Opposition slams govt. for move to undermine judiciary
The Opposition has strongly condemned what it calls a move by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to undermine the Supreme Court (SC).The Opposition has, in a joint statement issued over the weekend, urged the government to refrain from being hostile towards the apex court.
Among the signatories to the statement are Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Wimal Weerawansa, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, M.A. Sumanthiran and Udaya Gammanpila.
“The country is facing an unprecedented crisis in respect of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” the Opposition has said.
“Basic principles and values we had all taken for granted, are now being directly and strenuously challenged.
“Now, for the first time, a criterion fraught with the gravest consequences for the very survival of representative democracy, is sought to be laid down that election can be held only if and when the Head of State is subjectively satisfied that the economic condition of the country warrants the allocation of resources for the conduct of an election at a particular time.
“The alarming corollary is a vicious onslaught on the Supreme Court in the exercise of its inalienable jurisdiction to uphold and implement the provisions of the highest law, the Constitution of the Republic.
“The country has been treated to the ignominious spectacle of the apex court being derided and reviled in parliament.
“The interim order by the court, directing the Minister of Finance and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to refrain from preventing the release, to the Election Commission, of financial resources allocated by parliament in the annual budget for the conduct of the Local Government election, has been contemptuously disregarded.
“In a flagrant violation of a binding decision by the Supreme Court, the Government Printer and other relevant authorities are being deprived of funds required for the performance of essential functions in this regard.
“Urgent appeals by the Election Commission, addressed to the Finance Secretary, continue to be simply ignored.
“Refusal by the Executive to give effect to imperative directions by the Supreme Court represents, of itself, a deliberate erosion of the foundations of our constitutional system, based as it is on the clearly demarcated separation of powers among the organs of government.
“It expresses, in our view, undisguised contempt for cherished constitutional values which form the bedrock of freedom and stability in our country.
“Tragically, not even this seems to satisfy the appetite of an unelected administration to arrogate to itself authoritarian powers incompatible with the rudiments of a functioning democracy.
“The government has brazenly invaded the province of the judiciary by means of a wholly distended, and entirely illegitimate, recourse to the concept of parliamentary privilege to assail the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
“We are aghast at the purported initiative by the Privileges Committee of Parliament directing the Supreme Court to forward to parliament the interim order which has already been impugned with egregious disregard for sound principle and policy.
“There were strident calls in parliament for the discontinuation of proceedings property in progress before the Supreme Court : these were complimented by demands for the cessation of all judicial action in respect of pending proceedings , until parliamentary processes with regard to privileges are exhausted : to cap it all, cynically infringing express provision contained in the Standing Orders of Parliament, there was explicit criticism of a judgment of the Supreme Court and indeed, of propriety of the behavior of a judge , in the absence of substantive motion before the House.
“In keeping with established precedents across the civilized world, these actions constitute, cumulatively, contempt of the Supreme Court in uniquely aggravating circumstances.
“We find very disquieting the arrogant and dismissive attitude which the government, embarked on its dangerous frolic, has adopted to the emphatic appeals by religious leaders, including the Venerable Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and his Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo.
“The sense of frivolity and flippancy underpinning the government’s approach to issues which define our political system and our way of life, presents to this nation and the world a spectacle of which we can hardly be proud.
“Representing all parties and groups in the Opposition in the parliament, we wish to express our profound respect for the judiciary –an indispensable pillar and, indeed, the final bulwark for the enjoyment of individual and collective liberties enshrined in the Constitution –and our firm resolve to resist, by all means at our disposal within a democratic framework, every attempt to undermine the prestige and stature of our country’s judiciary.”
Scientists say world’s oldest-known burial site found in South Africa
Palaeontologists in South Africa said they have found the oldest-known burial site in the world, containing remains of a small-brained distant relative of humans previously thought incapable of complex behaviour.
Led by renowned palaeoanthropologist Lee Berger, researchers said on Monday that they discovered several specimens of Homo naledi – a tree-climbing, Stone Age hominid – buried about 30 metres (100 feet) underground in a cave system within the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Johannesburg.
“These are the most ancient interments yet recorded in the hominin record, earlier than evidence of Homo sapiens interments by at least 100,000 years,” the scientists wrote in a series of yet-to-be-peer-reviewed and pre-print papers to be published in eLife.
The findings challenge the current understanding of human evolution, as it is normally held that the development of bigger brains allowed for the performing of complex, “meaning-making” activities such as burying the dead.
The oldest burials previously unearthed, found in the Middle East and Africa, contained the remains of Homo sapiens – and were around 100,000 years old.
Those found in South Africa by the research team led by Berger, whose previous announcements have been controversial, date back to at least 200,000 BC.
“Homo naledi tells us we’re not that special,” Berger, a United States-born explorer, told AFP news agency. “We ain’t gonna get over that.”
Homo naledi, a primitive species at the crossroads between apes and modern humans, had brains about the size of oranges and stood about 1.5m (5 feet) tall.
With curved fingers and toes, tool-wielding hands and feet made for walking, Homo naledi was discovered in 2013 by Berger, helping upend the notion that our evolutionary path was a straight line.
The species is named after the “Rising Star” cave system where the first bones were found in 2013. The oval-shaped interments at the centre of the new studies were also found there during excavations started in 2018.
The holes, which researchers say evidence suggest were deliberately dug and then filled in to cover the bodies, contain at least five individuals.
“These discoveries show that mortuary practices were not limited to H. sapiens or other hominins with large brain sizes,” the researchers said.
The burial site is not the only sign that Homo naledi was capable of complex emotional and cognitive behaviour, they added.
Berger’s earlier discoveries won the interest of National Geographic, which named him “explorer in residence” and featured his work in television shows and documentaries.
The latest research has not been peer-reviewed yet and some outside scientists think more evidence is needed to challenge what we know about how humans evolved their complex thinking.
“There’s still a lot to uncover,” said Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program, who was not involved in the research.
(Aljazeera / News Agencies)
Opp. alleges Prez intends to bring media under his thumb, roll back election map
‘Broadcasting Authority a political mechanism led by Media Secretary’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesman Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (05) alleged that President Ranil Wickremesinghe intended to silence television and radio stations through the proposed Broadcasting Authority Bill (BAB).
The former External Affairs Minister asserted that the BAB was part of a destructive political strategy meant to neutralise the media against the backdrop of the President’s bid to roll back the election map. He said so, referring to President Wickremesinghe’s recent declaration at the Bar Association event in Nuwara Eliya that the primary interest of the public was nothing but the revival of the economy. The UNP leader downplayed the importance of elections.
Addressing the media at the party office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris explained how the President planned to rein in free media through the five-member Broadcasting Authority Commission, and a three-member committee tasked with inquiring into complaints. The MP questioned the suitability of the President naming three persons to the Commission, in addition to appointing the Secretary to the Media Ministry who would be ex-officio head of the five-member Commission.
Urging the media to be vigilant of President Wickremesinghe’s game plan, rebel SLPP lawmaker said that the proposed committee would have the power to initiate inquiries on its own and conduct raids on ‘offending’ media institutions. The MP discussed the possibility of the committee taking hold of documents and other data in the hands of journalists while threatening them with imprisonment unless they revealed their sources.
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, in a separate statement, vowed to oppose the proposed Bill, both in Parliament and outside. MP Premadasa said that the decision-making body of the Opposition political parties, led by the SJB, resolved to campaign against the controversial Bill.
The first salvos against the Bill were fired by one-time Media Ministry Secretary Charitha Herath, and SJB stalwart Dr. Harsha de Silva last week. In response to their criticism, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse PC announced that they were still in the process of discussing proposals pertaining to the proposed Broadcasting Authority Bill.
Prof. Peiris emphasized that contrary to such claims the relevant Bill was in the public domain. The former minister said that there couldn’t be any doubt over whether the government would finalize the Bill and, if enacted, would automatically silence the media.
Describing the Bill as seriously flawed, Prof. Peiris questioned the competency of those who prepared it. It couldn’t have been done at the Legal Draftsman’s Department, the ex-minister said, alleging that responsibility had been outsourced.
Prof. Peiris said that the Supreme Court would be definitely moved against the proposed law. The academic said that the government was engaged in a desperate bid to consolidate its position. Comparing the Broadcasting Authority Bill with the Bill on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Peiris said that the former wouldn’t receive the go ahead from the Supreme Court. The proposed Bill as a whole was contrary to the Constitution, lawmaker Peiris said, asserting that democracy couldn’t survive the death of the media.
Referring to President Wickremesinghe’s speech to the National Law Conference at the Nuwara Eliya Grand Hotel, Prof. Peiris said that just because the UNP was in a pathetic state and couldn’t do well at elections, at any level, the UNP leader shouldn’t try to justify his bulldozing actions.
Prof. Peiris accused the President of putting off Local Government polls as he feared facing the electorate. The UNP is represented in Parliament by just one National List seat, earlier held by the President.
Osaka immigration doctor may have worked after drinking – Kin of late Lankan detainee decry
TOKYO —The bereaved kin of a Sri Lankan woman who died while detained in a Nagoya immigration facility in 2021 despite her pleas for medical treatment have expressed their dismay over recent news that a female doctor at the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau is suspected of having worked under the influence of alcohol.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on the evening of 04 June, the family of Sri Lankan woman Wishma Sandamali, who died in March 2021 at the age of 33, protested that unless the medical system for immigration facilities is improved, the same thing could happen again.
The Osaka doctor worked full time at the immigration facility. Alcohol was detected on her breath on 20 January this year. She has since been removed from medical examination work. Information about the doctor was conveyed to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan in January, but not reported to the Diet, where deliberations are underway on an amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act that would strengthen measures to deport foreign nationals without a valid status of residence.
Participating in the June 4 news conference were Wishma’s sisters Wayomi and Poornima. Wayomi, 30, criticized the stance of immigration authorities, saying, “My older sister died because a medical system was not properly established (at the detention facility). It’s so wrong that an incident like this can happen in spite of that. Without a proper medical system in place, I think it will be a matter of course for more people to fall victim like my sister.”
Poornima, 28, added, “It is only recently that the information (about the Osaka case) came to light, and the immigration agency had been hiding the information. I think this may be because they haven’t accepted responsibility for my sister’s death.” (Japanese original by Yukinao Kin, Digital News Group)
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