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Former COPE Chairman: Budget will facilitate land grabs

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By Saman Indrajith

SLPP dissident MP Prof Charitha Herath on Tuesday said Budget 2023 contained proposals to place state lands under the purview of District and Divisional Secretaries on the pretext of promoting cultivation.

Participating in the second reading debate on Budget 2023, Prof. Herath said the proposal, if implemented, would enable the cronies of the ruling party to get hold of government lands. “The LRC lands had been misappropriated for the political gains by every government, since 1977. There are some wrongs in the manner of LRC lands were utilised. Now this Budget is proposing to give legitimacy to that wrong procedure. We summoned the LRC, two or three times before the Committee on Public Enterprises, and investigated the matter, to find that there had been many shortcomings in the LRC land utilisation process. We instructed the officials to right those wrongs. Now Budget 2023 proposes that these LRC lands should be placed under District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries and allow them to decide to whom those lands should be given for the purpose of cultivating them. The proposal would prune down the powers of the Lands Minister.

“We do not approve the status quo of the LRC because every lands minister has placed the LRC under his or her friends who in return placed the lands at LRC under the mercy of the Minister. This should come to an end but not in the manner that has been envisaged by Budget 2023.

“I call on those SLPP members thinking to vote to pass this Budget to take this proposal seriously and consider amending it. People who had voted for the SLPP did not vote us to be a part of such wrong acts, such as robbing the LRC lands in the guise of distributing them for cultivation,” Prof Herath said.

He added that the Budget proposals seem to achieve some political agendas rather than finding answers to the woes of the people who have been hit hard by the economic crisis.

“Some of these proposals are similar to what Ranil Wickremesinghe had promised during the presidential elections campaigns in 1999 and 2005. People have rejected them by voting against him. It is sad to notice that some of our SLPP MPs are planning to vote for these proposals which are against the wishes and aspirations of those who had voted for us.

“I personally do not think that most of these proposals are feasible. They are not feasible because they are fundamentally wrong. For example, the National Development Committee proposed in the Section 17.2 of the Budget proposals is to become a cabal of a few henchmen of the President. That would be one similar to the Paskaralingam, and a few, who ran the government affairs in 2015. This cabal is to be placed above the Cabinet of Ministers and the Cabinet would be rendered inactive. This committee is to be given powers of monitoring and screening development projects. It is that committee that would select the development projects not the Cabinet which would be forced to give consent.

“In addition, I do not think that some of the proposals are serious. Eight months back, Ranil Wickremesinghe presented a mini-budget to this very same House. When we compare it with the latest one, we find many contradictions. The proposals for the same area or same subject matter are diametrically opposite from each document. It is sure that there are two groups of authors for these two proposals.

“In the mini-budget proposals read to this House on Aug 30, it was promised to set up a Debt Management agency. No such agency has been set up nor is there a single word about it in the present Budget. There had also been a proposal for a National Agency for Public-Private Partnership in the mini-budget. Budget 2023 has not even mentioned it. Also the mini-budget spoke of setting up of a series of companies as youth agriculture companies. That too is absent in the new Budget. The mini-budget promised a road to recovery but that concept has totally been forgotten in the new Budget. So it is clear that these Budget proposals are only a word game to fool the people and international community. These words have no meaning in practical level,” Prof Herath said.



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92 Octane Petrol increased by Rs 30 per liter effective midnight today

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CEYPETCO and LANKA IOC have increased the price of 92 Octane petrol by Rs 30 per liter with effect from midnight today (01 February). The new price will be Rs 400 per liter

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Full implementation of 13A: NFF vows to torpedo Ranil’s move, asks Dinesh, Mahinda to disclose their stance

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent member of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya (NJS), has declared that it would oppose President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The patriotic people were ready to defeat such plans, even at the expense of their lives, the party has vowed.

The breakaway JVP faction consists of six MPs, including former minister Wimal Weerawansa. The NJS is contesting the Local Government polls, scheduled for March 09, under the ‘Helicopter’ symbol.

NFF spokesperson, MP Jayantha Samaraweera, on Monday (30), told the media that his party was ready to lead a campaign against the UNP leader’s move to do away with constitutional safeguards meant to ensure Sri Lanka’s unitary status. The Lawmaker addressed the media at the NFF main office, at Pitakotte.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the controversial constitutional amendment at the Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15, President Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to the Eelam project during the party leaders’ meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, the former State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera asked Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had flanked President Wickremesinghe, at the party leaders’ meeting, to disclose their stand on 13th Amendment.

The Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, consisting of NFF, Democratic Left Front, Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya, Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya, Vijayadharani Jathika Sabhawa, Yuthukama, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, Jana Jaya Peramuna, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and Nidahas Janatha Peramuna, has yet to disclose its position on this issue.

MP Samaraweera attacked the President, close on the heels of NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also the Chairman of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), questioning the legitimacy of the move. Lawmaker Weerawansa addressed this issue at a meeting held at the BMICH, on January 26, to discuss ways and means to thwart the move to privatize the CEB.

The ULS consisting of seven political parties, and groups, is aligned with the NJS.

Referring to the circumstances UNP leader Wickremesinghe re-entered Parliament, through the National List, nearly a year after the last General Election, former Minister Weerawansa emphasized the President didn’t have a mandate to fully implement the 13th Amendment. How could the UNP leader abolish Sri Lanka’s unitary status, having received an opportunity to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remainder of five-year term, won at the Nov. 2019 Presidential Election.

The MP challenged their erstwhile comrades, in the JVP, to state their position on the 13th Amendment. Alleging that the JVP had been conveniently silent on the issue at hand, MP Samaraweera asked whether the current leadership would take up Wickremesinghe’s challenge.

In addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera, Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, has declared opposition to the President’s move, at the party leaders’ meeting.

Of the SLPP parliamentary group, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is the only MP to publicly oppose Wickremesinghe’s proposal.

Political sources said that the NJS, as a group contesting the forthcoming LG polls, was yet to deliberate this issue and take a stand. They said that consensus was required without further delay as the President’s proposal would be a major issue at the forthcoming election.

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PHU, too, opposes land, police powers to PCs

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A lawyers’ group, aligned with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), yesterday (31) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t unilaterally decide on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Attorneys-at-Law Pasan Gunasekera and Bhupathi Kahathuduwa, in a statement issued, explained why police and land powers, in terms of the controversial amendment, shouldn’t be granted to Provincial Councils. Abolition of current constitutional safeguard would undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status thereby paved the way for a new conflict.

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