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Karu J urges national consensus on needed measures to address unprecedented crisis

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Conflicting views add to chaos

Immediate solutions needed for power, fuel and transport issues

Allow people to plan their lives around power cuts

Urgently alleviate woes of the people

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his capacity of Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), last week called on all Lankans to follow the example of Ukraine to formulate a common minimum program to respond to the country’s current unprecedented crisis.

“The fuel and electricity crises have disrupted the everyday lives of the people. The agriculture sector along with the economy has been completely destroyed. There appears to be a lack of consensus within the government on possible solutions, thereby further delaying the resolution of these many issues,” he said.

“Instead various parties to the government are presenting their own opinions on the matter adding to the existing chaos and confusion. The only obvious solution to face a catastrophe of this scale is to at least temporarily form a united national front. However, it can only be built if the government extends the hand of friendship to all other relevant parties.”

He said that NMSJ has launched a program prepared with the assistance of local and foreign academics and scholars under the leadership of renowned Sri Lankan scholar Prof. Rohan Samarajiva. A majority of the leading political leaders who participated in the discussion agreed that these proposals were suitable to be taken up for initial discussion.

“There was also a positive response from religious and civil society leaders. It is noteworthy that several members of the ruling party have also shown interest. The next few days of the week will be devoted to a public discussion entitled ‘A Minimal Common Programme to Respond to Sri Lanka’s Current Crisis’, Jayasuriya said. This will be followed by the presentation of a national resolution to the country.

Stressing that the government should take immediate action to alleviate the sufferings of the people, Jayasuriya called for immediate solutions to the issues in transportation and electricity. A former energy minister, he said the CEB can easily restore the power supply.

“If the railways and bus services collapse, the whole country will come to a stand still. It must be noted that the state apparatus is continuously failing to take decisions based on one point of view and is instead issuing statements expressing varying opinions and decisions leading to further chaos,” he said.

“For example, the President, the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) and the Ceylon Electricity Board are all expressing different views on fuel supply these days.”

Jayasuriya stressed it would be a relief to the people and allow them to plan their work around the power disruptions If they can stick to a proper time table for power disruptions in a specific area instead of announcing a lengthy time period during which they may experience many power outages, it would be a relief to the people and would allow them to plan their work accordingly.

He made the further point that during this harvesting season, the suffering of the farmers due to the lack of diesel is evident through media reports. Their grievances are heartbreaking. There is also a severe shortage of medicinal drugs in the country. This is a dangerous situation. Our people are beset not only by shortages of essential items, but also by escalating prices.

“In the month of January alone, food inflation has risen by 24%. The main reason for this is the excessive printing of currency. Just days ago, an unfortunate incident was reported where a father in the Welipenna area had taken his life after being unable to secure food for his children for nearly three days and how the wife was forced to sell two chairs to feed them,” he said. “We mention this incident only because we are aware that this is a situation prevalent across the country. Malnutrition is on the rise and needs to be addressed immediately. The contribution of the low-income and middle-class families cannot be disregarded.”

Noting that the rich have been given huge tax breaks, he said the government should realize that there is a serious social injustice here. This is the opinion of the majority in this country. Therefore, even in this dire situation, the government must be flexible and take the lead in the effort to save the country with the support of all.

He expressed confidence that the leaders of the opposition will cooperate and act in a responsible manner. However their support can be obtained not by summoning political dissidents to the BMICH and by retaliating through presidential commissions, but by initiating mutual cooperation. It is the duty of the government to earn their trust.

“Engaging in political revenge but telling people that they abide by the ‘One Country, One Law’ policy only to blatantly violate it will not invoke their trust. It should be understood that the people do not approve of that process of the government. Governments that come to power with a large majority must bear in mind that they are the custodians of a country and not its owners who in reality are the people of the country.

“Therefore, one should not regard the mandate given to him by the people as an arbitrary power. It should also be noted that the people, who are the real owners of the government, will not allow such arbitrary acts.”

He noted that at the last presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa received 6.9 million votes while at least 6.2 million voted against him. Therefore, the government should have realized that introducing any constitutional amendment or drafting the constitution that would suit its political agenda and not the country such as the 20th Amendment would only lead to the deterioration of itself and the country.

“We hope that the authorities will now understand the reality and act with great patriotism and love for the country,” he concluded.

 



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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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.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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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.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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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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