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Gevindu confident of President keeping his promise to unveil new draft Constitution before end of this year



Gammanpila initiated a new political culture by taking public into confidence


By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP parliamentarian  Gevindu Cumaratunga is confident a new draft Constitution will be presented to the country before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa completes two years in office in November.

Cumaratunga, who is also the Chairman of the Yuthukama civil society organisation told The Island that President Rajapaksa assured the government parliamentary group of his intention to do so before the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution last October.

The Parliament endorsed the 20th Amendment with an overwhelming two-thirds majority.

The 20th Amendment incorporated a key provision in the 19th that restricted both presidential and parliamentary terms to five years each.

A nine-member committee led by Romesh de Silva, PC, is in the process of formulating the new draft Constitution.

The grandson of Sinhala literary genius Munidasa Kumaratunga said that the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) led Opposition could quite rightly move a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against the government if President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration failed to fulfill its mandate.

Responding to another query, Cumaratunga said that during his brief speech in Parliament on Monday (19), on the opening day of the two-day debate on the NCM moved against Energy Minister Attorney-at-law Udaya Gammanpila the issue was addressed.

Pointing out that the SJB lacked sufficient strength in Parliament to at least to challenge the government, MP Cumaratunga said that the SLPP received two strong mandates in Nov 2019 and Aug 2020 to introduce a new Constitution.

Referring to a relentless campaign undertaken by Yuthukama after the 2015 change of government, MP Cumaratunga emphasised that the government remained committed to introducing a new Constitution that guaranteed security of the State and equality in law. Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the 1978 Constitution had been eroded by enactment of various amendments to appease those who had pursued agendas inimical to overall national interests.

The MP asserted that in spite of a delay in the new Constitution making process due to the eruption of Covid-19 epidemic the draft Constitution could be presented by Nov. Yuthukama leader expressed confidence in unveiling the draft Constitution at the completion of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s second year in office as the latter declared his intention to seek a second five-year term.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was responding to a query posed by Rupavahini Chairman Reginald Cooray, a former lawmaker who served as the Northern Province Governor during Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the SJB handed over its much-touted NCM against the Energy Minister to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, on June 15. However, the SJB as well as the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, in a statement issued on June 12 questioned the rationale in moving a NCM against the Energy Minister over the increase in fuel prices as it was decision subjected to Cabinet approval.

MP Cumaratunga said that the two-day debate on NCM against the Energy Minister was nothing but an utter waste of time and resources. When attacked over the announcement that he made on June 12, Minister Gammanpila quite intrepidly set the record straight.

The Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader had no qualms in pointing out that the decision to increase the prices of fuel was taken on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee meeting, chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by several others, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Noting that Premier, in his capacity as the Finance Minister authorised the fuel price hike in writing, MP Cumaratunga said that the issue at hand should never be the basis for NCM.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the country faced a daunting challenge in meeting the growing oil bill. Referring to Sri Lanka’s efforts to develop oil wells and natural gas site off the northwest coast, MP Cumaratunga underscored the importance in bolstering renewable energy sources.

The Yuthukama Chief said that Minister Gammanpila had set an unprecedented example by taking the public into confidence by telling them the unpalatable truth. Paying a glowing tribute to the PHU leader for initiating a new political culture, MP Cumaratunga said that the public shouldn’t be deceived under any circumstances. The MP pointed out that at the onset of attacks on Minister Gammanpila, the Presidential Secretariat on June 13 confirmed the crisis caused by the CPC and the CEB being in debt to Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his address to the nation, about 10 days later admitted the challenge in meeting annual loan payments amounting to USD 4 bn, lawmaker Cumaratunga said.

Yuthukama leader said that fuel price changes effected on June 12 remained unchanged though some speculated about downward revision. The MP said that Minister Gammanpila proved that whatever the criticism he wouldn’t change his stance to appease the crowds.

In the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation on June 12, a group of lawmakers issued a statement backing the PHU leader. Minister Gammanpila’s resignation was demanded on the basis he acted contrary to the government by increasing fuel prices.



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Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused



By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.



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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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