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FSP leading ‘Gota Go Home’ campaign wants Parliament to take charge, dilute executive powers

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‘Time not opportune for general election’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda says the Parliament should be vested with required powers, at expense of the executive, until early parliamentary elections can be conducted.

Jagoda, one of the key FSP activists spearheading the ‘Go Gota Home’ campaign emphasised that the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa was a prerequisite for the formulation of an all-party parliamentary mechanism. The FSP activist insisted that their resignations shouldn’t be subject to a prolonged discussion.

Commenting on ongoing talks for an interim all-party arrangement, Jagoda said that such a set-up was not realistic. Pointing out differences of opinion among the sharply divided government parliamentary group as well as the Opposition, the FSP official said that the political crisis couldn’t be addressed without taking into consideration the grievances of those who had taken to the streets.

If those represented in Parliament are genuinely interested in finding a solution to the economic-political-social crisis, they should without delay introduce an amendment to dilute executive powers, Jagoda said. Having done that the Parliament could empower itself to undertake the daunting challenge of economic recovery, the erstwhile JVPer said.

The FSP came into being in early April 2012 following the second major split in the JVP since the elimination of its founder leader Rohana Wijeweera in Nov 1989 after being captured by the government, while he was masquerading as a proprietary planter. The first split occurred in May 2008 when a group of lawmakers led by Wimal Weerawansa switched allegiance to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Asked whether the FSP backed the main Opposition the Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s call for immediate general election, the FSP’s Education Secretary questioned the rationale behind that stand against the backdrop of the current grave economic crisis. “Obviously, the SJB cannot be unaware of the ground situation. The country is not in position to undertake such a costly exercise. Furthermore, the current situation does not permit an election campaign,” Jagoda said.

Jagoda stressed that their assertion that time was not opportune for a general election shouldn’t be misconstrued.

Four days before the eruption of public protest at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at the Pengiriwatte Road, Mirihana, on March 31, the FSP launched the ‘Movement for People’s Struggle’ to take on the government. The project was announced on March 27 at the Ananda Samarakoon Outdoor Theater in Nugegoda.

Declaring the countrywide protest campaign conducted by a grouping of trade unions and other organizations as a success, Jagoda said that cohesive action plan was required to sustain pressure on the government.

Asked to explain, Jagoda acknowledged the need for proper leadership for the ongoing public protests and ways and means to transform that movement into a viable political project.

The former JVPer said that those who represented the Parliament clearly lacked a clear understanding of the public mood. Had they really understood the political developments, the current dispensation wouldn’t have appointed a new cabinet while retaining Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, he said.

Subsequent to the incidents at Mirihana, the organizers of the ongoing protest campaign called for a countrywide protest on April 03.They launched a high profile campaign at the Galle Face Green on April 09 before conducting countrywide protests on April 28.

Organizing Secretary of the FSP Duminda Nagamuwa addressed the gathering at Galle Face on April 28 where he vowed to continue with the ongoing campaign.

Asked to explain FSP leader Kumar Gunaratnam’s role in the public protest campaign, Jagoda said that though he didn’t visit the Galle Face protest ground the leader addressed the media. The FSP is the only political party active therein.

Jagoda said that the FSP was ready to engage in a dialogue with the protesting people as part of the overall efforts to highlight the need for public friendly government policies.

The FSP run Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF) spearheads the Galle Face protest. IUSF cadre launched large scale protests at Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Wijerama residence demanding his immediate resignation.



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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI

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Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue

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The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.

Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.

“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”

Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.

However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen

Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”

But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.

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