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Sabry’s resignation over Ven. Gnanasara’s appointment ‘in limbo’

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PTF meets at monk’s temple, Prez defends his decision

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, yesterday (7) said that he had offered to give up his portfolio over the appointment of Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera as the head of Presidential Task Force (PTF) to study the “One Country, One Law’ concept.

Minister Sabry said so when The Island asked him whether he had informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of his decision to quit the ministerial position over the controversial appointment. The SLPP National List lawmaker met President Rajapaksa last Friday (6), the day after his return from Glasgow, Scotland.

Responding to another query, Minister Sabry said that President Rajapaksa had declined to accept his resignation. The Minister said that the President had explained the circumstances under which the PTF had been appointed to advise him and not meant to formulate laws. “The matter is in sort of limbo,” Sabry said.

Acknowledging the President’s right to constitute the PTF on ‘One Country, One Law,’ in terms of the Article 33 of the Constitution, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) stated the relevant body didn’t represent several ethnic and religious groups. Pointing out the absence of female representation, the BASL raised serious doubts over the qualifications, expertise, and suitability of the Chairperson of the Task Force and of many of its members to engage in the functions described in the relevant gazette. BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC, said that the PTF would assume the functions of many institutions established under the Constitution and the law, including Parliament and the Ministry of Justice.

Minister Sabry said that like so many people he, too, was really concerned about the PTF, especially the appointment of its head as well as the work undertaken by his ministry. Quite important work done since the last general election in August 2020 could be in jeopardy, MP Sabry said.

President Rajapaksa issued the relevant gazette on Oct 26, 2021 on the appointment of the 13-member PTF. The PTF had its first meeting on Oct 31 Sunday at Ven. Gnanasara’s Sri Saddhamma Rajika temple on the Nawala-Rajagiriya main road. Sources said that the PTF would issue a statement once a month regarding the work undertaken by the group.

Addressing a public gathering at the Mandaduwa Public Stadium in Weeraketiya on Saturday (6) President Rajapaksa said that he asked Ven. Gnanasara to head the PTF as the monk was propagating ‘One Country, One Law’ concept for five years. President Rajapaksa said that once Ven, Gnanasara completed the assignment as scheduled it would be presented to the Justice Minister to rectify shortcomings, if any and then submitted to the Parliament.

The President questioned the rationale in objecting his decision to ask for Ven. Ganasara’s advice as he was continuously speaking on ‘One Country, One Law’ concept.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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