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Govt. causes split in SJB by appointing Mayantha as COPF head instead of Harsha

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has been divided over the appointment of its National List MP Mayantha Dissanayake as the Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF).The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government yesterday (23) picked Dissanayake in spite of Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella on behalf of the Opposition proposing Dr. Harsha de Silva as the COPF’s head.

Prorogation of parliament for the second time within seven months by President Ranil Wickremesinghe resulted in the dissolution of three watchdog committees namely COPF, COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises)

Alleging that the government got rid of him as he in his capacity as COPF Chairman opposed corruption at every level, an irate lawmaker de Silva told The Island that he expected SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and the entire opposition to take up the issue.

The economist said that depending on the response of the SJB leader and the Opposition the matter would be settled before what he called the public court.The former UNPer alleged that his proposal to set up a casino regulatory authority made by him in his previous capacity as COPF Chairman and criticism of Sri Lanka’s premier investment promotion agency the Board of Investment (BoI) prompted the government to force him out of the watchdog committee.

Lawmaker de Silva vowed to defeat what he called the gang of thieves. MP Mayantha Dissanayake didn’t answer his hand phone. Dissanayake is among seven SJB National List MPs in the current parliament. One of them, Diana Gamage has switched allegiance to President Ranil Wuckremesinghe and was rewarded with a State Ministry.

Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (23) told parliament that the Committee of Selection chose Mayantha Dissanayake. Minister Ranatunga alleged that the Opposition was making an attempt to mislead the public over this issue.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena heads the 11-member Committee of Selection. Responding to Minister Ranatunga, MP de Silva said that the Opposition proposed him as the Chairman of COPF the day before yesterday.

De Silva said: “Chief Opposition Whip told him that Speaker Abeywardena endorsed his nomination. But, the Committee of Selection met again. The Opposition again proposed me as the head of COPF but government members of the Committee of Selection proposed Mayantha Dissanayake.”

MP de Silva said that the government group exploited the situation to appoint a person of their choice.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem who is also a member of the Committee of Selection declared that Dr. de Silva was the most qualified person to serve as the COPF head. Attorney-at-law Hakeem said that such tactics employed by the government would result in public losing confidence in the vital committee. Lawmaker Hakeem said that in terms of the Standing Orders the Committee of Selection should accept the MP nominated by the Opposition. The MP alleged that the government exploited its majority in the Committee of Selection.

The SLMC contested the last general election under the SJB ticket. SJB MP Asoka Abeysinghe alleged that the government couldn’t stomach his colleague Dr de Silva’s role as the COPF head. Therefore, the government conspired to get rid of him, the Kurunegala District MP alleged.

Gampaha District SJB MP Harshana Rajakaruna alleged that the government wanted to cause division hence the move to deprive Dr. de Silva of the top post.

Minister Ranatunga insisted that the appointment of Mayantha Dissanayake was in line with the Standing Orders. The SLPP heavyweight said that the Standing Orders referred to the appointment of an Opposition MP. There couldn’t be any issue as Mayantha Dissanayake was an Opposition MP. MP Rajakaruna emphasised that the nomination should be made by the Opposition not government members.

Minister Ranatunga said that members of the Committee of Selection once appointed to that body shouldn’t be differentiated as Opposition and Government members.

Leader of the House Susil Premjayantha endorsed the position taken up by Minister Ranatunga. Premjayanth did so in responding to MP Rajakaruna’s query whether he accepted Mayantha Dissanayake’s appointment.



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United Republic Front presents ‘A united step for the country’ to the President

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Leader of the United Republic Front Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, presented the proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe , at ‘Srikota’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo this morning (24).

Speaking at the event President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda for the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debt.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, responding queries about the scheduling of elections, affirmed that the Presidential Election will proceed as scheduled, with the General Election anticipated to take place early next year.

 

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Opp. fears govt. discarding SC recommendations on ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill

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Prof. G. L. Peiris

Prof. Peiris highlights need for ex post facto judicial review

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP, said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s refusal to accept that Supreme Court recommendations hadn’t been accommodated in ‘Online Safety Act No 09 of 2024’, would undermine their faith in the committee stage of a particular Bill.

The dissident SLPP MP said so when The Island sought his opinion on the SC determination on the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Against the backdrop of the continuing controversy over the circumstances under which the Parliament enacted the ‘Online Safety Bill’, the Opposition was seriously concerned about the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government adopting the same strategy in passing the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that the Speaker even ignored the Human Rights Commission advice that SC’s recommendations hadn’t been accommodated. The academic, who recently aligned himself with the SJB, said that the genuine Opposition shared his concerns.

Several parties challenged the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill in the SC in terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution. The determination of the SC as to the Constitutionality of the Bill concluded as—

(a) Clause 3, Clause 42, Clause 53, and Clause 70 of the Bill are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and required a special majority to be passed by Parliament.

(b) However, the SC stated that the said inconsistencies can be ceased if the said Clauses are amended as per the Determination of the Court.

(b) Clause 4 has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination. Clause 72 (1) is unconstitutional and needs to be passed by a Special Majority and a Referendum. The unconstitutionality will cease if this Clause is amended as per the Determination of the Supreme Court.

(c) Correspondingly, Clause 72(2) must be amended in accordance with the Determination.

(d) Clause 75 (3) infringed the Article 4 (c) read with Article 3 of the Constitution and required 2/3 majority and a Referendum. The invalidity will cease 7 upon the amendments suggested in the Determination.

(f) Clause 83 (7) requires a special majority to be passed into law. It has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination.

Further, the Supreme Court has determined that subject to the amendments that have adumbrated to the provisions of the Bill by the Supreme Court, the Bill could be enacted into law with a Simple Majority only if the amendments determined by the Supreme Court are introduced to the provisions.

Prof Peiris said that the crisis highlighted the need for ex post facto judicial review, for which there is at present no provision in Sri Lanka. The position is otherwise in countries like the USA and India where an Act of Parliament can be impugned, even after completion of the legislative process, on the ground of conflict with imperative provisions of the Constitution. Such provision existed in Sri Lanka prior to the First Republican Constitution of 1972.

The former minister said that in the draft Constitution Bill which he presented to Parliament on 3 August 2000 on behalf of the Government of President CBK, appropriate provision in this regard was included. “Unfortunately, the Constitution was burnt in the Chamber of Parliament. This gap in our law should be filled, in my view, when a comprehensive exercise in constitutional reform is undertaken by a new Administration after the conduct of national elections this year.”

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US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma visits Sri Lanka

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Deputy Secretary of State of the United States of America Richard Verma visited Sri Lanka from last Thursday to yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and delegation had extensive discussions with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State also paid a courtesy call on President Ranil Wickremesinghe following the discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, while appreciating the humanitarian and emergency assistance granted by the U.S. to overcome the economic challenges encountered by Sri Lanka, welcomed the recent US$ 553 million development assistance extended by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to the Colombo West International Terminal Private Limited. He also appreciated the U.S. assistance in securing the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) from the IMF.

Foreign Minister Sabry briefed Deputy Secretary of State Verma on Sri Lanka’s priorities as Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the opportunities to foster collaboration in blue economy and maritime security in the region to promote freedom of navigation for all and for the facilitation of trade and commerce. He also apprised the Deputy Secretary of State of the Government’s efforts to further strengthen governance, democracy, and rule of law, as well as to combat corruption.

Deputy Secretary of State Verma while noting the encouraging progress in Sri Lanka following the economic downturn in the last two years, assured continuous U.S. assistance to the country towards economic prosperity.

The Deputy Secretary of State was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, senior officials from the White House National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defence. Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Jauhar and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were associated with the Foreign Minister at the meeting.

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