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Private member’s Bill deemed unconstitutional:Tissa says he only complied with ‘Bills Office’ request



… rejects Dr. Amarasekera’s concerns

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Tissa Attanayake says that he moved the controversial ‘Human Rights Organisation (Incorporation) Act’ on the request of Bills Office of the Parliament.

National List MP Attanayake insists he only tried to help the Bills Office as he felt it was a quite legitimate request. The former General Secretary of the UNP acknowledged that he was aware of the unsuccessful bids made in 2013 and 2015 to move the same Bill.

When The Island pointed out that the Supreme Court recently deemed the Bill unconstitutional, MP Attanayake pointed out that Parliament adopted a transparent process in that regard. “I have nothing to hide. In fact, I have absolutely no interest in this particular Bill. Sometimes, the Bills Office seeks our help to present Bills that had been held up for various reasons,” MP Attanayake said.

Attanayake is one of the seven National List MPs in the 54-member SJB parliamentary group.

Asked whether he was aware of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, on behalf of the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) recently taking up the matter with SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, MP Attanayake said that he explained the issue at hand to the party leader. Declaring his move on behalf of the Bills Office nothing but routine assistance provided by MPs on request, lawmaker Attanayake acknowledged that the SJB leader inquired from him about the issue.

Dr. Amarasekera wrote to MP Premadasa with copies to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in the wake of The Island report, headlined ‘SC deems SJB MP’s move unconstitutional’ published, with strapline ‘How Parliament violated Standing Orders and Constitution in gazetting twice rejected controversial Bill’ on Sept.09 edition.

MP Attanayake dismissed accusations that he had been involved in a clandestine project meant to undermine the country. “Anyone who believes I have been part of any such project should have his or her head examined,” MP Attanayake.

Responding to another query, MP Attanayake emphasized that the course of action followed by the Parliament as regards the disputed Bill shouldn’t have created such a controversy.

Dr. Amarasekera has requested Premier Rajapaksa, Speaker Abeywardena and SJB leader Premadasa to inquire into the matter.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena and Justice Arjuna Obeyesekere ruled that Clause 6 of the Bill is not consistent with Article 76(1) of the Constitution. The SC has also ruled that Clause 7 of the Bill is not consistent with Articles 3, 4 and 12(1) of the Constitution. Having said so, the SC declared that in terms of the Article 123(2) of the Constitution, the Bill should be passed by a special majority in line with paragraph (2) of Article 84 and endorsed at a Referendum.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara, Raja Goonerathne and Nuwan Ballantudawa moved the SC in terms of Article 121 of the Constitution. In their petition, the Attorney General was named the respondent.

Dr. Amarasekera pointed out in his letter Dr. Bandara said that the same Private Bill had been previously submitted by H. Farook in 2013 (not Hunais Farook as previously reported) and Ali Zahir Moulana in 2015. However, on both occasions, they had failed to proceed with the project due to objections raised by the relevant ministers, Dr. Amarasekera said.

 According to the petition the Bill had been gazetted on July 20, 2021 and placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on August 3 without obtaining the Attorney General’s opinion. Therefore the procedure adopted by Parliament not only violated Standing Orders but Article 78 (2) of the Constitution as well, the SC noted on the basis of submissions made on behalf of the petitioners.

MP Attanayake said that he was given an opportunity to submit the Bill in question with required amendments in terms of the SC ruling. “I didn’t want to do that. Therefore, I have nothing to do with it anymore.”

Asked whether he obtained prior permission from the party to move that Bill, MP Attanayake insisted that there was absolutely no requirement to do so. Members moved Private Bills all the time, the MP said.

Dr. Amarasekera said that Parliament should inquire into this. How Bills Ofice secured privately an MP’s help to move such a controversial matter without it being subjected to Attorney General’s perusal. Dr. Amarasekera said that MP Attanayake’s claim pertaining to the role played by the Bills Office should be properly inquired into.

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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE



Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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