Proposed roundtable discussion
Former Speaker and Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Karu Jayasuriya said yesterday his organisation was glad that the government had decided to hold an all-party conference. As an initial step to win the confidence of all the political parties, the government could repeal the 20th amendment to the Constitution, he said.
Speaking at the Anuradhapura District Conference on “A New Constitution for a Better Country” co-organised by the NMSJ, Jayasuriya said the responsibility for the success of this process lay with the present government.
“First of all, these matters should be discussed in a friendly manner. But trust can never be built as long as the 20th Amendment is in force. Therefore, as an initial step, the government can repeal it as an attempt to show their sincerity,” he said.
Jayasuriya said that everyone should now unite to strengthen the depleted foreign reserves and ensure the economic stability of the country.
“Political parties must set aside narrow political agendas and commit themselves sincerely for the betterment of the country. During the all party conference, the agreement that must be arrived at is not on the forthcoming local government, provincial council, presidential or parliamentary elections. We must now unite to restore the lives of all Sri Lankans, strengthen the depleted foreign reserves and ensure the economic stability of the country”.
Given below are the excerpts of the speech he made in Anuradhapura. “We are honoured to be able to visit the ancient and sacred city of Anuradhapura and meet the most revered Maha Sangha as well as Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and other religious leaders in the area. It is also a great sense of strength to us to be able to converse and exchange ideas with scholars, intellectuals, professionals, farmers, workers, youth and those representing various sections of society from the area who have joined us today. The National Movement for Social Justice initiated through the leadership of the late Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and the Collective for Ethnic and Religious Harmony which was formed to create a united society free of racial and religious differences in the country are together carrying out a great national responsibility.
“To that end, along with the blessings of the people, we are making a great effort to awaken the country by visiting various parts of Sri Lanka. There is no need for a lengthy explanation of the current situation in the country. The people are facing many immense pressures today. This unfortunate situation has arisen due to the shortage of foreign reserves, the depreciation of the rupee and the failure of the government to come up with a proper plan to come out of this abyss.
“Currently there is an acute shortage of essential food items and their prices have seen a sharp increase as never before. People are being forced to spend days in queues to obtain necessities such as milk powder, LPG gas, cement, and fuel. There is also a shortage of medicines and ordinary citizens are paying high prices to obtain necessary drugs. Neither is there any formalin to carry out the process of embalming when a death occurs. There is no gas to operate the country’s crematoriums. These are the issues we commonly hear and see.
“For how long can a country carry on this way? That is the question on the lips of many people today. But what is the possible solution? We are not attempting to either embarrass or overthrow the government or to incite the people. Instead, we endeavour to bring the country together to arrive at a practical solution.
“We are very pleased that the government has accepted the proposal put forward by eleven parties in parliament to build the country and will as a result hold a roundtable discussion soon. We sincerely hope for its success.
“All political parties must set aside narrow political agendas and sincerely commit themselves for the betterment of the country. The agreement that must be arrived at is not on the forthcoming local government, provincial council, presidential or parliamentary elections. We must now unite to restore the lives of all Sri Lankans, strengthen the depleted foreign reserves and ensure the economic stability of the country.
“The main responsibility in this process lies with the present government. First of all, these matters should be discussed in a friendly manner in a democratic context. But trust can never be built until the 20th Amendment continues to be in force. Therefore, as an initial step, the government can repeal it as an attempt to show their sincerity.
“The political witch hunt against those who oppose the government through the Upali Abeyratne Commission must also be halted. Independent Commissions must be depoliticised. At present, these institutions have been subjected to complete politicisation.
“A constitutional amendment or a new constitution must be introduced immediately so that all citizens can live with dignity and respect. The promise made by the President relating to this is long overdue. Therefore, the government must present their proposals to the public without delay and also bring them to the attention of the country and parliament.
“Internationally we have made more enemies than friends. In a day and age where people are facing many difficulties like today, we need to earn the respect and trust of the international community.
“This is essential for the future well-being of the country. We point out the issues that are important to the country with nothing but utmost sincerity and good intentions.
“The opposition may also have to make some political sacrifices for the country. But they can only be motivated to do so if the government too is honest. Can the support and coexistence of the people be sought if the government continues to seek revenge from leaders of the opposition while causing the destruction of democratic principles even as they hold on to the powers of the 20th Amendment and the two-thirds majority thereby impeding upon the rights of the people.
“Our message to our leaders and all citizens of Anuradhapura today is to consider this as the final opportunity to save the country and therefore reconcile for the good of the country. If not, our future generations will curse us. Therefore, we will continue to keenly observe the actions of the government.
As I stand on this sacred ground today, I pledge to the people that we will commit and put our full strength behind all efforts to save our motherland.”
BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”
“Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.
“We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”
The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.
The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
Full text of the BASL letter to the President:
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.
Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.
The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.
We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.
The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.
The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.
SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution
By A.J.A. Abeynayake
A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.
The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.
The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.
A/L may be delayed by one month
Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.
Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.
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