By Shamindra Ferdinando
Prof. G.L. Peiris, MP, yesterday (03) warned that the Attorney General would become extremely powerful in an authoritarian state if the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill became law.
Addressing the media on behalf of Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) at Nawala, the former External Affairs Minister explained how the Office of the AG would facilitate the emergence of a dictatorship.
FPA consists of rebel SLPP MPs who voted against UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the parliamentary poll to elect an MP to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.
The former top law academic issued the warning in the wake of Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella’s declaration that the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya would move the Supreme Court against the proposed law soon after the government tabled it in parliament.
Having explained the role of the AG, the National List lawmaker said that anyone could be at the mercy of the AG who could order rehabilitation of those having dissenting views.
At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Peiris alleged that the current dispensation was taking advantage of both local and international calls to replace the Prevention of terrorism Act (PTA) with a new law to bring in provisions meant to consolidate political power.
Commenting on the ongoing public sector trade union campaign demanding the revision of the government’s controversial tax formula, Prof. Peiris said that the proposed new law targeted trade unionists.
The issue at hand should be examined against the backdrop of growing opposition to privatisation of valuable state assets and profit-making ventures such as Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.
In terms of the new law those who strike regardless of the declaration of selected sectors as essential services could be simply categorized as terrorists on the basis of strike being an act of terrorism, the former minister said.
The print and electronic media as well as social media platforms could be easily targeted for reportage of events and developments which the new law construed as act/acts of terrorism, Prof. Peiris said.
The former minister recalled how President JRJ sacked as many as 80,000 public sector workers for demanding a pittance of a salary increase. Alleging that 152 of those sacked public sector workers deprived of their salary committed suicide, Prof. Peiris said that the proposed law could be used to confiscate properties and cash of those found guilty of offenses under the proposed law.
The Professor explained how the new law applied to political and trade union activists and the media.
Giving Senior DIGs/DIGs the power to issue Detention Orders would be catastrophic as the process proposed in terms of the new law would be outside the purview of relevant courts, Prof. Peiris said. He declared that the courts, too, would be helpless as the government utilised the new anti-terrorism law to achieve its political objectives.
The former minister described the proposed law as the blueprint for what he called a complete dictatorial setup hell-bent on bulldozing political dissent.
The effort to put off Local Government polls was part of the overall strategy, Prof. Peiris said, urging the public to rally around the genuine Opposition to thwart the high profile project.
Prof. Peiris urged President Wickremesinghe to seek a new mandate to implement his action plan. Instead of Local Government polls, the President could call for parliamentary polls to ascertain the ground situation, the former minister said.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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