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Mangala launches new initiative to rally masses against SLPP

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…..Radical Centre claims to follow centrist path

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who quit the 2020 parliamentary election in the second week of June, will launch a programme today (6) to protect, what a close associate of his called democratic gains made during the yahapalana administration.

 Samaraweera will launch social media-based campaigns, in stages, beginning 10 am. The former minister’s aide told The Island that the carefully arranged project aimed to sustain post-war reconciliation efforts launched in the wake of the change of government in January 2015.

 In spite of quitting the contest, Samaraweera yesterday exercised his franchise in Matara.

Samaraweera led the Matara District Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) nominations list. There had never been a previous instance of a senior politician quitting the contest having accepted nominations.

Samaraweera served as foreign and finance ministers alternatively during the previous administration.

Responding to another query, the aide said that the launch of the project coincided with the commencement of the counting of the ballot papers. “The former minister will issue a statement around noon, about two hours after the issuance of new movement’s first statement,” the aide said.

 As part of the overall measures in place to neutralize continuing threat posed by the coronavirus, the Election Commission did away with overnight counting. Counting of ballot papers will commence today (Thursday) at 7 am.

 Asked whether Samaraweera’s project was aimed at challenging the new government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the aide emphasized it certainly was not the intention.

 The former minister, in spite of giving up parliamentary politics was however determined to pursue his political objectives, the aide said, adding that he would closely work with those elected to the new parliament.

The new civil society initiative undertaken by some of those who backed the yahapalana administration was unveiled at an event held at the New Town Hall on July 8. Samaraweera participated in the event though he did not address the gathering.

 The grouping styled itself as ‘Freedom: People’s Collective’ vowed to do whatever it took to thwart the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) plan to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Jaffna District candidate M.A. Sumanthiran PC represented the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Minister Samaraweerra, in a statement under the theme ‘an agenda for true patriots’ issued via a new set up called ‘The Radical Centre’ stated: ‘The ‘Radical Centre’ entails the creation of a centrist middle way where dissenting voices and opinions from every part of the political spectrum would have a place within a democratic framework of decentralized governance. It is a system where diversity in all its manifestations is celebrated; the years of deep mistrust between the different communities must lose its sting within a non-violent, democratic framework where pluralism and secularism flourish. The radical centre should show the intolerant that those they hate are in fact, quite similar to them and have the same dreams and aspirations as well as the same fears and concerns as human beings. The radical centre should be the point where all Sri Lankans can discover their common humanity going beyond the boundaries of race, creed and caste.”

 Declaring that democracy, in spite of all its shortcomings remains the best system of governance as we move towards the second quarter of the 21st century, Samaraweera emphasized that an urgent re-commitment to democracy has become the need of the hour as Sri Lanka hurls towards an autocracy with the rapid convergence of the executive, the military and the clergy; the legislature and the judiciary are being turned into mere rubber seals of the executive President.

Commenting on the growing threat posed by narcotics, the former minister said that stringent new laws were required to curb the menace. Samaraweera said: “Many of the big time drug barons have the highest political patronage and drug money is being laundered into the mainstream, formal economy through casinos, stock market, media institutions et al. In the fight against drug abuse, only addicts and low level dealers are brought to book. Stringent new legislation is needed urgently to curb this menace. A three pronged war against extremism and drug abuse is the need of the hour while special rehabilitation programmes must be introduced to treat the addicted youth.”

 



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PMB declines to release Rs 1.2 bn FD for paddy purchasing

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Treasury forced to bear responsibility for Rs 2 bn in loans

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said that the State Banks weren’t in a position to release funds to the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) as the enterprise owed them a staggering sum, running to over Rs 20 bn.

Due to the failure on the part of the state enterprise to settle previous loans, the Treasury has been compelled to accept the responsibility for repaying them, the State Minister said.

The Kegalle District lawmaker said so on the live political programme, Salakuna, telecast on Hiru on Monday night. The State Minister was responding to interviewer Chamuditha Samarawickrema’s query regarding the inordinate delay on the part of the government to implement the paddy purchasing scheme.

Referring to Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera’s abortive efforts to obtain the required funding, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the Treasury was helpless.

State Minister Siyambalapitiya said the PMB couldn’t be faulted for the crisis as successive governments had directed the state enterprise to purchase paddy at a higher price, then ordered it to sell at a much lower price, thereby causing staggering losses.

The State Minister also acknowledged management level shortcomings and political interventions caused the ruination of the PMB.

The PMB owed the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank Rs 1,600 mn and Rs 690 mn, respectively.

The State Minister acknowledged that the issue couldn’t be resolved in spite of interventions made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Premier Dinesh Gunawardena. Referring to a subsequent discussion he had with the Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the BOC has asked for Rs 1.2 bn fixed deposit as security though the PMB declined to do so. According to the State Minister the PMB asserted that it couldn’t forgo the fixed deposit as the

interest received was utilized for day to day running of its operations.

The State Minister said that the banks could release the required funding on the basis of a guarantee given by the Treasury. The lawmaker explained the inability on the part of the Treasury to give such a guarantee as further deterioration of public finance could have a devastating impact on the banking sector. Such an eventuality couldn’t be allowed, the SLFPer said.

The Minister acknowledged that the failure on the part of the government to launch a paddy purchasing scheme would dishearten the farmer community.

Chamuditha Samarawickrema pointed out that the private sector had managed their ‘operations’ in a much better way.

The State Minister said that the situation was so bad that of the recent Rs 93 mn public sector salary bill, the government could meet Rs 82 mn. The government had no option but to ask those state enterprises to pay salaries from their funds, pending repayment, the MP said, reiterating the Treasury couldn’t help the PMD at the moment.

Responding to further questions, the State Minister said that the government would definitely give priority to the PMD issue once they finalized public sector salary payments. The Minister urged the media not to pursue an agenda detrimental to the government’s recovery efforts. Asked to explain, the State Minister said that there had been accusations the government didn’t purchase paddy to clear the field for the private sector. The Hiru team pointed out that the banks had released substantial amounts to the private sector to purchase paddy. The Minister explained the banks tried their best to help but circumstances were such the government couldn’t help at the moment.

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PSC proposes amendment to Children and Young Persons Ordinance

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A meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure gender equality in progress. Among those present were lawmakers Rohini Kaviratne, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Dr. Seetha Arambepola and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Kushani Rohanadeera (pic courtesy Parliament)

The Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure gender equality has decided to propose amendments to the Children and Young Persons Ordinance to consider all those below 18 years as children.

The PSC presided by its Chairperson Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle that met in the Parliamentary Complex last week also decided to replace the reference ‘young persons’ in the Ordinance and to rename it as the Children’s Ordinance.

As per the amendments every reference to “Children and Young Persons Ordinance”, “children and young persons”, “child or young person” and “age of sixteen years” in any regulation or rule made under the principal enactment or notice, notification, contract, communication or other document issued under the principal enactment shall be read and construed as a reference respectively, to “Children’s Ordinance”, “children”, “child” and “age of eighteen years.

Section 71 of the Ordinance will be amended, by the repeal of subsection (6) of that section establishing that “nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the right of any parent, teacher or legal guardian to punish a child or youth”.

The purpose of the Children and Young Persons Ordinance Clause 23 is to make orders for the establishment of Juvenile Courts for the supervision of juvenile offenders for the protection of children and young persons.

State Minister Dr. Seetha Arambepola, Members of Parliament Thalatha Atukorala, Rohini Kaviratne, Eran Wickramaratne, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Manjula Dissanayake, Secretary to the Committee and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Kushani Rohanadeera and senior officials representing the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms were present at the PSC meeting.

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80 houses destroyed in fire at Thotalanga

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The scene of the fire(pic by Jude Denzil Pathiraja)

At least 80 houses were destroyed due to a fire that broke out in a highly congested area in Colombo on Tuesday (27) night. Around 220 people had been displaced, the police said.

The fire broke out at Kajeemawatte in Thotalanga at around 8 pm on Tuesday and it took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. Twelve fire engines were deployed, but many of the dwellings had been burnt out as approach roads were not wide enough for the vehicles to reach the fire.

Those who are affected are now housed in community centres and places of worship.

No casualties were reported in the incident. The police are yet to determine the cause of fire and the total damage to property has not been estimated still.

Meanwhile, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is on an official visit to Japan, has instructed Presidential Secretary Saman Ekanayake to take steps to provide immediate relief to all victims of the fire.

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