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Heated exchange over camera focus

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Heated exchange ensued in Parliament yesterday after the SJB demanded to know as to why the camera had not been focused on Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and SJB Kegalle District MP Kabir Hashim on Tuesday when the government presented the 20th Amendment to the House.

 SJB Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha said that the MPs were allowed to avail the facilities of microphone and the TV recording camera’s focus when they get the floor to speak. However, the Opposition Leader and MP Hashim were not given that facility on Tuesday when they spoke against the 20th Amendment draft bill. That was unfair for the MPs concerned and also amounted to depriving them of their privileges,” MP Jayamaha said.

 Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that a decision had been made during the time of former Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara to level the focus of the camera to the Chair or to the Mace if there was any confusion or unrest that took over the business of the House. “Whenever the MPs behave unruly the focus of the camera would be leveled at the Mace or the Chair.

That decision is now considered the precedence on the matter. On the day the MP mentioned specifically the same happened as the opposition MPs took off from their seats and protested in the Well of the House,” the Speaker said.

MP Jayamaha: “Both opposition leader Premadasa and MP Hashim had been given the microphone but not the camera. That was unfair. If there was such a precedent and practice guided by that precedence, then how the camera was given to the MPs who urinated on the Speaker’s Chair and poured water on it and attacked other MPs with chili powders when there was an unrest situation sometime back.”

Speaker Abeywardena said that focus of the camera could be given to any MP till he or she maintained the dignity and decorum of the House.

MP Jayamaha: The rule is not to give a microphone and camera whenever there is a row or unruly behaviour. The focus of the camera was given to government MP Shehan Semasinghe in Tuesday’s instance.

State Minister Semasinghe: I did not behave unruly. I was making the speech when the trouble broke out. But I continued my speech without being affected by the antics of the opposition MPs. The camera-mania of Sajith Premadasa is well known. He speaks only to the camera. He cannot speak without a camera. And MP Jayamaha is not a person who could come here to talk of public property. Tell this House the way you use public property and waste public funds even now as an opposition MP.

MP Chaminda Wijesiri shouted at the Chair and accused the speaker of being biased.

Speaker Abeywardena said that he would give time to the opposition to speak on the matter on Friday.

 Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage: MP Chaminda Wijesiri is unfair when leveling accusations at the Speaker. We have experiences under many speakers and know how the speakers reacted on such occasions. Your allegation against the Speaker is very unfair. Please withdraw it. People laugh at us because of the behaviour of some MPs in parliament.

 MP Wijesiri: I got up to raise a point of order and to ask the truth of the newspaper report of a knife being smuggled into the Parliament premises. I apologize to the Speaker if I hurt his feelings unintentionally.

Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena: We are proud of the incumbent speaker compared to the conduct of former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who was nothing but the epitome of biasedness to his party. We were in the opposition and experienced his manner of conduct.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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