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Opposition calls for declaration of a ‘state of disaster’

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SJB MPs  Thalatha Atukorale, Eran Wickramaratne, Dr. Harsha de Silva and Kabir Hashim addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office on Monday

The main Opposition party, the SJB, on Monday called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to summon an all-party conference on managing the evolving COVID-19 crisis quickly.    

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo, senior SJB MP Kabir Hashim, urged the government to heed the advice of medical experts and seek broad consultation to better manage what they termed as the hour of national crisis.

The SJB was prepared to help Hashim said. “We the SJB urge the Government to call an all-party conference to effectively manage the COVID-19 crisis. We must first save the public.”

MP Hashim said that prioritising economic revival and political interest over the health and well-being of the public was a failure on the part of the government and contributed to the transmission of the virus.

SJB Colombo District MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said: “I think the time has come for the government to call an all-party meeting and decide on how to obtain the assistance of the Opposition, but on the condition that decisions are made only on the advice of experts and not on political grounds.”  

 MP De Silva said that as medical experts had indicated that the coming weeks could see a public health emergency, the government should consider declaring a ‘state of disaster’ under the Disaster Management Act and allow the formulation of a more inclusive decision-making body. “Medical experts are pointing out that there is a disaster looming. The public is in danger.”

 Dr. de Silva said that under the Disaster Management Act, the government could establish a Disaster Management Council, made up of the President, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, selected Ministers, Governors of the Provinces and five members of the Opposition. He reiterated that the Opposition was ready to help the government.

 SJB MP Eran Wickramaratne said that the projections by the health experts were gloomy and immediate action had to be taken to arrest the situation.

He called on the government to appeal to friendly countries, the international community, and the UN to get mobile field hospitals, critical medical equipment and boost oxygen capacity as soon as possible.  

“This will be a test of the government’s diplomacy. There is a need for 600,000 AstraZeneca vaccines. The amount is nothing compared to the millions of vaccines needed by some countries. Those who got the first dose are awaiting the second.”

Wickramaratne maintained that had the government heeded expert opinion and the views of the Opposition last year, a vaccine shortage would not have arisen. “We are six months behind the rest of the world in responding to the pandemic. This government has completely failed to control the COVID-19 outbreak. We have been telling them from the beginning that the task forces it has set up are not led by specialists. The government opened up the country at a time it should have remained closed.”

MP Wickramaratne said that the present infection rate was very high, and added that according to the data models they had seen the infection rate may reach 4,000 in the coming weeks. “When that happens, there may be a need for additional 10-12 ICU beds a day. Already ICU beds are scarce. This capacity needs to be increased.”

SJB Ratnapura District MP Thalatha Atukorale said that the government could not pass the blame for the rapid spread of the virus on to the public.



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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman

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Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand

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At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night

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President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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