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Port City Project – Will it generate confidence amongst investors?

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By Raj Gonsalkorale

Sri Lankan politics has not witnessed bi-partisan agreement amongst the major political parties on key issues that impact on the people of the country, the present generations and many more to come.

There has never been bi-partisan agreement on foreign policy, on education, on health at least at the highest policy levels. Personality politics has dominated the political landscape and it has always been about the plaudits, or damage, a policy-decision might make on a personality and as a consequence on the party or parties that person represents, and eventually whether or not that individual or the party would win the next election, and ones after that.

This absence of bi-partisan agreement has now extended to one of Sri Lanka’s most daring, controversial to many and an out of the box venture, the Port City project. The absence of such agreement, and the statements made by the current Opposition that they will amend the Port Commission Bill is bound to unsettle many would-be investors. They will be wondering what would happen to their investments if the current regime is defeated at the next election and the terms and conditions in which they invested should change after four years or so. The investment period horizon would then be four years. It does not need an Einstein to conclude that investors would be very hesitant to invest in any long term project in such a climate.

The statement of the Opposition is not being questioned here as they have rightly said that although the constitutionality of the bill has been adjudicated by the Supreme Court, amendments made, but the policy contentions had not been addressed and amendments they had brought in had been rejected by the government. It is also not clear whether the amended bill, incorporated with the Supreme Court determined amendments, had been presented to the Parliament. The public certainly has not seen the amended bill.

 

Bona fides of Opposition

The bona fides of the current Opposition of course is questionable, as they were the government in 2016 when they signed a tripartite agreement with the China Harbour Engineering Company and the UDA to develop the Port City into what they termed the “Colombo International Financial City, which will be in the centre of the maritime city, will be one of the key phenomenon which will decide the future development of Sri Lanka” according to the then Megapolis Minister Champika Ranawaka at the signing of the tripartite agreement. He added that the project would also fuel the planned Maritime city, Aero city, Tech city, Industrial cities and Tourist cities. That agreement has not been made public to the best of the writer’s knowledge.

The Port City project and the Port City Commission are major undertakings that will bind many future generations to its positives, but more importantly to any possible negatives as well. It would not be out of place to say that the politics associated with this futuristic project could have been handled better in a more transparent and consultative manner.

In the first place, the origin of this project, the agreement signed with China, signed by the Presidents of China and Sri Lanka in 2014, to reclaim an area of the sea and to create a Port City, was not tabled in Parliament for discussion as far as can be ascertained.

Reports indicate that the project concept goes back to 2011 and construction was set to begin in March 2011 but due to several circumstances the project had been stopped. In mid-2012, the Sri Lankan Port Authority (SLPA) announced that the construction of the then Colombo Port City project would commence on 17 September 2014. The budget was estimated to be $15 billion.

The reclamation was to be carried out by China Harbour Engineering Corporation, who has been engaged by the investor. The land given to the government was 125 hectares (310 acres), as well as 88 hectares (220 acres), while owned by the government, was planned to be leased for 99 years to the Chinese company. Twenty hectares (49 acres) was planned to be given freehold to the Chinese company.

Construction of the Colombo Port City project was launched on 17 September 2014 by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

 

Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government that was elected in 2015 suspended the project on environmental grounds, but it is understood that this was granted approval again in 2016 having agreed to pay a penalty of USD 100 million to the Chinese company for the delay encountered in proceeding with construction as per a country to country agreement. It is learnt that in exchange for not paying this penalty, the Hambantota Harbour was sold or given on a long term 99-year lease virtually on a platter.

On August 12, 2016 the tripartite pact to construct a mega port city was signed between Sri Lanka’s Urban Development Authority, the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and the China Harbour Engineering Company, and as far as known, this agreement too has not been tabled before the Parliament.

With the signing of the agreement, the Colombo Port City Development Project was newly renamed the Colombo International Financial City with the government stating that the project would transform Sri Lanka into an international financial hub in the Indian Ocean region.

It is still not very clear as to the extent of land involved in this project as different extents have been mentioned in different agreements. It is also not clear whether whatever land extent has been registered with the land registry. Clarity on these will be useful.

While there is no indication that any of these two agreements had been tabled and ratified by Parliament, these two occasions are not the first time Parliament had not ratified binding agreements, if indeed they had been tabled in Parliament. The Ceasefire Agreement that Prime Minister Wickramasinghe signed with LTTE Leader Prabakaran in 2002 was not tabled in Parliament, and in fact not even known to the Executive President of the country at that time Chandrika Kumaratunga who saw the agreement after it had been signed by Wickramasinghe and Prabakaran. The consequences of that agreement are well known today.

In this backdrop comes the Port City Commission bill. While it is true that there was an opportunity for litigants to go before the Supreme Court to ascertain the validity of the bill with the Constitution, the people’s representatives, however low they are in their credibility in the eyes of the people, and neither the business community, and civil society leaders, were given an opportunity to consider the policy aspects of the bill in some depth and to work together to make it a national project of great importance to the country.

The SJB, and the residue of the UNP, as well as those who supported the Yahapalanaya government in 2016, cannot afford to oppose this bill in principle while they have the right to oppose sections of it if they differ with what they agreed to in 2016. As stated earlier, the writer stands corrected if the government and the Opposition could clarify to the public whether these important agreements were in fact discussed in Parliament and whether any attempt was made to have bi-partisan agreement on them. Besides being an important consideration for the public in Sri Lanka, it would be vital to generate confidence amongst would-be investors in the Port City project, for long term projects. Unless there can be such a bi-partisan agreement, it is unlikely that the objective of large and long term investments will be met in this project.

 

Philosophical arguments

While some may entertain philosophical arguments against the concept of the Port City, and suspicions and fears about China getting an extended foothold in Sri Lanka, it is also true that Sri Lanka needs to raise its economic platform if the future generations are to enjoy the opportunities they need and deserve in years to come. The current economic platform, based on Tea, Rubber, Coconut and other agricultural exports, Apparel and IT products and services exports, foreign remittances, and tourism, is very volatile and inadequate to meet future challenges associated with investments required for infrastructure development, service improvements and social upliftment.

 

Need for different approach

The longer term future of tea and rubber is uncertain, and foreign remittances may not be long lasting even once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Sri Lanka needs a different approach and lateral thinking on economic policies if it is to free itself from debt and generate enough revenue to service its infrastructure development and service improvements. Besides the Port City project, there is no other innovative project that has been presented for discussion that would address the future economic needs of the country. While the management of its politics has left much room for improvement and some policy aspects may need adjustment, the fact remains that there is nothing else on the table to compare it with.

While it is not a critique of the bill itself, as the writer feels that should be left to the politicians as well as experts who are more competent to do so, there are a few questions pertaining to the clauses 64 and 65 in the agreement that needs some clarification as there appears to be a legal provision in the bill to extend the authority of the Port Commission to land associated with projects approved by the Commission, beyond the reclaimed land area that constitutes the Port City. In addition, these clauses appear to make the Board of Investments (BOI) irrelevant and an unnecessary entity as all its activities, past, present and future could easily be managed by the Port Commission.

A. Firstly, what does section 65. (1) mean? It says, “from and after the date of commencement of this Act, all land comprising the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City, shall be vested with the Commission in the manner set out in subsection (3)”. Subsection (3) reads as follows. “For the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby stated that on the coming into operation of this Act, the President may, issue a Land Grant under the Crown Lands Ordinance (Chapter 454) in the name of the Commission, in respect of all land comprising the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City as set out in Schedule I to this Act.”

Lease

It is understood that President Sirisena by way of a gazette notification granted a land deed for the reclaimed land in favour of the UDA as mentioned by Presidents counsel Jayantha Weerasinghe at a recent press conference. The land given to the UDA on this grant apparently was leased out to the Chinese company by the UDA in 2016.

Is it to be understood that as per section 65, the present President is giving another grant of the same land to the Port Commission under section 65 when the land is owned by the UDA and leased to the Chinese company? This convoluted situation may not be accurate, and it would be good if the government could clarify this.

None of these land deeds have been registered as far as known and therefore no one has been able to peruse them and ascertain the status of the grants and deeds. No wonder the Public is confused. It is also understood that the gazette which contains the deed signed by President Sirisena has the new plan as per the tripartite agreement under Cadastral system. It would be helpful if these documents are made available to the public. If the above confusion could be cleared, this subsection and what is referred to in Section 65 of the gazette notification looks harmless and innocuous if it is read as it is without any reference to any other Section.

B. However, a question does arise as to what this Section (65) and Subsection (3) mean in effect?

Is it that only the reclaimed land area referred to as the Port City, will be vested with the Commission? If not, what other land?

Some confusion and doubt does occur when it is read in conjunction with Section 64 which reads as follows. Clause 64

(1) The Commission may, where it considers necessary to do so, as an interim measure, permit an authorised person to engage in business from a designated location in Sri Lanka, outside the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City, as may be approved by the President or in the event that the subject of the Colombo Port City is assigned to a Minister, such Minister, for a period not exceeding five years from the date of commencement of this Act. Such business shall, for such period of five years be entitled to all the privileges accorded to, and be deemed for all purposes to be, a business situated within and engaged in business, in and from, the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City.

(2) Where an authorised person has been permitted to engage in business from a designated location in Sri Lanka, outside the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City in terms of subsection (1), such business shall be subject to the provisions of this Act and any regulations made hereunder.

This Section raises two questions

1. Would such a project have to be approved by the Authority, meaning, will it have to be a new project and not an existing project? Does this not virtually open any part of the country for such a project to be located for five years? If so, effectively, the Authority has islandwide authority for five years for approved projects. In this event, what is the role of the BOI, and why should projects seek approval from the BOI?

2. When this is read in conjunction with Section 65 and subsection (3) does it mean that not only the reclaimed land but also any land allocated for an approved project for five years under clause 64 could also be vested with the Authority for five years with President issuing a Land Grant under the Crown Lands Ordinance (Chapter 454) in the name of the Commission?

C. Section 65, subsection (2) reads as follows – “Where any deed of transfer, indenture of lease, agreement or other similar document has been executed in respect of any land situated within the Area of Authority of the Colombo Port City, prior to the date of commencement of this Act, by the Urban Development Authority, established under the Urban Development Authority Law, No. 41 of 1978, such deed of transfer, lease, agreement or other similar document shall, from and after the date of the commencement of this Act, be deemed for all purposes to be a document executed by the Commission, in terms of the provisions of this Act and be valid and effectual as if executed hereunder.”

The Port Commission Act has just been passed by the Parliament. In relation to this clause, besides the land that was leased to the Chinese company by the UDA in 2016, is it to be understood that there are projects approved by the UDA or any other body on land within the Area of the Authority? Is this clause to be understood as extending to projects already approved by the UDA, with some projects located outside the Port City precincts (as per Section 64) the benefits referred to in Section 65?

It would be useful if the government tables a list of such projects so approved and their operational locations as the country has a right to know which project, located where, is to benefit from terms in Section 65.

These clauses, their meaning and effects need clarification as confusion does arise about the extent of authority the Port Commission has over land outside the Port city itself, even if it’s for five years. The potential does exist for the Port Commission to approve investment projects with say the headquarters office located in the Port City, but actual projects located anywhere else in the country, and enjoying all privileges and benefits accorded to the project irrespective of where its operations are located. Theoretically, far-fetched it may be, the possibility exists for hundreds of foreign companies to have their projects approved by the Port Commission, with their operations located in any part of the country. The consequences of this possibility needs to be considered especially from the point of view of the impact on local farmers (if the projects are agriculture based) or industrialists who will not enjoy the benefits enjoyed by projects registered with the Port Commission.

Considering all of above, the extraordinary powers granted to the President of the country to make far reaching and binding decisions on what may turn out to be a sizeable component of the country’s economy could have the potential to be detrimental rather than beneficial to the long term interests of the country should the Presidency be in the hands of a person not entirely suitable to hold that office. Avenues for greater accountability of decisions made by the Port Commission and the President of the country have to be considered from this point of view.



Features

Govt. actions must be for people’s benefit

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President at the Independence Day ceremony on Saturday

By Jehan Perera

The government celebrated the 75th Anniversary of its independence from colonial rule under tight security.  President Ranil Wickremesinghe did not even deliver a speech on the occasion.  He had an excellent written speech, but chose not to deliver it for reasons not known.  The speech was circulated later. The exclusion of the general public from the parade grounds was another notable feature of the Independence Day event.  Under normal circumstances, Galle Face green where the celebration took place, is packed with people who come to enjoy the sea, the fresh air and the vast expanse of greenery.  The spectacle of a military parade and an air show provided an occasion that people would not have wished to miss if they had been given the chance to attend it.  But the government was clearly insecure and wanted to make sure it controlled the situation, which accounted for large security deployments.

The general public were kept away from the celebrations as the government feared that if they were permitted into the area some of them might protest.  Indeed, the previous night a sit down public protest (satyagraha) organised by a mostly youthful group of protestors was water cannoned and forcibly broken up.  The youth were protesting against the misallocation of resources for celebration at a time when the country’s people have little cause to celebrate.  Although there was a large presence of security forces, they stood by when a group of political thugs attacked the peaceful protestors.  When the satyagrahis resisted the attack they were chased, beaten and arrested by the security forces. The government was less concerned to win the hearts and minds of its people than to conduct its Independence Day event without disturbance.

 Ironically, the manner of the celebration, with the general public not present at the site of celebration, and security forces out in strength on the roads, was reminiscent of the days of war that the country experienced decades past.  In those days too, the Independence Day celebrations took place under tight security, with the people preferring to stay in their homes than to brave possible LTTE bombs. This throwback to the past is relevant as those years of war have contributed in no small measure to the economic collapse that has befallen the country and blighted the life of its people.  More than 70 percent of the population have reduced their food intake and 40 percent of the population have descended below the poverty line.  In recognition of the connection between ethnic conflict and economic underdevelopment, President Wickremesinghe has prioritized a political solution to the ethnic conflict without delay.

PUBLIC ANGER

The public protests against the celebration of Independence Day was not only in Colombo but also in other parts of the country, most notably in the north of the country.  The main Tamil political party as well as smaller ones also called for a boycott of the Independence Day events and did not participate in them.  University students in Jaffna declared a hartal and flew black flags.  Most of the people, however, showed no interest either way. There was no display of national flags in a spontaneous manner nor did the government make such an appeal.  It seemed as if the government was celebrating Independence Day for itself.  Gleaming new vehicles with police escorts drove in assorted governors, ministers and other dignitaries into the stalls where they would seat themselves with all the national television stations focusing on them. However, to the general public watching the celebrations on their television sets, the sight of the luxury vehicles bearing the dignitaries would have been infuriating.

 Not even a year ago, these same political leaders were hiding in the face of the protest movement that took to the streets in the aftermath of the collapse of the national economy and declaration of national bankruptcy.  The general public, many of whom had never taken part in public protests, came to the streets to protest.  They came from near and far, children with their parents, the elderly and the differently abled, to demand the exit of the government leaders who had stolen the wealth of the country and brought the masses of people, including them all, to near penury.  These same people who watched the Independence Day events on television would have been greatly angered to see those same political leaders now disembarking from luxury vehicles while they scraped the bottom of the barrel in their homes.  What they demand from the government, both in street protests and in their homes, is an end to impunity for corruption, abuse of power and extravagance in  public life, which the government appears to be shying away from.

 The question arises for whose benefit was Independence Day celebrated in this manner?  Independence Day in a situation of economic collapse was celebrated in a most unimaginative manner.  The government tried to heed the public opprobrium regarding the cost of the event, and reduced the size of the military parade.  It also axed the cultural parades that represent the aesthetic side of life.  Independence Day should have been celebrated differently, not for the political leaders and not for the international community, but for the people.  This event did not receive much international publicity.  It would not have changed the way the world sees us.  It did not touch the hearts of the Sri Lankan people either.  They were watching on their television sets and conscious of the expenditures that were being incurred for no good reason, and certainly not for their benefit.

BOLD PLEDGES

The celebration of Independence Day could have been done differently.  The government could have recognised the poverty that has ravaged the lives of the people.  It could have organised an Independence Day event that demonstrated an ethos of care for the people.  It could have brought a thousand schoolchildren from the poorest families around the country, and from all ethnicities, religions and castes, and made them a symbolic presentation of schoolbooks and school clothes that would have reflected the government’s commitment to invest in the country’s children.  This was an opportunity lost and would work to the detriment of the government which will be reflected in its electoral performance at the forthcoming local government elections. President Wickremesinghe’s pitch that the country needed a plan to become a developed country in 2048 is to miss people’s concerns to get by the day.  In his televised speech to the nation he said “Let us devote ourselves, unite as children of one mother. Let us make our country one of the most developed in the world by 2048, when we will celebrate 100 years of independence.”

 Despite all the criticism of the priorities of President WIckremesinghe and the government there are still many who continue to place their hope that the president will succeed in problem solving that is in the national interest.  One of President Wickremesinghe’s bold pledges has been to resolve the ethnic conflict that gave rise to three decades of war and to reach a situation of national reconciliation in this 75th year of Independence and “unite as children of one mother”.  When he first committed himself to this task three-months ago, there was some anticipation that this ambitious task may even occur prior to Independence Day itself, or “mission accomplished” would be announced on the auspicious day.  This has not been the case and it appears that even the first steps are yet to be made.  Now the focus of attention will be the president’s policy statement on February 8 when he reconvenes parliament following its prorogation by him a fortnight ago.

 National reconciliation in an ethnically divided society is never an easy proposition.  It requires the support of multiple actors in multiple sectors.  An indication of the president’s determination in this regard was the singing of the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil languages at the Independence Day event. This was after a lapse of four years and reflects the president’s resolve to overcome the divisions of the past.  It must be noted that it was under his leadership as prime minister in the period 2015-19 that the national anthem was sung again in Tamil on Independence Day after the passage of many decades.  There are elements in the president and his government that require support from civil society.  We need to overcome the legacy of past mistakes and forge ahead to a future in which lessons have been learnt and mistakes not repeated.

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Issues in fully implementing the 13th Amendment – Police Powers

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President J. R. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord, which paved the way for the 13th Amendment..

By C. A. Chandraprema

While most provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution have been implemented, sticking points have persisted with regard to two matters – the devolution of police and land powers. Appendix I of the Provincial Councils List in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution provides for the devolution of police powers. The implementation of these provisions will entail the division of the Sri Lanka Police Force into a National Police Division which includes special units such as the CID; and a Provincial Police Division for each Province, headed by a DIG.

According to Section 6 of Appendix 1, the IGP shall appoint a DIG for each Province with the concurrence of the Chief Minister of the Province. If there is no agreement between the IGP and the Chief Minister, the matter will be referred to the National Police Commission, which after due consultations with the Chief Minister shall make the appointment. Thus, the effective appointing authority of the provincial DIG is the Chief Minister. Section 11 stipulates that all Police Officers, serving in units of the National Division and Provincial Divisions, in any Province, shall function under the direction and control of the provincial DIG who, in turn, will ‘be responsible to’ and ‘under the control of’ the Chief Minister in respect of the maintenance of public order and the exercise of police powers in the Province.

According to section 12.1, it is the Provincial police forces that will maintain law and order and be responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of all offences in the Province except for the 11 specified offences allocated to the National Police Division which are as follows: international crimes, offences against the State, offences relating to the armed services, offences relating to elections, currency and government stamps, offences against the President, Ministers, MPs public officials, judges, etc., offences relating to state property, offences prejudicial to national security, offences under any law relating to any matter in the national government list and offences in respect of which courts in more than one province have jurisdiction. Most of these offences are not really a part of day to day police functions and occur infrequently. Thus, under the 13A, it is the Provincial Divisions which will handle the bulk of actual day to day police work.

Provincial Police to the forefront

Signifying the extent to which the National Police Division will be expected take a back seat, Section 10.1 of Appendix 1 requires members of the National Police Division to ordinarily be in plain clothes, except when performing duties in respect of the maintenance of public order. For all practical purposes, the only uniformed police force, visible to the public, will be the Provincial Police. Recruitment to the National Police Division is to be done by the National Police Commission and to the Provincial Police Divisions by the respective Provincial Police Commissions. According to Section 4, the Provincial Police Commissions will be made up of a) the Provincial DIG, b) a person nominated by the Public Service Commission, in consultation with the President; and c) a nominee of the Chief Minister of the Province. Thus the Chief Minister has complete control over both the Provincial Police Chief as well as the Provincial Police Commission.

In addition to the above, according to Sections 7 and 8 of Appendix 1, the Provincial Police Commissions, which are completely under the sway of the Chief Minister, will have a say in deciding on the cadre and salaries and even the type and quantity of firearms and ammunition used by the Provincial Police forces. However, the potentially horrendous implications of Sections 7 and 8 are mitigated to some extent by the proviso that ‘uniform standards and principles’ shall be applied across the board with regard to these matters for all Provincial Police Divisions.

When recruitment for the Provincial Police Forces are to be carried out by Provincial Police Commissions which are completely under the sway of the Chief Ministers of the Province, the politics of the Province will become the politics of the Provincial Police force, as well. The most obvious foreseeable result of recruiting, within the Province for the Provincial Police force, is that the Northern Province Police force will be predominantly Tamil, the Eastern Province police force largely Tamil and Muslim, and the police forces of all other Provinces, predominantly Sinhala. The implications of politicians, elected on communalistic political platforms, having armed police forces under their control, to further their political objectives, should be clear to anybody. For a country like Sri Lanka which has experienced protracted conflict between ethnic and religious groups, the police powers provisions in the 13A are a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

An equally important consideration is the fact that crime prevention, detection and investigation is very much an inter-provincial, countrywide activity in this country. The creation of nine separate Provincial Police Divisions, answering to nine different lines of command, will seriously hamper the crime fighting capacity of the police which we now take for granted. Today, the IGP and the police force, under him, acts on the imprimatur of the national government, and its outreach extends to every nook and corner of the country. If the 13th Amendment is fully implemented, and the principle day to day police functions, such as maintaining law and order, and crime fighting, becomes the exclusive preserve of the various Provincial Police forces, whose authority does not extend beyond the borders of their Provinces, even pursuing a criminal across Provincial borders will become a tedious, process heavy with bureaucratic procedures and the entire country is going to suffer as a result. (The Colombo and Kotte city limits will not belong to the Western provincial police division but to a Metropolitan police under the National Division according to Item 1 on the Provincial Councils List.)

Readers may recall the 2005 incident during the ceasefire where some policemen, attached to the National Child Protection Authority went into an LTTE held area in search of a fugitive European pedophile and were arrested by the LTTE police. If the police powers in the 13A are fully implemented, in a context where some Provincial administrations are going to be openly hostile to the national government, as well as to other Provincial administrations, similar incidents will become day to day occurrences. The sheer practical impossibility of effectively carrying out police work in a small, densely populated country divided into nine separate police jurisdictions, manned by police forces under nine different lines of command was one of the main reasons why the police powers in the 13A have remained unimplemented for the past 37 years.

Political control over Provincial Police forces

While the IGP will nominally remain the head of the Sri Lanka Police force, even under the 13A, actual day to day police work will become the preserve of the provincial DIGs, acting under the direction and control of the respective Chief Ministers. Under Section 12.4(b) of Appendix 1, the IGP’s discretion in matters related to crime fighting will largely be centered on assigning investigations to units of the national division, like the CID, if he believes that is required in the public interest. But even to do that, he will need to ‘consult’ the Chief Minister of the Province and to have the approval of the Attorney General. Appendix 1 does not have provisions for any mechanism to enable the Provincial Police forces to work in unison in crime fighting or indeed any mechanism that can respond expeditiously to crime fighting requirements throughout the country.

The 13A was passed into law nearly four decades ago, in a different era. In the new millennium, the dominant trend has been to prevent politicians from influencing the police force but the provisions in the 13A seeks to do exactly the opposite.

Even though the new millennium has seen three Constitutional Amendments, (the 17th, 19th and 21st) promulgated for (among other things) the depoliticisation of the police force, Appendix 1 of the Provincial Councils List in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, was left largely untouched. I use the word ‘largely’, because the 17th Amendment did make a few changes in Appendix 1, but that was only to reduce the powers of the President. The Chief Minister’s powers over the Provincial Police remained untouched.

The total and complete politicisation of the police force, envisaged in the 13A, renders it out of step with the times. It was just a few months ago that the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and under its provisions, the President cannot appoint the IGP unless the Constitutional Council approves his recommended candidate and the President cannot appoint the Chairman and Members of the National Police Commission except on the recommendations of the Constitutional Council.

How will the people of this country react if the police powers, envisaged in the 13A, are implemented, and they wake up one morning to find that the Chief Ministers have been given effective control over the appointment of the provincial DIGs and complete control of the Provincial Police Commissions?

How will the people react when they find that the country has been rendered ungovernable overnight because the police force has been fragmented into nine separate police forces, under nine different chains of command? The gestation period for the fallout resulting from a wrong decision with regard to the police powers laid out in the 13A will not be years or months but weeks and days. Hence this is an area where the government will have to proceed with great caution.

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Valentine’s Day gig in Kolkata

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Yohani: Super excited to perform in Kolkata

Yes, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching…one week from today, and there’s going to be lots of action on Tuesday, February 14th.

The showbiz scene will have plenty to offer those who celebrate this day.

Our very own Yohani, who is now a mega star in India, will be in Kolkata, on Valentine’s Day.

And this is what she has to say:

“See you all on 14th February, 2023, as I would be coming for my maiden gig in the city of joy. Super excited, thrilled to meet you all.”

However, a Valentine’s Gala will be celebrated, four days ahead – on February 10th – at the Claireport Place Banwuet and Convention Centre, in Toronto, Canada.

This event, they say, has been put together to support a very talented young band (youths of Sri Lankan origin), called BluPrint, whose passion for Sri Lankan music has thrilled Toronto audiences for the last seven years.

The members have been a part of a series of sold out concerts, starting from API concert series, in 2016, to BluPrint’s Roots, in 2022.

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