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Karu takes over late Ven. Sobitha’s outfit, Sajith vows to scuttle 20A

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his new capacity as the Chairman and Convenor of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) today (17) will unveil his campaign against the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

A spokesperson for NMSJ told The Island that the former Speaker recently accepted their invitation to take over the movement formed by the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera.

Responding to a query, the official said that Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, who succeeded Ven. Sobitha in the wake of the latter’s demise in Nov. 2015, made the request on behalf of the NMSJ.

Jayasuriya will brief the media at the Solis hotel , Pita Kotte at 10 am today.

 

NMSJ official said that Prof. Wijesuriya offered his position in the wake of the outfit requesting the former UNP MP to spearhead a campaign to protect the 19th Amendment enacted during his tenure as the Speaker. Karu Jayasuriya accepted the new role close on the heels of the UNP rejecting his offer to succeed Ranil Wickremesinghe as its Leader. The offer was made after the party suffered a debilitating setback at the August general election. Jayasuriya however did not contest that election.

 NMSJ announced the new campaign in the wake of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) vowing on Tuesday (15) to prevent the passage of the 20th Amendment.

 Addressing a gathering at the New Town Hall, SJB leader Sajith Premadasa said that the government bid would be thwarted.

 Among those present were many civil society activists, including the Executive Director of the Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.

 Opposition Leader Premadasa told The Island that the SJB was ready to lead the campaign against the government’s bid to establish an authoritarian administration. Colombo District lawmaker Premadasa said that the draft of the 20th Amendment in its present form wasn’t acceptable at all. The SJB leader pointed out that the SLPP was in turmoil with some sections of the ruling coalition as well as those who supported the SLPP at the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls publicly complaining about the draft gazetted on Sept 2. The former Deputy UNP leader pointed out that there hadn’t been discussion at least within the SLPP regarding far reaching constitutional changes envisaged through the 20th Amendment. Lawmaker Premadasa noted that the SLPP’s move had received the attention of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. He was referring to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s criticism of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Delivering opening remarks at the 45th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva Monday, Bachelet said she was troubled by the swift changes the Sri Lankan government was making after withdrawing its support to the UN resolution 30/1.

Bachelet said among other developments, the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may negatively impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission.

Having secured 145 seats at the last general election, the SLPP needs five more votes to enact the 20th Amendment with a 2/3 majority.

 The parliament comprises: SLPP (145), the SJB (54), the ITAK (10), the JJB (3), the AITC (2), the EPDP (2), UNP (1), the OPPP (1) the TMVP (1), the MNA (1), the TMTK (1) the ACMC (1), the NC (1) and the SLMC (1).

 The UNP and the OPPP are yet to name their National List members (one each).

 The NMSJ official said that the outfit would conduct consultations next week with a cross section of interested parties as regards the 20th Amendment to reach consensus on a set of proposals to the SLPP government. According to him, there should be consensus among all stakeholders before the parliament debated the proposed new law. It wouldn’t be fair to introduce amendments at the Committee Stage as happened during the passage of the 19th Amendment under the previous dispensation, the NMSJ spokesperson said.

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Hemasiri’s counsel complains to PCoI against ex-President Sirisena’s media statement

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… says it has placed the life of his client at risk

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena had placed ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando’s life at risk by issuing a media statement that the evidence given by the latter before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was “malicious and fictitious”, Attorney-at-Law Dilshan Jayasuriya appearing for Fernando said yesterday.

Jayasuriya told the PCoI that by issuing that statement Sirisena had also undermined the PCoI.

Sirisena, on Sunday, issued a press release claiming that the testimony given by Fernando at the PCoI about his behavior was completely false.

“I vehemently deny what was said at the Commission by Fernando. These are malicious and fictitious statements and I wish to reiterate to the public that Fernando’s statements are false,” Sirisena said.

Counsel Jayasuriya pointed out that by disseminating such an idea, the former President was trying to intimidate the former Defence Secretary who was still testifying before the PCoI. Sirisena, who was a former President, a current Parliamentarian and a party leader, was powerful and thus, there were now concerns about the security of his client, Jayasuriya said.

The counsel said that it was up to the Commission to decide whether Fernando’s evidence was true or false.

Issuing of a statement undermining Fernando by Sirisena, who was the Commander-in-Chief, the Minister of Defence and the Minister in charge of law and order at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, was a very bad precedent, the counsel for the ex-Defence Secretary said.

“The former President has been given the opportunity to crossexamine Fernando. However, he has issued press releases. People will be afraid to tell the truth openly if powerful people start issuing press releases on judicial matters,” counsel Jayasuriya added.

Jayasuriya requested the Commission that Sirisena’s Personal Secretary, Sameera de Silva, who issued this media statement, be summoned before the Commission. Silva should explain why he should not be charged with contempt of court. He also requested the Commission to take measures to ensure the safety of his client.

When the Commission asked the counsel appearing for the former President if he had anything to say in that regard, he said that he had not received any advice from his client. Accordingly, the Chairman of the Commission ordered that if there was anything to be said by Sirisena in that regard, it be presented before the Commission today through his legal representatives.

The Additional Solicitor General, who is leading Fernando’s evidence, also informed the Commission that she hoped to comment on the matter once the explanations were made by the former President.

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Kandy tragedy:

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What remains of the building that collapsed

Ill-fated building constructed on loose soil

By Ifham Nizam

Structural engineers’ approval was essential for the construction of building in hilly areas, a senior scientist said.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) Director (Landslide Research and Risk Management Division) R.M.S. Bandara told The Island to ascertain the real cause of the building collapse in Kandy on Sunday, an investigation would be conducted within the course of this week. “Initially we thought that could be done in two days or so,” he said

Bandara said that they would work with the Kandy Municipal Council Building Department to find out whether the original plan of the structure had been changed.

According to Senior Chartered Geologist Laksiri Indritilake, who was at the site, the NBRO team was carrying out the technical inquiry into the incident. He said as per their observations the collapsed building was an ad-hoc construction which had been erected blocking a valley path.

“Water flows from above grounds via a valley path. From our preliminary observations, it was evident that this building has been constructed blocking such a valley path. No safety precautions had been taken.”

“The multi-storyed building has been constructed on loose layers of soil in the respective valley region, and the building had caved-in, as the soil layers could not bear the weight of the construction,” said Samantha Bogahapitiya – NBRO’s Geologist in-charge of the Kandy district.

According to him, four families in the area have been were temporarily relocated as a precaution measure.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Geological and Mines Bureau, Anura Walpola said that the collapse had not been caused by a tremor.

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SJB MPs decide unanimously to oppose 20A

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by Akitha Perera

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would oppose the 20th amendment to the constitution to be presented to Parliament, today, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

The SJB had studied all the proposed amendment in detail and they couldn’t agree with any of them, he said. Therefore, the SJB had no choice but to work with like-minded forces inside and outside parliament to prevent the bill from becoming law, the MP said.

Kiriella said that SJB MPs HAS met yesterday in Parliament to discuss the matter and they unanimously agreed to oppose the amendment given the weakening of checks and balances imposed by the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that the replacement of the constitutional council with a parliamentary council, the weakening of the independent commissions, increasing the powers of the executive presidency and removing a number of key institutions from the purview of the auditor general were proposals that would not be accepted by any democratic minded person.

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