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Parliament’s failure to address crucial issue exposed

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Parliamentary Election Act silent on NL appointments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday (15) said that there was no deadline for a political party to fill its National List slots.

Deshapriya said that nothing could be done even if a particular political party refrained from filling its NL slots. Deshapriya said so when The Island inquired about two NL slots that remained vacant over two months after the last general election held on Aug 5.

A slot each has been allocated to the UNP and Our Power of People Party (OPPP). Responding to another query, Deshapriya pointed out that if a consensus couldn’t be reached as regards the filling of NL slots, the EC was helpless even if they remained vacant during the entire parliamentary term.

The EC consists of Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

Acknowledging that the Parliamentary Elections Act did not stipulate a time period for filling NL slots, Deshapriya regretted the situation. The 225-member parliament consists of 196 elected and 29 NL members.

Deshapriya said that though both the UNP and the OPPP members hadn’t been appointed yet, the circumstances regarding the failure on their part to fill the vacancies were quite different. The UNP hadn’t informed the EC yet of its choice whereas fighting among OPPP factions had ended up in court.

 “In addition to the General Secretary of the party, a former General Secretary has submitted Chairman of the Party Saman Perera as their nominee. Now that matter is before court,” Deshapriya said.

OPPP sources told The Island that Ven Vediniyagama Wimalatissa thera, who had functioned as the Secretary of the party soon after the releasing of election results nominated himself as the OPPP NL member. Consequent to that move, a former Secretary of the party had nominated Chairman of the Party Saman Perera, who assured that he would take oaths and then quit the seat to pave the way for Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara to succeed him.

Fighting OPPP factions moved court in the wake of Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, advising the EC to accept the nomination made by the person who it considered the legitimate Secretary of the party.

UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam yesterday told The Island that the party hadn’t decided on its nominee yet. Former minister and unsuccessful candidate at the last general election declined to comment whether the party would pick someone from its National List handed over to the EC along with party nomination lists or a defeated candidate.

The SLPP (17), SJB (7) and UNP, SLPP, OPPP, JJB, TNA and AITC shared one NL slot each.

Kariyawasam didn’t indicate whether the UNP would name its choice before the debate and the vote on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The SLPP has repeatedly declared that it intended to secure parliamentary approval for the new piece of legislation before the presentation of 2021 budget next month.

Asked whether there had been previous instances of political parties delaying naming NL appointees, Deshapriya said that Colvin R. de Silva died a few days before taking his oath as a member of the newly formed United Socialist Alliance (USA) following 1989 general election. The party refrained from naming anyone until the handing over of the impeachment motion against the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Deshapriya said, adding that Raja Collure received the USA NL slot.

Deshapriya said that there had been problems in 1989 after LTTE ally EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students) secured 13 seats, including one NL slot. They refrained from taking oaths and appointing an NL member, Deshapriya said.

Both Deshapriya and Kariyawasam said that though those appointed and nominated had to take oaths within three months there was no time frame in respect of nominating NL members.

Convenor of March 12 Movement and executive director of PAFFREL Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that the parliament should take tangible measures to amend/introduce laws to ensure that political parties did not pursue strategies inimical to the parliamentary system.

Hettiarachchi said that the parliament couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility for the pathetic situation. He pointed out that in spite of the 1989 trouble over the USA not filling the NL slot, successive parliaments hadn’t addressed the issue.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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