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LG Election System Review Committee wants number elected reduced

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Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena stressing a point during discussion on reforms in the Local Government system

Well over 8,000 members heavy burden on taxpayer

The committee reviewing the Local Government electoral system has pointed out the need to reduce the number of elected local councillors.

During the previous administration the Parliament unanimously agreed to expand the LG system leading to an increase of members, from 4,000 to 8,600.

The expansion caused a massive increase in the expenditure, causing a tremendous burden on those bodies.

The following is the text of a statement issued by Parliament yesterday: “A report submitted by the three-member committee, appointed by the Minister of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government to review the Local Government, Election system was taken into consideration at the Select Committee of Parliament to Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws and the Electoral System and to Recommend Necessary Amendments, on Thursday (02).

The summary of the review committee was presented by R.A.A.K. Ranawaka, Secretary to the Ministry of Lands and Land Development, in his capacity as the committee Chair.

Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, a member of the National Delimitation Committee, said that the unusual growth in the number of members in local government bodies should be reduced to a fixed number as decided by the committee.

He said that 70% of the members, in the local government bodies, should be elected on a divisional basis and the remaining 30% on a proportional basis.

Prof. Sudantha Liyanage stated that the review committee recommended that the proportional representation system used for choosing Members of Parliament should be used in calculating the number of members in Local Government Institutions and  also stated that the bonus seat system applied should also be applicable.

One of the weaknesses the Committee observed in the current mixed proportional representation system was the failure to introduce any bonus seats for the winning parties. He added that the review committee hoped that the introduction of bonus seats will reduce the instability in local government bodies.

Members of the Review Committee was also of the view that in order for a political party or independent group to be eligible to represent local government bodies, such party or independent group must have 2.5% or more of the valid votes cast in the relevant local government area.

The Committee also pointed out that the manner in which members are to be elected for multi-member constituencies should be changed and the procedure prescribed in Act No. 22 of 2012 should be applied for that purpose. Former Secretary to the Ministry Jayalath Ravi Dissanayake has also been a member of this Review Committee.

The Leader of the House, Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee, said that the will of the people is to maintain local government bodies with a minimum number of seats. However, he pointed out that there must be a member responsible for a particular division.

The Attorney General’s Conclusive remarks regarding the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment) Act No. 17 of 2017 were also tabled at this Parliamentary Select Committee.

Also, the Report on Local Government Elections submitted to the Committee by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was tabled.

Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, G. L. Peiris, Douglas Devananda, M.U. M. Ali Sabry, Members of Parliament Kabir Hashim, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, M.A. Sumanthiran, Mano Ganesan, Madura Vithanage and Sagara Kariyawasam were present at this meeting, held in Parliament.

The next meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee is scheduled to be held on Monday (06), said the Secretary to the Select Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of Parliament Ms. Kushani Rohanadheera.



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Self-Employed Traders petition SC over govt. favouring liquor dealers

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By A.J.A Abeynayake

The Supreme Court has decided take up, on 04 Oct. for hearing a petition filed by the Association of Self-Employed Traders against the opening of liquor stores during the current lockdown.

 The traders have requested the apex court to order the government to allow members of their union to engage in business activities since the liquor stores had been allowed to reopen during the lockdown.

The petition was taken up before a three-judge bench comprising justices L. T. B. Dehideniya, Shiran Gooneratne and Janak de Silva, yesterday.

 The State Counsel appearing for the respondents said he had received the relevant documents pertaining to the case only last Friday evening. Therefore, the State Counsel requested the court to give him time to seek advice from the respondents who were many.

Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva, appearing for the petitioner at the time, said about 7,000 members of his client union had lost their livelihoods due to the decision by the respondents.

Therefore, Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva requested the court to give an early date for considering the petition.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided to take up the petition for consideration on 04 Oct and directed the lawyers of the petitioners to take steps to send notice to the respondents before that date.

The petition was filed by the President of the United National Self-Employed Trade Association G.I. Charles, its Vice President P.G.B. Nissanka, and Secretary Krishan Marambage.

The petition names 47 respondents, including the Director General of Health Services, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of Excise.

The petitioners allege that under the quarantine law, the Director General of Health Services, who is the competent authority, issued a notice on Aug 20 prohibiting the opening of liquor stores.

The petitioners point out that steps were taken to open liquor stores countrywide contrary to the regulations of the Health Authority.

The Director General of Health Services, the Commissioner General of Excise and the Inspector General of Police have stated that they have not allowed the reopening of liquor stores.

The petitioners have also requested the Supreme Court to issue an order to the respondents to allow the members of their association to engage in business activities as the liquor stores are allowed to remain open.

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Lankan born newly elected Norwegian MP Gunaratnam calls for investments here

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Newly elected Norwegian Labour Party MP, Lankan born Kamzy Gunaratnam says she will ask the new Norwegian government to continue engagement with the country of her birth.

 Speaking at a virtual media conference on Sunday night, Gunaratnam said that she does not believe that boycotting Sri Lanka is the way forward.

“I don’t believe in boycott. There needs to be investments. Only that will ensure employment,” she said.

Gunaratnam said that she is also prepared to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if invited, for talks.

She said that Norway must continue to assist Sri Lanka through trade, education and in other ways.

Gunaratnam said that she will also discuss with her party and the new Norwegian Foreign Minister, as well as the Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka and see how best Norway can assist the country.

Gunaratnam said that Sri Lankans must also decide the best solution for Sri Lanka and not any foreign country. She said that Sri Lanka must not wait for foreign pressure to work on a solution.

The newly elected Norwegian MP also said that minority rights in Sri Lanka must be protected.

As a Norwegian MP she said that her main focus in the Norwegian Parliament will be to push for equality in Norway.

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Going to IMF best solution, says Ranil

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UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe insists that a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is necessary to mitigate impact of the growing debt repayment crisis; homegrown solutions are not effective.

“Unlike in the past, Sri Lanka’s debt problem has increased at a time when there is a global debt problem. This makes the situation more challenging and complex. Sri Lanka is a highly import-dependent economy,” Wickremesinghe said during a panel discussion, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka on Saturday.

The UNP leader said that the government shouldn’t sell state assets to ease off the shortage of foreign exchange to have breakfast but reinvest those proceeds back in the economy. “Going to the IMF is the best solution,” Wickremesinghe said.

With reference to homegrown solutions, he referred to the mess caused by the government in promoting Dhammika peniya as one of the failed measures earlier on to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka should use the current situation to forge ahead with structural and public sector reforms which were postponed due to political considerations in the past.

The former PM suggested that the re-opening of the country be delayed till mid-October.

In responding to the issue of debt management in Sri Lanka, the UNP leader said that the most pressing concern is addressing the dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the country.

He explained that the regional foreign exchange reserves were projected to increase over the course of the year, however, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves were on a downward trend.

He also said that economic recovery based on a resurgence of the tourism industry would be uncertain, and until airline ticket prices were reduced it was unlikely that tourist arrivals would increase significantly.

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