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MP Pathirana exposes yahapalana ministers and Excise Dept. crooks

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB Matara District MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday said that two Cabinet ministers of the yahapalana government and a group ofMinistry of Finance and Excise Department officials were behind a deal to hand over a tender to an Indian company to introduce a sticker to be affixed to liquor and beer bottles.

Addressing the media after lodging a complaint with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption in Colombo, the MP said: “The tender was awarded to Madras Security Printers company of India without following due procedure. The officials concerned lined their pockets. This deal, started during the yahapalana government has been finalised under the incumbent government. We hope that the matter would be investigated by the government, and the wrongdoers including the politicians and the officials will be exposed.”

MP Pathirana said that in addition to the complaint to the CIABPOC, he had handed over documentary proof and a copy of the complaint to the Committee on Public Accounts in

Parliament for a separate probe besides submitting a copy of the same to the Auditor General’s Department.

MP Pathirana said that following his expose of the deal in introducing fool-proof stickers to liquor and beer bottles, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had contacted him over the phone and made inquiries about it. “I met the President this morning and explained everything about this fraud that would pump people’s money to an Indian company. I pointed out to him all the irregularities of the tender process and how the officials turned down the bid of the government printer with a lower quotation to help the Indian company with a higher bid. If the sticker is printed here by the government press, the money will remain in our country. The Indian company MSP is a blacklisted venture. The President promised that he would instruct officials to look into this.”

Pathirana said that the sticker with a code is accessorised with a software to check its authenticity. “The tender for the creation of that software too has been handed over to an Indian company without following proper tender procedures. That has been done during the yahapalana government’s time.

MP Pathirana said that around 40 million bottles of hard liquor and beer were produced annually in Sri Lanka. It was to prevent counterfeits being produced the label had been introduced.

“Two ministers of the former government and some officials got together and made deals with MSP to pocket commissions from the project. The day after I exposed this in parliament, the Excise Department issued a statement, which only proved it was intent on protecting the culprits. The Excise Department officials are also disturbed by my exposures of their links to artificial toddy makers. My initial intention was to highlight the need to devise a mechanism to prevent the use of artificial toddy to produce vinegar because people including children who do not consume that rotgut toddy are exposed to carcinogenic elements via vinegar. A few days ago, the STF commandos of Gonahena camp raided an artificial toddy distillery in Kochchikade and recovered vast quantities of the contraband along with chemicals used to prepare artificial toddy. This country’s daily production of toddy is around 160,000 litres. The truth is that the capacity to produce coconut toddy even after tapping all licensed trees is around 45,000 litres a day. Producing illicit toddy is an offence under Excise Ordinance and Food and Drugs Act. I call for urgent attention to amend the Excise Act immediately to prevent the loss of tax revenue.”



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Parliament prorogued

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by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA

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By PRIYAN DE SILVA

Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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