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Is the Opposition unaware of Article 42?

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REMOVING THE PRESIDENT

Dr Nihal Jayawickrama

With every passing day, the demand for the resignation of the President is gathering momentum, becoming more strident, and more widespread, and echoing even beyond the borders of this country. The President’s response has been to secure the resignation of his Cabinet of Ministers while retaining his brother as Prime Minister, and then filling three key portfolios and, bizarrely, one of dubious value. He has chosen to retain for himself the others, including the currently critical functions relating to health, power and energy. The Opposition has responded by collecting signatures for two parliamentary motions. One seeks to express its lack of confidence in the Government, while the other seeks to impeach the President. Both these are clearly misconceived.

Motion of No-Confidence in the Government

Article 43 of the Constitution states that the Cabinet of Ministers is collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament. Therefore, a motion of no-confidence in the Government, if passed by a simple majority, will result in the dissolution of the Cabinet of Ministers. Thereupon, Article 49(2) requires the President to appoint a new Prime Minister who commands the confidence of Parliament and new Cabinet Ministers. It does not secure the resignation of the President. It does not, therefore, respond to the demands of millions who are demonstrating on the streets of this country.

Resolution for the Impeachment of the President

Under Article 38, a resolution may be presented to the Speaker alleging that the President is permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity; or that the President has been guilty of: (a) Intentional violation of the Constitution; (b) Treason; (c) Bribery; (d) Misconduct or corruption involving the abuse of the powers of his office, or (e) Any offence involving moral turpitude.

The resolution is required to be signed by two-thirds of the total number of Members or, if the Speaker is satisfied that the allegations merit inquiry by the Supreme Court, by half the total number of Members. Thereafter, the resolution is referred to the Supreme Court for inquiry and report, with the President having the right to appear and to be heard. If the Supreme Court reports that it has found the President guilty of the charges, Parliament may remove the President from office by passing a resolution to that effect with two-thirds voting in favour. President J.R.Jayewardene famously remarked that in drafting Article 38 he had ensured that it would be virtually impossible for Parliament to remove a President from his office. To attempt to invoke it today, as the Opposition is reported to be doing, is an utterly futile exercise.

Motion of No-Confidence in the President

Article 42 of the Constitution states that the President “is responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions under the Constitution and any written law including the law for the time being relating to public security”. This means that Parliament is entitled, indeed required, to hold the President accountable for the due performance of his powers, duties and functions.

Immediately upon his assumption of office President Gotabhaya Rajapakse granted massive tax cuts, thereby causing a severe reduction of state revenue. He then appointed a political acolyte to the strictly non-political office of Governor of the Central Bank who proceeded to print money with gay abandon. When inflation reached astronomic heights and the value of our currency reached the lowest depths, the President remained mute. His maniacal decision to impose an immediate ban on the use of chemical fertilizer destroyed our agriculture sector and our tea industry. His inability to ensure a regular supply of gas, diesel, petrol, milk powder, and other essential food and domestic items has resulted in causing misery and reduced our people to a state of abject poverty.

Faced with a record such as this, Parliament is surely entitled to hold the President accountable for his demonstrable inability to perform the powers, duties and functions of his office. Is the Opposition unaware of Article 42 of the Constitution? If, upon the passage of a motion of no-confidence in the President, the President resigns, as he should, Article 40 requires Parliament to elect, by secret ballot, one of its Members to hold office for the unexpired period of the term of office of the President vacating office. That election is required to be held as soon as possible, within 30 days of the vacancy occurring. In the interim period, the Prime Minister or, in his absence, the Speaker will act in the office of President.

Restoration of the parliamentary executive

Whether or not Parliament succeeds in securing the resignation of the President, it is now clearly evident that neither a retired middle-level soldier nor a professional politician can carry the full and complete burden of governing this country on his or her shoulder as required by the ill-advised 20th Amendment to the Constitution. It is time to restore parliamentary government which existed in this country for thirty years, from 1947 to 1977, and which was then restored, with unnecessary restrictions, from 2015 to 2020. During that earlier period, a Prime Minister and a Cabinet of Ministers, chosen from, and responsible to, a Parliament consisting of members elected from single or multi-member constituencies, provided stability and security to this country, notwithstanding an attempted military coup d’etat in 1962 and a youth insurgency in 1971. It is time to move the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

The 21st Amendment

The following should be accepted as a few of the essential features of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution:

(a) It should provide for the election by Parliament (or by an appropriately constituted electoral body) of a President who shall be Head of State, Head of the Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He/She should be a person who had not been engaged in active politics during at least the preceding five years. With few exceptions, he/she should act on the advice of the Prime Minister or, in specified matters, the relevant Minister.

(b) In compliance with the two fundamental principles of international law: non-discrimination and self-determination, the requirement of power sharing at the centre should be incorporated. Whichever political party forms the government, it should be mandatory for the different ethnic groups to be represented in the Cabinet, at least in proportion to the number of such members elected to Parliament. Thereby, the minority communities will be constitutionally guaranteed not of token (as, for example, C.Kumarasuriar and Lakshman Kadirgamar) but of genuine representation, both in the legislature and in the government. Policy formation will thereafter be by consensus of the different ethnic groups, which is how it should be in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-linguistic country that Sri Lanka is.

(c) It should incorporate the provisions of the international human rights treaties which Sri Lanka has ratified.

(d) It should provide for election to Parliament from single-member or multi-member (where appropriate) constituencies.

(e) In keeping with contemporary international developments, it should secure the independence of the judiciary and of the public service by the establishment of a Judicial Council and a Public Service Commission responsible for the appointment, transfer and disciplinary control of Judges and Public Officers (of all levels), with the appointments at the highest levels being made by the President on the advice of these bodies.

(f) Members of the clergy of all religions should be disqualified from seeking election to Parliament.

(g) Judges, whether of original or appellate courts, should be disqualified from being appointed by the government to serve on commissions of inquiry while in service or during a period of five years following retirement.

Recovery of stolen assets

It is not surprising that the continuing demands of protesters on the streets that the stolen assets of the country be recovered is being ignored by the Government. The Stolen Assets Recovery (STAR) Initiative is a partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It was established precisely for the purpose of assisting governments in the recovery of assets stolen by political leaders. Its achievements are spectacular. I worked with a STAR team in Egypt following the massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square during the “Arab Spring”. However, it responds only when invited by a government. The present Government is not likely to do so. Neither did the previous “Yahapalana” Government show any inclination in that direction. Are political leaders, whatever their persuasion, protective of each other?



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Features

Glimmers of hope?

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The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self-interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away.

Some of Cassandra’s readers may ask whether she is out of her right mind to see glimmers of hope for the country. She assures them she is as sane as can be; she does cling onto these straws like the dying man does. How else exist? How else get through these dire times?

What are the straws she clings to? News items in The Island of Tuesday 24 May.

‘Sirisena leaves Paget Road mansion in accordance with SC interim injunction.’ And who was instrumental in righting this wrong? The CPA and its Executive Director Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. It is hoped that revisions to the system will come in such as giving luxury housing and other extravagant perks to ex-presidents and their widows. Sri Lanka has always lived far beyond its means in the golden handshakes to its ex- prezs and also perks given its MPs. At least luxury vehicles should not be given them. Pensions after five years in Parliament should be scrapped forthwith.

‘Letter of demand sent to IGP seeking legal action against DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.’ Here the mover is The Centre for Society and Religion and it is with regard to the Easter Sunday massacre which could have been prevented if DIG Jayawardena as Head of State Intelligence had taken necessary action once intelligence messages warned of attack on churches.

‘CIABOC to indict Johnston, Keheliya and Rohitha’. It is fervently hoped that this will not be another charge that blows away with the wind. They do not have their strongest supporter – Mahinda R to save them. We so fervently hope the two in power now will let things happened justly, according to the law of the land.

‘Foreign Secy Admiral Colombage replaced’. And by whom? A career diplomat who has every right and qualification for the post; namely Aruni Wijewardane. If this indicates a fading of the prominence given to retired armed forces personnel in public life and administration, it is an excellent sign. Admiral Colombage had tendered his resignation, noted Wednesday’s newspaper.

‘Crisis caused by decades of misuse public resources, corruption, kleptocracy – TISL’.

Everyone knew this, even the despicable thieves and kleptocrats. The glaring question is why no concerted effort was made to stop the thieving from a country drawn to bankruptcy by politicians and admin officers. There are many answers to that question. It was groups, mostly of the middle class who came out first in candle lit vigils and then at the Gotagogama Village. The aragalaya has to go down in history as the savior of our nation from a curse worse than war. The civil war was won against many odds. But trying to defeat deceit power-hunger and thieving was near impossible. These protestors stuck their necks out and managed to rid from power most of the Rajapaksa family. That was achievement enough.

Heartfelt hope of the many

The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away. As Shamindra Ferdinando writes in the newspaper mentioned, “Well informed sources said that Premier Wickremesinghe was still making efforts to win over some more Opposition members. Sources speculated that vital finance portfolio remained vacant as the government still believed (hoped Cass says) Dr Harsha de Silva could somehow be convinced to accept that portfolio.”

Still utterly hopeless

Gas is still unavailable for people like Cass who cannot stand in queues, first to get a token and then a cylinder. Will life never return to no queues for bare essentials? A woman friend was in a petrol queue for a solid twelve hours – from 4 am to 4 pm. This is just one of million people all over the country in queues. Even a common pressure pill was not available in 20 mg per.

Cassandra considers a hope. We saw hundreds of Sri Lankans all across the globe peacefully protesting for departure of thieves from the government. The ex-PM, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s answer to this was to unleash absolute terror on all of the island. It seems to be that with Johnson a younger MP stood commandingly.

Returning from that horror thought to the protesters overseas, Cass wondered if each of them contributed one hundred dollars to their mother country, it would go a long way to soften the blows we are battered with. Of course, the absolute imperative is that of the money, not a cent goes into personal pockets. The donors must be assured it goes to safety. Is that still not possible: assuring that donations are used for the purpose they are sent for: to alleviate the situation of Sri Lankans? I suppose the memory of tsunami funds going into the Helping Hambantota Fund is still fresh in memory. So much for our beloved country.

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Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis

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By Prof. Rohan Rajapakse

(Emeritus Professor of Agriculture Biology UNIVERSITY OF RUHUNA and Former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy)

There are two aspects of the ban on agrochemicals. The first is the ban on chemical fertilisers, and the second is the ban on the use of pesticides. Several eminent scientists, Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (formerly the Soil Scientist of RRI), Prof OA Ileperuma (Former Professor of Chemistry University of Peradeniya), Prof C. S. Weeraratne (former Professor of Agronomy University of Ruhuna), Prof D. M. de Costa University of Peradeniya, Prof. Buddhi Marambe (Professor in Weed Science University of Peradeniya) have effectively dealt with the repercussion of the ban on chemical fertilisers which appeared in The Island newspaper on recently.

The major points summarised by these authors are listed below.

FERTILISER ISSUE

1. These scientists, including the author, are of the view that the President’s decision to totally shift to organic agriculture from conventional could lead to widespread hunger and starvation in future, which has become a reality. Organic farming is a small phenomenon in global agriculture, comprising a mere 1.5% of total farmlands, of which 66% are pasture.

2. Conventional farming (CF) is blamed for environmental pollution; however, in organic farming, heavy metal pollution and the release of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases from farmyard manure, are serious pollution issues with organic farming that have been identified.

3. On the other hand, the greatest benefit of organic fertilisers as against chemical fertilisers is the improvement of soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties by the former, which is important for sustained crop productivity. The best option is to use appropriate combinations of organic and chemical fertilisers, which can also provide exacting nutrient demands of crops and still is the best option!

4. Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the efforts of the Research Officers of the Department of Agriculture, and all these efforts will be in vain if we abruptly ban the import of fertiliser. These varieties are bred primarily on their fertiliser response. While compost has some positive effects such as improving soil texture and providing some micronutrients, it cannot be used as a substitute for fertiliser needed by high yielding varieties of rice. Applying organic fertilisers alone will not help replenish the nutrients absorbed by a crop. Organic fertilisers have relatively small amounts of the nutrients that plants need. For example, compost has only 2% nitrogen (N), whereas urea has 46% N. Banning the import of inorganic fertilisers will be disastrous, as not applying adequate amounts of nutrients will cause yields to drop, making it essential to increase food imports. Sri Lankan farmers at present are at the mercy of five organizations, namely the Central Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture, the Private sector Pesticide Companies, the Non-Government organizations and the leading farmers who are advising them. Instead, improved agricultural extension services to promote alternative non-chemical methods of pest control and especially the use of Integrated Pest Management.

Locally, pest control depends mostly on the use of synthetic pesticides; ready to use products that can be easily procured from local vendors are applied when and where required Abuse and misapplication of pesticides is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Even though many farmers are aware of the detrimental aspects of pesticides they often use them due to economic gains

We will look at the post scenario of
what has happened

1. The importation of Chemical fertilisers and Pesticides was banned at the beginning of Maha season 1 on the advice of several organic manure (OM) promoters by the Ministry of agriculture.

2. The Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the farmers to use organic manure, and an island-wide programme of producing Organic manure were initiated. IT took some time for the government to realize that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to produce such a massive amount of OM, running into 10 tons per hectare for 500000 hectares ear marked in ma ha season.

3. Hence the government approved the importation of OM from abroad, and a Company in China was given an initial contract to produce OM produced from Seaweed. However, the scientists from University of Peradeniya detected harmful microorganisms in this initial consignment, and the ship was forced to leave Sri Lankan waters at a cost of US dollar 6.7 million without unloading its poisonous cargo. No substitute fertiliser consignment was available.

4. A committee in the Ministry hastily recommended to import NANO RAJA an artificial compound from India to increase the yield by spraying on to leaves. Sri Lanka lost Rs 863 million as farmers threw all these Nano Raja bottles and can as it attracts dogs and wild boar.

Since there is no other option the Ministry promised to pay Rs 50000 per hectare for all the farmers who lost their livelihood. It is not known how much the country lost due to this illogical decision of banning fertilisers and pesticides.

Recommendations

1. Judicious use of pesticides is recommended.

2. The promotion and the use of integrated pest management techniques whenever possible

3. To minimize the usage of pesticides:

Pesticide traders would be permitted to sell pesticides only through specially trained Technical Assistants.

Issuing pesticides to the farmers for which they have to produce some kind of a written recommendation by a local authority.

Introduction of new mechanism to dispose or recycle empty pesticide and weedicide bottles in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.

Laboratory-testing of imported pesticides by the Registrar of Pesticides at the entry-point to ensure that banned chemicals were not brought into the country.

Implementation of trained core of people who can apply pesticides.

Education campaigns to train farmers, retailers, distributors, and public with the adverse effects of pesticides.

Maximum Residue Level (MRL) to reduce the consumer’s risk of exposure to unsafe levels.

Integrated pest Management and organic agriculture to be promoted.

1. To ensure the proper usage of agrochemicals by farmers

All those who advised the Minister of Agriculture and the President to shift to OM still wield authority in national food production effort. The genuine scientists who predicted the outcome are still harassed sacked from positions they held in MA and were labelled as private sector goons. The danger lies if the farmers decide not to cultivate in this Maha season due to non-availability of fertilisers and pesticides the result will be an imminent famine.

The country also should have a professional body like the Planning Commission of

India, with high calibre professionals in the Universities and the Departments and

There should be institutions and experts to advise the government on national policy matters.

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Thomians triumph in Sydney 

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Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.

Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!

Trevine Rodrigo,

who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:

The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.

Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.

But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.

Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.

A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.

Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.

A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.

The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.

Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.

The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts.  But the Thomians had other ideas.

The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable.  Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.

It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.

Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.

The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.

In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.

Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.

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