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Ketagoda who resigned for BR to re-enter House as Cabraal’s successor

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Resigned in July… back in Sept

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former actor Jayantha Katagoda will be the first lawmaker to re-enter the same Parliament on the National List after having quit the same.

The ruling SLPP has decided to re-appoint Ketagoda to Parliament on its NL to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Sources say it’ll be the first such re-entry since the creation of the National List in 1989.

Ketagoda quit his seat in early July to pave the way for Basil Rajapaksa’s entry into Parliament. Sources say Ketagoda’s re-appointment received the immediate blessings of SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa.

Of the total of 29 NL slots, the SLPP secured 17 and the remaining slots were shared among several political parties. The main Opposition SJB obtained 7.

Political sources say that of the 17 NL slots won by the SLPP, civil society grouping Viyathmaga received two. Cabraal who served as the Governor of the Central Bank (2006-2014) filled one slot whereas Dr. Seetha Arambepola secured the other, sources say.

Altogether Viyathmaga group in parliament comprises nine members – two NL slots and seven elected members.

They say Basil Rajapaksa, too, entered Parliament under controversial circumstances as he hadn’t been on the SLPP NL submitted to the Election Commission (EC) in the run-up to the last parliamentary election in August 2000. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC (2004), Dullas Alahapperuma (2005), Basil Rajapaksa (2007) and Saman Ratnapriya (2020) entered Parliament in spite of them not being nominees in the original NL or failed candidates at the relevant general election, sources say.

One-time UNPer Jayantha Ketagoda first entered Parliament in 2010 to fill the vacancy created by the then Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka’s dismissal on a ruling given by a Military Tribunal.

Ketagoda received the parliamentary seat after the JVP’s Lakshman Nipunaarachchi turned down the opportunity.

Sources say it is not clear who’ll receive portfolios –State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets, State Enterprise and Reforms held by Cabraal.

Meanwhile, the former Governor of Uva, Central and Southern Provinces during Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency, Keerthi Tennakoon questioned Cabraal’s re-appointment on the basis him being named in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) report that dealt with the issuance of Treasury bonds.

Civil society activist Tennakoon said that the SLPP parliamentary group should make its position clear whether the appointment of a person who functioned as the State Finance Minister to the post of Central Bank Governor, was acceptable to the party. Tennakoon compared the latest appointment with that of Arjuna Mahendran’s appointment as CB Governor, a Singaporean national in 2015 in spite of strong objections by the then Joint Opposition.

Tennakoon rather frivolously asked how Cabraal could take over the CBSL Governorship immediately after giving up his parliamentary seat.

The former Executive Director of polls monitoring NGO outfit CaFFE said that the SLPP obviously had failed to learn from what he called yahapalana leaders’ strategic mistakes. The national economy was in such bad shape the government should quickly work towards ending continuing any uncertainty, Tennakoon said.

Responding to questions regarding the deepening financial turmoil, Tennakoon said that the government couldn’t afford to delay taking tangible measures to stop the rot.

He emphasised that the crisis today was certainly not political. “The SLPP should know that its near two-thirds majority is irrelevant and doesn’t in any way help address the deteriorating national economy,” Tennakoon said, adding that making big plans for the 2022 budget was nothing but a joke.

Tennakoon asked whether Cabraal received CBSL because he represented Viyathmaga that campaigned for Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the 2019 presidential poll. Tennakoon alleged that the SLPP had lost direction and was simply struggling to cope up with the extremely difficult situation caused by the raging Covid-19 epidemic.



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Inter-provincial travel ban to be lifted on Oct. 31

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Flagrant violations largely ignored during restrictions

ECONOMYNEXT – The ongoing inter-provincial travel ban will be lifted on October 31, the national COVID-19 prevention task force said, despite social media accounts – and sometimes pictures – of people openly flouting the ban.

The restriction was imposed in conjunction with an island-wide lockdown, officially known as a quarantine curfew, that the government declared on August 20 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Despite the lockdown being relaxed on October 01 as cases began to drop, the inter-province travel restriction has remained, at least on paper.

Critics, however, claim that people have been traveling – some even going on trips – around the country blatantly ignoring the ban, despite President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordering the authorities to strictly enforce it from October 21.

“After a discussion among the task force on Friday (23), with the permission of the president, it was decided to lift the travel ban from 4am October 31,” Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva told reporters on Friday.

Silva, who heads the national COVID-19 task force, said all public transportation services will also restart on October 25 and will operate according to health guidelines.

Health officials have joined the chorus of voices lamenting the apparent lax nature of the inter-provincial travel ban. The public does not seem to follow health guidelines increasing the risk of another wave of the epidemic, they have said.

“The behaviour of the public is not satisfactory,” Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr Ranjith Batuwanthudawa told the privately owned Derana network in an interview.

“The public did not follow the guidelines in the first long weekend after restrictions were relaxed. It can again increase the number of patients to a level the health sector cannot cope with,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Gen Silva said the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered as a booster dose for frontline workers in the health, military, police and tourism sectors starting November 01.

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North, East see highest attendance of students, teachers: Dinesh

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ECONOMYNEXT – Northern and Eastern provinces saw the highest attendance of students, teachers, and principals when schools were reopened for the first time in six months, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told parliament on Friday (22).

Classes from grades 1 to 5 recommenced at 5,059 schools with fewer than 200 students on Thursday (21) amid an ongoing strike by teachers’ trade unions which is set to finally end next Monday (25).

Minister Gunawardena said the government was able to open around 98 percent of the targeted schools.

“Sixteen percent of students attended schools across the country, while 26 percent of teachers who signed their attendance,” Minister Gunawardena told parliament.

Principals showed up to work at 69 percent of schools with fewer than 200 students, in the island’s north, while 52 percent of teachers and 21 percent of students were present on Thursday, he said.

In the Eastern province, 67 percent of principals, 45 percent of teachers, and 39 percent of students went back to school on Thursday, he added.

In contrast, schools in the Southern and Western provinces saw lower levels of attendance from principals, teachers, and students, the minister said.

“We believe everyone will support the reopening of schools without any party or colour difference,” Minister Gunawardena said.

Trade unions are not fully onboard the government’s proposed solution to their long-standing grievance of salary anomalies.

The three-month-long strike, one of the longest trade union campaigns in Sri Lanka’s history, has deprived students of their only mode of distance learning in pandemic times: online education.

It is still uncertain if all principals will report to duty on Monday as some principals’ trade unions have said some of their demands including car permits and a mobile phone allowance have not been addressed yet.

School teachers and principals in Sri Lanka were on strike for the 99th day running on October 15 when they said they would start work from October 25.

The government proposed to increase their salaries in a four-year strategy, but upon the rejection of that proposal, the government later proposed to give the increments in two installments. The unions rejected this, too, and continued the strike, demanding that their salaries be increased in one go.

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Foreign Minister to launch Lanka-UK chamber of commerce in London

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by Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

Foreign Minister Prof G. L. Peiris is scheduled to be in London this week starting from tomorrow (25) for a series of events including the launching the Sri Lanka-UK Chamber of Commerce, diplomatic sources said

During his stay in London from Monday to Thursday (28), Prof Peiris is to meet his UK counterpart Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss and Members of the Houses of Parliament and Lord Naseby.

Sources said that it would be Prof Peiris’ first visit to London after assuming the duties as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The launch of the Sri Lanka – United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to be presided over by HSBC bank. Lord Davies of Abersoch, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Sri Lanka and a host of invitees including the representatives of the London Stock Exchange and De La Rue. The new Chamber is to be registered with both British Chamber of Commerce and the UK Companies House.

Prof Peiris is expected to complete his London visit on Thursday (28) and then to proceed to Glasgow to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) which is scheduled to begin next Sunday (31).

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