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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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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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