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Karu asks govt. not to scrap 19A arbitrarily

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Former UNP Karu Jayasuriya yesterday (21) urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa not to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution without consulting all stakeholders. Former UNP Gampaha District lawmaker, in a statement issued yesterday said that if the government abolished the 19th Amendment, and a new Constitution passed, that must be done after wide consultation with all stakeholders, including all political parties, citizens’ organizations, and eminent individuals and general public.

The following is the full text of the statement issued in response to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement: “It is my pleasure to send good wishes to the 9th Parliament that was declared open yesterday (August 20th). The new Parliament embodies the strong mandate given to the government. It is also welcome that more than a third of the Parliamentarians are first-time members, reflecting the people’s wish for a fresh start.

The observations made here in good faith are based on the 2/3 mandate sought and received by the Government at the Parliamentary election held this month.

In his policy speech, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced the wish of his government to abolish the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and, subsequently, to introduce new constitution to the country. The 19th Amendment was a near-unanimous amendment to the Constitution. It was passed with an unprecedented 215 votes in favour.

As a person who has dedicated the whole political career to the cause of strengthening Sri Lanka’s democracy, I would like to draw the attention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the government to the need to protect and enhance the essence of democracy embedded in the 19th Amendment.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution embodies the democratic aspirations of the people at the time of its adoption.  The only progressive reform before the 19th Amendment was the 17th Amendment to the Constitution that was passed in 2001.

The 17th amendment was born as a result of the public outcry during the famous Wayamba Elections where several malpractices, killings, arson and harassment took place.  Members of the clergy of all faiths, academics and members of the opposition, civil society and professionals voluntarily formed into a ‘citizens committee’ that drafted the first document. The committee was chaired by me when I served as the Mayor of Colombo.  The JVP agreed to support the then PA/SLFP government on the basis that 17th Amendment was introduced.  Although independent commissions were formed the Elections Commission did not function due to the disagreement with regard to the Chair.  Then President was not agreeable to appoint the suggested name.  The Elections Commission was established in 2015.

 As envisioned by Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha thero, the 19th Amendment could build on that and strengthened the Parliament, reduced excessive powers accumulated in Presidency, re-introduced independent commission to ensure that critical institutes of the country such as public service, judiciary, electoral system, human rights and Police etc. are protected from political influence. It also introduced the Constitutional Council, with the membership of the government, Opposition, and the civil society to have a process by which appointments to important positions and independent commissions are made with a national consensus.

In the spirit of the 19th Amendment, it is welcoming to note that the President appointed 26 Ministers to the Cabinet, thereby following the 30-member limit introduced under 19A. Further, the Right to Information Act, which is considered as one of the best in the world, has been integrated into the 19A, by way of recognising Right to Information as a fundamental right. This is the only improvement to the fundamental rights introduced under the 1978 constitution.

These reforms have been enacted after wide consultation and negotiation within the Parliament and the civil society. In fact, the majority of the approving votes came from the UPFA members, led by President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015. Besides, even the present Parliament consists of a majority of members who have voted for the 19th Amendment.

In this situation, if the government abolishes the 19th Amendment, and a new Constitution is passed, that must be done after wide consultation with all stakeholders, including all political parties, citizens’ organisations, and eminent individuals and general public.

Democracy is a much-valued legacy of Sri Lanka and people treasure the freedoms they have. 19th Amendment symbolises this democratic spirit. I request President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to undertake to properly analyze and evaluate any technical shortcomings of the 19th Amendment while respecting and upholding the essence of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in future reforms. As the proverb goes, one should not ‘throw the baby away with the bath water’. As such, respect for democracy and rule of law is mandatory for us to rise as a proud nation in the world.

As a responsible and concerned citizen, I wish good luck to the new government and the proposed constitution-making process, with the sincere hope that it will strengthen Sri Lanka’s democracy and provide an inclusive platform for the country to achieve prosperity for all.

 

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Udaya questions why CPC prevented from entering LPG market

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Minister Gammanpila at the abandoned Sapugaskanda facility

…reveals Rs 37 mn loss suffered during Asantha’s tenure as Chairman

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila recently alleged that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had suffered Rs 37 mn loss due to an abortive bid made by the state enterprise to enter the LPG (liquid petroleum gas) in 2008.

Lawmaker Gammanpila, who is also the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, said that the CPC had made the attempt in violation of an agreement with Shell and Laugfs Gas to supply its entire output of LPG from the Sapugaskanda refinery to the above mentioned companies.

The Minister said so after inspecting an abandoned gas filling facility at the CPC facility at Sapugaskanda. The visit took place, on Thursday (24), after a three-member committee headed by the Energy Ministry’s head of Internal Audit D. P. S. J. Kumara inquired into the failed operation.

The CPC undertook the project during former national cricketer Ashantha de Mel’s tenure as the CPC Chairman. A. H. M. Fowzie had been the minister in charge of the subject.

The Minister called for a report when the media revealed that the facility had been abandoned a decade back.

Gammanpila vowed to reveal the person who had caused losses to the CPC, having misled its Board of Directors as regards the viability of the project.

The PHU leader requested state enterprise Litro Gas to explore the possibility of accommodating the facility in its current production setup. The minister described the facility installed at Sapugaskanda as technologically outdated even at the time 2008 administration acquired it.

When the CPC made an attempt to enter the LPG market, Laugfs successfully moved the Supreme Court against it. The CPC abandoned the facility following the Supreme Court directive.

The Energy Minister questioned how the CPC had been prevented from entering the gas market. Underscoring the importance of market competition, the lawmaker said that the Energy Ministry intended to inquire into how the CPC reached an understanding with competitors that prevented the state enterprise from entering the LPG market. The minister said that he would examine the obstacles placed before the CPC in entering the market without undermining Litro.

Declaring that Sri Lanka had substantial natural gas deposits in the Mannar basin, the Energy Minister said that the government intended to enter the gas market. Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that a new enterprise would be established under the CPC to provide healthy competition.

Addressing the post-Cabinet media briefing on Sept. 10, co-Cabinet spokesperson Gammanpila said that Surath Ovitigama had been named the Director-General of the Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat and Saliya Wickramasuriya had been appointed advisor.

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Saumya Liyanage removed from posts of Dean and Professor 

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From M.A. Kaleel, Kalmunai Corr. 

Professor Saumya Liyanage of the University of Visual and Performing Arts has been summarily removed from the posts of Professor and Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies he was holding at the university. 

 The decision was taken by the University Council chaired by the Competent Authority of the University Professor Abayaratne Bandara. 

 According to the Council, the decision for his removal is that he had not obtained a postgraduate degree by research (Master or PhD) within the probationary period of eight years. When a lecturer is appointed on probationary basis, he is given eight years to complete postgraduate degree––a master’s or a PhD.  

Liyanage holds a PhD from La Trobe University, Australia and he claims he submitted his PhD thesis within the stipulated period of 8 years, and the university has recommended him for the award of PhD with minor corrections. The effective date of PhD could be the date of submission of corrected thesis or the date of annual convocation. It differs from university to university. 

Liyanage, who joined the university in 2007, was supposed to obtain his PhD before 2015, but the university has taken 5 years to detect that he has not completed his PhD within the probationary period. He was promoted as a Professor and the Dean of Graduate Studies.  

 Professor Abayaratne Bandara also served as the Director General of National Institute of Education.  When Bandula Gunawardena became the Education Minister, he removed Dr. Upali S. Sedera from the post of DG only a few months after his appointment and appointed Professor Abayaratne Bandara to the post.

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SF under delusion that he is still Army Chief – SLPP MP

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‘Even Vasu is capable of flooring him’

By Saman Indrajith

Badulla District SLPP MP Chamara Sampath Dassanayake told Parliament, yesterday, that the SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was under the delusion that he was still commanding the army.

“He should realise that he is in Parliament. Yesterday, he threatened to take on the entire front row of government ranks single-handedly. We do not need an entire row of members to match him. We could send a single person that is our minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

MP Fonseka thinks all those here have passed only Grade Eight. What is wrong with a person with that kind of educational qualification becoming an MP? What about the late Mr. D. S. Senanayake? He was the first prime minister of the country.  He had passed only the fifth standard. We have had leaders who had not studied beyond Grade Eight. Didn’t they govern this country well? On the contrary, where is UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was considered educated and intelligent? What has he done? He is not even in this Parliament today. Was he able to govern this country successfully?”

“We know a lot about him and his ways of conduct. When he was the commander of the Army he sent a helicopter to Colombo to fetch two loaves of bread, while denying so many wounded soldiers the chance to be flown to Colombo. He also brought water from the Iyakkachi well in Vettailaikerni to Colombo because that was his favourite drinking water. We know all this”.

MP Dassanayake said that they had come to Parliament with great trust in it. Yet, he said that there were no thugs in the parliament and no room would be spared to turn the Ninth parliament into the same situation as the Eighth parliament.

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