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Petitioner tells court: AG’s should protect public not corrupt politicians

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Gas explosion case before CA:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Petitioner Attorney-at-Law Nagananda Kodituwakku yesterday (10) told the Court of Appeal that the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General was to defend the people.

Referring to recent Supreme Court stricture of the Attorney General in the ruling in respect of fundamental rights application filed as regards ‘Taking a policy decision in respect of tamed elephants where judicial proceedings and investigations are being conducted and transferring the ownership’, Kodituwakku said that the Attorney General shouldn’t lie.

The Attorney General’s duty was not to protect corrupt politicians, the petitioner said.

The petitioner lawyer said so when the Attorney General told the Court of Appeal that the Department wasn’t aware of the petition filed by him in his capacity as the General Secretary of the Vinivida Foundation seeking a series of immediate measures against those responsible for accidental blasts of domestic LPG gas cylinders.

In addition to issuance of notice to ten respondents, namely Chairman Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) retired Major General Shantha Dissanayake (1 respondent) , Director General, Sri Lanka Standards Dr. Siddika Senarathna (2), former CAA Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena (3), Laughfs Holdings (4), Litro Gas (5), Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena (6), Consumer Protection State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna (7), Government Chief Valuer P.P.D.S. Muthkumarana (8), IGP C.D. Wickremaratne (9), and the Attorney General (10), the petitioner sought immediate halt to distribution of gas cylinders pending a thorough investigation, formulate health and safety standards for LP gas cylinders, compensation to those affected by blasts and directive to the Attorney General to institute legal proceedings against Litro and Laughfs in terms of Section 13 of the Consumer Affairs Act No 09 of 2003 and also under Section 45 of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution Act No 6 of 1984 and Section 298 of the Penal Code or under any other provision of law for the commission of a serious criminal offence that warrants imprisonment and payment of compensation to all victims who had suffered loss of life and property damage.

Lawyer Kodituwakku asked in the open court yesterday how the Attorney General denied knowledge of the case filed by him when the Department was represented in the Court of Appeal on the first day, Wednesday, Dec 08 of the proceedings. Court of Appeal judge Sobitha Rajakaruna recused himself from the case on that day. On the following day, Court of Appeal judges Priyantha Fernando and Sampath Abeykoon, too, excused themselves from the case paving the way for Dr. Ruman Fernando and Sampath Wijerathna to hear the case yesterday.

Following deliberations, the judges declared that the case would be called next Tuesday (14) at 10 am. Attorney-at-law Kodituwakku was directed to deliver the required documents to all the relevant parties as regards the case filed in terms of Article 140 of the Constitution.

The civil society activist told the court that this shouldn’t be delayed as explosions of domestic gas cylinders took place every day and the lives of people were at serious risk. Kodituwakku also denied accusations by the Attorney General that he brought the media to court. Kodituwakku emphasized that he had nothing to do with the presence of the media.

The petitioner prayed that the Court of Appeal exercised its inherent jurisdiction afforded by Article 140 of the Constitution to arrest the serious life and property risk and immeasurable hardship faced by the consumers due to blatant negligence on the part of the 1st, 2nd 6th 7th and 9th Respondents who shall be held accountable for gross failure on their part to enforce the rule of law concerning the health and safety risks faced by millions of consumers.

The Petitioner stated that failure on the part of the 1st, 2nd 6th 7th and 9th respondents amounted to violation of the confidence placed in the office the said respondents hold in trust. The gross negligence on the part of the above mentioned respondents violated the fundamental expectations of the citizens whose executive power is being abused by them.



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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary

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By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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