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Imthiaz asks why one person should be given so much power

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Imthiaz Bakeer Markar yesterday called on leaders of political parties in Parliament to allow a conscience vote on the 20th Amendment Bill. Participating in the second reading state debate on the 20th Amendment, Markar asked whether any MP with a conscience could vote for that Bill.

“No MP could vote in favour of the 20th Amendment according to their conscience as they will be giving up their power as representatives of the people if they do so.”

“You will make your own Prime Minister powerless if you vote in favour of the 20th Amendment. I do not agree with the conduct of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. But his charisma helped you (the government) to come to power.

“The 20th Amendment will be defeated by a two-thirds majority if the MPs are allowed to vote in accordance with their conscience.”

He recalled how the current Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had opposed the 13th Amendment. “I was watching from the gallery in Parliament how you acted in accordance with your conscience and opposed the 13th Amendment. Therefore allow the MPs to vote according to their conscience.

“We have to do the right thing, no matter how difficult the circumstances are. That is why we vote against this Bill. We cannot raise our hands in support of a thing which could be the death of democracy in the country. Let me tell you that, those who will raise their hands in support to this Amendment today will be the ones who will suffer because of it in the future.”

 The MP said it was baffling why the government was desperate to pass the Amendment without giving a chance for the people to raise their concerns.

“Many parties have raised their concerns about this amendment and its impact on the country. The President has all the power. He has a two-thirds majority in Parliament as well. Parliament should be summoned to discuss how we should face COVID-19 pandemic as a nation. But here, we discuss a Constitutional amendment without talking about our people who are becoming jobless and victims of poverty. Even then, the Government wants to pass this hurriedly without giving the people an opportunity to discuss it.

 “We have emerged from a horrible past, when politicians controlled the Police and Law enforcement authorities. Time was when women were stripped naked and made to walk on roads. After establishing independent commissions we never witnessed such situations. Now, this Amendment tries to abolish those independent commissions and have all the power vested in one person. Why are we doing this? A person could be a terrible dictator when he was given unlimited power.”



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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