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Rajitha says 19A wholly civil society product, vows to save it from SLPP

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Dr. Rajitha Senaratne early this week revealed that a civil society outfit had prepared the 19th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in 2015.

Dr. Senaratne said that the government had accepted the document handed over by the civil society, the former minister said. The then government readily endorsed the proposals as it didn’t find any fault with them, Dr. Senaratne said.

The revelation was made at a special meeting called by the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) at Hotel Janaki, Colombo 05. Turning towards NMSJ Chief Karu Jayasuriya, who had served as the Speaker at the time Parliament overwhelmingly approved the 19th Amendment; Dr. Senaratne sought the latter’s consent to the contentious statement. Karu Jayasuriya nodded his agreement.

Addressing the gathering after Jayasuriya and SJB General Secretary Ranjith Maddumabandara vowed to scuttle the 20th Amendment, Dr. Senaratne declared that the 19th Amendment produced by the civil society was the best piece of legislation. The former minister declared that the 17th and then19th Amendment had been enacted for the benefit of the people whereas all other pieces of legislation were meant to strengthen the government or rulers.

The 54-member SJB parliamentary group in parliament is the main Opposition.

Comparing the 17th Amendment enacted in 2001 with the 19th, Dr. Senaratne paid a glowing tribute to the late Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, the then Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan and journalist Waruna Karunatilleke for their role in promoting the 17th Amendment.

Dr. Senaratne also appreciated the role played by the then JVPer Wimal Weerawansa in pushing for the 19th Amendment. Dr. Senaratne attacked the stand taken by the Federation of National Organizations (FNO) as regards the 19th Amendment. Referring to statements attributed to Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, Dr. Wasantha Bandara and attorney-at-law Kalnananda Thiranagama, Dr. Senaratne questioned their efforts to portray the 19th Amendment as a piece of legislation inimical to the Sri Lankan State or against the Rajapaksas.

Dr. Senaratne lambasted them for following an agenda detrimental to the well-being of the country, in the guise of protecting and promoting so called patriotic interests.

Former Speaker Jayasuriya, in his speech declared that the draft Constitution prepared in 2000 during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency was the best solution ever agreed by those who represented parliament at that time. Recalling his role as a senior representative of the UNP delegation for talks with Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance, Jayasuriya said the country wouldn’t have been in a current mess if consensus could be reached on the implementation of the year 2000 proposals.

Jayasuriya said that Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Nimal Siripala de Silva, R. Sampathan, V. Anandasangaree, Dew Gunasekera and Prof. Tissa Vitharana represented respective political parties. Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris coordinated the overall project. However, the process collapsed at the last moment as a result of the PA proposal that the proposed new Constitution would come into effect only after the end of Kumaratunga’s tenure. Recalling the UNP setting fire to the draft Constitution in parliament, Jayasuriya said on the following day he received a call from Kumaratunga who claimed she hadn’t been aware of the controversial clause. The one-time UNP Deputy Leader quoted Kumaratunga as having told him she wasn’t aware who included that line.

Kumaratunga wanted the process to continue, Jayasuriya said, though their efforts failed. Speaking to The Island following the event, Jayasuriya said that UNP and PA subsequently held several rounds of talks at a neutral venue though agreement couldn’t be reached. Responding to a query, Jayasuriya said that two factors primarily contributed to the eventual failure of deliberations. Jayasuriya said that the PA’s demand that in case of Kumaratunga being indisposed, premier Wickremanayake should succeed her and Wickremasinghe’s insistence that the appointment of the cabinet should be his prerogative caused the breakdown.

Jayasuriya said that the government project suffered a setback. The Attorney General, on behalf of the government submitting to the Supreme Court a set of amendments to the 20th Amendment, was a victory for those opposed to the dictatorial move. The AG’s move proved that there hadn’t been proper consultations at least among the government parliamentary group before the draft was sent to the Government Printer.



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Abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony to achieve spiritual and worldly success – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his Hajj message emphasizes that to achieve spiritual and worldly success, individuals must abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony. It is with this noble aim in mind that Muslims celebrate the Hajj festival each year.

On this occasion, Muslims from around the globe gather at a single place of worship, united in purpose, to pray for communal values that embody the hope of humanity. The Hajj celebration fosters feelings of equality and brotherhood among all people, delivering a profound message for world peace.

I extend my heartfelt wishes to the entire Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world for a meaningful Hajj celebration, where everyone comes together to fulfill the aspirations of humanity.

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Justice Minister goes ahead with SLFP election campaign

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… attends Karandeniya meeting with MS

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who calls himself the SLFP’s presidential candidate, launched the SLFP’s election campaign yesterday (16) in spite of restraining orders the Colombo District Court has issued against him and former SLFP Chairman Maithripala Sirisena.

Minister Rajapakshe attended the SLFP meeting at Karandeniya, the main meeting of the Galle District. Former President Sirisena was also present at the meeting organised by former monitoring MP of the Foreign Ministry Sajin de Vas Gunawardena.

Restrictions imposed on Sirisena and Rajapakshe are effective until June 19 and June 25, respectively.

The Election Commission on May 09 announced by virtue of the powers vested in the Commission to fix the date for the Presidential Election, it will hold the Presidential Election between 17 September and 16 October 2024.

The group headed by Sirisena decided to go ahead with the campaign, especially in the wake of the other section forming an alliance with a group of SLPP rebels to back Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the forthcoming Presidential Poll. However, Sirisena and Minister Rajapakshe, both elected to Parliament on the SLPP ticket, couldn’t represent the party, in any capacity, sources say.

Meanwhile, Chief Government Whip Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (16) disclosed that the ruling SLPP wouldn’t field a candidate of its own and would throw its weight behind a candidate in the fray instead.

When he was asked, after a meeting in Minuwangoda, whether the SLPP would field a presidential candidate, Minister Ranatunga said it would support a candidate in the fray. Minister Ranatunga reiterated that the incumbent President was the best to lead the country therefore he believed he should be supported. The Minister said that the support would grow for Wickremesinghe after he officially declared his candidature.

Minister Ranatunga said that though he didn’t like Wickremesinghe the current crisis had compelled him to back him.

Another Minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchci, widely believed to be a staunch Rajapaksa loyalist, declared on Saturday (15) though the SLPP and President Wickremesinghe differed on policy for the sake of the country such differences had to be sunk. Wanniarachchi said so in Embilipitiya.

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NMSJ calls for proper use of IMF funds

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Karu Jayasuriya

Former Speaker and the National Movement of Social Justice (NMSJ) Chairperson Karu Jayasuriya, yesterday stressed the critical importance of effectively utilising the third tranche of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package.

Jayasuriya has, in a media statement, said steps must be taken to ensure proper use of the funds. The IMF released the third tranche of $ 336 million from its $ 2.9 billion bailout package.

Full text of the statement: “We believe that the release of the third tranche by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is crucial for Sri Lanka’s restructuring programme and is in the nation’s best interest. It is our national responsibility to allocate and manage these funds towards the country’s development. Given the current economic challenges and the significant sacrifices made by the people, it is imperative that every penny received is used responsibly and effectively.

“Our foremost concern is the urgent need to combat waste and corruption, consistently highlighted by the IMF.

“Additionally, rehabilitating neglected ancient tanks, totaling approximately 15,000, for modern agricultural use is essential. This initiative can be supported by international funds, friendly nations, the private sector, and the military, promising transformative outcomes.

“Another major task is to immediately accelerate the export sector. In the 1990s, a significant programme under the theme “Export or Perish” was launched, including the highly successful international trade fair “Expo 92,” which attracted 5,600 foreign buyers. The concept of Export Villages was successfully implemented, resulting in high incomes for people in selected villages. Given the current situation, we can establish special export villages by leveraging the support of the supermarket chains that are currently operating successfully.

“The Export Development Board (EDB) should be given the necessary resources and powers to strengthen its capabilities. With advanced communication technology, Sri Lanka can be promoted as a country with rapidly increasing exports, even without the need for traditional exhibitions.

“At the same time, it is crucial to support the development of small and medium-scale entrepreneurs (SMEs). This can be achieved by providing subsidized interest rates and basic infrastructure facilities. We should take inspiration from the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who created new opportunities for India’s youth through the development of the IT/BPO sector. This concept can be easily popularized in Sri Lanka, offering similar benefits.

“The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) urges immediate action on these fronts, expecting responsible leadership to address these pressing issues.”

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