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Rambukwella: President authorised 20A

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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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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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