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Senior UNPer Amaratunga says party did not deserve to be defeated

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by Zacki Jabbar

The UNP was a national party with sound policies and through the historic 19th Amendment to the Constitution strengthened democracy in the country, but was defeated in last week’s General Election, mainly because it had shun propogating racism as a means of capturing power, says senior UNPer and former Minister John Amaratunga.

Asked to analyse the UNP’s shocking electoral performance, Amaratunga said that the UNP did not deserve to be defeated in such a manner, considering the extent of work it had done whilst in government between 2015 and March this year, despite droughts, floods and the negative impact on the economy resulting from the April 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bomb explosions by the National Thowheed Jamaat, which had publicly enunciated its policies since 2005.

“Those who defected from the United National Party (UNP) to contest on the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) ticket, benefitted from the work, we as a UNP government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe did between 2015 and 2019, but the current  UNP leadership  was left with unfairly taking the blame for not preventing the Easter explosions, when the person who had the power to stop it, slept on the intelligence warnings received well in advance “, he noted, pointing out that the people had been provided substantial relief and public servants given a Rs.10,000 salary increase, despite having to repay the massive high interest commercial dollar loans that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had obtained between 2010 and 2014 – the majority of which were pumped into ego boosting projects that had turned out to be white elephants.

Amaratunga said that the UNP was a party that represented all races in the country and was identified with the birth of an Independent Sri Lanka. Such a grouping he stressed “cannot and will not unashamedly resort to racism to capture power”.

Asked about reports that among the 744,373 spoilt ballots at the General Election, was a sizeable number of UNP votes, due to UNPers being disappointed with the split in the party and not wanting to support either faction as a mark of protest, the seasoned politician said “Yes, that’s possible.”

Asked if the UNP would now opt for a new leader, Amaratunga said that Ranil Wickremesinghe was not keen on hanging on, but to desert the party at the present juncture would also not be advisable. “The future lies with the youth. So, the process of grooming them has to begin now. For that, the seniors  have to remain at least in the short term “, he explained stressing that the UNP and the ” Elephant”, which rose majestically after the 1970 debacle to capture a five-sixth majority, would once again re-emerge as a strong force – as certain as the rising Sun in this transient world of politics.

Ameratunga hoped that the UNP and SJB would leave their insignificant differences aside and unite because their policies were similar and most importantly neither propagated racism as a means of capturing power.

Analysing the SJB’s electoral performance, he said it was cock-a-hoop, but in reality had helped the Podujana Peramuna obtain a two-thirds majority, which could have been prevented, if the SJB headed by Sajith Premadasa, had contested as a UNP-led alliance. 

The veteran UNPer pointed out that the party winning the Presidential Election, had always gone on to win the Parliamentary polls that followed. “Sajith knew he cannot become the Prime Minister this time. So the next best thing he should have done was to ensure that the Rajapaksas did not get a majority that would enable them to reverse all the democratic gains achieved through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The SJB was meant to be a UNP – led alliance with Sajith as its Prime Ministerial candidate, but he made it his alliance and in the process divided the UNP.”

It was evident at the general election that political parties based on policies were overtaken by political movements, Amaratunga noted, warning that it could lead to an unstable political situation in the years to come.

 

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Hemasiri’s counsel complains to PCoI against ex-President Sirisena’s media statement

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… says it has placed the life of his client at risk

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former President Maithripala Sirisena had placed ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando’s life at risk by issuing a media statement that the evidence given by the latter before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was “malicious and fictitious”, Attorney-at-Law Dilshan Jayasuriya appearing for Fernando said yesterday.

Jayasuriya told the PCoI that by issuing that statement Sirisena had also undermined the PCoI.

Sirisena, on Sunday, issued a press release claiming that the testimony given by Fernando at the PCoI about his behavior was completely false.

“I vehemently deny what was said at the Commission by Fernando. These are malicious and fictitious statements and I wish to reiterate to the public that Fernando’s statements are false,” Sirisena said.

Counsel Jayasuriya pointed out that by disseminating such an idea, the former President was trying to intimidate the former Defence Secretary who was still testifying before the PCoI. Sirisena, who was a former President, a current Parliamentarian and a party leader, was powerful and thus, there were now concerns about the security of his client, Jayasuriya said.

The counsel said that it was up to the Commission to decide whether Fernando’s evidence was true or false.

Issuing of a statement undermining Fernando by Sirisena, who was the Commander-in-Chief, the Minister of Defence and the Minister in charge of law and order at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, was a very bad precedent, the counsel for the ex-Defence Secretary said.

“The former President has been given the opportunity to crossexamine Fernando. However, he has issued press releases. People will be afraid to tell the truth openly if powerful people start issuing press releases on judicial matters,” counsel Jayasuriya added.

Jayasuriya requested the Commission that Sirisena’s Personal Secretary, Sameera de Silva, who issued this media statement, be summoned before the Commission. Silva should explain why he should not be charged with contempt of court. He also requested the Commission to take measures to ensure the safety of his client.

When the Commission asked the counsel appearing for the former President if he had anything to say in that regard, he said that he had not received any advice from his client. Accordingly, the Chairman of the Commission ordered that if there was anything to be said by Sirisena in that regard, it be presented before the Commission today through his legal representatives.

The Additional Solicitor General, who is leading Fernando’s evidence, also informed the Commission that she hoped to comment on the matter once the explanations were made by the former President.

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Kandy tragedy:

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What remains of the building that collapsed

Ill-fated building constructed on loose soil

By Ifham Nizam

Structural engineers’ approval was essential for the construction of building in hilly areas, a senior scientist said.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) Director (Landslide Research and Risk Management Division) R.M.S. Bandara told The Island to ascertain the real cause of the building collapse in Kandy on Sunday, an investigation would be conducted within the course of this week. “Initially we thought that could be done in two days or so,” he said

Bandara said that they would work with the Kandy Municipal Council Building Department to find out whether the original plan of the structure had been changed.

According to Senior Chartered Geologist Laksiri Indritilake, who was at the site, the NBRO team was carrying out the technical inquiry into the incident. He said as per their observations the collapsed building was an ad-hoc construction which had been erected blocking a valley path.

“Water flows from above grounds via a valley path. From our preliminary observations, it was evident that this building has been constructed blocking such a valley path. No safety precautions had been taken.”

“The multi-storyed building has been constructed on loose layers of soil in the respective valley region, and the building had caved-in, as the soil layers could not bear the weight of the construction,” said Samantha Bogahapitiya – NBRO’s Geologist in-charge of the Kandy district.

According to him, four families in the area have been were temporarily relocated as a precaution measure.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Geological and Mines Bureau, Anura Walpola said that the collapse had not been caused by a tremor.

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SJB MPs decide unanimously to oppose 20A

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by Akitha Perera

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would oppose the 20th amendment to the constitution to be presented to Parliament, today, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

The SJB had studied all the proposed amendment in detail and they couldn’t agree with any of them, he said. Therefore, the SJB had no choice but to work with like-minded forces inside and outside parliament to prevent the bill from becoming law, the MP said.

Kiriella said that SJB MPs HAS met yesterday in Parliament to discuss the matter and they unanimously agreed to oppose the amendment given the weakening of checks and balances imposed by the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that the replacement of the constitutional council with a parliamentary council, the weakening of the independent commissions, increasing the powers of the executive presidency and removing a number of key institutions from the purview of the auditor general were proposals that would not be accepted by any democratic minded person.

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