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FSP sees something sinister in President attempting to simplify rules and regulations



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The commission appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa purportedly to simplify existing laws and regulations was his latest attempt to neutralise institutions that acted as a countervailing force against the state and private actors, Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Education Secretary Pubudu Jayagoda told The Island yesterday.

Jayagoda said such action will have a devastating impact on the general public.

“This commission headed by Adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Chairman of John Keells Group Krishan Balendra has a lot of private sector people as members. The government is determined to allow the private sector to maximise profit at the expense of the people and the environment.”

The FSP Education Secretary said that this commission should not be taken in isolation. The vision of President Rajapaksa is one of deregulation and weakening of social contracts and ethics that prevent individuals from doing things that are harmful to the society.

“Former British Prime Minister and arch neoliberal Margaret Thatcher said that there was no such thing as society and that there were only individual men and women. The current President seems to have been cut from the same cloth.

“At the Cabinet meeting on 21 December 2020, there was a discussion on the role of various regulatory institutions, from the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). The President was reportedly of the view that these institutions stalled development. No one said a word against it.”

A few days later the PUCSL was scrapped by a letter signed by Secretary to the President, P.B. Jayasundera.”

The FSP Education Secretary said that the PUCSL had been established by an act of Parliament, which alone could dissolve it. To overcome that obstacle the government later asked the Commission members to resign.

“Soon, there will be no one to regulate the power sector, etc., and the sky will be the limit for crooked companies hell bent on profit maximisations.

Soon after the President came into power, and a new Cabinet was appointed, they said there was no need to get permits to transport granite, soil and sand. When many objected, the government said permits would be issued, but Police won’t check. How absurd! Later, the government backtracked due to pressure but in the 2021 budget proposals, it came up with a proposal to hand over the power of issuing extracting permits to an entity appointed by the President.”

Jayagoda said that currently, before allowing anyone to extract granite, sand, soil, etc., the GSMB first had to examine the site and approve it. Then the Central Environment Authority (CEA) examines the environmental aspect and the Divisional Secretary and the Grama Niladari look at social and administration issues of allowing the project.

“Now, all powers will be given an entity appointed by the President. This is not the end of this. At the Cabinet meeting I mentioned earlier, they spoke about scrapping or weakening all regulatory bodies, including the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA.) Yes, there are complaints that commissions that are there to protect people and their rights are inefficient. Successive governments have also promoted this idea that there is no point in even complaining. If these institutions are inefficient, they should be made better. They must not be done away with under any circumstances.

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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?



… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.



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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others



The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.



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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area



Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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