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PM: MPs appointed to parliament committees can elect chairpersons

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By Saman Indrajith

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday told Parliament that the MPs appointed as members of parliamentary committees including the Committee on Public Finance (PFC), Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) could elect the Chairmen of the respective committees at their own will. 

 The Prime Minister said so while responding to a query raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa on the Premier’s stance on the appointment of the chairman for the three committees. MP Premadasa made the query after the matter was brought up by SJB Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha. 

 Jayamaha raising a point of order said that under standing order 103 the Speaker should appoint the chairman to each Special Committee. He said that it was the tradition in the Parliament to appoint chairman of the COPA and COPE from the Opposition. He queried if the newly elected Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena would follow the tradition.

The Speaker in response said that those committees mentioned by MP Jayamaha were not Special Committees.

MP Jayamaha:

At least would you follow the tradition in the Parliament?  

Speaker Abeywardena:

“They are not Select Committees. So, the Chairmen should be elected by the members of the respective committees. 

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said that following the British Parliamentary tradition, the chairmen of COPA, COPE and Committee on Public Finance (PFC) were appointed from the Opposition side members. “Would the same tradition be followed now?”  

Speaker Abeywardena observed that the matter could be decided at the Select Committee. 

The Opposition Leader queried what the stance of the Prime Minister Rajapaksa was on the issue.

Leader of the House and Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the stance of the Prime Minister was that the appointments should be made as instructed by the Speaker. Those Committees consisted of members not only from the government side but from the other parties in the opposition. So the Opposition Leader could not make decisions himself and he should consult others.

Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that he contested to be the Chairman of the PFC while he was in the opposition during the Good Governance government. He added that the post was not given to the opposition but to M. A. Sumanthiran. “That was the ground reality,” Minister Gunawardena said.     

State Minister Nimal Lanza said that the appointment of the Chairmen to the COPE, COPA and PFC was the right of their members. He asked the Opposition Leader to allow the MPs to exercise their right. 

 State Minister S. B. Dissanayake said that during the Good Governance government the chairman of COPA was Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna. The tradition had been breached by the Good Governance government. 

The Opposition Leader attempted to speak further on the matter but the Speaker prevented him doing so, stating that he would not allow wasting the time of the Parliament any more. 

“My query is if the tradition should be followed,” the Opposition Leader queried. 

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that such a tradition as the Opposition Leader said had not been followed in Parliament. He added that at times the chairman position had been granted to the Opposition and sometimes to the government side.



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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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