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SC ruling on economic meltdown: Lacille wants wrongdoers appropriately dealt with



By Shamindra Ferdinando

One-rime Secretary of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) Lacille de Silva yesterday (17) said that leaders of political parties represented in Parliament should set up a committee to study the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the economic crisis.

On the basis of a thorough examination of the ruling, action should be initiated against those who had been found guilty of economic ruin, regardless of their standing in the society, de Silva said.The prominent civil society activist who had served as Director, Administration of Parliament for over a decade during a turbulent period said that if political leaders genuinely responded to the situation, SC ruling could help Parliament to clean up the mess. “They’ll never get another opportunity like this,” de Silva said.

Lacille de Silva said that the political parties couldn’t ignore the Supreme Court faulted former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who chaired the Cabinet-of-Ministers (Nov 2019-May 2022) and Finance Ministers, Mahinda Rajapaksa (Nov 2019-June 2021) and Basil Rajapaksa (June 2021-April 2022) and the five-member Monetary Board for the current crisis.

The former House official said so responding to The Island queries regarding political developments in the wake of the SC ruling. Pointing out that Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) as one of the petitioners in this case has already underscored the responsibility on the part of Parliament and relevant institutions and ministries to act on the SC ruling, de Silva emphasized that wrongdoers shouldn’t be shielded under any circumstances.

Responding to another query, the ex-House official said that though former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, and MP Namal Rajapaksa commented on the SC ruling, political parties were yet to disclose how they intended to deal with the situation.

“It wouldn’t be an easy task. I know how the powers that be during the Yahapalana administration reacted to investigations undertaken by the PRECIFAC. I was sacked as its Secretary. On a directive given by the then President Maithripala Sirisena, Presidential Secretary P.B. Abeykoon informed me, in writing, of my removal. They didn’t at least give a reason,” de Silva said. “This happened in late Feb or early March 2016,” de Silva said, urging the Parliament to take up the challenge.

The SC ruling meant that the Gotabaya Rajapaksas’ government caused the unprecedented economic crisis, de Silva said, pointing out that the court was told of the need to refer the case to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).

The SC ruling quoted Upul Jayasuriya, PC, appearing for some petitioners that a proper investigation under the relevant laws relating to Bribery and Corruption would ensure due respect to accountability.

Lacille de Silva said that against the backdrop of the SC ruling the Parliament constitutionally responsible for ensuring financial discipline and enactment of laws should inquire into its failure on its part to identify the impending catastrophe. “Perhaps, statements made by Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe before the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on May 24 and 25, 2022, respectively, should be re-examined. Dr. Weerasinghe didn’t mince his words when he quite rightly and clearly placed the blame on those who were found guilty by the SC on Nov 14, 2023.” Dr. Weerasinghe explained how tax revision declared and implemented in Nov 2019 contarry to the advice of IMF triggered the crisis, de Silva said.

The former House official emphasized that consequent to the SC ruling, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and leaders of political parties represented in Parliament would have to ascertain the requirement for the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the economic crisis. Noting that Prof. Charitha Herath, the former COPE Chairman, too, has been preparing a report on the continuing crisis, de Silva suggested the government and Opposition should reach consensus on a common action plan.

Referring to the judgment, de Silva said that the Supreme Court was told how the government ignored interventions made by the Central Bank in a bid to initiate a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government’s irresponsible response led to the downfall of the economy, the SC was also told.

The IMF according to President’s Counsel Jayasuriya not only denied the last tranche of the IMF programme commenced in 2016 but also refused to grant a relief facility – Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) – to overcome the ill-effects of the pandemic.


Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB



Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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Teheran expects enhancement of bilateral ties in all fields



Following Iranian FM’s visit

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, during high level meetings in Colombo this week, expressed hope that with this trip, the bilateral ties in all fields, including political, economic, commercial, and tourism, would be expanded.

Amirabdollahian was here at the official invitation of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC. During his meeting with Sabry, Amirabdollahian referred to the good and friendly relations between the two countries and the continuous consultations between them on bilateral, regional, and international issues.

The Iranian also considered scientific and technological issues as areas to which the two countries pay attention for cooperation.

Amirabdollahian appreciated the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, to visit this country and stated: “We hope that this trip will be on the agenda at the right time.”

He also appreciated Sri Lanka’s positions in supporting the people of Palestine and Gaza in international forums, including the United Nations.

In this meeting, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also warmly welcomed his Iranian counterpart and described his trip to Tehran last summer as memorable, stating: “During my trip to Iran, I witnessed the high morale of the Iranian people in the social arena. I observed production and life.”

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister emphasized: “The two countries have good relations with common areas and shared values.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s transition from previous economic conditions and economic growth and prosperity in this country, Ali Sabry expressed hope that the relations between the two countries would expand even more in the new era.

Referring to the industrial and economic capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka emphasized the readiness of his country to host Iranians to implement economic projects in Sri Lanka.

The issue of developing cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism was one of the other topics discussed by the foreign ministers of the two countries, and the parties expressed hope that Iranian and Sri Lankan tourists would mutually choose the two countries more and more as tourist destinations.

In this regard, the parties emphasized the necessity of establishing direct flights between Iran and Sri Lanka, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

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Only 50,000 out of 7 mn buildings have rooftop solar systems



Great potential to increase solar power generation

by Rathindr5a Kuruwita

Rooftop solar power generation in Sri Lanka has exceeded 750 megawatts by the middle of February 2024, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) media spokesman Noel Priyantha said on Wednesday.

Priyantha added that Sri Lanka has great potential in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

Sri Lanka has around seven million buildings, but only 50,000 of them have installed rooftop solar systems, and there is a great potential to increase rooftop solar power generation exponentially, he said.

The CEB now buys a unit of electricity from rooftop solar power producers for 37 rupees, and these producers can recover their initial costs in five years, Priyantha said.

The CEB is also talking to state-owned banks to introduce a concessional bank loan for those interested in installing rooftop solar power units, he said.

The Sri Lankan government has set a goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

The total installed capacity of the national power grid is over 5,000 megawatts, and the daily energy consumption in February 2024 is about 46 gigawatts per day, Priyantha said .

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