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Referendum on two extra years for Prez not even discussed says GL

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Prof. Peiris meets Most Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanaratne Thera, Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter (pic courtesy Foreign Ministry

Sajith asks SLPP not to talk nonsense

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris says that there hadn’t even been an internal discussion within the ruling coalition regarding the possibility of going for a referendum to extend the presidential or the parliamentary term by two years due to the government losing two years to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) said so in Kandy on Saturday (22) after having received blessings from Most Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanaratne thero, Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter. The Foreign Minister was responding to media queries immediately after his meeting with the Mahanayake thero.

Prof. Peiris said that the government would try to achieve its targets as envisaged in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement within the remaining three years.

The media took up the issue in the wake of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at Siyambalanduwa, Moneragala and subsequently Samagi Jana Balavegaya National List MP Diana Gamage making reference in Parliament to a referendum on whether President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term should be extended by two years.

Addressing a gathering at Siyambalanduwa on January 07, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that during a visit to Dalada Maligawa, a youth inquired from him why a referendum couldn’t be conducted to ascertain whether the electorate approved him extending his term by two years to compensate for the years lost due to Covid-19 epidemic.

Prof. Peiris said that the government didn’t have an intention whatsoever regarding a referendum.

SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told The Island that the talk of a referendum at this juncture was nothing but a bankrupt proposal. The talk of a referendum and two years lost to Covid-19 epidemic should be discussed against the backdrop of the postponement of Local Government polls scheduled for March this year, lawmaker Premadasa said.

The SJB leader said that the government owed an explanation over the postponement of LG polls to March next year. The Colombo District MP alleged that the government put off LG polls as it couldn’t face the people. Having ruined the Maha season by hasty decision to deprive farmers of both fertilizer and agro-chemicals, the government was now struggling in all fronts, the SJB leader said, urging the SLPP to stop talking nonsense.

MP Premadasa said that the government could clearly know what people really thought of the current dispensation if it conducted scheduled LG polls in March this year.

Prof. Peiris told journalists in Kandy the SLPP remained strong in Parliament though there were issues. Referring to continuing disagreements with SLPP constituents over a number of issues, including the Yugadanavi deal now challenged in the Supreme Court, Prof. Peiris stressed that they couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for unpopular decisions.

The coalition is based on collective responsibility in respect of decisions taken by the government, Prof. Peiris said.

Prof. Peiris also explained the ongoing project to finalise constitutional proposals, including electoral reforms this year. The Parliament would intervene once the proposals prepared by an expert committee led by Romesh de Silva, PC, submitted the Draft Constitution.

The President’s Counsel leads a nine-member committee. The government couldn’t keep its promise to unveil the proposals last November when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa completed two years in office.



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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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