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Public Security Minister stands his ground on those violating ban on protests and rallies

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By Saman Indrajith

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament yesterday (09) that anyone who violated health guidelines to hold demonstrations and rallies would be arrested and produced before courts.

The Minister said so following various remarks made by government and Opposition MPs on police arresting protestors, including the General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, for agitating near the Parliament roundabout on Thursday against the Kotelawala National Defence University Bill.

Minister Weerasekera: We will enforce law against any law breakers without considering their position or status. The Director General of Health Services has issued orders to the IGP not to allow any demonstrations, rallies and protests.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe: People have a right to stage protests. It is wrong to arrest them. Those taken into custody including Joseph Stalin have been taken to Mullaithivu. There are no provisions for that in the Quarantine Act. The quarantine laws cannot take precedence over human rights. Such laws have to be prepared in line with protection of human rights. They have not been tested for coronavirus.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: These laws can be enforced only by a Competent Authority. In this issue the competent authority is the Director General of Health Services. There are guidelines on how to behave in public places. Police have no role here. Suppose there is a violation of quarantine law, then the police cannot nab the people; only health officials can deal with them. This is a clear violation of human rights. Police have also violated health regulations by arrogating the duties of the health officers to themselves. We demand to know on what basis those including Joseph Stalin were sent for quarantine without testing them. What prevails today is the law of the jungle.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake: After Basil Rajapaksa took oaths, many gathered at public places to celebrate his appointment. We saw there were many public gatherings. Nobody was arrested.

Minister Weerasekera: We will arrest anyone who breaks the law. It is the health officers who prescribed banning of protests and rallies. They have been taken to Mullaithivu on the orders of health officials. I have not transported dresses for any women. When I heard a complaint that a group of people being taken to quarantine could not take their personal belongings, I referred the matter to the IGP. If I did the same in this case, you would accuse me of taking clothes to Stalin. We would not stop the quarantine process because there are statements. We will not stop arresting anyone staging protests breaking health regulations.

The Leader of the Opposition: There wasn’t a single health official in or outside the court. That is the bitter truth. Do not those health regulations apply to the parties that were held after swearing in of Basil Rajapaksa? Everybody saw how people got together to light firecrackers.

State Minister of Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure Nimal Lanza: I want to know whether we are following the items of today’s order paper. The Opposition tries to disrupt House proceedings by raising various irrelevant issues. They have turned the House business into a mockery. We demand that attention should be paid to the items mentioned in the order paper and they be implemented.

(Opposition MPs shout at State Minister Lanza. Some SJB MPs raise points of order)

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: What is the point of order? Do not disturb the parliament process. This is ugly. Your leaders have agreed to conduct the business of the House in an orderly manner.

(SJB MPs shout slogans)

JVP Leader Dissanayake: Laws have been written down. Laws are not what is being created inside the head of the minister.

The Speaker: Time is for presenting public petitions. Present the petition.

JVP leader Dissanayake: This is the petition of the entire nation. We hope to go before the law against this act.

Kuruengala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara: Minister Weerasekera sent Stalin to Mullaitivu and Piyumi Hansamali to Bandarawela.

 



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

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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

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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

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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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