… admits Easter Sunday carnage a contentious issue
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (11) strongly denied reports that a section of the ruling party coalition, led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), was on a collision course with it. Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage insisted that in spite of some minor disagreements among coalition members there was absolutely no threat to the government.
Participating in a newly launched live SLBC programme, the Kandy District MP accused the bankrupt Opposition, that was struggling both in and outside Parliament of propagating lies.
Acknowledging that a section of SLPP lawmakers had met at the SLFP Office at Darley Road, under former President Maithripala Sirisena’s chairmanship last Thursday (8), Minister Aluthgamage said that members of a coalition administration could hold diverse positions on a particular issue.
The Minister was responding to interviewers, Himananda Rajapaksa and Inusha Weebedde on ‘Kannadiya’ produced by Sudarmika Wijeratne. Rupavahini and The Island were represented by Vijaya Dissanayake and Shamindra Ferdinando, respectively.
Referring to what he called a contradictory position taken by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and Minister Wimal Weerawansa in respect of some contentious issues, Minister Aluthgamage said that the stand taken by the former JVPer on the East Container Terminal (ECT) proved right. Minister Aluthgamage appreciated the cancellation of the proposed agreement on the ECT following protests by a section of the government. Earlier the government announced plans to transfer ECT’s controlling shares to India’s Adani Group.
The minister said that the consensus on the ECT should be compared with the previous administration handing over the controlling shares of the strategic Hambantota port to China.
Minister Aluthgamage also dismissed claims that the SLFP led group was planning to conduct a separate May Day rally. The minister insisted the coalition was still strong regardless of issues – a situation experienced by coalition administrations in the past. Aluthgamage asserted that divergent views among coalition members were helpful in facilitating a better stand on a particular issue.
The programme was told difficulties experienced by the government should be examined against the backdrop of former President Maithripala, one of those named by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday carnage now being a member of the SLPP led government. The SLMC and the ACMC flayed over the Easter Sunday massacre switched their allegiance from UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the breakaway UNP faction recognized as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).
It was also told that the break-up of the coalition was unlikely though in political turmoil.
Top SLFP spokesman and Minister Mahinda Amaraweera confirmed the stand taken by his ministerial colleague, Aluthgamage. Declaring the role played by the SLFP in helping wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa win the 2019 presidential election, Minister Amaraweera reiterated their commitment to the government.
The SLFP group in the government consisted of 14 lawmakers. The government parliamentary group comprised 145 members.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (ret.) Sarath Weerasekera explained how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government handled the Easter Sunday issue.
Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadeera, Presidential Secretariat Director General – Legal Affairs said that the government’s response was three-fold. “We provided relief, punishment to those responsible and remedial measures to prevent similar attacks,” Rohanadeera said.
Dismissing accusations as regards the ongoing investigations/process, Rohanadeera pointed out that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa having consulted the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith retained the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) appointed by the then President Maithripala Sirisena. The lawyer underscored the government determination to implement the CoI report along with the recommendations of the Sectoral Defence Oversight Committee.
The Presidential aide explained the need to address issues without being diverted by political factors. The official rejected assertions that the CoI was meant to delay justice to those killed and their families.
The interviewers raised issue over SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera reiterating concerns that the person recently named as the mastermind wasn’t so and there were other powerful interested parties bent on destabilizing the country. The programme was reminded of former UNP lawmaker and one-time Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, warning of Western destabilization projects as long as the Hambantota port remained in Chinese hands.
The previous UNP led government finalized the deal on Hambantota port in 2017.
The programme was told the high-profile Western intervention at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) largely influenced by the ongoing battle for supremacy between the US and China. However, almost all political parties represented in parliament had been in one way or another implicated in the Easter Sunday violence.
Near simultaneous Easter suicide attacks claimed the lives of 270. Over 500 received injuries.
The mystery of India infiltrating the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ), too, was raised though there was consensus Sri Lanka should be grateful for intelligence provided by India in the run-up to Easter blasts. The interview was asked of the need to be wary of foreign intelligence services operating in Colombo.
PIC SAVED AS MAHINDANANDA
Govt. allows private operators to import fuel for industries – minister
ECONOMYNEXT – The Government has allowed private bunker fuel operators to import fuel for industries, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Friday, in a bid to reduce the burden on cash-strapped state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).
The move comes as a severe dollar shortage has reduced CPC’s ability to import fuel and meet the demand as earlier amid long motorists’ queues for fuel.
“Approval was given to all the private bunker fuel operators to import and provide diesel and fuel oil requirements of industries to function their Generators and Machinery,” Wijesekera said in his Twitter platform.
“This will ease the burden on CPC and fuel stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday.”
Approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday. pic.twitter.com/dhAonet10J
— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) May 27, 2022
In April, Sri Lanka cabinet has agreed to amend the Petroleum Products Act making provisions to issue licenses to “properly identified parties” to import fuel which will end an import monopoly held by the CPC.
There was a push to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to import its own oil as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was unable to get foreign exchange and the power utility ran out of cash due to lack of a price increases.
Protesters ask PM to serve justice for May 09 attack
ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of anti-government protesters agitated in front of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe ’s office Colombo demanding justice for May 09 attack by the supporters of previous prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and immediate measures to overcome ongoing economic crisis to prevent a looming social unrest.
The youth-led groups which had been protesting near presidential secretariat and prime minister’s official residence in the heart of commercial Colombo shifted neat the prime minister’s office and shouted against the new government’s inaction against the brutal attack at unarmed and peaceful protesters by Rajapaksa supporters on May 09.
They demanded the new Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to implement the rule of law without being biased to any parties and serve the country.
Rukshan, a 25 years old protester said, as per the initial demands of their protests, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his position, but his successor should do his duties towards the country and the people without trying to protect corrupt politicians.
“When we started the protest back in April our main demand was to bring all Rajapaksas before justice and get all the wealth they have stolen from the common people of this country,” Rukshan told Economy Next.
The protest started around mid-day on Thursday (26) and protesters’ route was blocked by police barricades on the main road in front of the prime minister’s office.
The protesters, however, withdrew from their positions and regrouped at a nearby road to go towards the Wickremesinghe’s office.
However, by the time the protesters regrouped, a court order was issued by the Fort Magistrate to stop the protest due to inconvenience to the public.
“Ranil Wickramasinghe should remember why he is here now. We’re not asking him to resign. He is here to do his duty towards this country and its people,” Rukshan said.
“On May 09, we were attacked but no justice has been served yet. That is the main reason we came today to the prime minister’s office,” he said.
“We still see queues for medicine, fuel, and gas. To be honest, there is no medicine in the market. No medicine for cancer patients. If you get bitten by a dog, then there is no medicine for you. They (the market) don’t have any of that.”
Wickremesinghe has been working over a new budget and discussing with international partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of essentials, officials close to him have said. However, it will take time, they say.
Rukshan said the country is running due to the state workers, who are working as they are being paid salaries after the government’s excess money printing.
“When that stops, then there will definitely be a revolution in this country,” he said.
“When a person goes to office in the morning, there is no fuel for the vehicle, or no public transport available. They get late and the salaries are being cut because of that. And when they come home, they don’t have gas to cook a meal.”
Weerawansa’s wife gets two years for passport offence
Her lawyers file appeal challenging sentence
Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala on Friday sentenced Shashi Weerawansa the wife of former minister Wimal Weerawansa to two years in prison. Shashi was found guilty of using falsified documents to obtain a passport.
The Magistrate also ordered the accused to pay a fine of Rs. 100,000 in addition to the imprisonment and an additional six months of jail if she does not pay the fine.
Sashi Weerawansa is found guilty by the court for obtaining diplomatic and general passports by submitting birth certificates with forged names and dates of birth.
She had applied for a diplomatic passport in 2010 by submitting false personal information which was different to what appears in her previous normal passport that expired on May 24, 2009.
Govt. allows private operators to import fuel for industries – minister
A perverse twist: Blame Aragalaya, let Gota stay, and kids can go home!
AN ENCOUNTER WITH FELIX DIAS BANDARANAIKE IN THE EARLY 70s
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