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NPC once again ratchets up arguments against 20A with fresh missive

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If the 20th Amendment to the Constitution was to be acceptable, it should be passed like 19A with the entire House voting for it barring one, the National Peace Council (NPC) yesterday said, urging the government to reconsider the clauses in the draft 20th Amendment. Issuing a press release, the NPC said that some of the most respected civic organisations in the country, including clergy, trade unions, the State Auditors Association and the Bar Association have expressed their serious objections to the proposed constitutional amendment.

“Nevertheless, the government appears determined to strengthen the presidency at the cost of other institutions. The government’s public position has been that the presidency needs to be provided with the necessary powers and immunities to proceed with the urgent task of developing the country. The National Peace Council urges the government to reconsider its position,” the NPC said in a press release.

The NPC said that constitutions evolved over the centuries to be a compact between the government and citizens to protect the citizens from abuse by the rulers whether for good reasons or bad. “The protections of human rights and the resources of the people through judicial review, financial audit and parliamentary oversight stems from this desire to protect the people from the caprice of those who lead governments from time to time. The National Peace Council notes that the draft 20th Amendment to the constitution as it currently stands is an emasculation of the protections available to the people and also to other institutions of state available in the constitution,” the press release said.

The NPC said they were especially concerned about the removal from the Auditor-General’s purview of the audit of the accounts of “companies in which the Government or a public corporation or local authority holds fifty per centum or more of the shares of that company”. The power to audit these accounts was expressly conferred on the Auditor-General by the 19th Amendment which is now a part and parcel of the constitution.

“There seems to be misunderstandings of amendments which have been introduced from time to time are single and separate components of the Constitution. The reality is the current Constitution encompasses all amendments passed from 1978 onwards and is in fact is the Sri Lankan Constitution in its entirety. While the 19th Amendment was passed into law with only a 2/3 majority and without the approval of the people at a referendum the same is not necessarily applicable to the 20th Amendment. The National Peace Council holds the view that there is a ratchet effect in which human rights and democratic rights once given cannot be taken back on the same basis. The same is true of key aspects of accountability imposed on the state and its power holders to protect the rights of the people from abuse and pillage, whether it be audit or rule of law,” the press release said.

The 19th Amendment was approved by 215 of the 225 parliamentarians voting in favour and only one opposing it. The 19th Amendment is now part and parcel of the constitution and the repeal of its clauses is subject to the protections available in the constitution and therefore, any constitutional amendment to its content should have a similar consensus in parliament, the NPC said.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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