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PC polls further delayed; new draft Constitution likely before June

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (5) indicated that the much-delayed Provincial Council polls couldn’t be conduct in a hurry.

Prof. Peiris, who also holds the education portfolio, told the weekly SLPP briefing at Battaramulla that a consensus among those political parties represented in Parliament regarding PC polls could be finalized perhaps in five to six months.

The declaration was made in the wake of a group of influential monks demanding that the PC polls be put off until the Parliament agreed on a new Constitution as promised in the run-up to the last presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Referring to a Supreme Court ruling that PC polls couldn’t be conducted until enactment of a new law in that regard, one-time External Affairs Minister explained how the process could take up to six months.

At the onset of the briefing Minister Peiris said that the government wanted to review election laws pertaining to presidential, parliamentary, PC and LG polls. The minister said that later in the day House Leader and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was to introduce a motion for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) for the purpose. Such a PSC, comprising 15 government and opposition members, would examine relevant election laws, the academic said.

Prof. Peiris said that a nine-member expert committee headed by Romesh de Silva, PC, was busy working on the proposed new draft Constitution. The Minister said that the government expected to receive it before June. Earlier, the expert committee asserted it could finalize the draft before Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Minister Peiris said that a consensus to do away with the preferential voting system could be reached soon as the vast majority considered the system inimical to parliamentary democracy. Prof. Peiris asserted that the PR system caused quite a serious internal strife among candidates of one party, resulted in corruption and deprived voters of an MP responsible for their electorate.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the first week of March called for early PC polls whereas India underscored the pivotal importance of conducting early PC polls at the recently concluded 46th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council.

Prof. Peiris faulted the previous administration for creating a situation that made it impossible for holding of PC polls. PC polls have been delayed by several years due to failure on the part of the parliament to agree on a new electoral system following the abolition of the previous one.



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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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