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Minister and MP cross swords over racism, terrorism, violation of oath

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By Saman Indrajith

There was discrimination against Tamils in this country, even in the remembrance of the dead, TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran told Parliament on Saturday. “Nobody raises questions when the JVP remembers its fallen comrades and displays pictures of Rohana Wijeweera in berets. But when the Tamils remember their dead, the issue of terrorism is brought up. Isn’t this discrimination,” MP Sumanthiran queried.

 He said so when Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Dr Sarath Weerasekera raising a point of order stated that MP Sumanthiran had attended a remembrance service of Pandithar, an LTTE leader.

 Minister Weerasekera said that the MP had taken an oath not to divide the country and attending a remembrance of an LTTE leader was wrong.

The Minister raised to the point of order after MP Sumanthiran raised a privilege issue on commission of inquiry into political victimization had announced that he would be named for evading the commission sessions. “I have received from time to time summons from the Commissioner of Inquiry to attend before the commissions. I have been named a respondent in that summons. Since they were in Sinhala language I wrote to the commission that I be provided with the material to respond and to send an English to Tamil translations of those matters. I appeared twice before the said commission and made the same request. There the Commissioner ordered that I be provided with material and their translations. Nothing of the sort happened. Last week, I received another summons very late after I went home from parliament sittings, and I responded to the Commissioner the following day informing him of the fact that the material had not been provided to me in English or Tamil and I was not able to appear before the Commission when there were parliament sittings. Later, I read in the newspapers that Commissioner of Inquiry Upali Abeyratne had some MPs including me were not coming before the commission and we would be named. This is in breach of my privileges. I urge the Speaker to inform the Commissioner of Inquiry that I should not be named since I was attending parliament.”

Minister Dr Weerasekera said that MP Sumanthiran talked of MP’s privileges after violating the MP’s code of conduct by attending a funeral of a terrorist. “That was against the oath he had taken as an MP. The Speaker should ask him about it. Earlier this week, the TNA MP went to the home of Pandithar’s mother, in Valvettithurai, where he lit a lamp to commemorate the fallen LTTE leader. He was one of the LTTE leaders who had killed security force members in captivity,” the Minister said.

MP Sumanthiran: I do not need to answer the allegation, but I do so since my name was mentioned. Sinnathurai Maheswari was one of my clients. I appeared for her in a case at the Jaffna High Court where the learned judge told me that she could conduct remembrance in public places but was allowed to remember her son who was killed in 1985 privately at home. It was not even a home, it was a shack. I went there on that day and explained to my client the instructions given by the judge.

Minister Weerasekera: The dead person was an LTTE leader. He was a killer.

MP Sumanthiran: Yes, he was a member of the LTTE. Nevertheless, he was her son. Every mother has a right to remember her children. The Minister has never raised any questions with regard to the JVP remembering Rohana Wijeweera in the streets of Colombo. Even in the remembrance of the dead, there is discrimination against the Tamil people. I did not want to respond to the minister but I spoke because otherwise this would be used in racist propaganda.

Minister Dr Weerasekera: You are a racist. You are the one who talks about majority sovereignty. There is no such sovereignty. Sovereignty is for all the people. You gave a very childish excuse. The mother can remember her son there is no problem, but an MP cannot go to such a place.

On the other hand you cannot compare the LTTE with the JVP. The LTTE tried to divide the country. You should be ashamed of yourself to talk about MPs privileges after acting against the oath you have taken as an MP.

MP Sumanthiran: Why should I be ashamed? You are the racist you should be ashamed of yourself. Shame on you!

Minister Weerasekera: No, Shame on you!

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena moved the House for the next item.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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