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Lanka calls for UN intervention to help poor countries

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Unparallelled economic and debt crisis

 The Sri Lankan government has called UN intervention on behalf of developing countries struggling to cope up with an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to corona pandemic.

Dayani Mendis, Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday (15) said that the need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognized.

She said: “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 1.5 million migrant workers from Sri Lanka were overseas. Many of these migrant workers are facing the grim prospect of losing their jobs and means of livelihood, while some are faced with the challenge of enforced return.”

The following is the text of her statement in Geneva: “As this Council is aware, last November, the people of Sri Lanka gave a resounding mandate to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pursue a policy framework aimed at achieving the fourfold outcome of “a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation.”

 This historic mandate was renewed by the people at the General Election held last August, with an unprecedented percentage of 59.09% votes, for the first time in the history, in an election held under the Proportional Representation System. This is a clear signal of the support of the people of Sri Lanka for a path forward for the country, towards prosperity while safeguarding the people and protecting the sovereignty of the country without succumbing to any force.

 At a time when even highly developed countries in the world were left with a substantial challenge in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka was able to successfully face the challenge by containing its spread, thanks to a well-coordinated mechanism of preventive measures at the national level, assisted by a robust local healthcare system.

 This was a result of a series of measures taken by the Government to mitigate the challenges posed by COVID-19, which have been inclusive, non-discriminatory and holistic, providing foremost importance to safeguarding the health and safety of its people. Such measures included, financially supporting low income families, pensioners and differently-abled, day-income earners and farmers, managing the repatriation of Sri Lankans in a coordinated manner, exploring avenues of business to create new economic trends while supporting existing industries and moving forward to the use of the digital technology including to connect the farmer, consumer and supplier, delivery of essential items and services, and distant education.

 The WHO has commended Sri Lanka’s efforts to control COVID-19 more effectively than more resourced countries even with modest means. Sri Lanka is the first in South Asia to have successfully conducted Parliamentary elections early last month with a 71% voter turnout and was among the first countries in South Asia to open schools and bring back children in a safe way, as commended by UNICEF. Furthermore, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has recently stamped Sri Lanka as a safe haven for tourists.

 The Government of Sri Lanka has given high priority towards addressing their concerns, providing food and medicines where required, and where possible, working with the host countries to obtain legitimization of their status and medical facilities including testing for COVID-19.

 Through a whole-of-Government approach to overcome the challenges and manage the health, quarantine and travel logistics aspects, Sri Lanka is currently in the process of expediting the return of nearly 40,000 migrant workers.

Sri Lanka notes with concern that developing countries are facing an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to the pandemic. The need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognized. It is important to provide necessary financial support to such countries enabling them to face diverse socio-economic consequences caused or aggravated by the pandemic. It is also essential to ensure that all countries have unrestricted access to vital medical resources required to respond to Covid-19 and do not face impediments in their procurement.

 Sri Lanka believes in national and regional level initiatives to complement and strengthen the global response to this crisis. Accordingly, Sri Lanka has contributed USD 5 million to the SAARC COVID – 19 Emergency Fund to assist the South Asian region in its efforts to deal with this challenge.”

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EC member Hoole moves SC against 20A

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Petitions challenging 20A before five-judge bench of SC today 

By Chitra Weerarathne

Petitions filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, will be called before a five-judge bench today.

These petitions have said that people’s approval at a referendum as well as a two-thirds majority in Parliament will be needed to enact the Bill.

All the petitions have basically said that the Bill has a section, which says a dual citizen can contest to enter the Parliament of Sri Lanka and run for President threatened national security.

The petitions challenge the powers vested in the President. The President could sack the Prime Minister and the Ministers. Once the Bill becomes law, fundamental rights petitions could not be filed to challenge an act of the President, the petitions have pointed out.

The investigating powers of the Auditor General have been curtailed. The powers vested in the Elections Commission when an election is on is also limited, the petitioners have argued.

The petitions have requested the Supreme Court to declare that a two-thirds majority in Parliament and people’s approval at a referendum will be needed to enact the proposed amendment.

Among the petitioners are Elections Commission member Ratnajeevan Hoole, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya, Attorney-at-Law Indika Gallage, Mayantha Dissanayake, S. J. B. Member of Parliament for the Kandy District and also the President of the Youth League of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya.

The Supreme Court bench will comprise the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare, Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice S. Thurairajah and Justice Vijith K. Malalgoda.

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Senasinghe announces quitting politics

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By Akitha Perera

Former non-cabinet minister of the yahapalana government Sujeewa Senasinghe announced yesterday that he would quit politics. 

He had also stepped down as the SJB Deputy Secretary, Senasinghe said. 

Senasinghe said that he intended to focus on his business in the future and that he would commence work on his PhD from January 2021. 

He unsuccessfully contested the Aug 05 general election from the Colombo district on SJB ticket.

Senasinghe commenced his political career as a member of the Western Provincial Council of the UNP. He was elected to Parliament twice from the same party. 

He earned notoriety by publishing a book denying the bond scam ever took place.

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Pujith insists his hands were tied during crucial period 

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

He had been aware that the activities and preaching of Islamists would have an impact on reconciliation, but those in higher positions were convinced otherwise, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, yesterday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

The ex-IGP said that although he too had received information about activities of Islamic extremists by late 2018, he had been barred from the National Security Council (NSC) by then.

“I couldn’t share the information I had and I didn’t know what was discussed there. I couldn’t even assign a senior officer to represent me there.”

Jayasundara added that after he had received, on April 09, a report from State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Nilantha Jayawardena about a possible terrorist attack, he forwarded the report to SDIG of Western Province, Nandana Munasinghe, SDIG crimes and STF M.R. Latheef, DIG special protection range Priyalal Dasanayake and Director of the Terrorism Investigation Division, Waruna Jayasundara and spoke to them over the phone.

Jayasundara said that he had also phoned all SDIGs in charge of provinces. The witness added that he had wanted to ensure that there would not be a leak, causing unnecessary problems in society.

“For example, the letter I sent to the Special Protection Range (SPR) was leaked to the media after the attacks.”

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