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Now, SJB MP says she renounced British citizenship in 2015

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…received official SL passport as Ranminithenna Chairperson

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Dissident Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Dayana Gamage yesterday said that she had renounced her British citizenship in 2015 to launch her full time political career here. She insisted that she had obtained an official Sri Lankan passport in her capacity as the Chairperson of Ranminithenna Tele-Cinema village in 2017 during the UNP-led yahapalana administration.

The SJB National List MP said so when she was repeatedly accused of having entered parliament despite being a British national. Chamuditha Samarawickrema yesterday raised, during Salakuna programme on Hiru TV, the contentious issue of a British passport holder being in Parliament.

MP Gamage was among seven NL members appointed on the SJB list. The UNPer is the only newcomer to parliamentary politics.

Repeatedly asked whether she carried two passports, the MP said that she had received a British passport as her mother was British by birth. Responding to another query, Gamage said that as a British passport holder she had obtained a resident visa during 2005-2015 period. According to Gamage, the relinquishment of her British citizenship had enabled her to engage in Sri Lankan politics full-time.

Asked whether she had ever served as private secretary to one-time LTTE Eastern commander Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan aka Karuna Amman, a smiling Gamage told the interviewer he was referring to another woman. “I have nothing to do with Karuna,” Gamage said, strongly denying the accusation that she deliberately refrained from informing relevant authorities here regarding her decision to give up British citizenship.

The interviewer sought an explanation regarding her conduct on the basis of a complaint made by civil society activist Oshala Herath over the alleged use of passports issued by the UK and her gaining entry into parliament in violation of the Constitution, Gamage said that Herath had nothing better to do.

Denying all accusations, the MP recalled how Herath, a candidate at the 2020 general election had made an abortive bid to sabotage the SJB nominations by moving the Supreme Court.

Herath, who served as a member of President Maithripala Sirisena’s media team recently wrote to Director, CID regarding MP Gamage’s citizenship. Herath made available a copy of his complaints to Secretary to the President, AG and Director CID, in addition to the Chairman of the Election Commission.

Herath unsuccessfully contested the last general election on the UNP ticket from the Colombo District.

Asked why she had not obtained dual citizenship, MP Gamage said that she had felt no need to do so. She compared the high profile campaign carried out against her alleging that she was holding British citizenship, as well as her alleged involvement in the project to efforts to deprive SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the opportunity to contest 2019 presidential election.

Gamage said that she served as a Provincial Council member in 2014. Responding to questions as regards the documents required to prove her nationality, MP Gamage said that she was in possession of all such documents including the National Identity Card.

MP Gamage strongly defended her right to have voted for the 20th Amendment regardless of a decision taken by the SJB to oppose the new law. “My husband Senaka de Silva informed Mr Premadasa of my decision. I took this decision in consultation with my husband.” The MP dismissed SJB threat to deprive her of NL seat.

MP Gamage said that her husband had made it possible for the rebel UNP group led by the Deputy UNP leader Premadasa to contest the election by handing over his Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP). The SJB secured 54 seats, including seven on the NL. Pointing out that many political parties had been sold for big amounts over the years, Samarawickrema asked the MP how much her husband had received and whether the NL slot, too, was part of the deal. Denying having received funds for the transferring of the ownership of the party, Gamage claimed that unlike others they had not benefited from that initiative.

“In fact, the NL slot was offered by Mr. Premadasa to my husband, one time Secretary to General Sarath Fonseka when the latter contested the 2010 presidential election as the common candidate.

Responding to another query, MP Gamage revealed that AJP had been registered by Mangala Samaraweera after he was sacked by the UPFA. Declaring that AJP no longer existed, MP Gamage said that both she and her husband handed over their resignation letters as Secretary and Deputy Chairman, respectively, to SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara about a week after she voted for the 20th Amendment.

In a wide ranging interview, MP Gamage revealed that UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had planned to introduce a new piece of legislation similar to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in case General Sarath Fonseka won the 2010 presidential election. MP Gamage claimed that her husband as the Secretary to the war-winning Army Chief had advised him not to do so as whoever functioned as the President needed necessary executive powers.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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