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‘One-Country-One-Law’ PTF will serve no useful purpose – BASL

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) says no useful purpose would be served by the creation and appointment of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to facilitate the implementation of the “One Law, One Country” concept. The BASL asserts that the proposed PTF would carry out the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including Parliament and the Ministry of Justice.

The following is the text of the letter sent by the BASL to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa: “The Bar Association of Sri Lanka notes that Your Excellency has appointed a Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law, by virtue of the powers vested under Article 33 of the Constitution.

“The proclamation published in the Gazette under the hand of the Secretary to the President states that the appointments are being made focusing on the fact that the administration of justice, its implementation and protection under the law should be fair by all as set out in the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The proclamation notes that under fundamental rights that no citizen should be discriminated against in the eye of the law or meted out special treatment on grounds of nationality, religion, caste, or any other grounds. It further states that the implementation of the concept; ‘One Country, One Law’ within Sri Lanka is reflected as a methodology of ensuring nationally and internationally recognized humanitarian values and the fact that all citizens are treated alike in the eye of the law should be further ensured.

“The Task Force is required to make a study of the implementation of the concept; ‘One Country, One Law’ within Sri Lanka and to prepare draft legislation for the said purpose and to study the draft legislation that has already been prepared by the Ministry of Justice in relation to this subject and their appropriateness and to submit proposals for any amendments thereto.

“Your Excellency is no doubt aware that the preparation of draft legislation and the study of existing legislation are tasks of a serious nature involving several institutions of the State. Legislative power is one of the aspects of the sovereignty of the people.

“The Constitution itself provides a framework for the legislative process which is supplemented by other laws and by the Standing Orders of Parliament. There already exist within the framework of the Constitution, the law and Standing Orders and adequate mechanisms for this purpose.

“The Sectoral Oversight Committees of Parliament as well as Standing Committees and Select Committees which can be constituted as per the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Law Commission which is an institution established by law are among these mechanisms. In addition, during the last year the Ministry of Justice has appointed several committees to propose reforms to various laws.

“Whilst the Sectoral Oversight Committees are chaired by members of the legislature, the Law Commission is presided over by a senior President’s Counsel. Many of the Committees appointed by the Minister of Justice consist of senior members of the legal profession and of senior academics. Some of these Committees are chaired by Judges of the Superior Courts.

“Apart from these mechanisms, the Attorney General and his Department also play a key role in the law-making process and is recognized by the Constitution. Given that the Department of the Attorney General too plays a key role in this process, questions arise of the role the Task Force will play vis-a-vis the Attorney General and his officers.

“In these circumstances, the appointment of a Task Force to oversee the work of the Ministry of Justice is in view of the BASL improper and outside the accepted framework for lawmaking. Any alienation of what are properly functions of the duly elected legislators and proper legally mandated executive functionaries by relocating their functions elsewhere involves erosion of the Sovereignty of the People.

“The BASL further observes that the Task Force itself is not a representative body, given that it has no female representation nor representation from several ethnic groups and religious groups in the country. Serious doubts also exist as to the qualifications, expertise, and suitability of the Chairperson of the Task Force and of many of its members to engage in the functions described in the Gazette.

“Whilst there is no doubt that the concepts of equality, fairness, non-discrimination, the protection of the law and nationally and internationally recognized humanitarian values are all laudable principles, it is doubtful if the process set out in the Gazette and the creation of the Task Force can make any meaningful contribution in upholding these values.

“What is of utmost importance at present is that the State and the organs of the government including the Executive of which Your Excellency is the head, upholds the rule of law and moves to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of the people as described in Article 4(d) of the Constitution. In fact, the best way to ensure the objectives set out in the proclamation are by upholding the rule of law and respecting the fundamental rights of the people.

“In the past few months, the BASL which is committed to the Rule of Law has drawn the attention of Your Excellency and to the Government on several instances where the Rule of Law and the Fundamental Rights of the people have been violated. However, the BASL notes with regret that no remedial measures have been taken in this regard.

In the above circumstances the BASL is of the view that no useful purpose would be served by the creation and appointment of the aforesaid Task Force, which in view of the BASL would usurp the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including Parliament and the Ministry of Justice.”



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SL defenceless, warn experts

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New COVID variants

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Due to the lax testing at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), there is a strong possibility that any new variant of COVID-19 entering the country, College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday commenting on the detection of a new coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa.

Even a travel ban would be useless unless the country enhances its testing and surveillance capacities, Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh said that PCR tests were not conducted on passengers on arrival and that it was likely that even those not fully vaccinated were entering the country. “Gene sequencing in respect of those infected with COVID inside the country was at a minimal level, and therefore, there is no way we can find out whether a new variant has entered the country until it is too late.

“There are two state-of-the-art labs in the BIA but no tests are done there. We are not ready, at all. Several nations are imposing travel bans on travellers from South Africa and the region. Perhaps, we should follow suit. However, the fact that we don’t test those coming in means that even a travel ban might be useless,” he said.

Kumudesh added that the number of PCR tests conducted had dropped to such a low level that reagents used in some labs for PCR testing are now nearing the expiry dates. The attitude of health officials at the airport is such that everyone operates on the basis that testing of passengers is not important.

Executive Director of the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya yesterday said the detection of the new South African variant was potentially very bad news for all countries, and certainly for Sri Lanka.

“We still don’t have sufficient data on this, but I am very worried. It was only discovered a few days ago, but the scanty evidence strongly indicates that this new variant is driving a rapid increase in infections in S Africa. Only 100 cases have been confirmed officially, but reports indicate it may be 90% of new cases since Wed in Johannusburg,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said that his best guess was that three out of four South Africans had been infected by COVID during the pandemic. Thus, a large number of them had acquired natural immunity. Moreover, 25% of others have been vaccinated.

“So this rapid spread despite a lot of immunity is very disturbing. This really points to this new variant—B1.1.529—being both more infectious and also significantly immune resistant. Something that also matches with its particular mutations,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said he was not surprised at the emergence of the new variant because contrary to many experts who drink the kool-aid, there is no scientific basis to think SARS-CoV-2 had matured in its evolution. It might still have a lot of potential to evolve greater immune evasion and virulence, and that we should act on that basis.

“Second, because most of the world is following the misguided strategy of just accepting the virus (hey you – USA, UK, Sri Lanka…), the virus has plenty of chances to keep on mutating more because the truth is more of the virus is circulating than ever before. Third, despite a lot of nonsense about how T-cell immunity is going to protect us, there’s really no evidence that either infection or current vaccines and boosters will ever give us long-lasting immunity. We simply don’t know.”

Countries like South Africa, Peru, etc., who had such high levels of infection that much of their population was infected more than once, still continue to suffer new waves of infection.

“So this is bad news for all of us humans on planet earth, but very definitely for us in Sri Lanka. Why? Because based on how our medical establishment and govt authorities think, we will be slow or refuse to put the necessary border controls in to prevent this entering. And when it does enter-which is inevitable if this variant spreads globally–we will be slow to detect its entry, we will refuse to sound the alarm, and we will do everything but actually attempt to stop it. That’s been our track record, so why would it change? Worth noting that if this starts a new wave in Southern Africa, it’s just three to four months after their third wave. So just as immunity starts waning appreciably from natural infection (or vaccines). That gives us a strong hint of what our future holds unless we end this pandemic.”

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Navy deploys lagoon craft at Kurinchankerny until construction of new bridge

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Residents waiting for the boat

Sri Lanka Navy began providing transport facilities at the Kurinchankerny lagoon following the recent tragedy that claimed several lives. This service will continue until the construction of a new bridge at Kurinchankerny, Kinniya in Trincomalee is completed.

This initiative was set in motion following the directives of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne. The Navy deployed a Lagoon Craft, capable of carrying 25 passengers safely at a time from Thursday (25) under the supervision of the Eastern Naval Command. The lagoon craft will be in service from 7.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. and from 12.00 noon to 2.00 p.m. each day. Further, the Navy erected a temporary jetty to allow passengers to board the vessel safely.

A schoolgirl on her way to the ferry
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UN Assistant Secretary General during talks with President pledges to work closely with Sri Lanka

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The United Nations will always work closely with Sri Lanka, said Khaled Khiari, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political, Peacebuilding and Peace Operations. Khiari made these remarks when he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday (25).

UN Assistant Secretary General Khiari is visiting Sri Lanka as a follow-up to the bilateral meeting with the President and the UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres held in September this year on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. Khiari conveyed the best wishes of UN Secretary-General Guterres to President Rajapaksa and said that the UN is willing to engage in a constructive and positive engagement with Sri Lanka.

Expressing satisfaction over the President’s affection and interest in the environment, the Assistant Secretary General appreciated Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The President explained that steps are being taken to plant 100,000 mangroves with the assistance of the Navy and actions are being taken to prevent climate change through environmental conservation programmes.

President Rajapaksa expressed gratitude to the UN agencies and donors that have assisted Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to make the vaccination drive successful and in facing other challenges in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The President pointed out that the government’s development programme implemented in the North and East after the end of the war in 2009 had brought about rapid development. The President recalled his invitation made while participating in the UN General Assembly to the diaspora to work together with all communities after visiting Sri Lanka. The President said that he hoped that the invitation would be met with positive initiatives.

The two sides exchanged views on unity and relations between communities. An environment where all communities can live freely has been made available in Sri Lanka. The President pointed out that the Minister of Justice is from the Muslim community, the Attorney General is from the Tamil community and many of those holding other key posts are of different communities. President Rajapaksa said the government has undertaken a great task in building unity among the communities and therefore, no one should have any doubt in this regard.

Both sides were of the view that education was fundamental to unity among the communities. President Rajapaksa said that the process by which South Africa has been able to end apartheid and move forward will be studied and the lessons that can be learned from it and what can be implemented will be looked into. The President also expressed hope that the United Nations will provide assistance in this regard.

Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera and Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, and Political Officer at the UN Peace Operations Department’s Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Department Chiaki Ota were also present.

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