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Johnston: Probe underway into allegation expressway construction causes floods



‘Yahapalana adjustments to construction master plan may have led to present situation’

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday instructed his Ministry Secretary R. W. R. Pemasiri to investigate immediately whether there was any truth in claims that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work on the first phase of the Central Expressway from Kadawatha to Meerigama.

Minister Fernando had also directed the Secretary to study the construction master plan and make adjustments thereto if such action was deemed necessary to control floods in the Gampaha area, Ministry sources said.

The Minister issued those instructions during a meeting held at the ministry to ascertain the veracity of statements by some MPs and ministers from the Gampaha District that the ongoing construction of the Central Expressway had blocked waterways in the area and thereby caused the inundation of several law-lying fields. The blockage of waterways had been caused by temporary roads put up in a haphazard manner to transport heavy machinery and construction equipment needed to construct the Central Expressway, the MPs pointed out at the meeting.

Minister Fernando said: “It is said that some have been inundated due to the construction work of the Central Expressway. I have discussed this issue with Gampaha District leader Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, State Minister Nimal Lanza and other MPs including Kokila Gunawardena, Nalin Fernando and Upul Rajapaksa. Gampaha District Secretary and top officials of the Irrigation Ministry were also present. We want to check whether this claim is true. I ordered the Secretary of my ministry to study the matter and submit a report in two days. We are also planning to meet the affected people and listen to their views. We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall in the known history was reported from this area, and that was one of the causes of floods. We do everything possible to alleviate the difficulties and inconveniences faced by the people for whose benefit the highways are being built. We are not a government that runs away, unable to face problems.

We have already initiated a plan as suggested by the officials of the Irrigation Ministry to clear some canals in the area to help drain water from some fields. We know that development becomes meaningless if people, the main beneficiaries thereof, are not happy.

When Basil Rajapaksa was the District leader of Gampaha and Cabinet Minister he not only developed the district but also had a special project to clean and clear the canal network. That good work was suspended after the 2015 regime change. If those projects had been carried out without attaching political identities to them, Gampaha would have been one of the most developed districts in the country today; certainly there would have been no flood problems.

The Yahapalana government had altered some sections of the master plan of the central expressway to help its cronies. “It is laughable that the very same people who meddled with the master plan and created problems are now lambasting us,” Minister Fernando said.

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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border




BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals



Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up



State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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