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SC deems SJB MP’s move unconstitutional

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‘How Parliament violated Standing Orders and Constitution in gazetting twice rejected controversial Bill’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Federation of National Organisations (FNO) says the move to secure parliamentary approval for the controversial Bill titled ‘Human Rights Organisation (Incorporation) Act’ should be inquired into at the highest political level.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena and Justice Arjuna Obeyesekere has ruled that Clause 6 of the Bill is not consistent with Article 76(1) of the Constitution. The SC has also ruled that Clause 7 of the Bill is not consistent with Articles 3, 4 and 12(1) of the Constitution. Having said so, the SC declared that in terms of the Article 123(2) of the Constitution, the Bill should be passed by a special majority in line with paragraph (2) of Article 84 and endorsed at a Referendum.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara, Raja Goonerathne and Nuwan Ballantudawa moved the SC in terms of the Article 121 of the Constitution. In their petition, the Attorney General was named the respondent whereas Ms Kanishka de Silva Balapatabendi, SSC and Ms Indumini Randeny, SC appeared for the AG. Chamara Nanayakkarawasam, Dinesh De Silva and Dimuthu Fernando represented the petitioners.

Dr. Bandara yesterday (8) said that the FNO would be soon writing to Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Chief Sajith Premadasa, who is also the Opposition Leader, as the Bill in question had been submitted to Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill by its National List MP Tissa Attanayake.

Responding to queries raised by The Island, Dr. Bandara said that the FNO recognized the right of lawmakers to present Private Members’ Bills. “There cannot be any dispute over that privilege. We respect MP Attanayake’s right. However, we do not see any harm in seeking a clarification from the MP concerned and the party he is representing”.

Dr. Bandara said that the same Private Bill had been previously submitted by Hunais Farook (2013) and Ali Zahir Moulana (2015) on behalf of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) and the UNP, respectively. However, on both occasions, they had failed to proceed with the project though MP Attanayake, one-time General Secretary of the UNP brought it back, Dr. Bandara said.

Dr. Bandara said that the SC, in its ruling acknowledged the petitioners’ principle argument that the Bill had been gazetted on July 20, 2021 and placed on the Order Paper of Parliament on August 3, but without obtaining the Attorney General’s opinion. Therefore the procedure adopted by Parliament not only violated Standing Orders but Article 78 (2) of the Constitution as well, the SC noted on the basis of submissions made on behalf of the petitioners.

Dr. Bandara said that they moved the SC immediately after the first reading of the Bill. Responding to another query, Dr. Bandara said that the FNO would also write to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in that regard as Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake had adopted a strategy in violation of Standing Orders and the Constitution.

Dr. Bandara emphasised that lawmaker Attanayake’s move should be studied taking into consideration the continuing efforts to punish the war-winning Sri Lankan military and other security authorities in terms of Geneva Resolutions passed since Oct 1, 2015. Asked whether the FNO would take up the issue with the SLPP government, Dr. Bandara said that they backed the ruling party at both presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively. One of the primary issues at the last national elections was Western and their allies interfering here, Dr. Bandara said, adding that their agenda seemed obviously on track.

The FNO wouldn’t have to move SC if Parliament sought the opinion of the AG, Dr. Bandara said. The move to establish what Dr. Bandara called an organisation parallel to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka portends a grave danger, the nationalist civil society activist said.

The torpedoed Bill comprised 15 Clauses, Dr. Bandara said, urging the SJB to examine how one of its National List MPs got involved in the project against the country’s interest. Noting that political parties represented in Parliament had been largely silent on the issue at hand, Dr. Bandara questioned the rationale in pushing for the establishment of a new organisation as already HRCSL was in place.

Dr. Bandara said that the government couldn’t be unaware that such Bills had been prepared by interested parties with the involvement of external players over a period of time. Actually, party leaders should take up the issue with the Speaker and the Secretary General of Parliament as the House violating Standing Orders and the Constitution couldn’t be accepted under any circumstances.

The Island

learns that the FNO had consulted the HRCSL before moving the SC.

Dr. Bandara said that in spite of various statements made by different government spokespersons and the much publicised declaration in March 2020 that Sri Lanka quit 2015 resolution, the country was still on the Geneva agenda. The government was yet to properly respond to the Geneva threat and remained utterly unfocussed much to the disappointment of the vast majority of people, he said.

The fact that Army Chief General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) remained blacklisted by the US since Feb 2020 should serve as a grim reminder to the challenge the country faced.



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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE

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Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm

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By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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