By Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (21) told Parliament that he was happy and proud of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution for it would become law without any political deals to get it passed in Parliament.
Participating in the second reading stage debate on the amendment bill, the Prime Minister said that instances of constitutional reforms in history were full of political deals to obtain votes from other parties to pass those bills. “There is neither such pressure nor political deal in this instance,” he said.
The 20th Amendment was brought to remove the 19th Amendment which had plunged the country into anarchy and was rejected by the people, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said.
The PM said people had given the SLPP to strengthen the position of the President and therefore the 20th Amendment had been brought in to strengthen national security and repeal the 19th Amendment which destabilized the country.
The Prime Minister said that the government was not planning to continue with the existing Constitution would introduce a new constitution to build the nation fulfilling the long awaited aspiration of the people.
“No other Constitution has been criticised as much as this Constitution. Dr. NM Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva and Sarath Muttettuwegama were the ones who initially opposed this constitution but, they are not alive today. However, we have no choice but to maintain this constitution. Although the SLFP opposes this Constitution, the Presidents produced by the SLFP have formed governments under it. Although UNP leader J.R. Jayewardene had introduced the present Constitution to prevent the SLFP from coming to power, the SLFP had ruled the country for the longest period by producing the highest number of residents. Therefore, all of us have been subjected to political ridicule under this constitution. But we have not been able to change this Constitution because one party could not get a two- thirds majority in Parliament under the PR system, but we have won a two-thirds majority. The people of this country wanted a government that would safeguard the sovereignty of the people without succumbing to foreign pressures and breaking up into factions.”
The PM said that when a Constitution was amended it was normal for various debates to arise in Parliament. “However, certain amendments in history have been made with MPs kept under pressure. But, we are not bringing this 20th Amendment to Parliament through political deals or by securing votes by exerting influence on anyone. That is why at this moment when the 20th Amendment is being brought, there is room for debate. On the other hand, I would like to ask whether the same could be said about the 19th Amendment. At that time the Maha Sangha or anyone was not allowed to protest. Therefore, we can be happy about the manner in which the 20th Amendment is being debated respecting the democratic rights of the people without any underhand deal making involved.”
The PM said that the 19th Amendment was solely aimed at taking revenge from the Rajapaksa family and to target the civic rights of the Rajapaksas. But unfortunately, it had only jeopardised the national security and unity of the country.
“Some people rejoiced when the President’s wings were clipped, not realising that such action would endanger national security. The Head of former State Intelligence Service has revealed before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the Easter Sunday attacks that at least 10,000 officials had been aware that the terror strikes would happen but could do nothing to prevent the attack.”
In addition the Prime Minister noted that the president did not even have the power to remove the IGP even after such a tragedy or even to transfer inefficient police officers. “Only the Police Commission can do that. But it was a mystery as to who the Police Commission was answerable to.
“The state intelligence and other intelligence services were very strong during our time. But after the introduction of 19th Amendment, the CID was used to hunt down Opposition politicians. As a result, the efficiency of services such as the CID intelligence deteriorated. Now, the CID could not apprehend Rishad Bathiudeen fast. Rishad’s younger brother who was allegedly linked to terrorists has been released on bail by the police. No there is nothing that can be done about that.”
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that officials from the Attorney General’s Department had been summoned to Temple Trees to conduct an anti-corruption committee during the previous regime. For five years Temple Trees had spent a colossal sum of money to maintain that committee. “Even the officials of the then Attorney General’s Department have publicly stated that the committee was illegal. But has the Independent Audit Commission audited the huge expenditure incurred by this committee? Is there a report submitted to this country after such an audit?”
There’s nothing prescribed as Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court — Sumanthiran
TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran, in an intervention in Parliament, said he was privileged to appear for Ranjan Ramanayake, a clean, honest politician in the Supreme Court and he was proud of that.
Nevertheless, Ranjan Ramanayake was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment was unprecedented and exceptionally severe, and Parliament has a responsibility in this regard because we have not enacted a law for contempt of court, the MP noted.
At the outset, he said, “I want to flag one or two issues concerning the responsibility of the Parliament in this regard. But before I do that I am bound by law and tradition to disclose my interest in the matter. I am the counsel who appeared for Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake in the Supreme Court”.
This has an implication to the article in the constitution that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition just mentioned because it says for an offense for which the prescribed punishment is two years or more. But there’s nothing prescribed, nothing prescribed in the law because for long Parliament has failed to enact legislation for contempt of court, the TNA MP said.
Although there had been in the public as well, a lot of instances where drafts have been made, we have not done that – that is one. And by failing to do that, it has been like the freedom of the wild ass; anything can be given as a sentence and that is not a good thing. I don’t want to go into the merits of the case or anything like that, but in this case Parliament has to take steps, to enact a law, he further said.
English law is supposed to be the substantive law because we don’t have a statute law now, and in English law itself scandalizing the court is no longer an offence of contempt of court. But unfortunately the court disregarded that, and has misdirected itself – that’s my position, Sumanthiran continued.
“But I want to bring to your notice a serious lacuna in the law with regard to a statue for contempt of court that has resulted in this unprecedented injustice to an honest Member of Parliament”, he added.
Colombo share market gallops to all time highs
The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) galloped last week with the benchmark All Share Price Index (ASPI) hitting an all time high on Monday and improving on that performance on subsequent trading days to close the week at 8,463 points on Friday. The more liquid S&P Index that normally trails the ASPI also gained sharply though less so than the benchmark index.
Brokers and analysts attributed the surge to prevailing low interest rates and said that people holding funds in fixed interest instruments have seen greater potential in the stock market and have so far not been proved wrong.
“Take the case of vehicle importers,” said one businessman. “With imports disallowed, cash that would have been once used to replenish inventory becomes available for investment elsewhere. The stock market is a magnet for such funds.”
Also, many companies have resorted to a share split strategy to make their shares both more liquid and more affordable on the market.
“Take the example of a fifty-rupee share split into two. Theoretically, it should then trade at Rs. 25 a share after the split. But often it does better than that at no cost to the company that had split the share because its stated capital remains what it was,” explained and analyst.
“It’s different in the case of bonus shares or scrip issues as they are called where reserves are capitalized to pay for the new shares priced at realistic values.”
Last week the Hayleys conglomerate announced share splits in over a dozen group companies. These ranged from each share being split into ten in the parent company (Hayleys) and thriving subsidiaries like Haycarb and Dipped Products while other companies like Kingsbury split a share into two.
Brokers and analysts said that the current market surge was largely driven by the Dhammika Perera controlled Hayleys and the Ishara Nanayakkara controlled LOLC groups.
Last week Hayleys announced over a dozen share splits including in its recently acquired Singer Group companies. The majority of these involved dividing each share into two though at Singer Sri Lanka each share will be split into three.
The biggest share split ever proposed is one that is pending at EB Creasy (EBC) where each share is to be split into 100. The seldom traded EBC share is quoted at the top end of the CSE sharelist. Analysts said the massive split is intended to pump liquidity into the share and make it more affordable.
“There’s a lot of retail play in the market right now with new investors who recently took some risk doing very nicely in this bull run,” a broker said.
The CSE hit rock bottom after a seven-week closure in March last year.
Covid-19 has now spread geographically across SL
In small numbers to an extensive region
Pandemic situation in Western Province improves
by Suresh Perera
Though there are no big Covid-19 clusters at present, the dreaded virus has spread geographically across the country due to the unrestricted movement of people, a senior medical official said.
“The transmission of the contagion in small numbers to an extensive region was inevitable in a society which remains ‘open’ with inter-provincial travel happening on a daily basis”, says Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director of Public Health Services.
He said the spillover from the Western province was expected as there was an outflow of people to other districts particularly during the festive season.
“I am not blaming anybody, but a lockdown was not viable when taking into account the economic consequences and the livelihoods of the people. We could have imposed a curfew to restrict travel during the New Year, but we have to consider the fallout of such a measure”, he noted.
It true that geographically numbers have increased within a wide area, but the numbers are small and there are no big clusters as seen at Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda, the senior medical official explained.
Asked whether the pandemic has translated into a community spread as considerable positive cases continue to emerge on a daily basis, Dr. Herath replied, “no, that has not happened. If the Covid-19 situation was beyond control, we would have made a social and community transmission declaration”.
He said the pandemic situation in the Western province has improved with a dip in positive cases. However, the spillover is evident by the jump in figures at provincial level.
“We knew there was a risk, but we had to take it as locking down the country was not the solution
For example, if a Covid-19 patient infects two persons per day, there will be 200 positive cases within 100 days and one can imagine the critical situation that will emerge if the trend is allowed to continue, Dr. Herath continued.
“We are now managing under 1,000 cases per day”, he said, while assuring that the right mechanism is in place to identify positive cases through PCR and rapid antigen screening and place them under medical treatment, isolate and quarantine first contacts of patients”, he further said.
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