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Parliament’s failure to address crucial issue exposed



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.


Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents



Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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