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RW: Port City could become money-laundering hub unless …

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Former Prime Minister and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that amendments should be made to the Colombo Port City Economic Zone Special Commission Bill to prove that the centre the Bill seeks to create would not become a money-laundering hub.

Issuing a special statement via social media the former Premier said a law should be brought in this regard and passed on the advice of the Supreme Court. He said that every country had such laws.

The former Premier said the Parliament must be vested with powers to reach decisions regarding the Colombo Port City area.

Wickremesinghe has asked the following questions: “Why is the Central Bank not given the full control of the Port City? Why has the Port City been removed from the parliamentary control? Why is Parliament not empowered to pass these laws?”

“If proper procedures are not followed, it will have to be considered as a black money centre,” he has said, warning that Sri Lanka could be blacklisted once again by the Financial Action Task Force as a money laundering centre if the Port City Economic Commission Bill is enacted in its present form.

The former Prime Minister has said the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill will introduce gambling centres to bring money into the country’s financial institutions, and no other country has given the Central Bank such powers.

According to the Bill, casinos have been included among Off Shore Service Centres and Financial Centres, Wickremesinghe has said. “However, the government has not mentioned anything about new laws that allow offshore financial services such as banking and insurance.”

The absence of such laws and removing Port City from the purview of the Finance Ministry and making it independent from Parliament will make one conclude that the sole objective of the Port City is to convert it to a gaming centre where black money is turned white, the former PM has said.

“This is open to the interpretation that this is for money laundering. You can’t prevent that type of interpretation being made,” he said.

Wckremesinghe has further stated that if such a thing happens, it will be a fatal blow to the Sri Lankan economy and if it is done properly, it is possible to recover from this situation.

He has called on the government to put the bill up for discussions in the parliament as well as outside it to come up with a one in which the constitutional structure is also preserved.



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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice

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 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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