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NPC tells got not to proceed with 20A in its present form

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The National Peace Council (NPC) yesterday urged the government to reconsider the need to proceed with the 20th Amendment in its present formulation as it is excessively centralizing and does not reflective of the plural nature of the Sri Lankan society.

“The proposed 20th Amendment to the constitution has been approved by the cabinet of ministers and put before the general public prior to being debated in parliament. This far reaching constitutional change seeks to centralize power in the institution of the Executive Presidency with the justification of ensuring stability in the country and safeguarding national sovereignty. In terms of the amendment, the President can remove the Prime Minister, a member of the cabinet, any other minister or a Deputy Minister and authority to dissolve Parliament after completion of sittings for a period of one year. This massive transfer of power to the Presidency has been justified to the electorate as stemming from the inability of the previous government to govern effectively under the 19th Amendment to the constitution,” the NPC said in a statement.

The NPC added that the 20th Amendment empowers the President to make appointments to top positions of the state having obtained observations of the Parliamentary Council, which is made of members from Parliament. The President will also be empowered to appoint the Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court, the President and the judges of the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General, the Auditor General and also to make appointments to the Election Commission, the Public Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Finance Commission and the Delimitation Commission, the MPC said. Unfortunately the proposed Parliamentary Council will have no civil society representation and can only advise the President and the previous 10 member Constitutional Council, which included 3 members of civil society, made these appointments, the press release said.

“The time frame for Bills to be challenged in the courts has been reduced from the previous two weeks to one. The Urgent Bills, a concept which was introduced by the 1972 Constitution had been misused by the successive governments in the past to pass various Bills. The extremely short time frame will compromise people’s right to know and constrain public discourse to challenge a Bill in a court of law. The sweeping powers given to the Presidency takes away the checks and balances on the powers of the President brought in by the 19th Amendment which it supersedes. The National Peace Council is particularly regretful that a constitutional provision eliminated that is relevant for our work is article 33 (1) (b) which said that the President shall “promote national reconciliation and integration.” It was the President’s office that was warranted by the 19th Amendment to be the driver of reconciliation,” NPC said.

Given the importance of the amendment and the serious nature of the changes, NPC request the government to reconsider the need to proceed with the 20th Amendment in its present formulation as it is excessively centralizing and not reflective of the plural nature of Sri Lankan society. The NPC added that there was no urgency for the 20th amendment because it is said to be an interim measure until the formulation of a new constitution. The NPC said that they fear this amendment may undermine the good work done by the office of the President to date, including providing entry to educated professionals to parliament through the national list, providing employment to many thousands of people and relief to those affected by the COVID induced economic downturn in terms of delayed loan payments and other development measures.

The NPC said that the 20th Amendment is a return to the 18th Amendment, which was passed in 2010 and made the Parliament subservient to the Presidency. The governance practices of the pre-2015 period, and their negative consequences, contributed to the change of government in 2015, the statement read. The entire basis of the 19th Amendment of 2015 was the need to ensure that the Rule of Law prevailed “over the rule of men” and that misuse and abuse of power should be prevented through a system of checks and balances in which the independence of institutions such as the judiciary was safeguarded to the maximum.

“The main negative outcome of the 19th Amendment was the inability of the former President and Prime Minister, and other government leaders, who came from two opposing political parties to work together. This led to a paralysis in the government which prevented it from governing in a problem solving manner. The current government does not suffer from the same constraint as they come from not only the same party and enjoy a 2/3 majority in Parliament, but also the President and Prime Minister are from the same family. An option for the government would be to focus on formulating a new constitution in which the weaknesses of the 19th Amendment can be addressed along with a reform of the electoral system. This could be a through a well thought out consultative process in which the opposition parties and civil society are also included that will enable the new constitution to be passed consensually by Parliament and the people,” NPC said.

 

 

 



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Chinese contractor obtaining Port City sand for Colombo harbour projects unlawfully: FSP

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Front-line Socialist Party (FSP) spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda yesterday (25) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government had allowed China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to obtain sand unlawfully from the Port City project for the construction of the East and Jaya Container in the Colombo Port.

Addressing the media at the FSP office in Colombo, Jagoda claimed that though in terms of the agreement the sand was to be brought from the Muthurajawela area, the contractors for both projects, CHEC, obtained sand from the Port City project.

Jagoda said that on a monthly basis approximately 4,000 cubes of sand, worth Rs 80 mn, were transported illegally with the government looking the other way.

The breakaway JVP faction said that the government owed an explanation regarding the suitability of sea sand for such large-scale construction and whether the Chinese met the required standards as regards concrete work.

Jagoda also asked whether taxes were paid for the massive loads of sea sand procured by the Chinese. The former JVPer alleged the way CHEC conducted its operations here indicated that it didn’t respect Sri Lanka’s law. (SF)

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CBSL denies 70% pay hike

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… seeks opportunity to tell Parliament its side of story

 No salary increases for Central Bank workers until 2027

Trade unions, etc., agreed to pay hikes

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Governing Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), embroiled in an ongoing controversy over recent salary hikes granted to its employees, has sought an opportunity to explain to Parliament what a senior official called the rationale behind the pay hike.

Authoritative CBSL sources told The Island that the request had been made through the Finance Ministry to Parliament seeking an early meeting with the relevant committees.

The Governing Board consists of Dr. P Nandalal Weerasinghe (Chairman), A N Fonseka, Dr. Ravi Ratnayake, Anushka S Wijesinha, Vish Govindasamy, Rajeev Amarasuriya and Manil Jayesinghe.

Responding to queries, sources denied accusations that the CBSL employees had been granted over 70 percent salary increase with effect from January this year. When The Island pointed out that several lawmakers had openly accused the CBSL of doing so and State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya declaring that the government couldn’t intervene due to the enactment of new CBSL Act, sources said that the Parliament could address the issues at hand by giving the CBSL an opportunity to give its side of the story.

Sources said that following the latest salary revision, the monthly salary bill increased by 50 percent. However, those who had been attacking the CBSL, over the salary increase, had conveniently forgotten 24 percent of that amount had been deducted and sent directly to the Inland Revenue Department as PAYE (Pay As you Earn) tax.

Sources pointed out that CBSL staff would not be entitled to salary increase until 2027 whereas the government usually granted pay hikes to workers in the state sector.

Sources denied claims that the latest salary increase has been granted under the new CBSL law. Referring to the relevant legal provision in the law, sources said: “The CBSL followed the same procedure it has been following during the last few decades. This has nothing to do with the new CBSL law. These provisions were there even in the previous law.”

Sources said that those who had received higher salaries paid taxes amounting to 36% to the government, and the latest salary increase had been determined, following consultations between the top management and recognized trade unions of the CBSL. According to sources, the management and trade unions commenced signing of three-year collective agreements, beginning in 2000. The latest agreement covers the 2024-2026 period.

Sources said that instead of asking the CBSL for an explanation, a section of the media had gone on the offensive on the basis of unsubstantiated claims and accusations. “They politicized the issue and sought to direct public anger at the bank at a time it was working overtime to bring about economic recovery,” a senior CBSL official said.

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Wijeyadasa: Presidential election will be held in 2024

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Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, over the weekend assured that presidential election scheduled for later this year would be held.This assurance was given at a meeting held at the Batticaloa Divisional Secretariat on Saturday (24).

Referring to his role and that of several unnamed others during the unprecedented 2022 crisis, Minister Rajapakse said that contrary to speculation, claims and reports, presidential poll would be followed by parliamentary polls and other elections.In terms of the Constitution and the presidential election law, election should be held in October 2024.

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