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Opp. activist admits govt. commands over 150 members

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SLPP project to secure 2/3 for 20A: Wimal alleges bid to ‘bribe’ his group

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An unexpected crisis has erupted in the ruling coalition with the National Freedom Front (NFF) accusing SLPP National List MP Jayantha Ketagoda of making an attempt to bribe some of its members, ahead of the vote on proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution scheduled for today (22).

Ketagoda previously entered Parliament on the JVP-led Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket in March 2011 after the then General Sarath Fonseka, MP, was disqualified after being jailed by a Military Court.

NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa has brought the alleged attempt to the notice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (21) in Parliament.

A spokesperson for the party told The Island that Minister Weerawansa had named MP Ketagoda as the culprit when Premier Rajapaksa inquired who made the alleged attempt.

The spokesperson claimed that those members of parliament present there thwarted a clash between lawmakers Weerawansa and Ketagoda after the Premier left the meeting.

According to Minister Weerawansa, his members had been offered a range of perks and privileges if they give up their campaign against the proposed move to pave the way for dual citizens to enter parliament.

The NFF parliamentary group consists of six lawmakers, including one National List MP. It comprises Wimal Weerawansa, Jayantha Samaraweera, Mohammed Muzammil, Nimal Piyatissa, Gamini Waleboda and Uddika Premaratne.

In addition to the NFF, several others elected on the SLPP ticket and appointed through the National List, Udaya Gammanpila (Pivithuru Hela Urumaya), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya), Weerasumana Weerasinha (Community Party), Gevindu Cumaratunga and Anupa Pasquel et al expressed concerns over the proposed 20th Amendment. However, they were able to reach consensus on several contentious issues including limit on the number of ministers and non-cabinet ministers and state auditing process, sources said. But, the SLPP remained divided over the move to accommodate dual citizens in parliament.

Following consultations between the NFF and the CP represented by former minister Dew Gunasekera at Rajagiriya on Tuesday (20), Minister Weerawansa said that exclusion of dual citizens from parliament should be extended to Secretaries to the Ministries, Ambassadors/High Commissioners and Governor of the Central Bank and other important appointments.

Meanwhile, civil society activist Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon spearheading a campaign to protect the 19th Amendment told media briefing at Narahenpita yesterday (21) the likes of Wimal Weerawansa was trying play the role of the Opposition while being in the government. Tennakoon, who readily gave up the post of Executive Director of polls monitoring group CaFFE without any qualms to receive appointment as a Governor under President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration, however questioned the NFF’s strategy. Tennakoon alleged that the NFF only opposed Basil Rajapaksa’s re-entry to parliament though the outfit questioned several clauses in the proposed 20th Amendment.

Alleging that NFF leader pursued personal agenda, Tennakoon said that regardless of his opposition, the party would vote for the 20th Amendment. Tennakoon acknowledged that the SLPP could comfortably secure 2/3 majority for the 20th Amendment. Tennakoon said that 23 lawmakers who had previously voted for 17th, 18th and 19 would support the 20th Amendment, too.

The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 members. The remaining members represent the SJB (54), ITAK (10), JJB (3), AITC (2), EPDP (2), UNP (1), SLFP (1), OPPP (1), TMVP (1), MNA (1), TMTK (1), ACMC (1), NC (1), and SLMC (1).

Asserting that the government could receive over 155 votes in support of the 20th Amendment, Tennakoon revealed that those who represented the Opposition in Batticaloa, Badulla and Ratnapura were likely to switch their allegiance.

Declaring that those amendments placed before the Supreme Court by Attorney General Dappula de Livera on behalf of the government was nothing but eyewash; Tennakoon said that some of those who protested against the 20th Amendment today backed it.

Tennakoon alleged that Weerawansa was seeking to play the role of the Opposition Leader.

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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary

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There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran

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But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President

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The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.

 

 

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