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Govt. MP strikes discordant note, slams Parliament over National List farce



… condemns halting of Law College exams in Sinhala

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Gevindu Cumaratunga says a section of the ruling coalition is pursuing political strategies contrary to the mandate received by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections.

MP Cumaratunga also strongly criticised the conduct of the Parliament as the highest institution in the country on the basis of continuing manipulation of the National List to accommodate those who had been rejected by the electorate and appointed outside the respective National Lists of political parties. The parliament consists of 196 elected and 29 appointed members.

The MP explained how the UNP schemed in the late 80s to manipulate the entire process to introduce the National List. Reference was made to the appointment of defeated candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe on the UNP National List and Basil Rajapaksa on the SLPP National List.

SLPP National List MP Cumaratunga who is also the President of the Yuthukama civil society group questioned rationale in pushing for the holding of the much delayed Provincial Council polls as quickly as possible.

The MP summoned a media briefing after he was denied the time to address the Parliament during the debate on the Justice Ministry vote. The lawmaker found fault with the government for its failure to unveil the Draft Constitution before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa completed two years in office. Cumaratunga is one of the MPs who had pledged his support to the battle against the highly questionable deal on the Yugadanavi Power Station that is now before the Supreme Court.

The civil society activist emphasized that Provincial Council polls shouldn’t be held under any circumstances until the introduction of the new Constitution. Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the country received an assurance from Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC that the draft Constitution would be presented within two years. Therefore, the delay couldn’t be accepted though the global epidemic Covid-19 caused immense problems.

MP Cumaratunga emphasized that he didn’t want to discuss other matters as the media briefing was especially called to address some specific issues namely the new Constitution and some matters related to the Justice Ministry.

Alleging that the Provincial Councils system in its present form violated the unitary status of the country, MP Cumaratunga said that in line with the mandates received at two national elections, the proposed new Constitution should do away with all those Amendments introduced in the wake of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987 meant to appease separatist sentiments.

Responding to media queries, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that those who voted for the SLPP at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to fulfill the pledges given.

Commenting on the enactment of the 20th Amendment in Oct 2020 with an overwhelming 2/3 majority, MP Cumaratunga said that the country expected a new Constitution. Acknowledging the need for what he called an interim constitutional measure in the wake of 2019 presidential election victory, MP Cumaratunga said that he expected the proposed draft Constitution to include the valuable provision to prevent dual citizens with divided loyalties entering Parliament. Cumaratunga said that particular provision introduced trough the 19th Amendment had been neutralized by the 20th Amendment. Therefore, that provision should be brought back.

The post-war Sri Lanka needed a Constitution that reflected Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism. Similarly, elections reforms were required to abolish the current Proportional Representation system that encouraged, promoted and strengthened corruption at every level, he said.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga questioned the appointment of Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara as the head of Presidential Task Force (PTF) appointed to promote ‘One Country, One Law Concept.’ The civil society activist said that though he appreciated the concept the appointment of Ven. Gnanasara undermined the very concept President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promoted.

Towards the end of the briefing, Cumaratunga discussed how the incumbent government violated the Constitution by creating ministries in excess of the constitutional stipulation that restricted the number of cabinet ministers to 30 and State Ministers and Deputies to 40. The MP expressed appreciation to engineer Kapila Renuka Perera for seeking the Supreme Court intervention in that regard. Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the 19th Amendment brought in restrictions on the number of ministers at a time the public agitated against top heavy government.

The outspoken MP fiercely criticized those within the government who believed in a so-called national government to overcome constitutional restrictions imposed on the number of ministers. The Yuthukama Chief warned such measures would cause rapid deterioration of the government and erode public confidence on the SLPP administration.

Alleging that former Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem had stopped conduct of classes for law students in Sinhala, MP Cumaratunga said that incumbent minister Sabry stopped conducting of Law College examinations in Sinhala. The MP said that the government should be ashamed of the situation. The MP also pointed out that Supreme Court judgments were delivered only In English and even the Parliament was deprived of a Sinhala copy in respect of major issues such as the ruling on the Colombo Port Commission Bill.


“Foreign bond holders more important to govt. than hard-pressed people”



SJB slams GR’s policy speech

The main opposition SJB says that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Policy Speech delivered in Parliament on Jan 18 failed to provide solutions to the crises faced by the country.

Addressing a press briefing held at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo on Thursday, SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne said that the crises with regard to economic management and governance had gone beyond the control of the government subjecting the masses to severe hardships without essential goods and services.

Wickremaratne said that  there had been no increase in the value of  GDP supporting the domestic and foreign borrowings by this government during the last two years.

He accused the government of giving priority to paying off debts of foreign cronies while  starving the people without essential foods inclusive of fuel for electricity generation.

“People who could not afford to basic necessities despite having cash in hand due to the shortage of dollars and foreign exchange now had to stay in the dark for several hours a day without electricity due to lack of fuel as the govt has not been able to maintain a supply chain properly. But the government, having crossed its wires, gives priority to repaying the loan to its cronies while mounting pressure on its citizens,” Wickremaratne said.

“President Rajapaksa’s Throne Speech did not provide answers to any of  the current problems  facing the country. Although the country faced two major problems, there was no answer to either of them in the President’s policy statement.

“First, rising commodity prices push up inflation increasing  vegetable prices. Secondly, the import of essential commodities has come to a complete standstill due to the foreign exchange deficit. There is a shortage not only for  food and fuel but also for  medicines for the people.”

He said only 25% of the country’s essential medicines are produced locally and the rest are imported. There is also a shortage of essential medicines due to lack of dollars for imports.

At a time when the people are under so much of  pressure, the government is  boasting of servicing   international sovereign bonds on time. People need to be told the secret of why foreign debtors are more important to the government than the citizens of the country, Wickremaratne said.

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COVID-19 on the rise again; 800+ new cases a second day running



(Economynext) New COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Sri Lanka, with health authorities detecting over 800 new infections on Thursday (20) for a second consecutive day.

With the 827 new cases, total cases in the country have gone up to 599,363, official data showed.

Around 15,279 patients are currently receiving treatment in hospital or at home.

With 12 deaths reported in the last 24 hour period, the island nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 15,243.

Health authorities warned that the sector could face challenges managing new patients if daily cases continue to surge.

Officials are also concerned about an apparent hesitance for the booster dose of the vaccine that was largely absent in the initial rollout.

“We have provided the opportunity to get the booster countrywide. But because the fatality rate is now low people may think taking it is no longer necessary,” State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana said speaking to journalists on Friday (21).

“Sri Lanka will go back to the previous state with people not taking the booster dose,” he warned.

The booster rate is very low compared to Sri Lanka’s otherwise impressive vaccination numbers, said Jayasumana.

“Only 4.8 million have taken the booster so far, and only 26,796 came forward yesterday to get it.

“With the increase of patients, even though the fatality rate is low, it can be overwhelming for the health sector if patient numbers in hospital wards and ICUs go up.”

Sri Lanka has so far vaccinated 16.3 with the first dose while 13.8 have received both doses.

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Prevention, cooperation, mutual assistance essential to counter connected nature of terrorists in South Asia – Army Chief



Prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential to counter the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in the South Asian region, said Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva on Thursday, emphasising on the need of law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies.”

“In the legitimate government efforts to fight terrorism or organised crimes, in this regard, a possible South Asian regional treaty could promote counter-terrorism and anti-crime measures by promoting institutional structures and decision-making processes to promote cooperation, coordination, shared expertise and common legal approaches,” said Silva while virtually addressing the “Countering use of Crypto Currencies to Finance Terrorism” event on Thursday.

“Due to the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in our region, prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential,” he added.

The General also said that there are avenues for collaboration by establishing information exchange at customs, imposing immigration barriers and commonly agreeing on the regulation of transporting and stockpiling of weapons and drugs, dangerous goods or potential warlike equipment.

Emphasising that mutual assistance can be enhanced by extending measures for collecting evidence of suspects, exchange of wanted personnel and etc, Silva said that enhancing the capacities of regional countries to handle terrorism and criminals would depend extensively on the training of law enforcement agencies.

“Apart from training for military personnel, of a particular country, it is also essential to carry out joint training for various armed forces of the South Asian region. Conducting counter-terrorism operations at a regional scale would also require regional funding. It is understood that funding counter-terrorism campaigns in recent times has become quite expensive due to the sophistication of insurgence,” Silva added.

The General also said that “this is where we need cooperation as very experience armies, who have long been engaging in counter-terrorism operations, we have specialities, therefore we can share each other’s specialities to counter each other’s imitations.”

“Law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies and principles in the regional countries feel enhanced the compatibility between the countries in fighting transnational crimes and terrorism,” he added. (ANI)

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