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Gevindu insists on abolishing  provincial councils under new Constitution

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By Saman Indrajith

 

The New constitution to be framed should abolish the provincial councils without thinking of holding elections to them, SLPP MP Genvindu Cumaratunga told parliament yesterday.

Participating in a debate at the time of adjournment of the House on the Financial Commission, the MP said that the Commission had been introduced under the 13th Amendment resultant from the 1987 Indo-Lanka Peace Accord that had been forced on Sri Lanka by India. “The Financial Commission’s objective is to allocate funds for the provincial councils. In 2015, the amount of funds allocated for the provincial councils was Rs 198.1 billion. In 2016 it was Rs 195.1 billion. As a percentage of national expenditure in 2015 it was 8.65 per cent. In 2016 it was 8.36 percent. That means the average percentage of the allocation for the provincial councils was 8.5. The question is whether it is fair to waste public funds on the PCs at a time when people are concerned about the amount of funds spent on maintaining elected representatives. We have an education minister in this assembly and nine other education ministers in the provinces. What is their use? Why should we spend public funds to maintain those so-called public representatives? Why should we spend public funds to maintain 437 other public representatives while the entire nation is represented here in this House by 225 members?”

MP Cumaratunga said that the UNP, TNA and the SLMC which had been known for championing the cause of devolution of powers had got together to prevent the elections to the Provincial Councils under the previous government. “It is a known fact that those three parties worked together during that time. They made the PCs dysfunctional by not holding elections thereto. We demand that the new Constitution be brought instead of holding the PC polls. The new Constitution should abolish the provincial council system. There is no need for reviving now defunct PCs.”

MP Cumaratunga said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had pointed out that the government had been able to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic successfully without any backing from the PCs. Had there been PCs in existence we would not have been able to do so. We know that the operation of counter-pandemic measures from the government alone could solve that problem. “Had there been PCs, we would have witnessed power struggles between the government and the PCs.”

MP Cumaratunga said that people had approved the government’s one-country-one-law policy. “The existence of PCs as subordinate legislatures making laws different from parliament is against that mandate. Therefore, the time has come to abolish the PCs.”

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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