughout Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s time,” the former SLMC MP said. Bathiudeen represented the SLMC in Parliament before he formed the ACMC.



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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