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Poll monitors believe SLPP should abide by AG’s advice



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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SJB alleges Prez under SLPP pressure to give up power to dissolve Parliament



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Nalin Bandara Jayamaha yesterday alleged that President Ranil Wickremesinghe was under tremendous pressure from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to give up power to dissolve Parliament, two and a half years after the parliamentary election.

Kurunegala District MP Jayamaha said that the SLPP wanted the provision, pertaining to dissolution of Parliament in the 19A, included in the 22nd Amendment, at the committee stage.

In terms of the 19th Amendment enacted in 2015, the President couldn’t dissolve Parliament until the completion of four and a half years of the term of a government. The last parliamentary poll was conducted in August 2020.

Having overwhelmingly voted for UNP leader Wickremesinghe at the Presidential contest on July 20 to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, the SLPP was now seeking full control, lawmaker Bandara asserted.

The SJB official, however, acknowledged that their party, too, had been divided on the issue, with those who backed Dullas Alahapperuma, at the Presidential contest, opposing the move.

Wickremesinghe received 133 votes. Of the 145 SLPP votes, except for its rebel group, the rest voted for Wickremesinghe.

Responding to another question, the former UNPer said that some interested parties thwarted SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa from leaving the country, soon after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa abandoned the President’s House. That appeared to have backfired, MP Bandara said, alleging Basil Rajapaksa seemed to be running the show.

Asked whether more members of the SJB would soon switch their allegiance to President Wickremesinghe, MP Bandara said that he couldn’t predict what the individual members were likely to do. However, the SJB, the second largest group in Parliament wouldn’t join the government, MP Bandara said.

Of the 54 elected and appointed SJB members, so far two – Manusha Nanayakkara and Harin Fernando – have accepted ministerial portfolios. SJB National List MP Diana Gamage, earlier pledged her support to the SLPP.

Lawmaker Bandara said that the SLPP seemed to be quite confident of regaining full political authority, regardless of the recent setbacks suffered. The former Law and Order Deputy Minister said that the SLPP was bent on pursuing its strategy, though the President, elected by the party, fled the country.

The SJB MP said that the move to create an environment, conducive for crossovers for the personal benefit of lawmakers, should be condemned. The provisions, pertaining to the appointment of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, under the proposed 22 Amendment, in case the party with the largest block of seats reached a consensus with other parties, were meant to appoint a jumbo sized Cabinet, the MP said. The SJB official questioned the rationale in giving Parliament the authority to decide on the number of Cabinet ministers and non-Cabinet members, in case of a National Government.

Lawmaker Bandara said that President Wickremesinghe and the SLPP were yet to come up with tangible action plan to address political or economic issues. The MP warned, what he called the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government, that the public here, and the international community, couldn’t be deceived by calling itself a National Government.

The SJB spokesperson said that they wouldn’t contribute, or facilitate, the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa ploy by accepting ministerial portfolios. “We won’t legitimize the government project. How can the SLPP still be acceptable, after the public rejected Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected by them,” MP Bandara said, adding the SLPP seemed to have conveniently forgotten that the public rejected the ministers, along with their highly overrated President.

The outspoken MP said that it would be a grave mistake, on the SLPP’s part, if its leadership believed the unprecedented crisis, caused by them, could be resolved by getting rid of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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22 A: Karu J, too, makes some suggestions



Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice, Karu Jayasuriya, said that fears expressed by members of Parliament, and others, over the provisions, pertaining to the appointment of Cabinet of Ministers, were not unfounded.

The former Speaker said that he was also concerned about allegations that the proposed 22 A could be abused and exploited to appoint a jumbo Cabinet.

Jayasuriya suggested that political parties, represented in Parliament, and other interested parties should address whatever concerns raised as regards the 22 Amendment.

The yahapalana Speaker said that the success of the whole process would depend on the readiness of all those involved in the new constitution making endeavor to address issues at hand. The accusation that a particular provision (47 [4]) could be used to violate the restriction of cabinet ministers to 30 and no-cabinet members to 40 couldn’t be ignored, Jayasuriya said.

Jayasuriya said that those who represented the parliament should inquire into criticism over the Speaker receiving an opportunity to nominate three civil society members to the 10-member Constitutional Council in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. The former Gampaha District MP recalled that in terms of the 19 Amendment, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader used to nominate the civil society members. Jayasuriya said that whatever knotty issues could be tackled at the committee stage (SF)

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“Govt workers, too, were involved in fuel hoarding”



It had become obvious that some government workers, too, were involved in hoarding fuel and selling it in the black market, D.V Shantha Silva, joint Secretary the Sri Lanka Petroleum Private Tanker Owners’ Association (SLPPTOA) said yesterday, addressing the media.

He said that the introduction of the national fuel pass system is successful and the majority of fuel stations followed the system.

“Some gas stations still try to manipulate the system but it won’t be easy,” he said.

There is no congestion in gas stations and SLPPTOA members are happy with the process, he said.

“However, there is a drop in orders from gas stations. In the last few months, before the QR system, one tanker load was only enough for a few hours. But now gas stations pump fuel for days with one shipment,” he said.

Silva said that many people tried to blame three-wheeler drivers for hoarding fuel. However, there were other actors involved in the racket, among them were government officials.

“Before the QR system we saw a large number of people at gas stations each morning accessing fuel using various passes. Now that doesn’t happen and there is no congestion,” he said. (RK)

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