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Planters decry mob-violence on Park Estate, demands swift legal action against perpetrators

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The Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) condemned what it called the “shocking violence instigated by CWC Member of Parliament M. Rameshwaran at Park Estate in Kandapola on January 17, 2021”, which damaged property and left a Trainee Assistant Superintendent in hospital.

The Association called for an impartial investigation and swift justice following the brutal mob attack which resulted in the Trainee Assistant Superintendent being admitted to the Nuwara Eliya General Hospital. The victim of the assault was reported to have received severe injuries and was undergoing respiratory difficulties as a result of the assault perpetrated against him by a mob that was transported from outside of the region in two buses facilitated by the MP Rameshwaran, the PA claimed in a statement on behalf of all 21 Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) in the country.

The PA also called for further investigations to ascertain the extent of damage done to the Estate Manager’s Bungalow and grounds – all of which are classified as state property of significant historical value.

“The conduct of the MP is utterly disgraceful and totally unacceptable from any citizen, let alone a duly elected representative of the people of Sri Lanka. We call on law enforcement authorities to uphold the rule of law and take swift action to ensure that the perpetrators of the brutal attack are immediately arrested, charged for their violent and illegal actions, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the PA said.

The attack took place following a phone call made by the MP Rameshwaran to the Estate Superintendent wherein he (the MP) demanded an immediate meeting on Sunday, January 17, 2021 around 5.30 pm. The Estate Superintendent had calmly and politely suggested an alternate date, given that he was on leave at the time and was driving to Kandy to urgently purchase essential cancer medication for his father in-law, the statement continued.

Dissatisfied with the response, the MP had launched a crude verbal assault against the Estate Superintendent, who had then hung up. Thereafter, the Rameshwaran coerced workers at the estate to give him the Estate Superintendent’s wife’s number, whom he also verbally abused, which was unbecoming of an MP. This phone call had multiple witnesses, the statement asserted.

Subsequently, MP Rameshwaran, together with the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman travelled directly to the estate in two buses full of people from outside the region to gather a mob and incite them to violence. At around 5.30 pm, the MP forcibly and unlawfully entered the bungalow premises with the mob., it further said.

A young Trainee Assistant Superintendent in the premises at the time had tried to de-escalate the tense situation, but was brutally assaulted by the mob led by the MP. Following the vicious assault, the MP and his thugs prevented anyone from entering or exiting the premises. Instead they unlawfully detained those present, including the assault victim who was denied any medical attention or assistance for at least five hours after the assault took place, it said.

Following the intervention of the Police Special Task Force and local police, the Trainee Assistant Superintendent was finally removed from the premises under armed escort and immediately transported to the Nuwara Eliya base hospital where he remains hospitalized at present. As a result of the grievous assault, the victim is still recovering from severe contusions and suffering from respiratory distress and other multiple injuries, it added.

Meanwhile, the MP and the mob continued the unauthorized and unlawful occupation of the bungalow premises for over 24 hours, burned rubber tires, damaged building structures, and also compelled workers from the estate, as well as surrounding estates of the company to stage a strike – resulting in loss of wages to workers and revenue to the company, the PA said.

“At a time when RPC’s are making every possible endeavour to keep the industry and the national economy afloat by managing the estates in a manner that safeguard the livelihood of the plantation community, such random violent incidents have undone a lot of our efforts, and will ultimately hurt the workers most”, the PA further noted.

“This is true financially, but in the context of a global pandemic, the foolish actions of MP have also seriously increased the risk of COVID transmission in the very communities he is supposed to represent. While RPCs had taken every possible measure to protect them from these risks, the conduct of the MP may have severely compromised their safety”, it said.

“This is utterly inexcusable, in addition to being totally illegal. He must not be allowed to break the law with impunity. We hope that his standing as a Member of Parliament will not be an impediment to him being brought to justice,” the PA added.

Asked for comment on the incident, Rameshwaran said he was busy at a meeting and to call later.



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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