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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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U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain to visit Lanka

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Colombo, September 23, 2022: United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

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President urges SL diaspora in the UK to invest in their motherland

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By Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week urged the Sri Lanka diaspora in the United Kingdom to invest in Sri Lanka projects to revive the economy. Addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, he said that he is proud that the British Sri Lankan community for making a mark in every field of the UK economy such as trading, services, business, and requested them to come together as Sri Lankans and people of Sri Lankan origin to help build the motherland.

The President added that Sri Lanka is looking at transforming its economy to a competitive export-oriented one to meet the current challenges and build social systems and modernize the education system.

He remarked on the special affection Queen Elizabeth II had towards Sri Lanka as the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State of Ceylon for 20 years prior to the nation becoming a Republic and stated that her passing is the end of an era.

The president, first lady and party arrived in London on Sept. 17 via Dubai by an Emirates flight to attend the State Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth II.They were received at the Heathrow airport by High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and were driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, London where they stayed.

On Sunday (Sept. 18), the President accompanied by the First Lady and High Commissioner attended the Lying-in-State of the late Queen at the Palace of Westminster which was followed by a Reception hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.The President and the First Lady attended the State Funeral Service held at the Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sept. 19).  On the same day, he signed the Book of Condolence. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly MP hosted a reception for the visiting world leaders at Church House.

On 20th September, the President met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC. They discussed Sri Lanka’s engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat and matters of mutual interest. He also visited the London Buddhist Vihara during which Ven Dr Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Incumbent of the Vihara and the Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain invoked blessings on the President and the people of Sri Lanka.

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Families countrywide facing malnutrition, says Cardinal

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By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has warned that the prevailing economic crisis and increasing unemployment and food prices are accelerating malnutrition among hundred thousands of families countrywide.

Addressing a ceremony at the annual get-together of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Service held at St Peter’s College Auditorium in Colombo, the Archbishop said that it was a shame that responsible local officials keep denying the prevailing status quo when world humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to warn of the increasing malnutrition levels among children.

Many international organizations have pointed out that malnutrition in Sri Lanka was increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities responsible are hiding the truth and go to the extent of rejecting such reports.

“If they reject the reports of international organizations, then it is their paramount duty of conduct proper surveys to understand the situation. It is no secret that large numbers of Lankan families are starving due to the high prices of food. According to the UNICEF more than six million people consume only a single meal a day. It is so unfortunate that Health Ministry officials who spend their times in the air conditioned rooms in Colombo do not know the plight of the poor in rural areas,” the Cardinal said.He said that 225 MPs were concerned only of their well-being while continuing to ignore the actual and pressing issues of people.

“This country is in dire situation today mainly due to inefficient and corrupt political leaders. It is sad that these so-called people’s representatives are not concerned of the situation of people who are experiencing the worst ever economic and political crisis this country has ever faced,” the Cardinal said.

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