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



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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Appointment of GM led to CEB chief’s resignation?



By Ifham Nizam

Amidst further deterioration of the power crisis, the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) M.M.C. Ferdinando has tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In a letter to the President, the Attorney-at-Law said that he is quitting due to personal reasons. Ferdinando will resign as Chairman/Member of the Electricity Board with effect from Feb. 1.

Sources close to Ferdinando said that the incumbent CEB Chairman did not want to be in that position following the appointment of Eng. Dr. D.C.R. Abeysekera as CEB General Manager. Abeysekera received his letter of appointment from Ferdinando on Tuesday (25).

Abeysekera received the appointment at the expense of Dr. Susantha Perera, whose designation as the GM on a temporary basis was resisted by the engineers’ union as he is a retiree.

Retired public servant Ferdinando was brought in as the CEB Chairman on July 19, last year soon after Sri Lanka entered into what was called a framework agreement with the US energy firm, New Fortress Energy. The agreement now challenged in the Supreme Court was finalised on 17 Sept, last year with Ferdinando endorsing it as an Advisor to the Finance Ministry.

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UK indicates sanctions against Lanka military



By Shamindra Ferdinnado

Close on the heels of UK Foreign Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad’s three-day visit here, the House of Commons has been told that measures were being contemplated as regards the Sri Lankan military.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Amanda Milling has told Parliament that the government regularly engaged with the US and other partners on issues relating to Sri Lanka. She has further said: “The UK government keeps all evidence and potential designations under the UK Global Human Rights sanctions regime under close review, guided by the objectives of the sanctions regime. We would not normally speculate about future sanctions targets, as to do so could reduce their impact.”

The Conservative Party member was responding to Labour Party’s Siobhain McDonagh on Tuesday (25). MP Milling was responding to a query McDonagh posed to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the sanctions imposed by the US on General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan army.

The US in Feb 2020 imposed a travel ban on General Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Recently, the US extended its action against the Sri Lankan military by issuing travel ban on retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera.

The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has commended the British stand.

Concerned Lankan military sources said that the UK in its capacity as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was planning further measures ahead of the next human rights sessions.

UK based sources told The Island that that type of written parliamentary question was usually answered by a government minister from the FCDO.

Sources explained as this particular question dealt with Sri Lanka, the minister responsible was Lord Tariq Ahmad, but as he represented the House of Lords he couldn’t make statements in the Commons chamber.

Sources added that it would be rare that a question on Sri Lanka would be directly responded to by the Foreign Secretary Truss

Commons member Amanda Milling is Minister of State for Asia, therefore her portfolio closely matches Tariq Ahmad’s brief.

Incidentally, the FCDO now has a British Tamil in a senior position. Maya Sivagnanam is South Asia Deputy Director for the Indian Ocean Region at the FCDO.

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JCPSM token strike cripples hospitals in Western Province



Strikers want Health Ministry to solve their problems within 10 days

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Joint Council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine (JCPSM) launched a 24-hour token strike yesterday (26) at 7 am at all hospitals in the Western Province. It consists of 16 unions.

The JCPSM has urged the government to address its members’s grievances including salary anomalies and issues related promotions. The strike had crippled hospitals in the province, Health Ministry sources said.

The JCPSM said emergency care, essential services and the treatment of COVID patients had not been affected by the strike.

President of the Government Nurses’ Association and former UNP National List MP Saman Rathnapriya said they had been urging the government to solve their problems for the past two months.

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island that they would end the token strike by 7 am today m(27) and thereafter give the government 10 days to address their demands.

“We will launch a continuous strike if the demands are not met within 10 days,” he said.

President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that most unions seemed to have lost the ability to solve disputes through negotiations.

“The unions have become too politicised, and the people are suffering as a result.”

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