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Party leaders confident Speaker will act impartially, protect all MPs’ rights and privileges

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By Saman Indrajith

With a total of 15 different political parties represented in the Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka, there were early indications on Thursday during the brief speeches made to congratulate the newly appointed Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena of the balancing act that would be needed to ensure the smooth functioning of the legislature.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa led the House in congratulating the newly elected Speaker and said that with more than three decades as a legislator, Parliament will be in safe hands under him. “You will be mindful that you are the third citizen of this country now.  You have the will and strength to be an impartial and fair Speaker,” he said.

Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa said the newly elected Speaker had always acted with dignity, integrity and honour and the House was extremely honoured to have him in that exalted position. “We believe you will be just and fair. This is indispensable for a flourishing democracy,” Premadasa said.

“This institution represents the will of the people. The voice of the voiceless. And you as guardian angel of Parliament, we believe you will ensure that the people’s sovereignty is protected and enhanced.”

TNA parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan said that with the Speaker, with his long experience as a legislator would act efficiently and effectively in an impartial manner. He said the TNA would extend its maximum cooperation to the Speaker.

Former Northern Province Chief Minister, C V Wigneswaran, who was elected as the Jaffna District MP from the Tamil People’s National Alliance or TMTK, in his speech, noted that there was a very powerful government now, similar to the one constituted under the late J. R. Jayewardene in 1977. It was during that regime that we had the 1983 pogrom. “Certainly, this government too could follow the example of the Elephant of that time, and end up as today, reduced to a single member in the future, but I’m sure they would not. They would prefer to learn from the mistakes of the past and usher in a period of peace and prosperity where all communities would feel equal to each other and walk with dignity and pride as children of Mother Lanka.”

Wigneswaran said, “Freedom and equality could only dawn if we shed the false historical perspectives of the past and recognise the rights of the people living in the North and East of Sri Lanka who are entitled to the right of self-determination as per Article 1 of Chapter 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in addition to their hereditary and traditional right to be recognized as a nation.

“We are sure you will guide us all without fear or favour if any such impasse comes to past.”

Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) Jaffna District MP Gajan Ponnambalam said: “In a House that is so heavily weighted on one side, it is the responsibility of the Speaker to ensure that as debates that reflect different mandates given to parties by voters are respected and treated with fairness.

 “We must not forget that all parties represented in this House come here today with their respective mandates. Those mandates must be respected, those mandates must be voiced, the mandate must be respected and due place must be given.”

Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) Batticaloa District MP Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan who came to Parliament from remand prison pledged to work in cooperation with the government during his speech congratulating the new Speaker.

He also sought the Speaker’s intervention to ensure that he was allowed to attend Parliament without any hindrance. “The Attorney General (AG) has said I will need to get permission from the Court each day I want to attend Parliament but this is not possible. I hope I will be allowed to attend sittings without any hindrance.”



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Fuel crisis: Key CPC facility opened for VIPs, friends as public transport shrinks

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya trade unionist Ananda Palitha yesterday (01) alleged that members of Parliament, Chairmen of various government institutions, and other politically connected persons, continued to obtain unlimited petrol and diesel from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) facility at Kolonnawa.

The former CPC employee declared that the powers that be had transformed the Kolonnawa depot into a special facility to cater to the needs of the politically influential.

Those who touted the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept had created a special category while almost the entire nation suffered due to the unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, Palitha said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and CPC Chairman Sumith Wijesinha didn’t answer their phones.

Ananda Palitha said that none of those who had been given access to the Kolonnawa depot came under essential services. “Why should lawmakers, whatever their status in society, be given access to the special facility when they aren’t included among essential services,”

Ananda Palitha asked.The SJB activist said that the government was struggling to maintain public transport after having repeatedly promised to sustain.

The trade unionist alleged that though they brought the clandestine operation at Kolonnawa to the attention of the government, it continued unabated. Barrels full of fuel had been taken from Kolonnawa, he said, among the beneficiaries were owners of V8 and other super luxury vehicles.

Ananda Palitha said that the Opposition should have taken up this issue vigorously.

Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that according to information available to them, Ceypetco had approximately 3,000 mt of diesel, 2,500 mt of petrol 95,600-700 mt of petrol 92 and was not in a position at least to meet the requirement of the essential services.

“The government is yet to come up with a plan to obtain petrol and diesel,” Ananda Palitha said, urging the government to take the public into confidence.

Palitha pointed out that the police had carried out numerous raids, targeting those who hoarded diesel and petrol, whereas a primary fuel depot that was not supposed to pump fuel for outsiders, engaged in business. The government should be ashamed of this situation, the trade union leader said, pointing out the country was heading for chaos.

The Island yesterday afternoon brought Ananada Palitha’s allegations to the notice of Lalith Weeratunga, Senior Advisor to the President,Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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Energy cooperation sought from Saudi Arabia on urgent basis

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has requested Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulelah A. A. Orkobi, to facilitate Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed to visit Saudi Arabia from July 02-05 as Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka.The request was made when the envoy called on Prof Peiris at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday (30).

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Peiris briefed the Saudi envoy on the current economic situation, including fuel shortage and its negative impact on all sectors in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris sought avenues for energy cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an utmost urgent matter.

Charge d’ Affaires of Saudi Embassy Orkobi, emphasized the importance attached to the Sri Lanka – Saudi bilateral relationship and assured all possible support to Sri Lanka, at this juncture.

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‘Halting assistance’: Japanese envoy reassures Prez

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Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi yesterday (01) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the backdrop of reports that Japan wouldn’t provide financial assistance due to the possibility of such being mismanaged.A section of the media quoted the Japanese envoy having said so at a meeting with a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members during a recent visit to the north.

Subsequent to the meeting at the President’s House, the President’s Office said that the Japanese envoy reassured the President of their support to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance.

However, the Japanese embassy didn’t issue a statement on the meeting though it regularly issued statements on a range of issues.

Recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan Sanjiv Gunasekera suddenly quit the top diplomatic posting. The government has nominated former Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage as Gunasekera’s successor.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a clarification from the Japanese embassy regarding the controversial declaration and received an assurance that the envoy didn’t say so at the meeting with the TNA (SF)

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