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Rambukwella: President authorised 20A



By Shamindra Ferdinando

There shouldn’t be an issue as regards the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of ministers accepted the responsibility for the proposed law, Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said yesterday.

The President heads the cabinet of ministers.

Kandy District lawmaker, who is also the Media Minister said contrary to various claims the project to abolish the 19th Amendment was on track. The minister defended Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, over a recent comment he made as regard who had drafted the 20th Amendment.

Minister Rambukwella denied any rift in the government parliamentary group or the cabinet of ministers over the 20th Amendment. The cabinet spokesman was flanked by co-cabinet spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Director General, Information Department Nalaka Kaluwewa.

 The fate of the 20th Amendment dominated yesterday’s post-cabinet media briefing at the Government Information Department with the media repeatedly seeking clarification whether the SLPP government followed proper procedures in the process leading to the gazetting of it.

The ministers strongly denied assertions by the media that the SLPP handled the 20th Amendment the way the previous yahapalana government bungled the 19th Amendment et al.

The crux of the matter repeatedly raised by the media was the appointment of a 9-member committee headed by SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris to examine the 20th Amendment after the issuance of the relevant gazette by the Government Printer.

Asked why the committee report was not taken up by the cabinet of ministers as announced earlier, the ministers insisted the issue was taken up. Minister Rambukwella explained how the government moved the matter.

Asked whether the 20th Amendment had been reversed in the wake of protests and objections by various parties, including a section of the government, Minister Rambukwella pointed out the difference between reversal and the cancellation of the process.

Among those who expressed concerns over the 20th Amendment were Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera and Manohara de Silva PC, on behalf of the Federation of National Organizations (FNO) and the National Joint Committee (NJC), respectively. In addition to them, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Myanmar Prof. Nalin de Silva and SLPP lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga underscored the need for alterations to the Amendment.

The Attorney General recently asserted that the proposed 20th Amendment in its present form could be approved by a two thirds majority.

The media was told now that two weeks had lapsed since the issuance of the gazette; it could be accommodated in the Order Paper of parliament. The ministers explained how they expected to proceed regardless of issues. There could be political issues, the media was told adding that they agreed on a policy framework relating to the 20th Amendment.

Asked whether the proposed 20th Amendment would hinder the Independent Commissions, the ministers said that the SLPP envisaged a far better system. The 20th Amendment proposed a five member Parliamentary Council instead of 10-member Constitutional Council.

Minister Rambukwella strongly defended the procedures the previous Rajapaksa administration adopted in the removal of the Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake.

 Declaring that the government would be transparent in its effort to bring in 20th Amendment, there was provision for moving the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, SLPP Colombo District MP and attorney-at-law Premanath Dolawatte appearing on Derana ‘Aluth Parlimenthuwa’ on Wednesday expressed confidence that the proposals made by the Committee headed by prof. Peiris would be taken into consideration in finalizing the proposed law. Dolawatte was a member of the Committee that was appointed by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released



… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine



Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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