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Proposed 20A to the Constitution makes the President “a super-creature” – Suren Fernando

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ECONOMYNEXT –

The proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution concentrates power in the President creating a “super creature not accountable to Parliament or the Courts,” says lawyer Suren Fernando.

Fernando, who was a National List nominee for the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya, (SJB) says the sweeping powers given to the Presidency takes away the checks and balances on the powers of the President brought in by the 19th Amendment.

The government gazetted the proposed amendments which also allows dual citizens to hold political office.

This would open the door for Basil Rajapaksa, the Chief Organiser of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to enter Parliament and hold a Cabinet position, he said.

The younger Rajapaksa brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is a dual citizen of the United States and Sri Lanka.

In an interview with EconomyNext Fernando said the crucial proposal to diminish the powers of the Constitutional Council (CC), created by the 19A will move power away from Parliament to the Executive.

The proposed Parliamentary Council will have no civil society representation and can only advise the President, he said.

The previous CC made the appointments and also reviewed the work of the independent commissions, Fernando noted.

The incumbent President “will have the sole power to appoint the members to Commissions, the Apex Courts (Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal) as well as the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General.”

“This creates the risk that President will appoint people he thinks are favourable to him,” Fernando says.

In the case of Parliament and the Cabinet, the President under the proposed amendments will have the supreme power to appoint anyone he wishes as Ministers. The President can also hold any Ministry he wishes.

“This means that that through this power, he can control Parliament as well,” he opined.

The Amendment does say that the President is answerable to Parliament, “but that will be nominal,” Fernando says.

Under the 19A the President could only appoint Members of Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The proposal also abolishes the Audit Service Commission and the National Procurements Commission which were introduced by 19A as watchdog bodies on Public Finance.

“It was because of the Audit Commission that the Bonds Scam was discovered,” Fernando said.

The 20A also re-introduces the immunity granted to the President which was taken away in the 19A. Currently the President is immune from criminal prosecution during his term.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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