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Poll monitors believe SLPP should abide by AG’s advice

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MP-elect on death row

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Polls Monitoring groups-PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Election) and CMEV (Centre for Monitoring Election Violence) yesterday (2) said that the government would have to abide by the instructions issued by Attorney General Dappula de Livera in respect of MP elect Premalal Jayasekera sentenced to death over a killing in Kahawatte, Ratnapura, in January 2015.

The AG has informed the Secretary to the Justice Ministry and the Secretary General of Parliament of Jayasekera being disqualified to serve as a member of parliament and also to exercise his franchise.

Acknowledging that the SLPP Ratnapura candidate had received the second highest number of preferences at the August general election, PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi and CMEV National Coordinator and Researcher Manjula Gajanayake pointed out that the Attorney General expressed his opinion after the Secretary to the Justice Ministry sought his advice.

Premalal Jayasekera polled over 140,000 preference votes. Pavitradevi Vanniarachchi obtained over 200,000 votes the highest preference there by a candidate representing any contesting party.

Both Hettiarachchi and Gajanayake emphasized that it was no longer a political issue

Secretary to the Justice Ministry sought the AG’s advice in the wake of the Commissioner General of Prisons seeking advice regarding Jayasekera being allowed to attend the inauguration of parliament on August 20.

Hettiarachchi said that the authorities quite rightly refrained from taking Jayasekera to parliament on August 20 though the convict’s family received an invitation to attend the inauguration from the Office of the Secretary General of Parliament.

Responding to another query, Hettiarachchi, who is also the Convenor of March 12 Movement said that he couldn’t comment on behalf the civil society groups though the PAFFREL strongly opposed any political party or a lawmaker challenging the AG’s stand. There couldn’t be any dispute over the AG’s advice, Hettiarachchi stressed, urging all those responsible to review the situation.

According to the AG’s Department as a result of Jayasekera appealing against the Ratnapura High Court ruling, only the death sentence had been suspended pending the Court of Appeal case.

Hettiarachchi pointed out that in the wake Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara challenging the AG’s competence, the government sought the AG’s opinion on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Addressing the media on Monday (31), veteran lawyer Nanayakkara said that the AG couldn’t decide on Jayasekera’s fate as it was the responsibility of the parliament.

Manjula Gajanayake said that Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara’s dismissal of the AG’s opinion as regards Jayasekera’ eligibility sent a wrong signal to other members of the SLPP parliamentary group as well as the public. Gajanayake said that Nanayakkara couldn’t have been unaware of the constitutional provision as regards convicted persons.

Responding to another query, Gajanayake alleged that during the general election campaign in Ratnapura Vasudeva Nanayakkara repeatedly assured the electorate that he would stand by Premalal Jayasekera. Gajanayake said that the CMEV and other monitoring groups observed Nanayakkara’s campaign throughout that period.

Nanayakkara of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) contested on the SLPP ticket.

Former CAFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Election) Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told The Island that there were three previous examples regarding convicted persons being denied the opportunity to attend Provincial Council and Parliamentary sessions. Tennakoon said that former Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council member Hasitha Muhandiramge’s convicted over 1999 double murder case and General Sarath Fonseka were prevented from attending Sabaragamuwa PC and parliament, respectively.

Tennakoon said that the ruling SLPP would have to pick Sunny Rohana or Ranjith Bandara who polled 53,261 each in place of Premalal Jayasekera. As both SLPPers had polled equal number of preferential votes, the Election Commission (EC) would have to decide the replacement on toss of a coin.

Tennakoon said that a decision would have to be made before Parliament meets again on Sept 8. So far, the 9th parliament met twice on Aug 20 and 21.

Authoritative sources told The Island that the three-member EC hadn’t discussed the issue formally though it came up. The EC consists of Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera PC. Sources said that the EC was scheduled to meet him on coming Friday and Saturday. “We have not met as a Commission on this although it came up informally. We meet next on the 4th evening and 5th”, an EC member said.

Asked whether this could cause a dispute between the government and the AG’s department, sources said that the law was clear in this regard. Perhaps the parliament could intervene only by enacting new laws and backdating them, sources said.

CAFFE Executive Director Ahamed Manas Makeen faulted the Ratnapura electorate for voting for Premalal Jayasekera in spite of knowing he was convicted for the Kahawatte killing. Makeen also questioned the SLPP accommodating the former Deputy Minister on its Ratnapura nominations list regardless of the pending verdict.

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Mohan Pieris to be appointed as Ambassador to the UN?

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Extensive orientation course for heads of mission deignate

Former Chief Justice, Mohan Pieris, is mentioned as likely to be appointed as Sri Lanka’s new Permanent Representative (PR) to the United Nations in New York, informed sources said.

Ms. Kshenuka Senewiratne, the serving PR, who has been recalled to Colombo is expected to be back by mid-October. A career Foreign Service office, she turned 60-years in June. The Foreign Ministry is retiring career diplomats at age sixty but political appointees beyond that age are being posted.

Eight others to be appointed heads of Sri Lanka diplomatic missions overseas have been summoned to be interviewed by the 18-member High Posts Commitee recently named by the Speaker. This committee is charged with the responsibility of screening uigh appointments including those of ambassador/high commissioner.

The former chief justice is not among them as his name, according to a ighly placed source, came up later.

Those summoned are: Admiral (Retd.) KKVP Harischandra (Afghanistan), Vishramal Sanjiv Gunasekera (Japan), Milinda Moragoda (India), Ravinatha Ariyasinha (USA), Prof. Kshanika Hirumburegama (France) and Palitha Kohona (China).

Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colambage has organized an intensive orientation program for the heads of mission (designate) to be held between Oct. 5 and 15 at the foreign ministry. The innaugural meeting will be addressed by Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardene and Foreign Secretary Colombage who will speak on “National interests and Sri Lanka’s foreign policy perspective.

The other resource persons include Foreign Service veterans holding senior positions in the ministry in Colombo who will speak on subjects ranging from the country’s multilateral relationship, human resource and mission management as well as overseas office management procedures relating to the appointments of heads of mission.

Ministers, senior officials including the Secretaries for the Treasury and Defence, heads of organizations like the Tea Board, the Tourist Board and Foreign Employment Bureau are among those who will address the ambassadors/high commissioner designate.

Media personalities including Mr. Amal Jayasinghe, head of the Agence France Presse Bureau here, Arjuna Ranawana, senior media practitioner and Shihar Aneez who was a Reuters correspondent will public diplomacy from the perspective of a foreign correspondent.

Retired Foreign Secretaries HMGS Palihakkra and Bernard Goonetillake are among the resource persons who will address the diplomats-designate. The group is due to call on the president and prime minister closer to their departure dates.

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Captain of stricken oil tanker MT New Diamond ordered to appear in court

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A Colombo Magistrate has issued notice on the Captain of the stricken oil tanker MT New Diamond to appear before him on September 28, Court reports said.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Dappula De Livera directed the Director of the CID to name the Captain of the Very Large Crude carrier as a suspect in the case filed over the matter.

State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, the Coordinating Officer to the AG in an audio press release said the Attorney General is of the view the Captain of MT New Diamond had committed offences punishable under the provisions of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act, No. 35 OF 2008.

The CID was also directed to report facts against the Captain under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Magistrate’s Court.

MT New Diamond carrying a quarter of a million tonnes of crude oil caught fire on September 3 in Sri Lankan waters as the vessel was travelling from Kuwait to Piradip in India.

Sri Lankan Navy, Coastguard and Air Force, as well as the Indian coastguard, fought the fire over a number of days.

One crew member aboard is missing presumed dead and another injured sailor was brought to shore and is in a hospital in Eastern Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is claiming Rs. 340 million as compensation from the owners of the tanker for expenses incurred by various government agencies engaged in fire-fighting and rescue operations.

(ECONOMYNEXT)

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Saaraketha modernizing Sri Lankan agriculture through Agri Tech

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When we think of greenhouses, we tend to think of the cold hills of Nuwara Eliya, old fashioned English homes and Victorian botanical gardens full of exotic plants. We don’t tend to think high-tech, modern or organic, and we certainly don’t think of Anuradhapura.

This is where Saaraketha, Sri Lanka’s only certified organic fresh fruit and vegetable retailer, has dreamt big and delivered better than anyone thought was possible. They have harnessed the future of agriculture and brought it to reality today, in the form of a greenhouse project that will see the face of Sri Lankan organic agriculture change overnight.

Not only a first for Sri Lanka, but a first for the entire region, the new Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse project has a production capability of half a million square feet of controlled environment, entirely solar powered and completely carbon neutral. Projected to carry over 60 varieties of vegetables, greens and herbs, the Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse Project will be able to deliver stable crops all year round, ensuring a consistent income for farmers and fixed prices for customers.

With global weather patterns constantly changing and becoming more and more unpredictable and unreliable, it is more important than ever to invest in Sri Lanka’s self-sufficiency and improve food security. And with increased understanding and awareness of the damage that pesticides do to both the environment and health, it is also the time to focus on crops and production that is genuinely good for us and planet earth, with no corners cut and with complete transparency.

Saaraketha has always led the way to ensuring traceability and transparency, launching their plant to plate tracing technology in 2019, and now they want to take it a step further.

With their founder Prasanna Hettiarachchi at the helm, they are taking on the impressive task of transforming Sri Lankan agriculture by exploring ways to harness the power of technology to ensure that farmers’ livelihoods are improved and their ability to feed the nation is stabilized.

From day one, Saaraketha has been committed to the farmers of Sri Lanka. It is their stories, their experiences and their ambitions that have inspired Saaraketha to create the platform that they have over the last nine years. And even now the Saaraketha Solar-powered Greenhouse Project is powered 80% by female farmers, all working with Saaraketha to bring excellence to our families while uplifting their own families’ futures.

To date organic in Sri Lanka was considered the privilege of the few, always the healthy but highly costly option. Normal families would prioritise their children and buy organic only for them, but that need not be the case anymore. With the Saaraketha Greenhouse Project, the prices of vegetables, greens and herbs are reducing by 50%.

Not as a one off, or a sale, but for good. From October onwards, internationally accredited, “Certified Organic” produce will be available online at www.saaraketha.com and all supermarket retailers.

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