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Govt. under pressure to introduce new Constitution before holding PC polls

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SLPP PC Forum Members seeking divine intervention at Kataragama
for conducting of early polls (Borella police have pic courtesy SLPP)

 

SLPP PC members claim party wants early elections, but some monks disagree

By Shamindra Ferdinando 

A group of Buddhist monks has appealed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and members of Parliament, representing all political parties, to put on hold Provincial Council polls, pending early enactment of the proposed new Constitution. 

The group has, in a two-page letter dated March 29, 2021, stressed that the Provincial Council polls should be conducted in terms of the new Constitution as much desired changes were likely to be introduced in respect of the electoral system, as well as devolution of powers.

The signatories were Ven. Omare Kassapa, Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda, Ven Bengamuwe Nalaka, Ven. Kirama Vimalajothi, Prof Ven Ithhademaliye Indrasara, Prof. Ven Madagoda Abayatissa, Prof. Malwane Chandrarathana, Ven Hegoda Vipassi, Ven. Valimitiyawe Gnanaratne and Prof. Ven Kapugollawa Ananda. 

A nine-member team of experts led by eminent lawyer Romesh de Silva, PC, is engaged in formulating a new draft Constitution.

Referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s directive to conduct Provincial Council polls as early as possible, the monks said that they believed the declaration was made in the run-up to a high profile vote on an ‘accountability resolution’ on March 23. Asserting the presidential statement was meant to influence India to vote against the resolution moved by Western powers and their cronies, the monks pointed out India not only skipped the vote but demanded Provincial Council polls and full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The group questioned the rationale in India raising purely a domestic matter at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Therefore, Sri Lanka shouldn’t succumb to unwarranted pressure in that regard, the group said, urging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa not to disappoint those who exercised their franchise in support of him at the 2019 presidential election and the 2020 general election.

The group also warned of unnecessary complications in amending the relevant laws-enactment of new Provincial Council Act or an amendment to pave the way for Provincial Councils polls under the discarded previous PR system.

The monks also expressed serious concerns over allocation of funds for Provincial Council elections deemed a while elephant by vast majority of people at a time the country was experiencing dire financial crisis.

The monks declared their strong objections to proposed Provincial Council polls in the wake of Sri Lanka Podujana Provincial Council Members’ Forum demanded tangible measures are taken without further delay to conduct the polls. The forum declared that it wouldn’t mind having the Provincial Council polls under whatever system. Blaming the previous UNP-led administration for indefinitely postponing Provincial Council polls, Chairman of the grouping Kanchana Jayaratne said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa recently called for Provincial Councils. Therefore, there was no justification in further delaying the elections, Jayaratne said, pointing out that the Provincial Council system was functioning without the presence of people’s representatives.

Referring to Janaka Bandara Tennakoon responsible for Provincial Council portfolio submitting the same cabinet paper in respect of Provincial Council polls, Jayaratne urged the cabinet of ministers to decide on the matter. Jayaratne alleged that some of the constituent members of the SLPP at the forefront of the struggle against the then government were strangely silent today.

The Forum requested Ministers Dinesh Gunawardena, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila to take a clear stand on this matter. Jayaratne said that they shouldn’t allow the cabinet to quietly sideline Minister Tennakoon’s cabinet paper.

Jayaratne insisted that those who respected democracy couldn’t condone efforts to sabotage Provincial Council system.

Jayaratne also urged Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (retd.)Sarath Weerasekera, who had been strongly opposed to Provincial Councils system to change his thinking in line with present requirements. Jayaratne requested Minister Weerasekera to throw his weight behind their efforts to fully restore the Provincial Councils. Noting that Minister Weerasekera had issued controversial statements in that regard, Jayaratne called upon the former Navy Chief of Staff to give up opposition to a system that could be immensely beneficial to the public.

The forum stressed that it would be the responsibility of the cabinet to take tangible measures to hold Provincial Council polls as the Rajapaksas had acknowledged the need and assured the elections would be conducted.

The Provincial Council system was introduced in terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in the wake of the Indo-Lanka accord meant to disarm terrorist groups once trained, armed and deployed by India.

 

 



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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