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Karu slams EC, demands new Constitution without dictatorial features in 20 A

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…alleges police adopted Gestapo style tactics

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday (18) said that free and fair election couldn’t be expected under the supervision of the Election Commission (EC) appointed in terms of the 20th Amendment.

Jayasuriya said so addressing the media, in his capacity as the Chairman, the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), at Janaki Hotel.

The EC consists of Nimal G. Punchihewa (Chairman), S.B. Diwarathne, M.M. Mohammed, K. P. P. Pathirana, and Jeevan Thiagarajah.

Referring to recent reports pertaining to moves to conduct much delayed Provincial Council polls, Jayasuriya emphasised the responsibility on the part of the incumbent government to guarantee the impartiality of the EC. Jayasuriya said that they couldn’t anticipate free and fair elections as members of the EC were directly involved with the government political machinery.

One-time UNP Deputy Leader alleged that the EC would side with the government at a crucial moment at the expense of those who expected a level playing field. Therefore, the independence of the EC should be proved before elections. Jayasuriya said the next Provincial Council polls shouldn’t be conducted on a staggered basis under any circumstances.

Jayasuriya accepted the NMSJ leadership after having declined to contest/National List of both the JVP and the UNP breakaway faction, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) at the Aug 2020 general election.

 

Pointing out that the 20th Amendment had been enacted at the expense of the 19th Amendment introduced during his tenure as the Speaker, Jayasuriya said President Rajapaksa should re-examine the 20th Amendment.

Commenting on the ongoing efforts by a 9-member committee led by Romesh de Silva, PC, to draft a new Constitution, Jayuriya urged the President and the SLPP to do away with dictatorial features created by way of the 20th Amendment. The former Speaker warned of dire consequences if the incumbent government tried to retain dictatorial features in the 20th Amendment in the new Constitution.

The draft of the proposed new Constitution is expected to be ready in April. Romesh de Silva’s committee began deliberations in Sept last year.

The former Speaker also urged the government to discard controversial political victimisation committee report to avoid further crises. Declaring that retired Supreme Court Justice Upali Abeyratne’s report wasn’t acceptable to the vast majority of people, Jayasuriya requested President Rajapaksa to reveal his stand on the report.

Recently Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, MP, and Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe moved court against the Commission report.

NMSJ Chief challenged the government to take tangible and punitive measures against all those involved in the scandalous sugar duty scam that cost the country much needed revenue. Pointing out that the losses had been estimated at over Rs 15 bn, Jayasuriya said that the government could not remain silent on the revelations made by the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF).

The deal exposed by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in parliament on Dec 12, 2020, was investigated by the CoPF under the directions of its Chairman SLPP member Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.

Jayasuriya said that failure to act against those responsible would cause irreparable harm to the government and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The former Speaker also slammed the government for the continuing destruction of forests and efforts to suppress the truth of adopting Gestapo style tactics against those who dared to speak up. Recent scare tactics adopted in respect of a girl who criticised destruction of Sinharaja over Sirasa Lakshapathi exposed the government, he said.

Jayasuriya also strongly criticised what he called politicisation of the public sector. The former UNPer said that the moves to select members to the public through examinations conducted by the Public Administration Ministry instead of the Examination Department could cause serious harm.

 

 



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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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.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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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.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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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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