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Professionals warn Lanka not to be lulled into complacency over US withdrawal of MCC



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The United States and its allies would not halt their attempts to secure a foothold in Sri Lanka although the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact had been discontinued and that the decision was a strategic one to lull Sri Lankan public into complacency, professional and civil society organizations yesterday warned.

General Secretary of the Professionals’ National Front (PNF), Engineer Kapila Perera said that the MCC compact was not a grant, but a part of the Indo-Pacific strategy pushed by the US and India.

Perera said: “The MCC is part of their strategy to use Sri Lanka and other nations for military and strategic purposes.

The MCC compact does not stand alone but it should be taken with Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and, Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA).’

Perera said that PNF and other patriotic forces had identified the danger posed by the MCC and the public too understood the peril the country faced.

“The committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also came to the same conclusions we did. We are grateful for the stance this committee took.”

Dr. Samantha Ananda, senior vice chairman of the PNF said that the US and its allies would not give up their attempts to secure a foothold here. He added that there might be plans afoot to achieve the objectives of MCC, i.e. securing the Trincomalee harbour and obtaining data about Sri Lanka’s land, by other means.

Ananda said: “This is not over. The US and its allies have not been defeated. Politicians and officials will knowingly or unknowingly try to push imperialist agendas. We must be weary and be ready.”

The Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) too warned that although the MCC Compact was no more, the land reforms attempted to meet advance the imperialist agenda were being slowly implemented by the incumbent government.

MONLAR Moderator, Chinthaka Rajapakshe said that relaxing land laws and creating large swathes of land available for foreign investors was an underlying objective of the MCC compact.

“The government has been slowly attempting to relax land laws. For example the decision to hand over the control of ‘other state forest lands’ to Divisional Secretaries and opening lands to large scale commercial agriculture are a part of a larger design. This is not something that started with Gotabaya started; nor will it end with him. Successive governments have promoted imperialist ideology and the only thing that has stopped them is public outrage. We must remain vigilant because trouble is not over.”

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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months



Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands



Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB



By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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