By Saman Indrajith
A powerful Western country had been bent on saving Velupillai Prabhakaran during the last stage of the war in the guise of sending a ship to evacuate civilians used by the LTTE as human shield, but the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa had prevented it, former Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe revealed in Parliament yesterday.
Opening the third reading stage debate on budget 2021 from government ranks, parliamentarian Samarasinghe said that the former President had not been swayed by international presure and safeguarded the national interest. “When I was the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights I was summoned to Temple Trees for an urgent meeting as there would be a foreign delegation led by an Ambassador of the most powerful country then. I would not reveal the country’s name. The conclusion of the war was only days away. The then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Minister Basil Rajapaksa too were there. The meeting had been sought by the Ambassador’s country so the President asked what they needed. The Ambassador said many civilians were trapped in a small strip of land and the LTTE was using them as shields and if they could evacuate those civilians by ship if the President granted permission. The ambassador said that one of the ships belonging to their country was nearby and sought only the permission of the President to enter Sri Lankan waters. President Rajapaksa told the Ambassador that another powerful country in the region had also made the same request. Since the first country had not been given permission, he needed to discuss the matter with them first. When I asked him about the issue, the President put his hand on my shoulder and told me that if he allowed the evacuation, the LTTE leader Prabhakaran too would get into that ship and nobody would know what would happen in the middle of the sea. If Mahinda Rajapaksa had not stood up to that country, LTTE terrorism would have continued to plague the country.
MP Samarasinghe added that former President Rajapaksa had never hesitated to make the right decision for the sake of the country and never compromised the national interest.
About 232 out of 500 escapees from K’kadu Drug Rehab Centre arrested
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Two hundred and thirty two inmates out of the 500, who escaped from the Kandakadu Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, yesterday morning, following a clash with soldiers guarding the facility, had been arrested, Maj. Gen. Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commissioner General – Rehabilitation, said.
Hettiarachchi denied allegations from certain quarters that they had allowed inmates to escape to divert public attention away from the burning economic issues, and crippling fuel shortages.
He said an impartial inquiry would be conducted into the death of an inmate.
Hettiarachchi said that they were confident that other escapees too would be arrested soon.
Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said a 36-year-old inmate had died under mysterious circumstances on Tuesday. The deceased was a resident of Mutwal. The death of the inmate had been reported to the Welikanda police, he said.
The Police Spokesman added that a team of policemen from Welikanda had visited the Rehabilitation Centre. However, a large number of inmates had surrounded the body and did not allow anyone near it and that had led to a clash between inmates and the military personnel at the centre.
At around 8 am yesterday, a large group of inmates had broken the two main gates and escaped, he added.
The Police Spokesman said that the police and Army had brought the situation under control, after several hours.
They have also launched a joint operation to arrest the inmates, who are still at large.
There are around 1,000 drug addicts being rehabilitated at the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Center at any given time.
Women parliamentarians’ Caucus calls for greater accountability and transparency
International Day of Parliamentarism
Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle says accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system have become vital issues as the country makrs the International Day of Parliamentarism today (30).
In a statement issued to the media by the Caucus, Dr Fernandopulle said: International Day of Parliamentarism, which recognises the role of parliaments in national plans and strategies and in ensuring greater transparency and accountability at national and global levels. This Day was first established by the UN General Assembly through a resolution adopted in 2018 which also marked the 129th anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU, which was first established on the same day in the year 1889, is a global organization that works to promote ‘democratic governance, human representation, democratic values, and the civil aspirations of a society’.
This Day further solidifies the unique and enduring system of parliamentary democracy as the standard for political representation. Last year, in 2021, the Day focused on “Youth Empowerment” in Parliament whereas the theme for the International Day of Parliamentarism 2022 is “Public Engagement”. Conspicuously, the word ‘parliament’ originates from the French word ‘parler,’ which means ‘to talk.’ Thus, public discourse and engagement lay the very foundation of the parliamentary system of governance.
At a juncture where public engagement in the democratic process is at an all-time high, the theme for International Day of Parliamentarism aptly suits the current democratic and economic discourse taking place in society.
The Parliament is a cornerstone of any democracy as it must fulfill its fundamental role of providing a voice to the voiceless. The main responsibilities of a Parliament include the formulation, enactment and overseeing of the implementation of laws and policies that are sustainable and crucial for the progression and stability of the country. The Parliament also has a duty to hold the Executive or Government of the country accountable. Accordingly, representing the interests of the public, it must also fulfill the role of acting as a “check” to “balance” the power that the executive holds.
The Parliament must also perform “checks” and “balances” on Government expenditure as it has the responsibility of approving budgets for Government expenditure. Thus, during this economic crisis, the Parliament of Sri Lanka has a crucial role to play and effectively realize such roles and responsibilities. To do so meaningfully, public engagement is a necessity.
Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said: “I believe we should make this Day an occasion to remember the importance of accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system. The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus recognizes that it has a role to play in initiating a conversation towards realizing a process by which the Parliament can conduct self-evaluation utilising the feedback received by the public discourse. This would be vital in order to gauge the progress the Parliament has made and identify challenges and devise strategies and mechanisms to overcome such challenges to be more representative of the voices of people.”
MP Thalatha Atukorale said: “In the face of crisis, if our parliamentary system fails to realize its purpose, then we must re-evaluate the practices of our Parliament. Therefore, I believe that this Day should be used as an opportunity to formulate an effective strategy to improve transparency and accountability of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.”
MP Diana Gamage said: “On this Day, I pledge to be a voice to the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the more vulnerable, and play my role in initiating mechanisms and formulating laws that reflect the current needs of the people of Sri Lanka whom we are representing in Parliament”.
Parliament is the bedrock of a functioning democracy. In Sri Lanka, let us realise this goal for all Sri Lankans, leaving no stone unturned to ensure quality of political representation, which means gender equality and social inclusion too.
MP Manjula Dissanayake said: “To be effective and successful, the Parliamentary system must encourage public engagement and must also be based on principles of equality and inclusivity in order to better comprehend and prioritise the needs of the public”.
Vice-Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne said: “The parliamentary system is founded upon the sovereignty of people. Therefore, the success of the parliamentary system depends on public engagement in the democratic process and how well the parliamentary system responds to such public engagement.”
MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya said: “We as Parliamentarians must not be oblivious to the fact that the public has lost confidence in the Sri Lankan Parliament and by extension, the Parliamentarians. A strong contention can be and is being made that the Parliament of Sri Lanka falls short of effectively realizing one of its main purposes: to formulate and implement policies and laws that benefits ALL people, particularly the more vulnerable. To meet that end, we must harness public discourse and engagement.”
Proposals to revive agriculture sector unveiled
By Ifham Nizam
The Department of Agriculture has handed over proposals with an action plan for the revival of the agriculture sector to the Minister of Agriculture, Wildlife and Wildlife Conservation, Mahinda Amaraweera.
Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Rohana Pushpakumara, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Ajantha de Silva, and its Directors, representing respective divisions, were also present.
The focus of the proposals is on the importation of chemical fertilisers and organic farming, increasing rice production in the country, promoting the cultivation of indigenous crops for export, taking measures to meet the national vegetable and fruit demand, prioritizing agricultural research and development, and other agricultural Inputs.
The proposals also deal with a number of other issues such as the misuse of pesticides and fertilisers.
The proposals consist of 11 short-term plans to uplift agriculture.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Agriculture, Mahinda Amaraweera, requested that the proposals, aimed at increasing the income of the farming community, be implemented without delay and that everyone be committed to make the Yala season, and the forthcoming Maha season, a success. “We must make the current Yala and the next Maha season a success. The country’s economy depends on the stability of the agriculture sector.
The Director General of the Department of Agriculture handed over the relevant proposal to the Minister.
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