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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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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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