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President asks SJB if it will join interim Cabinet

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SLPP rebels decline portfolios but won’t hinder ‘good decisions’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has offered another opportunity to Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa to be part of the interim administration.

The President has asked Opposition Leader Premadasa to inform him if his party is willing to accept positions in the Cabinet of Ministers to be appointed.

On Thursday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declined SJB leader’s last minute offer to accept the premiership.

In a two-page letter dated 12 May, addressed to Opposition Leader Premadasa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasised that an early response is required as the decision on the finalisation of the Cabinet couldn’t be delayed in view of the prevalent political and economic crisis. The President has assured the SJB leader that before a decision to swear in UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was made he had consulted leaders of political parties represented in Parliament. The President didn’t name those he had consulted.

The SJB won 54 seats, including seven National List slots at the last parliamentary elections in August 2020. One of the SJB NL members, Dayana Gamage, switched her allegiance to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Meanwhile, the SLPP rebels have declared that they will not accept ministerial portfolios in the new Cabinet.

Addressing the media, separately, the SLFP, said it wouldn’t be part of the new administration. SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera later told The Island that they would support government efforts to procure the required essential supplies. The SLFP wouldn’t do anything to undermine the government as long as the new administration didn’t take decisions inimical to the public.

The SLFP parliamentary group comprising 14 members is the largest party in the rebel group, which comprises 11 political parties and groups.

On behalf of the rebel group, National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa said that they wouldn’t accept ministerial portfolios. Underscoring their concerns over newly appointed PM Wickremesinghe’s past conduct, lawmaker Weerawansa declared that they would continue to sit in the Opposition though continuing to support right decisions. The SLPP rebels account for about one third of the total parliamentary group. Yuthukama Leader and SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga assured their support for proposed constitutional reforms. He however reiterated the need for the continuation of the executive presidency as long as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution remained in its current form. While appreciating the ongoing efforts to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt with the IMF’s intervention, MP Cumaratunga said that the countries that had sought IMF help remained in debt.

The rebel group said it was unfortunate that the person whose party had been rejected by the vast majority of the electorate at both the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019 and 2020, respectively, was now the PM. Cumaratunga called it a tragedy.

Responding to criticism that the SLPP is in crisis today due to the stand taken by a section of the party over the controversial Yugadanavi deal, MP Cumaratunga said that they had made a desperate bid to pressure the ruling party to abandon its disastrous strategies. Former Minister Weerawansa said that Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t have been humiliated if he quit the premiership in response to the rebel group’s plea.

Weerawansa said that the current predicament could have been avoided but the then PM had refused to heed the warnings. Before the break up in early March this year, the SLPP comprised 145 members. The ruling party had the backing of several SJB members, who on two occasions (20th Amendment and the Colombo Port City Commission Bill) voted with the government. Altogether 15 political parties represent the Parliament. They are SLPP (145), SJB (54), ITAK (10), JJB (03), AITC (02), EPDP (02), UNP (01), SLFP (01), OPPP (01), TMVP (01), MNA (01), ACMC (01), NC (01) and SLMC (01).



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Govt. allows private operators to import fuel for industries – minister

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ECONOMYNEXT – The Government has allowed private bunker fuel operators to import fuel for industries, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Friday, in a bid to reduce the burden on cash-strapped state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

The move comes as a severe dollar shortage has reduced CPC’s ability to import fuel and meet the demand as earlier amid long motorists’ queues for fuel.

“Approval was given to all the private bunker fuel operators to import and provide diesel and fuel oil requirements of industries to function their Generators and Machinery,” Wijesekera said in his Twitter platform.

“This will ease the burden on CPC and fuel stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday.”

Approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday. pic.twitter.com/dhAonet10J

— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) May 27, 2022

In April, Sri Lanka cabinet has agreed to amend the Petroleum Products Act making provisions to issue licenses to “properly identified parties” to import fuel which will end an import monopoly held by the CPC.

There was a push to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to import its own oil as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was unable to get foreign exchange and the power utility ran out of cash due to lack of a price increases.

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Protesters ask PM to serve justice for May 09 attack

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ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of anti-government protesters agitated in front of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe ’s office Colombo demanding justice for May 09 attack by the supporters of previous prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and immediate measures to overcome ongoing economic crisis to prevent a looming social unrest.

The youth-led groups which had been protesting near presidential secretariat and prime minister’s official residence in the heart of commercial Colombo shifted neat the prime minister’s office and shouted against the new government’s inaction against the brutal attack at unarmed and peaceful protesters by Rajapaksa supporters on May 09.

They demanded the new Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to implement the rule of law without being biased to any parties and serve the country.

Rukshan, a 25 years old protester said, as per the initial demands of their protests, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his position, but his successor should do his duties towards the country and the people without trying to protect corrupt politicians.

“When we started the protest back in April our main demand was to bring all Rajapaksas before justice and get all the wealth they have stolen from the common people of this country,”  Rukshan told Economy Next.

The protest started around mid-day on Thursday (26) and protesters’ route was blocked by police barricades on the main road in front of the prime minister’s office.

The protesters, however, withdrew from their positions and regrouped at a nearby road to go towards the Wickremesinghe’s office.

However, by the time the protesters regrouped, a court order was issued by the Fort Magistrate to stop the protest due to inconvenience to the public.

“Ranil Wickramasinghe should remember why he is here now. We’re not asking him to resign. He is here to do his duty towards this country and its people,” Rukshan said.

“On May 09, we were attacked but no justice has been served yet. That is the main reason we came today to the prime minister’s office,” he said.

“We still see queues for medicine, fuel, and gas. To be honest, there is no medicine in the market. No medicine for cancer patients. If you get bitten by a dog, then there is no medicine for you. They (the market) don’t have any of that.”

Wickremesinghe has been working over a new budget and discussing with international partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of essentials, officials close to him have said. However, it will take time, they say.

Rukshan said the country is running due to the state workers, who are working as they are being paid salaries after the government’s excess money printing.

“When that stops, then there will definitely be a revolution in this country,” he said.

“When a person goes to office in the morning, there is no fuel for the vehicle, or no public transport available. They get late and the salaries are being cut because of that. And when they come home, they don’t have gas to cook a meal.”

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Weerawansa’s wife gets two years for passport offence

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Her lawyers file appeal challenging sentence

Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala on Friday sentenced Shashi Weerawansa the wife of former minister Wimal Weerawansa to two years in prison. Shashi was found guilty of using falsified documents to obtain a passport.

The Magistrate also ordered the accused to pay a fine of Rs. 100,000 in addition to the imprisonment and an additional six months of jail if she does not pay the fine.

Sashi Weerawansa is found guilty by the court for obtaining diplomatic and general passports by submitting birth certificates with forged names and dates of birth.

She had applied for a diplomatic passport in 2010 by submitting false personal information which was different to what appears in her previous normal passport that expired on May 24, 2009.

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