(Edited excerpts of remarks made by Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice at the media conference in Colombo on Thursday. )
The National Movement for Social Justice has always been driven by a sense of duty to the country for the good of the country and its people. We have stood for these at all times and presented our ideas and suggestions publicly in good faith. All members of our organization are very interested in these matters and most concerned about the interventions that are necessary for the good of the country.
As suggested by our members, we will forward our views directly to the president . I hope that the president will pay his attention to them. We are not referring to gossip picked up from the street. These are facts verified by us.
We would also like to draw attention to a valuable comment made by the Ven. Medagoda Abhayatissa Nayaka Thero in the media recently. He said that this is the best time for the president to display that he is principled and upstanding leader, pointing out that the people of this country elected him to the presidency to build a law abiding society. The Maha Sangha made an unparalleled contribution to bring him to power and we sincerely hope that the president will take future decisions with the blessings of the Maha Sangha.
We would first like to focus on the 20th Amendment. The intelligent people of this country do not approve of 20A which deprives our country of democracy, freedom and human rights. We saw that the president himself had stated that he had not received the blessings of the Maha Sangha for this Amendment and had not met with the Buddhist Advisory Council before presenting the Amendment to Parliament.
Several leading monks have informed us that any knowledgeable Maha Thera will not bless 20A. We learned from survey reports that more than 80% of the Sri Lankan population has rejected it. It has caused much chaos in the country creating issues like giving dual citizens the opportunity to participate in governing the country. We feel that the President should reconsider the 20A which deprives the country of democracy and freedom.
It was the president who promised to introduce a new Constitution to the country before the first anniversary of his inauguration. It is our national responsibility to call for a new Constitution that will strengthen the country’s democracy, protect the freedoms and rights of the people, and ensure the sovereignty of the country. This is an important effort we must make for the future generations of this country.
The new Constitution should create an environment in which all communities of the country can live in unity, peace, coexistence and self-esteem. Accordingly, the dictatorial powers created by 20A must be removed when drafting the new Constitution or it would be a curse upon us enabling the establishing of a dictatorial presidency. The president should take action to prevent such a situation.
We believe there are two essentials that need to be completed before a provincial or any other election. The first is to establish an appropriate mechanism for holding free, peaceful and fair elections. The independence of the Election Commission must be ensured. This cannot be expected from the commission now in place.
A fair election can never be expected from a commission consisting of persons who have direct links with the political machinery of government. It is not the people who will win their allegiance at a crucial moment but their political masters. Therefore, the independence of the Election Commission must be ensured before any election is declared. It is also reported that the government has an intention to hold sporadic elections to gain more benefits for itself as has been done in the past. That should never happen.
The report of the Presidential Commission on Political Victimization must be trashed. However weak a government, it should not become a joke to the people. The president should explain his position on this report as soon as possible. Immediate intervention is also needed to eradicate corruption and fraud taking place in broad daylight. It is the responsibility of the president to take the lead in punishing the perpetrators. Without this the confidence of the people in him will be irreparably damaged.
The government cannot deny the people an explanation about the daylight robbery that took place while importing sugar. The COPE, the Finance Committee and the Treasury have admitted fraud and investigations by the Auditor General have begun.We call on the President to immediately launch an impartial inquiry into this matter.
Many involved in this racket hold various positions in the government. If a proper investigation is conducted, several heads will roll. Some may even be allies of the powerful but they cannot be allowed. to bring disrepute to the Head of State.
In the first decade of 1980/90 I was the Chairman of the Sugar Importers Association and former Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri represented the manufacturers (Pelwatta, Kantale, Sevanagala). Working together with the Ministry of Trade and the General Treasury, we launched a monthly reduction of import duties to develop and protect the local sugar industry to make it viable. There
seems to be a major irregularity in the questionable transaction now in the public domain.
Today an unprecedented environmental catastrophe is taking place in this country and it is impossible to even imagine the possible consequences. Leading government officials such as Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries have told us there is significant political meddling behind these disasters and the officials are powerless and helpless to the point of not being able to do duty. The situation can become worse if the president does not intervene personally.
The government must pay special attention to the human-elephant conflict and an immediate action plan formulated to protect the elephant and compensate farmers for crop damage. A dedicated Presidential Task Force for this purpose is appropriate.
The entire public service seems to be manipulated by politicians, destroying the prestige and dignity of the public service in this country. An attempt is being made to remove competitive examinations for the recruitment of public servants by the Examinations Department and hand this task to Ministry of Public Administration.
Unfortunately, public servants are harassed and embarrassed and top officials in the public service have been affected. The minister in charge of the subject is not aware of the removal of Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva from his post in the Ministry of Health. The removal of Dr. Palitha Abeykoon from the post of Director of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka is similar. He has earned the country an international reputation as one of the six chief advisers to the WHO. He was on line for a top position in the World Health Organization but due to the weak policies of the then government the post went elsewhere. In such a situation, will there be talented people left in the public service? We believe that the attention of the president should be drawn to this as well.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to another incident where the police have reportedly questioned a girl who participated in the Lakshapathi program aired on Sirasa TV recently for mentioning environmental destruction in the area she lives. This is like Hitler’s Gestapo in the 1940s and is a stern warning to the people of this country. The ultimate responsibility for this rests with the president.
What has happened should be severely condemned. In fact, the police or wildlife officers or the grama niladhari should have listened to what she had to say and taken necessary action without harassing her. The IGP must act immediately to protect the dignity and honor of the police.
I once again stress that the NMSJ makes these points in good faith. All these issues are being raised by educated members of our organization and they are being referred to H.E. the President with the utmost responsibility. He can look into these matters or trash them. But I would like to say these are opinions of a majority of our people.
AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament
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.
MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations
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.
Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert
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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