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Mahanamahewa flays ‘parliamentary system’ over contempt of SC issue



Prof. Prathiba Mahanamahewa

BASL says ‘it is a matter entirely for the House’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Prof. Prathiba Mahanamahewa of the Colombo University Law Faculty, yesterday, lambasted the double standards in dealing with lawmakers over contempt of court, which, too, tended to erode public confidence in the parliamentary system.

The Attorney-at-Law said so referring to the sentencing of Gampaha District MP Ranjan Ramanayake (SJB) to four years imprisonment and Jaffna District (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran being allowed to take refuge under parliamentary privileges for also flaying the Supreme Court recently.

Prof. Mahanamahewa said so on ‘The Challenge’ on Jayamaga TV, anchored by Anushi Hakmanage.

The academic asked why the two lawmakers were treated differently over the same offence. He said criticism of the Supreme Court was not acceptable on any grounds or tolerated, under any circumstances.

Warning that the public had realised the double standards in respect of the same offence committed by two different lawmakers, the Mahanamahewa stressed the responsibility on the part of Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to address the issue at hand.

Speaker Abeywardena said the matter was before the party leaders when The Island raised the issue with him. The Speaker said that though he received a complaint from Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, in that regard, the party leaders should address the issue at hand. Lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran declined to comment.

In a hard hitting letter to Speaker Abeywardena, last week, Justice Minister Rajapakse asked for the appointment of a Special Parliamentary Select Committee to examine MP Sumanthiran’s conduct, in the wake of his strong criticism of the SC, during the debate on the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Sumanthiran skipped the vote whereas six out of the 10-member TNA parliamentary group, voted for the new law.

However, Saliya Peiris, PC, President of the Bar Association said: “Speeches made by MPs in Parliament are covered by the parliamentary (Powers and Privileges) Act. That is a matter entirely for the Parliament.”

At the onset of the live interview, Prof.Mahananahewa asserted that there were far more important issues to be addressed, than exposing dual citizens in Parliament.

The Attorney-at-Law questioned whether the Parliament. as a result of conduct of its members, caused doubts among the public regarding responsibility and accountability.

The Prof. dealt with the gradual expansion of the parliamentary structure, since independence, with the introduction of the PR (proportional representation) system, in 1989, at the expense of the first-past-the-post system. Acknowledging the current election process was meant to ensure a much wider public representation, Prof. Mahanamahewa asked whether Parliament met the expectations of the electorate.

Referring to the composition of Parliament – 196 elected and 29 appointed members – lawyer Mahanamahewa said that MPs led quite comfortable lives, though the vast majority of the people were struggling to make ends meet. The lawyer briefly discussed the massive eruption of public protests, in March, over the disruption of essential supplies as a result of years of waste, corruption, mismanagement and irregularities blamed on successive governments.

Responding to another query from the interviewer, Prof Mahanamahewa said that in spite of Litro being almost 100 percent owned by the government, those who suffered damages, as a result of gas explosions, weren’t paid compensation.

However, in the case of lawmakers, whatever the reasons, their grievances are addressed promptly, Prof Mahanamahewa said.

Contrary to the much-touted assurances, regarding equality among the population, lawyer Mahanamahewa questioned how restrictions were imposed on the fuel distribution by way of operation of ‘QR’ code. Pointing out that these restrictions applied only to some sections of the population, lawyer Mahanamahewa complained bitterly about lawmakers, some of whom were not even qualified to be tea makers, but were afforded privileged status.

The law professor asked whether Parliament fulfilled its primary obligations, namely financial discipline and enactment of laws. Asserting that Parliament had failed to meet basic aspirations of the public, lawyer Mahanamahewa queried who caused the deterioration of Parliament to such an extent the public now questioned the parliamentary system of governance.

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High Commissioner of New Zealand to Sri Lanka meets with the Chair of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament & Secretary-General of Parliament




Michael Appelton, High Commissioner of New Zealand to Sri Lanka, accompanied by Andrew Traveller, Deputy High Commissioner, met with the Chair of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle MP, and Secretary-General of Parliament, Kushani Rohanadeera, recently.

During the meeting, the Ambassador emphasized that gender equality in politics is vital for the achievement of peaceful societies, the realization of full human potential, and sustainable development. He also stated that they have taken several initiatives to ensure equal women’s participation in the New Zealand Parliament.

Dr. Fernandopulle, MP, shared her concerns regarding the lack of gender sensitivity in Sri Lankan politics. She drew attention to the urgent need for a more inclusive political framework that ensures equal representation and participation for women.

The Secretary-General of Parliament affirmed that Parliament has taken actions to increase youth and women’s representation in committees and is currently working on improving disability access to Parliament.



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Climate Change University to be launched next year




At the briefing on the progress of Climate Change and Green Growth held on Wednesday (31) at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and officials of the Climate Change Secretariat led by President’s Adviser on Climate Change  Ruwan Wijewardene it was revealed that the Climate Change University would be launched next year and that the University Grants Commission had  identified approximately 130 scientists who have gained international recognition for their research on climate change who, together with their international affiliations would be brought together as part of the initiative.

President Wickremesinghe expressing  his perspective on the International Climate Change University, emphasized that it should be a post-graduate institution solely focused on research which does not offer undergraduate courses. Any country or organization that contributes to the university becomes a stakeholder and gains membership on the Board of Governance. The Korean Exim Bank has expressed interest in partnering with the university and  negotiations between Sri Lanka and the Korea Exim Bank, led by the External Resource Department have concluded successfully. The President said that prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT have also expressed interest in collaboration.

The discussions also revolved around inviting a group of international experts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tentatively scheduled for July/August to engage in policy conversations, addressing global issues, and exploring potential research projects that could be derived from these policy dialogues.

President Wickremesinghe emphasized that all future research in the field of climate change should be conducted at this institution.

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IUSF threatens showdown



By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

The university system is facing a grave crisis as around 40 percent of the lecturers have left the state education system, says the Convenor of the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Madushan Chandrajith.

Chandrajith said the ‘exodus’ of top academics would lead to a massive drop in the quality of education as most of those who have left are among the cream of scholars.Chandrajith said that about one-third of students in state universities, eligible for hostel facilities, did not have access to them.He warned that the IUSF will organise massive protests, in the coming weeks, if steps are not taken to resolve the many issues in the University system.

While the Mahapola scholarship has not been increased, the prices of food in the hostels have risen dramatically, he said.

“About 2,500 students in Kelaniya, 4,000 students in Rajarata and 6,000 in Peradeniya do not have hostel accommodation,” he went on to say..According to Chandrajith, a student needs about Rs 20,000 a month to meet basic needs.

“One requires about Rs 12,000 a month for food alone,” he said.

A senior official at the Ministry of Public Administration told The Island that some lecturers and doctors had a 100 percent attendance record but they avoided work.

“They are responsible for the attendance registry and they cook up the books to have full attendance. They take a lot of OT payments by doing this. We are looking at introducing a digital mechanism to mark attendance at universities and hospitals,” he said.

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