Removal of PUCSL Chairman will be ominous turning point in SL politics, says Charitha Herath
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The resolution to remove the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), presented in Parliament yesterday, marked another ominous turning point in Sri Lankan politics, Freedom People’s Congress (FPC) MP Prof. Charitha Herath said yesterday.
“What MPs are trying to do is to remove the Chairman of an independent commission because he has a disagreement with the line minister. MPs are trying to remove PUCSL Chairman Janaka Rathnayaka to please the Minister of Power and Energy. This will set another bad example,” he said.
Herath said a similar incident took place when former CJ Shirani Bandaranayake was impeached by Parliament and then removed from office by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in January 2013.
“I think it’s a very unparliamentary step. The PUCSL was established in 2002 to act like an ombudsman in a way. A minister can’t remove members of the PUCSL, except with permission from the legislature,” he said.
MP Herath said that on the one hand the government talked about making the Central Bank independent but on the other hand it tried to remove the chairman of an independent commission because he disagrees with the minister.
“The problem with the PUCSL Chairman started when he objected to the government making ad hoc decisions on the electricity tariffs and his demand for continuous power, during the GCE AL exam. The Chairman insisted that the government adhere to the established process. We are now in a political conjunction. The local and Provincial Councils have been dissolved. The President was appointed by MPs and has no people’s mandate. So, only the Parliament remains as somewhat of a legitimate institution. The role of the President and the Cabinet now is to ensure that we go through this interim period, without disaster, and then hold elections,” he said.
Prof. Herath said that one of the main reasons why the 2010-2015 Mahinda Rajapaksa administration had lost public support was the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake.
“She was impeached legally but it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It is the same with the PUCSL Chairman now,” he said.
High Commissioner of New Zealand to Sri Lanka meets with the Chair of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament & Secretary-General of Parliament
Michael Appelton, High Commissioner of New Zealand to Sri Lanka, accompanied by Andrew Traveller, Deputy High Commissioner, met with the Chair of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle MP, and Secretary-General of Parliament, Kushani Rohanadeera, recently.
During the meeting, the Ambassador emphasized that gender equality in politics is vital for the achievement of peaceful societies, the realization of full human potential, and sustainable development. He also stated that they have taken several initiatives to ensure equal women’s participation in the New Zealand Parliament.
Dr. Fernandopulle, MP, shared her concerns regarding the lack of gender sensitivity in Sri Lankan politics. She drew attention to the urgent need for a more inclusive political framework that ensures equal representation and participation for women.
The Secretary-General of Parliament affirmed that Parliament has taken actions to increase youth and women’s representation in committees and is currently working on improving disability access to Parliament.
Climate Change University to be launched next year
At the briefing on the progress of Climate Change and Green Growth held on Wednesday (31) at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and officials of the Climate Change Secretariat led by President’s Adviser on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene it was revealed that the Climate Change University would be launched next year and that the University Grants Commission had identified approximately 130 scientists who have gained international recognition for their research on climate change who, together with their international affiliations would be brought together as part of the initiative.
President Wickremesinghe expressing his perspective on the International Climate Change University, emphasized that it should be a post-graduate institution solely focused on research which does not offer undergraduate courses. Any country or organization that contributes to the university becomes a stakeholder and gains membership on the Board of Governance. The Korean Exim Bank has expressed interest in partnering with the university and negotiations between Sri Lanka and the Korea Exim Bank, led by the External Resource Department have concluded successfully. The President said that prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT have also expressed interest in collaboration.
The discussions also revolved around inviting a group of international experts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tentatively scheduled for July/August to engage in policy conversations, addressing global issues, and exploring potential research projects that could be derived from these policy dialogues.
President Wickremesinghe emphasized that all future research in the field of climate change should be conducted at this institution.
IUSF threatens showdown
By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon
The university system is facing a grave crisis as around 40 percent of the lecturers have left the state education system, says the Convenor of the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Madushan Chandrajith.
Chandrajith said the ‘exodus’ of top academics would lead to a massive drop in the quality of education as most of those who have left are among the cream of scholars.Chandrajith said that about one-third of students in state universities, eligible for hostel facilities, did not have access to them.He warned that the IUSF will organise massive protests, in the coming weeks, if steps are not taken to resolve the many issues in the University system.
While the Mahapola scholarship has not been increased, the prices of food in the hostels have risen dramatically, he said.
“About 2,500 students in Kelaniya, 4,000 students in Rajarata and 6,000 in Peradeniya do not have hostel accommodation,” he went on to say..According to Chandrajith, a student needs about Rs 20,000 a month to meet basic needs.
“One requires about Rs 12,000 a month for food alone,” he said.
A senior official at the Ministry of Public Administration told The Island that some lecturers and doctors had a 100 percent attendance record but they avoided work.
“They are responsible for the attendance registry and they cook up the books to have full attendance. They take a lot of OT payments by doing this. We are looking at introducing a digital mechanism to mark attendance at universities and hospitals,” he said.
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