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Johnston centre-closes new extradosed bridge over Kelani river

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In 2014, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the Minister of Highways had initiated the New Kelani Bridge project and signed for the plans and the approval, Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando said, following the centre-closure of the new Kelani Bridge, which is an engineering design known as extradosed type, which uses stay cables to connect two main pylons with the bridge deck and to share weight of the loads from the bridge deck.

In his recent address to the nation, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa mentioned that we would complete this project soon, said Minister Fernando, adding that the former Highways Minister of the Yahapalana government had claimed that it was a project that had been commenced by the previous administration. “The truth is that the highest number of mega development projects in this country commenced under the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He deserves the credit for that. Others cannot take the credit because people know the truth. I still can remember how President Rajapaksa started the Outer Circle Highway Project. Later, the ministers of the yahapalana government tried to get credit for that and were planning to open a section of it but a woman opened it.

“We are going to complete the work of this new Kelani Bridge within three months and hope that it could be commissioned in the first week of September. At a time when the entire world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, engineers of Japan and this country with other officials rendered a yeoman service to make this project a success. They took an enormous risk by doing so. This grateful nation will never forget their dedication and in the years to come people will talk of their dedication.

“We would not suspend any development project because of difficulties or the pandemic. One of the biggest mistakes committed by the yahapalana government was trying to take credit for development projects initiated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. They suspended some projects citing various reasons because they had no capacity nor caliber to carry on such mega development projects that had been envisioned for the use of the people for the next century. The first such project that they had stopped was the Port City Development project. This project too had been delayed citing various reasons. Otherwise this would have been completed by this time and people would have been using this bridge.

“Some Opposition members blame us, claiming that we could work only with China. We work not only with China but also with Japan and the UK. We are working with many nations other than China and this bridge came into being with the assistance of Japanese engineering technology as an example for that. Various countries have come forward to assist our development process and invest here. Those who criticize us have only a single objective of sabotaging our work. People would not fall for their trap.

“We are a government that will not hesitate to act for the sake of the development of this country. We are not afraid of critics.  We are not afraid of Opposition tactics. None with an iota of intelligence would participate in protests or lead their people to protests at a time like this knowing it’s dangerous to expose them to the pandemic. Unfortunately, we have Opposition politicians who do so. Those who predicted that at least one or two thousand people will die here of COVID-19 finally got infected. We call on them not to put the lives of people in harm’s way to achieve their political objectives. You will never be able to escape from the curse of the people by using them as a cat’s paw to cover up their political bankruptcy.

Saturday’s event – the centre-closure of the extra dozed bridge marks the conclusion of the concrete casting of the new bridge.

With the opening of the new Kelani Bridge, the Colombo-Katunayake expressway would connect the capital to the country’s main international airport with a six-lane road and further link the elevated highway to Aturugiriya and the port-elevated highway to the Port City. The new bridge is 380 meters long and has been constructed in two phases – the first phase covering the steel construction of the bridge has cost Rs 31,539 million while cost of the second phase of casting concrete deck of the bridge is Rs 9,896 million. 

Among those present were Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure State Minister Nimal Lanza, Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Sri Lanka, Yamada Tetsuya, Secretary to the Ministry of Highways RWR Pemasiri, Secretary to the Ministry of Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure Prof Ranjtih Dissanayake, Chairman of RDA, Chaminda Athuluwage, Working Director Chaminda Basnayake, Director General of RDA Sardha Weerakoon, Project Director Darshika Jayasekera and other officials.



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SLFP tells major partner how to resolve crisis

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Kotelawala Bill rallying point for Opposition

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has offered to support the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Act if the government met its four conditions primarily meant to ensure KNDU remained within the State University system.

The SLFP, in a missive dated Aug 3 addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has made the following amendments to the KNDU Bill, namely (i) the KNDU should be under the University Grants Commission (UGC) (ii) those outside the military to be admitted on the basis of Z-Score rankings (iii) taking into consideration undergraduates had to pay for receiving education at the KNDU and making arrangements to provide them with loans payable later and (iv) civilians should be in the majority in the unversity governing bodies.

The SLFP parliamentary group consists of 14, including one National List member, Dr. Suren Raghvan. The SLPP with 116 seats on its own enjoys a simple majority in Parliament.

Office of former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (4) made available a copy of its letter to the President signed by Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, MP, Chairman of the SLFP committee that inquired into the simmering KNDU controversy.

The SLPP decision to go ahead with KNDU Act has triggered protests in Colombo and several other areas, including Jaffna.

Acknowledging the pivotal importance in addressing issues pertaining to University level education, particularly those who couldn’t enter State universities seeking entry into Universities even in developing countries, the SLFP has recommended the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to examine the issue at hand within a specific period would be the most suitable measure. However, if the government wanted to move the matter expeditiously in Parliament, the SLFP believed the above mentioned four amendments should be included.

Lawmaker Siyambalapitiya told The Island that the party consulted the SLFP parliamentary group as well as several other stakeholders before reaching consensus on the KNDU Act. MP Siyambalapitiya said that the SLFP expected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pay special attention to the suggestions made.

Senior Vice President of the SLFP Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told The Island that if there had been proper mechanism for consultations among constituents of the SLPP led alliance issues such as the KNDU Bill could have been easily avoided. Prof. Piyadasa emphasized that those in political authority should have consulted all constituents before it finalised the KNDU Bill and presenting it to Parliament. Responding to another query, Piyadasa pointed out why SLPP should do away with the practice of taking major decisions without consulting constituents. The academic cited the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct 2020 and the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill as two glaring examples.

Prof. Piyadasa pointed out how some sections of the Opposition exploited mishandling of the KNDU issue to such an extent that now trade unions affiliated to political parties brought dozens of groups under one banner. They had managed to cleverly mix teachers’ salary issue with the KNDU controversy, Prof. Piyadasa said, alleging the government allowed the situation to get out of hand. Tuesday’s violent protest on the road leading to Parliament highlighted the deterioration of the situation and the failure on the part of the government to address the issue at hand, prudently.

Prof. Piyadasa said that the government couldn’t ignore concerns expressed by the Government Medical Officers’ Association and the Association of Medical Specialists in that regard. Pointing out the government could easily resolve the issue by following the SLFP’s recommendations, Prof. Piyadasa said urging the government to respond to the developing situation swiftly and decisively.

Referring to a spate of statements issued by the Defence Ministry in that regard, Prof. Piyadasa said that the government should seek the backing of all political parties represented in parliament to expand capacity of State Universities.

He said that the SLFP recently discussed the matter with breakaway JVP faction, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). Except perhaps for some pursuing agendas of their own, vast majority of lawmakers wouldn’t back the proposed KNDU Bill in its present form, Prof. Piyadasa said.

Piyadasa emphasized unnecessary trouble caused by the government’s shortsighted strategy couldn’t be resolved by resorting to police crackdowns.

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Shouting match over arrest and detention of MP

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By Saman Indrajith

Parliament was plunged into turmoil yesterday over the arrest and detention of MP Rishad Bathiudeen, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in the Chamber. 

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, raising a point of order, said that MP Bathiudeen had been detained for nearly 100 days without being charged. “MP Bathiudeen has not been given a charge sheet. The police have not even informed the Speaker of this arrest and detention of the MP. His case had been postponed four times. This is against British parliamentary traditions. This amounts to the breach of privileges of the MP. We demand that the MP should be set free.”

 Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: I have been informed of the arrest of MP Bathiudeen.

 Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: On what grounds? 

The Speaker: For an investigation.

Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: It cannot be accepted as a reason for the arrest. On what grounds the arrest has been made?

(MPs of government side shouts at the Chief Opposition Whip) 

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando: Time was when we too were taken into custody. No reasons were given. The then Speaker did not speak a word when we were taken into custody. Where had that tradition been then?

 Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: This is a matter of importance for each and every MP. This is applicable to all of us. This could happen to you one day. There have been several Presidents in the country, but no MP was detained under any of them in this manner. 

Leader of the House Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena: There is an investigation against MP Bathiudeen. Another probe has also been initiated by the police. Those investigations have to be conducted properly. There is no meaning in shouting here while there are investigations pending against MP Bathiudeen.

(SJB MPs shout against the government while the Speaker was trying to bring the House in order)

 MP Rishad Bathiudeen: Ninety-two days have lapsed since I was taken into custody. There were investigations only for five days. I am being detained in a dark room for 24 hours. There is no reason for my arrest. I am telling the President of this country, Sir, there is no reason for my arrest. There was an additional secretary by the name of Balasubramaniyam in my ministry. I am told that I was arrested over a telephone conversation that Balasubraniyam had with somebody.

Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando: MP Bathiudeen mentioned one Balasubramaniyam. Balasubramaniyam has fled the country. You should know that.

 

 

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Several policemen injured as IUSF-led protesters topple police barricades

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Maharagama OIC’s fingers badly mangled

By Saman Indrajith

Several policemen had been injured on Tuesday when undergraduates, led by the Inter-University Students Federation, toppled barricades set up to prevent them from marching on the road leading to Parliament.

Among the injured is OIC of the Maharagama police, Chief Inspector H.H. Janakantha, who was operated on at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital. Three of his fingers in his hand were badly mangled. He was first taken to the Medical Centre in the parliamentary complex but later transferred to the Jayewardenepura hospital.

 The protesters wrested the barricade from policemen who were attempting to hold back the protesters.

The Maharagama OIC was among additional policemen summoned from nearby stations to strengthen the security of Parliament and the high security zone.

The protesters led by the IUSF started from several places to march towards Parliament around noon to protest against the proposed Kotelawala National Defence University Bill. The main march started from the Ayurveda Roundabout in Borella. The march created heavy traffic between the Ayurveda roundabout and Battaramulla during the lunch hour traffic.

The protesters could not be stopped at the Parliament Roundabout, and they proceeded up to the Jayanthipura entrance to the Parliament premises. They pulled down barricades but the police managed to stop them at that point. The IUSF activists set a coffin labelled ‘the death of free education’ on fire at the main entrance to Parliament. The protesters dispersed about one hour later after IUSF convener Wasantha Mudalige and Prof. Mahim Mendis of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations made speeches against the KNDU (Kotelawala National Defence Univeristy) Bill. 

 

 

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