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Kanag-Isvaran PC fires opening salvo against Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill before SC

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By Chitra Weerarathne

It was beyond the powers of Parliament to add new parts to the territory of Sri Lanka, Kanaganayagam Kanag-Isvaran, President’s Counsel yesterday told the Supreme Court.

Kanag-Isvaran, PC appearing for petitioners the Centre for Policy Alternatives and Transparency International, told the Court that Sri Lanka could not claim sovereignty over the artificially created Colombo Port City.

He said that an artificial land did not form part of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. The PC added that, in 1948, Sri Lanka had become an independent country, after being a British Colony; in 1972 it had become a sovereign Republic; in 1976, the Maritime Law had been brought in, claiming the territorial waters of Sri Lanka. Kanag-Isvaran added that in 1978, the second Republic of Sri Lanka had come into effect, with 25 administrative districts.

“The 25 districts can be subdivided. But Parliament can’t add man-made structures to Sri Lanka. The Colombo Port City is such an addition. No Parliamentarians were elected from the Port City,” he argued.

Kanag-Isvaran contended that the bill attempts to create an all-powerful commission that was answerable only to the President. Thus, it could be considered an alter-ego of the current and future Presidents.

The President’s Counsel said that the artificially created land known as Port City would be given tax benefits, turning it into a tax haven in violation of Article 12 of the Constitution. The Bill also violated Article 3 of the Constitution––the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. It would be a haven for money laundering. Sri Lanka Auditing Centres would have no control, he said.

The bill on multiple occasions stated that its objective was the development of the national economy, but the provisions of the bill did not reflect that, the counsel argued.

Kanag-Isvaran said that the national economy wouldn’t be improved through the port city, as investors in the port city were not liable to pay taxes. There was no parliamentary oversight over the Commission administering the port city and therefore was contrary to constitutional provisions that vested the control of public finances with Parliament. Considering those, the Bill should be thrown off, the counsel submitted.

Counsel Dharshana Weragoda said that the Bill should be referred to the Western Provincial Council, before being presented to Parliament.

The bench comprised Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare, Justice Priyantha Jayawardene, Justice Murdhu N.B. Fernando and Justice Janak de Silva.

Altogether 19 petitions had been filed. Among the petitioners were the President of the Bar Association Saliya Pieris PC, Wasantha Samarasinghe of the JVP, Civil Society Activists Gamini Viyangoda, K. W. Janaranjana on behalf of Purawesi Balaya and the Centre for Policy Alternative. Farzana Jameel, Additional Solicitor General PC appeared for the Attorney General. Proceeding will resume today.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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