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Parliament shouldn’t depend on foreign funding – Gevindu

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By Saman Indrajith

 

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Kumaratunga yesterday (28) told Parliament that the dignity of parliament and its MPs had been compromised by certain actions of the former Speaker who allowed the USAID to creep in with its own agendas to manipulate the process of parliament.

Raising a privilege issue in Parliament yesterday, MP Kumaratunga said: The orientation workshop held on 25 and 26 in the Parliamentary complex was very fruitful for the newly elected MPs. On behalf of newly elected MPs, I thank those who had organised and conducted the event. However, I would like to mention three incidents that took place during the workshop.  At the commencement of the workshop each participant was given a bag containing the Constitution, books and documents including the Standing Orders, photographs of the old and new Parliament, and a notebook carrying the logo of the USAID. On June 2, 2019, The Sunday Times reported that the US had been campaigning to get certain agreements including the ACSA detrimental to the national interests of Sri Lanka signed. The US ambassador in Sri Lanka was involved in that campaign. It was also reported that the then Foreign Secretary who had facilitated the process, later after his retirement joined this parliament as a foreign affairs consultant of the former Speaker.

“The same newspaper on June 09, 2019 reported that his salary had been paid by the USAID. The matter was raised in this House by the then opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena and the then opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, condemned that appointment as something that was inimical to the dignity of this House.  The then Speaker thereafter instead of doing away with that post took actions to terminate the USAID paying the salary and thereafter the salaries for the foreign affairs advisor to the Speaker was paid from public funds. That was exposed by The Sunday Times of July 14, 2019. At the orientation workshop the matter was raised, and MP Channa Jayasumana asked whether it was not detrimental to the country’s interests to obtain USAID gifts. Responding to that question, the Secretary General of Parliament said that the USAID had spent an enormous sum of money on developing the communications division of parliament.

“It is our standpoint that this august assembly considered to be the supreme body of public representatives should be maintained without depending on funds from foreign forces. The same was reported by The Island senior journalist Shamindra Ferdinando on Aug 20, 2020, and questioned the propriety of using foreign funds to train parliamentary correspondents. I also like to bring to your notice that one of the staff members of Parliament staring at the same workshop that a single meal meant for an NP costs more than Rs 3,000 too would attract public displeasure. I ask the Speaker whether he was aware of the fact that parliament has obtained gifts from an international institution which worked against this country. Have those institutions obtained the permission of the Speaker for that purpose. At the same time, I would like to know whether the Speaker would take actions to remedy the situations that are antithetical to national interests caused by his predecessor.”

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that he would not let any force undermine the independence of Parliament or its members.

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Foreign qualified medical students protest

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A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament

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Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court

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By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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