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New parliament gets off to a smooth start



By Saman Indrajith

The Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka got off to a smooth start yesterday with the election of a new Speaker and the swearing in of newly elected Members of Parliament followed by the election of a Deputy Speaker and a Deputy Chairman of Committees.

All three appointments were made unanimously. Matara district SLPP MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s name proposed for the post of Speaker by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and seconded by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SBJ) MP Ranjith Maddumabandara.

Yapa was escorted to the Speaker’s Chair by the two MPs who proposed and seconded his name following which Abeywardena took his oaths before the Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake.  

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa led party leaders in wishing the new Speaker on his appointment to the high post.  They were unanimous in their call to Speaker Abeywardena to restore the dignity of the House and ensure fair play and a level playing field for all lawmakers who are represented in the Ninth Parliament.

This was followed by all MPs taking their oaths before the Speaker. The MPs read out the oath, made available in all three languages, pledging to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The New MPs also pledged to “not, directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.”

After MPs were sworn in, the name of Kegalle district MP Ranjith Siyambalapitiya was proposed for the post of Deputy Speaker by Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and seconded by State Minister Nimal Lanza while SLFP Jaffna district parliamentarian Angajan Ramanathan’s name was proposed for the post of Deputy Chairman of Committees by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and seconded by State Minister Duminda Dissanayake.

The Speaker recognised Dinesh Gunawardena as the Leader of the House and Minister Johnston Fernando as the Chief government Whip. SJB leader Colombo District MP Sajith Premadasa was recognised as the Leader of the Opposition.

Thereafter, sittings were suspended till 3 pm, when the ceremonial sitting of the House, presided over by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa commenced.



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Foreign qualified medical students protest



A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament



Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court



By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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