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Prez takes defence



SLPP bags lion’s share of ministries

Ex-president Sirisena an ordinary MP

Newcomer Sabry receives justice portfolio

Four members of Rajapaksa family in Cabinet

Wijeyadasa rejects state ministry

Former TNA MP now a state minister

Several Viyathmaga members made ministers

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces yesterday (12) took the defence portfolio although the 19th Amendment to the Constitution bars the President from holding any portfolio.

The 19th Amendment enacted in early 2015 repealed Article 44 (2), which enabled the President to hold any number of portfolios.

 President Rajapaksa refrained from assuming defence portfolio when he appointed a smaller interim Cabinet last November in the run-up to the Aug 5 parliamentary election.

 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was among 25 ministers who took oaths before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Magul Maduwa of Dalada Maligawa. In addition to them, 40 received appointments as State Ministers.

The President’s Office on Monday (10) issued a gazette notification with a list of 28 ministries and 40 state ministries.

 Of those who had received cabinet portfolios, 17 represent the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Other ministries were shared by SLFP 2 (Nimal Siripala de Silva and Mahinda Amaraweera), MEP (Dinesh Gunawardena), EPDP (Douglas Devananda), NFF (Wimal Weerawansa), DLF (Vasudeva Nanayakkara) and PHU (Udaya Prabath Gammanpila).

Among the Cabinet of ministers were two members SLPP National List members, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Chairman of the party and Ali Sabry, PC.

 President Gotabaya Rajapaksa accommodated Sabry in his Cabinet as the Justice Minister.

 The Cabinet includes four Rajapaksas, the President (Defence), the Prime Minister (Finance, Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs and Urban Development and Housing), Chamal Rajapaksa (Irrigation) and Namal Rajapaksa (Youth Affairs and Sports). In addition to them, Shasheendra Rajapaksa received appointment as State Minister of Paddy and Cereals, Organic Food, Vegetables, Fruits, Chillies, Onions and Potatoes, Seed Production and High Tech Agriculture.

 Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa, PC, declined to accept post of a State Minister as he expected a Cabinet portfolio. Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa contested the recently-concluded general election from Colombo on the SLPP ticket after switching his allegiance to President Rajapaksa. He entered Parliament on the UNP ticket at the previous general election.

One-time Justice Minister was not available for comment.

 Chamal Rajapaksa, in addition to being the minister of irrigation, took oaths as State Minister for Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management. The police come under him. One-time Speaker was the only one to hold both State and cabinet portfolios.

 Many an eyebrow was raised when the swearing in ceremony concluded without former President and leader of the SLFP Maithripala Sirisena, who had arrived at the swearing-in ceremony a bit late, not receiving a portfolio. Having contested the general election on the SLPP ticket except Jaffna and Kalutara, the SLFP obtained 13 seats. In addition to the elected, the SLFP secured one National List slot (Dr. Suren Raghavan). The SLFP on its own won one seat in the Jaffna electoral district (Angajan Ramanathan).

 In addition to the two Cabinet ministries received by the SLFP, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera and two others, Duminda Dissanayake and Lasantha Alagiyawanna were sworn in as State Ministers.

Deputy Leader of the NFF Jayantha Samaraweera, who contested from Kalutara on the SLPP ticket was among the State Ministers. Sons of former Prime Ministers, the late Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka and the late D. M. Jayaratne, Vidura and Anuradha, respectively, too, received appointments as State Ministers.

 President Rajapaksa accommodated several elected Viyathmaga members among the State Ministers and Chairpersons of District Coordinating Committees. Eight out of nine candidates fielded by the civil society group Viyathmaga entered Parliament. Of them, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Prof. Channa Jayasumana were named State Ministers. In addition to them, two Viyathmaga National List members, former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Dr. Seetha Arambepola were accommodated among the group of State Ministers.

 Three other Viyathmaga members, Dr. Upul Galappaththi (Hambantota), Nalaka Bandara Kottegoda (Matale) and Gunapala Ratnasekera (Kurunegala) were named Chairpersons of District Coordinating Committees.

 Former Tamil National Alliance dissident Sadasivam Viyalendran  (Batticaloa) was sworn in as State Minister for postal services development and mass media.

 Jeewan Thondaman, son of the late Arumugam Thondaman, CWC leader, was named estate housing and community infrastructure facilities state minister.

Nipuna, son of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s sister was among 23 Chairpersons of District Coordinating Committees.

 Former ministers and State Ministers, LSSP Chief Prof. Tissa Vitharana, S. B. Dissanayake, Susil Premjayantha, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Jihn Seneviratne, Chandima Weerakkody, Dilan Perera, Rohana Dissanayake, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, K.K. Masthan, Angajan Ramanathan and Dushyantha Mithrapala were among those left out. Communist Party National List  MP, too, wasn’t accommodated in the Cabinet.

 The SLPP won a staggering 145 seats out of 225-member Parliament. The breakaway UNP faction, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya secured 54 seats whereas the UNP, the TNA and the JVP led Jathika Jana Balavegaya won 01, 10 and 03 seats, respectively.



EC member Hoole moves SC against 20A



Petitions challenging 20A before five-judge bench of SC today 

By Chitra Weerarathne

Petitions filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, will be called before a five-judge bench today.

These petitions have said that people’s approval at a referendum as well as a two-thirds majority in Parliament will be needed to enact the Bill.

All the petitions have basically said that the Bill has a section, which says a dual citizen can contest to enter the Parliament of Sri Lanka and run for President threatened national security.

The petitions challenge the powers vested in the President. The President could sack the Prime Minister and the Ministers. Once the Bill becomes law, fundamental rights petitions could not be filed to challenge an act of the President, the petitions have pointed out.

The investigating powers of the Auditor General have been curtailed. The powers vested in the Elections Commission when an election is on is also limited, the petitioners have argued.

The petitions have requested the Supreme Court to declare that a two-thirds majority in Parliament and people’s approval at a referendum will be needed to enact the proposed amendment.

Among the petitioners are Elections Commission member Ratnajeevan Hoole, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya, Attorney-at-Law Indika Gallage, Mayantha Dissanayake, S. J. B. Member of Parliament for the Kandy District and also the President of the Youth League of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya.

The Supreme Court bench will comprise the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare, Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice S. Thurairajah and Justice Vijith K. Malalgoda.

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Senasinghe announces quitting politics



By Akitha Perera

Former non-cabinet minister of the yahapalana government Sujeewa Senasinghe announced yesterday that he would quit politics. 

He had also stepped down as the SJB Deputy Secretary, Senasinghe said. 

Senasinghe said that he intended to focus on his business in the future and that he would commence work on his PhD from January 2021. 

He unsuccessfully contested the Aug 05 general election from the Colombo district on SJB ticket.

Senasinghe commenced his political career as a member of the Western Provincial Council of the UNP. He was elected to Parliament twice from the same party. 

He earned notoriety by publishing a book denying the bond scam ever took place.

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Pujith insists his hands were tied during crucial period 



By Rathindra Kuruwita

He had been aware that the activities and preaching of Islamists would have an impact on reconciliation, but those in higher positions were convinced otherwise, former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, yesterday, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

The ex-IGP said that although he too had received information about activities of Islamic extremists by late 2018, he had been barred from the National Security Council (NSC) by then.

“I couldn’t share the information I had and I didn’t know what was discussed there. I couldn’t even assign a senior officer to represent me there.”

Jayasundara added that after he had received, on April 09, a report from State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Nilantha Jayawardena about a possible terrorist attack, he forwarded the report to SDIG of Western Province, Nandana Munasinghe, SDIG crimes and STF M.R. Latheef, DIG special protection range Priyalal Dasanayake and Director of the Terrorism Investigation Division, Waruna Jayasundara and spoke to them over the phone.

Jayasundara said that he had also phoned all SDIGs in charge of provinces. The witness added that he had wanted to ensure that there would not be a leak, causing unnecessary problems in society.

“For example, the letter I sent to the Special Protection Range (SPR) was leaked to the media after the attacks.”

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