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GL cites Maithri-Ranil battle over economy to highlight dangers of 19A

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By Shamindra Ferdinando 

 

Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris says the new government cannot move forward due to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the SLPP, said that their priority would be to do away with controversial sections in the 19A causing hindrance to the new administration.

The minister said so addressing the media at the SLPP Office on Monday (24) at Nelum Mawatha.

 The crisis caused by the 19th Amendment was such that the government couldn’t move forward, systematically, Prof. Peiris said. The success of the new administration depended on the repealing of those sections inimical to the wellbeing of the country.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris said that a Vote-on-Account would be presented to parliament later this week to secure funding required until the government presented the budget for 2021.

The Education Minister said that the SLPP never sought to suppress its intention to amend the 19th Amendment. Pointing out that it had been the SLPP’s main campaign slogan at the parliamentary election; Prof. Peiris said that they required a two-thirds majority in parliament to address the problem.

The SLPP obtained 145 seats, one more than the UPFA’s 144 at the 2010 general election. Prof. Peiris said that the government commanded an overwhelming majority of 150 seats with the backing of those friendly parties who contested on their own. The Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP/2 seats), Sri Lanka Freedom Party/1 seat), National Congress (NC/1 seat) and Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP/1 seat) back the SLPP.

Calling the 19th Amendment a curse, Prof. Peiris alleged that it undermined the country in numerous ways. The Education Minister dealt with one major problem caused by the 19th Amendment. The creation of two power centres by it ripped apart the then administration with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe struggling for control. They caused unprecedented chaos, Prof. Peiris said, pointing out that such a situation wouldn’t have arisen if there was no 19th Amendment.

Prof. Peiris explained how President Sirisena in the wake of the debilitating setback experienced by the SLFP and the UNP at the Local Government poll in February 2018, abolished the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) headed by Premier Wickremesinghe. The President then named a National Economic Council (NEC) under his leadership.

The former law professor said that the CCEM that had been established to make recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers on implementation of laws and related subjects concerning economic affairs, monetary and financial policy, national investment programme, facilitating private sector investments, investments and economic development of the country in a way functioned as an alternative to the cabinet. The Education Minister said that the Premier exercised powers to form his own cabinet as the cabinet of ministers included SLFPers.

Prof. Peiris said that investors wouldn’t have considered Sri Lanka a safe destination due to the battle between the two partners. President Sirisena, himself sacked a person whom he appointed to the NEC claiming that he was more away from Sri Lanka than in being paid half a million rupees a month.

Under no circumstances could power centres be created at the expense of stability. The 19th Amendment created an extremely dangerous situation that enabled various interested parties to undermine the country at will, the top academic said.

The former External Affairs Minister said that 19th Amendment paved the way for the Speaker, too, to play a nosy role not exercised by any previous Speaker.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa tasked Justice Minister Ali Sabri to bring in the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to do away with controversial sections in the 19 A.

Prof. Peiris said that the government measures to introduce a new Amendment were on track.



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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