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LG Election System Review Committee wants number of elected members reduced



 A committee appointed to review the local Government Election System has pointed out the need to reduce the number of elected local government members.

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 gernment 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.

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 the meeting held last week (02).

The next meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee is scheduled to be held on Monday (06).

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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE



Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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