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Prez assured Cabinet MCC won’t be signed – Wimal

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…AG’s opinion pending

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had assured the Cabinet of ministers that his government wouldn’t sign the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) agreement, National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa yesterday (29) said. The Cabinet had received that assurance before US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo arrival in Colombo on Tuesday, 27, he added.

Addressing the media at the NFF party office at Pitakotte, Minister Weerawansa said the issue had been discussed at length at the Cabinet before the arrival of Secretary of State Pompeo.

Weerawansa said the NFF wouldn’t remain in the govenrment if it signed MMC agreement, which he said, was detrimential to Sri Lanka’s interests.

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, is yet to give his opinion on the MCC though the government-appointed Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan’s Committee strongly recommended that Sri Lanka reject the proposed agreement in its current form.

The Attorney General’s Department refrained from giving its opinion to the Gunaruwan Committee in spite of a request made through the Prime Minister’s Office, The Island learns.

The NFF group in the SLPP parliamentary group consists of six lawmakers, including one National List MP Mohammed Muzammil, who was present at yesterday’s briefing.

Referring to India and US signed pact finalized on Tuesday (27) to share ‘geospatial intelligence’, paving the way for deeper military cooperation between the two countries, Minister Weerawansa claimed that India seemed to be under far stronger US pressure than Sri Lanka. Foreign media reported the agreement would provide India’s armed forces access to data from U.S. military satellites to facilitate targeting and navigation.

Colombo District MP appreciated President Gotabaya Rajapaksas’s declaration, in his talks with the US official that Sri Lanka wouldn’t compromise independence and sovereignty and remained neutral and non-aligned in its foreign policy.

Minister Weerawansa said that soon after the US announced Pompeo’s visit in the wake of the high profile meeting the President had with the top Chinese delegation, Sajith Premadasa’s SJB, the JVP and politically bankrupt UNP launched a campaign over Pompeo’s visit. They used both mainstream and social media to convince the public Pompeo was here to sign both MCC and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), MP Weerawansa said. They campaigned on the premise that the signing of MCC and SOFA was to take place secretly.

The NFF leader said those who had been propagating lies were all members of the UNP-led yahapalana administration that invited the then US Secretary of State John Kerry. Lawmaker Weerawansa alleged that they didn’t utter a word. Instead, they welcomed Kerry in May 2015. None of them could remember, the yahapalana government entered into ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) in the first week of August 2017, minister Weerawansa said.

Minister Weerawansa pointed out in spite of the controversial agreement; the JVP remained strongly aligned with the UNP-led administration throughout.

In the run-up to the last presidential election, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in response to The Island query at Temple Trees media briefing said that the MCC would be signed.

Minister Weerawansa said that if not for the change of government last November, the UNP would have certainly finalized the MCC by now. The minister pointed out that the previous government also discussed SOFA with the US and was busy making preparations for the finalization of MCC when the parliament was dissolved.

Pompeo was previously scheduled to visit Colombo in June 2019 ahead of the last presidential election.

Responding to another query, Minister Weerawansa said that the SJB, the JVP and the UNP obviously prayed for the US to pressure Sri Lanka over MCC and SOFA. The NFF leader said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa had the strength to face international pressure and unlike the treacherous previous UNP-led government remained committed to non-aligned foreign policy.

Minister Weerawansa said that the government was pursuing transparent foreign policy. Both the President and the Foreign Minister, in no uncertain terms reiterated Sri Lanka’s stand during the US Secretary of State’s visit. The minister said that the Opposition appeared to have really believed the government was to align with the US led coalition against China.

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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary

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There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran

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But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President

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The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.

 

 

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