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



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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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials



‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini



By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289



ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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