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GL fires broadside at SLPP-RW govt., calls for accountability

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dissident SLPP lawmaker Prof. G.L. Peiris has alleged that the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe administration has allocated 320 vehicles for the recently appointed 38 State Ministers and their staff.

In addition, those who had been appointed District Coordinators had also been allocated vehicles, the former External Affairs Minister told the media on Monday (03). The ruling SLPP secured the lion’s share of state ministerial portfolios, as well as lucrative appointments as District Coordinators, the former minister said.

Addressing the media at the rebel group’s office, at Nawala, the SLPP National List MP and the party Chairman flayed what he called the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government for squandering taxpayers’ money to appease a section of the Parliament at a time the vast majority of people were struggling to make ends meet.

Pointing out that in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the government could appoint 30 cabinet and 40 non-cabinet rankers, Prof. Peiris said that it was only a matter of time before the government increased the number of Cabinet ministers to 30. At the moment, the Cabinet comprised 18 ministers, including Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Prof. Peiris said that in the wake of the Parliament approving the Social Security Contribution Levy Bill, the cost of living would go up further. The Parliament recently announced the Treasury intended to collect Rs 140 bn, annually, through the implementation of the new Bill.

The one-time Education Minister explained the current economic difficulties the student populationis facing. The retired top academic expressed serious concern over quite a number of students giving up education.

Commenting on the inordinate delay in conducting Local Government elections, Prof. Peiris alleged that the government feared facing the electorate for obvious reasons. Declaring that the Election Commission now had the power to call for Local Government polls, Prof. Peiris urged the EC to ensure the public received an opportunity to exercise their franchise.

“The EC shouldn’t disappoint the public,” the SLPP Chairman said, declaring their intention to move Court in case the government sought to further postpone the much-delayed Local Government polls. Prof. Peiris stressed their determination to vigorously oppose the government strategy to indefinitely put off Local Government polls. This should be examined against the backdrop of none of the Provincial Councils having elected members for several years now.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris declared that the Opposition scored a significant victory when President Ranil Wickremesinghe was compelled to rescind his controversial Gazette notification on the setting up of High Security Zones in Colombo. The President wouldn’t have done so if not for heavy attacks mounted by all concerned. Prof. Peiris paid a glowing tribute to the media for relentlessly pursuing the issue until President Wickremesinghe had no option but to annul the dictatorial law. If the government strategy succeeded, Colombo city would have been transformed to a cantonment, the former Law Professor said, flaying Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena’s recent declaration that the electronic media needed to be regulated.

Referring to the recent warning issued by the Public Administration Ministry, to public servants, that they would be appropriately dealt with over social media posts/statements, Prof. Peiris said such a strategy wouldn’t work now. Reiterating the national economy was in such a desperate state, Prof. Peiris said that serious allegations, pertaining to procurement of coal for the Lakvijaya Coal-fired Power Plant, as well as crude oi,l couldn’t be suppressed.

Responding to a query on Sri Lanka’s position at the ongoing 51 sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, the former Foreign Minister faulted the government for arresting anti-government, activists under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Prof. Peiris said that in his former capacity as the External Affairs Minister he assured the UNHRC, in June this year, that the PTA wouldn’t be used while the government undertook a comprehensive study on a new security law. But, the government indiscriminately used the PTA in cases not related terrorism at all, Prof. Peiris said, questioning the rationale in Premier Dinesh Gunawardena’s declaration that those arrested in terms of the PTA wouldn’t be charged under the same law.

The Premier owed an explanation, the former minister said, pointing out the UNHRC was concerned over the utilization of the PTA.

The former minister said that if the UNHRC adopted a new resolution in respect of Sri Lanka, it could have a detrimental effect on ongoing negotiations with the IMF, the GSP plus as well as efforts to attract foreign investment. Prof Peiris insists: “What we really need is adequate investment, not more loans.”

Prof. Peiris said that the National Council was nothing but another talk shop. The government could have proved its sincerity by giving the leadership of parliamentary watchdog committees, the COPE and the COPA, to Opposition lawmakers, the MP said. Instead, the SLPP was hell-bent on suppressing those who dared to dissent, regardless of the consequences, the former Minister said, vowing to push for the restoration of parliamentary democracy.



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Avishka and Sadeera power Jaffna Kings to nine wicket win

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Half tons by Avishka Fernando and Sadeera Samarawickrema powered Jaffna Kings to a nine wicket win over Dambulla Aura in the 3rd match of the LPL2022  at MRICS Hambanthota on Wednesday (07)

Dambulla Aura 121/9 in 20 overs (Jordan Cox 43; Maheesh Theekshana 3/20, Vijayakanth Vijaskanth 3/24, James Fuller 2/16, Zaman Khan 1/28)

Jaffna Kings 122/1 in 15.4 overs (Avishka Fernando 51 , Sadeera Samarawickrema 62 not out; Noor Ahamed 1/28)

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Govt. says selling state assets only way to build reserves and prevent crippling shortages

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena yesterday (06) said Sri Lanka wouldn’t be in a position to be part of the international trading system unless it boosted its foreign reserves by selling some of its assets. Gunawardena, who also holds media and transport portfolios said so at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Responding to a query about the government’s decision to divest vital national assets, the Minister said that if Sri Lanka did not shore up its reserves to the tune of over three billion dollars, international companies would not accept the letters of credit given by Sri Lankan banks.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, has proposed privatising of several state enterprises including Sri Lanka Insurance and Sri Lanka Telecom.

“Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sold a number of state owned enterprises. If we don’t increase our reserves, to over three billion USD soon, we will have problems importing fuel, and other essential items. Last week, Fitch again reduced our rating. No matter who governs Sri Lanka, they will all face the same problem. We need to build our reserves,” the Minister said.

Minister Gunawardane said that the need of the hour was to sell some assets and boost Sri Lanka’s reserves.

“China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia are attracting a lot of investors. Only we have failed to do so, and we need to think why this is. Even our entrepreneurs are leaving for other countries. We need to change the way we think, if we want to attract investors to Sri Lanka,” he said.

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Ven Siridhamma, Mudalige granted bail; latter re-arrested

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Convenor of Bhikku Balamandalaya affiliated Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera leaving Court yesterday (06) after Kaduwela Magistrate Chanima Wijebandara granted him bail. The Thera was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for causing damages to public property during a protest opposite the Education Ministry, over three months back. The Magistrate ordered the Thera released after the police failed to identify the monk at an identification parade. However, IUSF Convenor Wasanatha Mudalige, who was also released by the Magistrate, after the police couldn’t identify him, was taken into custody in connection with some other case.

Pics by Kamal Bogoda

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