Lokuge admits he intervened to have Piliyandala lockdown lifted to protect daily wage earners
by Sanath Nanayakkare
Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge, yesterday, said in an interview with Hiru News, that he had influenced the lifting of the lockdown in Piliyandala for the sake of daily-wage earners.
“There has been extensive coverage in the media about this. If the lifting of the isolation of Piliyandala was wrong then it should have been reimposed again,” he said.
When asked whether he had spoken to the Commander of the Army about it, he said, “A superintendent of police who was with me there spoke to the Army Commander subsequent to the discussion we had because he was a responsible figure of the coronavirus task force and an MP couldn’t act on it.”
Asked when health authorities in the area had decided to lockdown the area and the Director General of Health issued instructions to that effect and whether the minister’s intervention meant that there was no ground for that decision, Lokuge said, “There was a flaw in that decision. There are about 200,000 residents in the area. And isolation would have affected their livelihoods. There are so many self-employed people. Tuk-tuk drivers, bus operators, bakery owners, etc., would have been hit hard as a result of that decision,”
Responding to a question on how the lockdown imposed on the morning of 02 May had been lifted on the same evening, he said,” Don’t ask me. Ask the health authorities. I never requested the health authorities to lift it. There was no need for me to do that. My duty was to present the case to them and then it was up to them to analyse the ground situation based on data and make a decision. How can I make such decisions?”
Asked if politicians in other parts of the country had intervened in the same way and influenced to roll back coronavirus travel restrictions, would it have been correct, the Minister said,” It is not brainless people who have been appointed as health authorities. They should know better to tell the politicians whether it can be done.The authorities need to know whether a minister’s order of this nature can be accepted or not.”
The Minister said that he shouldn’t be held responsible for any potential Covid deaths in the area. It has to be handled by the health authorities. I only presented the case and they made the decision to lift the lockdown order. I did my duty as a politician of the area,” he said.
At the time of writing this, it was reported by MOH that the Piliyandala Trade Complex was closed until further notice as 101 Covid-19 cases were detected during random tests.
SRI LANKA RECEIVES IMF EXECUTIVE BOARD APPROVAL FOR THE EXTENDED FUND FACILITY (EFF) ARRANGEMENT
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that the IMF Executive Board approved Sri Lanka’s program under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The program will allow Sri Lanka to access financing of up to US$ 7 billion from the IMF, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and multilateral organizations.
This is a historic milestone for the country as the Government seeks to restore macroeconomic stability and achieve debt sustainability. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka received IMF-compatible financing assurances from its official creditors, including Paris Club members, India and China, allowing the IMF to convene an Executive Board and consider Sri Lanka’s request for a loan. The program is expected to provide much-needed policy space to drive the economy out of the unprecedented challenges and instill confidence amongst all the stakeholders.
MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium
Ali Sabry responds to accusations
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.
Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).
The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.
Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.
At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.
Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.
The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.
“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.
Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.
Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.
Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.
Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.
MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.
Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations. The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.
In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “
The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.
No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister
By Ifham Nizam
The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.
“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.
The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.
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