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Recommendation to deprive sitting and former MPs of civic rights: Gevindu strikes discordant note

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… receives backing of Sabry, Wimal

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga has strongly opposed an alleged move to deprive lawmakers of civic rights on the basis of recommendation made by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into political victimization.

Political sources said that lawmaker Cumaratunga emphasised the government shouldn’t resort to such a course of action at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees early this week.  Sources said that the leader of the civil society group Yuthukama Cumaratunga pointed out that parliamentary power shouldn’t be used to deprive Opposition members of civic rights.

The MP recalled how the UNP admitted that deprival of SLFP leader Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civic rights was wrong.

The Chairman of the Committee, retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne presented the report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on Dec 8, 2020. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a three-member Presidential Commission of Inquiry on January 20, 2020 to determine whether politicians and public servants implicated by the Abeyratne Commission should lose their civic rights.

Cumaratunga has explained that the denial of civic rights of Opposition members was detrimental to the government. Sources said that when Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa inquired from President’s Counsel Justice Minister Ali Sabry’s views on the matter, he, too, said that members shouldn’t be denied civic rights on the basis of the committee report.

Sources said that the National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, too, opposed the move. Sources said that MP Cumaratunga requested the government parliamentary group to assure the parliament on Thursday (22) that members wouldn’t be denied their civic rights regardless of the recommendation.

However, MP Cumaratunga’s stand hadn’t received the backing of the vast majority of the SLPP grouping, sources said, adding that MP Cumaratunga was left sort of isolated with the party pursuing the matter.

Having received Abeyratne’s report, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on January 31, appointed a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to determine whether politicians and public servants implicated by his Political Victimization Commission should lose their civic rights. The commission consists of Supreme Court Justice Dhammika Samarakoon, SC Justice Kumuduni Wickremasinghe and Court of Appeal Judge Ratnapriya Gurusinghe.

The Justice Abeyratne Commission has recommended that the following be deprived of civic rights: Rajitha Senaratne, Patali Champika Ranawaka, R. Sampanthan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Mangala Samaraweera, Ravi Karunanayake, Ajith P Perera, Arjuna Ranatunga, Ranjan Ramanayake, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sarath Fonseka, Rauff Hakeem and Malik Samarawickrema. Some of them are no longer in parliament.

In addition to them, the Abeyratne Commission recommended the following too be denied civic rights: J.C. Weliamuna – PC, ex-MP Jayampathi Wickremaratne, PC, Wasantha Navaratne Bandara, PC, Thusith Mudalige – Additional Solicitor General, AG’s Department, Upul Jayasuriya, PC, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe – PC, former Solicitor General, Janaka Bandara – Senior State Counsel AG’s Department, Shani Abeysekera – SSP, Former CID Director, B.S. Tissera – ASP, Former CID, Ravi Waidyalankara – SDIG FCID, Nishantha Silva – IP, Former CID OIC, Ravi Seneviratne – SDIG, formerly of CID, Ravindra Wijeguneratne – Admiral, Former Navy Commander, J.J. Ranasinghe – Rear Admiral SLN, Prasad Kariyawasam, Ravinatha Aryasinha, Saman Ekanayake, S.A. Khan – Former Ambassador to the UAE and C.A.H.M. Wijeratne – Former Director General Legal, MFA and Ambassador for Sri Lanka to Poland.

Some of them, including Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in early March moved court against the recommendations of the commission appointed to probe the alleged incidents of political victimisation.

SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman told The Island that the government struggling to cope up with growing political crisis and dissent within its parliamentary group seemed to be bent on silencing the Opposition. Pointing out that in spite of having an overwhelming majority in parliament, the SLPP was in the back foot, MP Rahman opined that the Commission on political victimisation was nothing but a fiasco that certainly eroded the confidence the public had in the SLPP as was shown in 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections, both of which it won overwhelmingly.



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Crisis over fuel price hike: SLPP constituents crank up pressure on party General Secretary

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Eight lawmakers representing political parties affiliated to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, for challenging the government decision to increase fuel prices.

The group consists of National List MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana (Our Power of People Party), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front), Vasudeva Nanayakkara (Democratic Left Front), Prof. Tissa Vitharana (LSSP), A.L.M. Athaulla (National Congress), G. Weerasinghe (Communist Party), Tiran Alles (United People’s Party) and Asanka Nawaratne (Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya) in a joint letter, dated June 14, have appealed for the immediate intervention of the President and the Premier in this regard.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana and Alles are among 17 appointed to Parliament on the SLPP National List.

They warned that failure to take tangible measures against such actions would result in the deterioration of public confidence in the government. The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 MPs.

The group of lawmakers was responding to SLPP National List MP Kariyawasam’s controversial call for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the sharp increase of fuel prices at midnight on June 11.

They issued the statement consequent to a hasty  meeting called at Minister Weerawansa’s official residence on Sunday.

Noting that the Presidential Secretariat, too, on Sunday confirmed that the decision to increase fuel prices had been taken on June 09 at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group of MPs accused the SLPP General Secretary of causing a wholly unnecessary problem. The group alleged that MP Kariyawasam’s actions had caused suspicion among the electorate whether a clique was in operation in the SLPP.

Minister Gammanpila, embroiled in simmering controversy has refrained from signing the petition though he called another press conference today (15) to explain the developments.

 The group said that in view of the financial crisis that had been caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic the government was forced to increase fuel prices in spite of it being an unpopular measure.

Political sources pointed out that in February this year MP Sagara Kariyawasam caused a media furore when he asked Minister Weerawansa to apologise for suggesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be accommodated in the SLPP decision-making body. The group that has thrown its weight  behind Minister Gammanpila also clashed with a section of the SLPP lawmakers over the government bid to allow Indian investment at the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port.

MP Kariyawasam did not answer his mobile phone.

In addition to MP Kariyawasam, MP Jagath Kumara (Colombo District) too strongly condemned the fuel price hike.

The SLPP MPs demanding action against Kariyawasam assured that they would soon submit a comprehensive proposal to President Rajapaksa to provide support to low income groups.

The Presidential Secretariat said that the price increase was necessitated by the financial crisis caused by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) being heavily indebted  to the Bank of Ceylon  and the People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn. Of that sum, CPC owed Rs 652 bn, the biggest single amount in any of the state sector enterprises.

The Samagi Jana Balavegagaya MP Mujibur Rahman said that Minister Gammanpila owed an explanation why he made the announcement as regards the fuel price hike as the matter came under the purview of the Finance Ministry.  Rahman pointed out that Minister Gammanpila himself subsequently admitted that only the Finance Ministry could decide on this matter. The former UNP MP said that the government’s much touted claim that the decision to increase fuel prices had been finalized on June 09 at the Cost of Living Committee was nothing but a joke. “We thought the Cost of Living Committee was meant to provide relief to the people not to increase their burden,” MP Rahman said.

The SJB spokesperson ridiculed the statement issued by a group of eight MPs. He alleged that the SLPP was staging a drama to divert the attention of the public. Their parliamentary group should take up responsibility for the current crisis having promised to transform the country overnight. Those who had voted for the 20th Amendment in October last year as well as the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill last month were engaged in a futile campaign to save the government, the SJB MP said.

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Basil R wouldn’t have allowed fuel price increase – MP

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Gampaha District SLPP MP Nimal Lanza yesterday said that if Basil Rajapaksa had been in the country, he wouldn’t have allowed the fuel price increase. He said that he strongly opposed the decision as it seriously affected the people, particularly the fishing community.

 

 

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1198 lockdown violators arrested

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By Norman Palihawadane

The Police had arrested 1,198 people countrywide for violating lockdown regulations in the 24 hours that ended yesterday morning, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

A total of 32,593 persons had been arrested on the relevant charges since Oct 30, last year,  he said.

DIG Rohana said that special police teams had been deployed to continue the operations today as well to nab lockdown violators.

During the same period 3,051 persons travelling in 1,757 vehicles were inspected at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province. Of them, 160 persons travelling in 100 vehicles were sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders for non-essential purposes, violating travel restrictions.

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