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Rohitha denies any wrongdoing in hotel construction near Sinharaja

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Galle Face protesters ask for probe in terms of Money Laundering Act

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sarvapaskshika Aragalakaruwo (All-party Agitators) of the Galle Face protest movement has lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) seeking an investigation into Rohitha Rajapaksa’s ownership of ‘Green Eco Lodge’ hotel situated at Gongalakanda, Kolonna, in Embilipitiya, close to Sinharaja.

The grouping, in a letter dated August 29, addressed to CID Director Rohana Premaratne, has requested that the probe on the youngest son of former President and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa be conducted in terms of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act No 05 of 2006.

Having lodged the complaint at the CID headquarters, on Monday (29), Nirashan Withanage, the spokesperson for the outfit, told the media they expect the police to establish the circumstances under which Rohitha Rajapaksa procured the hotel, situated on a 13-acre land.

The Sirasa TV, in its Monday main news bulletin, quoted Rohitha Rajapaksa as having said that the hotel had been constructed, adhering to all legal requirements. Acknowledging that he owned the land in partnership, Rohitha Rajapaksa challenged that legal action be taken if laws had been violated. Sirasa further quoted him as having said that those who directed unsubstantiated allegations, too, should be prepared to face legal action.

Both Sarvapaskshika Aragalakaruwo and civil society activist Nayanaka Ranwella, on behalf of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), on Monday, called for a no holds barred investigation into Rohitha Rajapaksa’s ownership of the hotel that was set on fire by a group of persons on May 10, the day after UPFA goons attacked Galle Face protesters.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Ranwella said that there had been controversy over the ownership of the hotel. Following accusations made by Sajeewa Chamikara, of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR), that severe environmental damage had been caused by the construction of the hotel, Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who was named the proprietor, denied the accusations. Ranwella displayed pictures of the hotel and a helipad built while raising the contentious issue of how waste and other discarded items from the hotel were disposed of.

Sarvapaskshika Aragalakaruwo and the SJB said that in the wake of the recent arrest of four persons, by the Kolonna police, over the May 10 attack on the hotel, Rohitha Rajapaksa’s ownership had been established. The suspects, aged between 25 and 50 years, have been identified as residents of Kolonna.

Lawyer Withanage questioned the circumstances Rohitha Rajapaksa procured the hotel as he had never been employed and therefore his source of income is questionable.

Another spokesperson for Sarvapaskshika Aragalakaruwo said that they would pressure the government over this issue. “We are hoping to lodge a complaint with the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption),” the activist said. Responding to another query, the spokesperson said that both President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse recently declared that the government would soon enact an anti-corruption Bill.



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Parliament prorogued

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by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA

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By PRIYAN DE SILVA

Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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