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Sirisena remains defiant; SLPP-SLFP ties deteriorate



GL frowns on SLFP leaping to Susil’s defence

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The stage is set for a major clash between the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its second largest constituent, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

SLPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (10) flayed the SLFP for the latter’s backing for Colombo District SLPP MP Susil Premjayantha, who was stripped of his portfolios following his criticism of the government.

Prof. Peiris told the regular weekly media briefing at the SLPP office at Battaramulla that the former President and the SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena’s position that instead of disciplinary measures the government should rectify its mistakes and shortcomings, was not acceptable at all.

The SLFP group in Parliament consists of 14 members, including one National List MP. Of them, 12 members, including party leader Sirisena, have contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket and one (Dr. Suren Raghavan) accommodated on the SLPP National List.

While acknowledging the right to dissent, Prof. Peiris emphasised that public criticism wouldn’t be tolerated. The FM declared that those who had taken a different stand on a particular issue could raise such a matter at the government parliamentary group meeting, cabinet and party leaders’ level.

Polonnaruwa District MP Sirisena has repeatedly declared his support for Premjayantha, who was unceremoniously removed on 04 January, two days after his outburst at the Delkanda fair. One-time SLFP General Secretary Premjayantha lambasted Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane and Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage for having made disastrous policy decisions.

In addition to Premjayantha, several other lawmakers have strongly criticised the government. Three ministers, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Nanayakkara have even backed petitions against the controversial Yugadanavi deal, while State Minister Vidura Wickremanayake has lambasted the entire Cabinet of ministers. Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, recently levelled corruption allegations against the Chinese and the current political leadership.

Senior SLFP Vice President Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa said that the SLPP was not in a position to dictate terms to its constituents. Having behaved in unjustifiable manner and caused irreparable damage, the SLPP was now struggling to regain control, Prof. Piyadasa said. The warning issued to constituent parties looked silly as a section of the Cabinet had moved the Supreme Court against the Cabinet of ministers, Prof. Piyadasa said.

Responding to another query, Prof. Piyadasa declared that the SLFP wouldn’t succumb to pressure. Prof. Piyadasa who had served as the SLFP Chairman during the last presidential election campaign said that it would be a grave mistake for the SLPP to believe it could consolidate its position by threatening other political parties.

Prof. Piyadasa pointed out how two dozen lawmakers representing several political parties had taken a common stand against the Yugadanavi deal though only three lawmakers moved the court.

Prof. Peiris asserted that the failure on the part of the government to speak with one voice caused turmoil not only locally but internationally as well. The Foreign Minister explained how dissenting views could undermine government efforts to attract foreign investments.

Prof. Peiris asserted that those in the government couldn’t play double roles simultaneously. How could they perform the role of government and Opposition MPs at the same time? Prof. Peiris asked.

At the onset of the briefing Prof. Peiris countered the assertion that the government had been isolated internationally as a result of being ignored by some sections of the international community. Referring to the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visit to Colombo over the weekend, Prof. Peiris briefed the media on his recent visit to Dubai and Seoul where the focus was on South Korean assistance and more employment opportunities to Sri Lankan workers there.

Prof. Peiris expressed confidence that as promised South Korea would increase the number of Sri Lankan workers employed there soon. He said that South Korea would make an announcement in that regard next month.


Endure daily power-cuts or face countrywide indefinite blackouts, warns Minister Gammanpila



‘Electricity supply cannot be maintained at the expense of transport sector’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday (18) said that the foreign currency crisis was so acute the country had no option but to implement daily 90-minute power cut until the hydro power generation increased with the onset of rains.

Minister Gammanpila, who is also the leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) has advised the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to impose daily 90-minute power-cuts or face the consequences.

Gammanpila said that the entire country would face indefinite blackouts if the CEB tried to avoid 90-minute power cuts. The warning was issued at a media briefing called by Minister Gammanpila at the Power Ministry where he stressed that power cuts were inevitable in view of the foreign exchange crisis.

The cash-strapped government was able to pay for stock of diesel on Tuesday (18). In spite of vessels carrying diesel entering Sri Lankan waters nine days ago the government had to struggle to pay them, the lawmaker said.

At the onset of the briefing, Minister Gammanpila flayed the CEB for blaming the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) for the rapidly developing crisis.

MP Gammanpila said: “About 60 percent of the electricity requirement was met by hydro-power till end of Dec 2021. By then, hydro-power generation was down to 38 percent. Struggling to cope up with the situation, the CEB on January 11 asked us to provide additional fuel with effect from January 13. The CPC was not prepared to meet their requirement for obvious reasons. We were told they needed additional supplies at the end of January.”

Minister Gammanpila asked as to how the CPC could supply 1,500 metric tonnes beginning January 13 as it didn’t have the required stocks. The Energy Minister emphasised that the cash-strapped government couldn’t maintain extra stocks.

Lawmaker Gammanpila emphasised that his ministry had no option but to refuse to provide diesel to the CEB at the expense of the transport sector. The lawmaker pointed out that the country couldn’t afford to allow the disruption of transport by releasing sparse stocks available to them.

The Energy Minister asserted that disruption in public and private transport would be far worse than being subjected to daily 90-minute power cut.

Advising the CEB to be mindful of the current situation, Minister Gammanpila said that of the 37,000 tonnes of diesel the government paid for on Tuesday, 10,000 tons would be made available to the CEB. Declaring that would be sufficient for just eight days, Minister Gammanpila said that the CPC would also provide 2,200 tons of furnace oil and 700 tons of diesel to a privately-owned power station that supplied electricity to the government.

Minister Gammanpila said that it would be better to experience daily 90-minute power cuts than facing the prospect of three-hour disruption after having uninterrupted supply for a short period.

The outspoken lawmaker said that there was no point in denying the fact that the country was in severe difficulty due to the foreign currency crisis.

Pointing out that Sri Lanka received USD 750-800 mn a month, the Energy Minister asked how banks coped up with the situation as the government sought 2/3 of that amount for oil imports.

Minister Gammanpila told The Island that the public should be taken into confidence. The current crisis would cause further problems, the lawmaker said, urging the decision makers to be responsible to those who elected them.

The MP warned the failure on the part of the powers that be to realise the actual ground situation and take tangible measures to cut down the fuel bill would plunge the country into an unprecedented crisis.

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Speaker: MPs borrowed only 330 books from Parliamentary library in 2021



122 of them are novels!

By Saman Indrajith

The MPs’s poor reading habit had led to deterioration of their conduct in the House and made their speeches full of unparliamentary language, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday.

The Speaker said that it was very embarrassing to note that all 225 MPs had borrowed only 330 books from the House library during the whole of last year.

Making a special statement at the commencement of the sittings, the Speaker said that the Members of the House should take note of their conduct during the debates. “Once you have crossed the bar of the House you are considered honourable members of the House of Parliament. The honourable title demands that you speak and behave accordingly in a respectable manner which in turn reflects back on the House. When I first spoke in Parliament I did so after weeks of preparation. Today, very few members prepare before their speeches. According to the information furnished to me by the library only 330 books have been borrowed by the MPs during the year 2021, and 122 of them were fictions. Ninety-four of the books borrowed were on political science and 27 on sociology, only 11 books on economics. Five books on science, four books on law and three books on technology, one book on education, and one book on Sinhala literature among those books borrowed by the MPs.

“For a House of 225 members this is embarrassing. This lack of knowledge and preparation on subjects have led us to insufficient awareness, false allegations, in speeches. Most of the speeches are to score political points. This has led to shameful, unparliamentary conduct. As the Speaker it is my duty to conduct the House affairs productively and ensure the rights of all its members.

“The members must understand that it is their sacred duty to uphold the dignity of this institution. If people lose faith in this House that means they lose faith in democracy. Repercussions of such a situation would be a grave danger for all political parties and citizens of this country. People expect the members of the government and Opposition to act responsibly.”

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Sri Lanka disputes Canadian Travel Advisory



… immediate steps taken to apprise Ottawa

Sri Lanka has challenged a Canadian bid to undermine ongoing efforts to attract tourists. In the wake of the latest Canadian Travel Advisory on Sri Lanka issued on January 13, 2022, the Foreign Ministry has stated that the communique contained erroneous and outdated information that did not reflect the actual situation in Sri Lanka. As such, the Ministry has taken steps to apprise the Canadian authorities of ground realities.

The following is the text of the statement: “There are flawed references to the economic and security situation in the country as well as inaccurate information with regard to the safety and security of female travelers and harassment of foreigners.

Sri Lanka has successfully overcome the immediate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now in a state of normalcy with all public service, corporate and business, and education activities functioning normally without interruption, in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The nationwide inoculation programme has been commended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and almost 90% of the eligible population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A campaign has been launched to provide the booster dose to the population above 20 years of age.

Despite the pandemic, Sri Lanka has received several international accolades in the tourism industry including CNN’s “Where to Travel in 2022”; the Global Wellness Institute; Conde Nast Traveler 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards as well as other endorsements received previously in 2019 by Lonely Planet and the National Geographic Travel. GoSL looks forward to more tourists visiting Sri Lanka from Canada and elsewhere with the gradual normalization of travel globally.

It is important to note that even though Sri Lanka’s economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is making every endeavor to reinvigorate its economy this year, through the implementation of prudent policies. Food security and law & order are the topmost priorities of the Government, and the availability of all essentials is considered as a vital part of the Government’s functions. As such high priority is given to ensuring that all essential items continue to be available to the public at all time and there are sufficient stocks of food items.

With regard to the security situation, the GoSL maintains minimum presence of military in the North and the East to ensure security and stability in keeping with national security imperatives and this is similar to such presence elsewhere in the country. There is no arbitrary arrest and detention of persons by the police or security forces. Since the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009, security forces have conducted a comprehensive demining operation in the North and East, with technical support of several foreign Governments and international agencies. As at December 2014, 94% of the de-mining had been completed, while presently, the figure has risen to 98.7%. The Advisory states, that ‘there is a threat of terrorism’ and that ‘further attacks cannot be ruled out’. It is notable that since the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019 the GoSL has taken all necessary measures to ensure public safety and national security throughout the country, to prevent any resurgence of terrorism. It is noteworthy that during this period, there has not been even a single terrorist related incident in Sri Lanka, due to the enhanced vigilance and proactive measures taken by the relevant security authorities.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country with a rich, cosmopolitan heritage where different communities have peacefully co-existed over centuries. There is no civil unrest in the country. Sri Lanka has a long democratic tradition with strong institutions, and a vibrant civil society. Freedom of association and assembly are safeguarded with peaceful demonstrations occurring in Sri Lanka as in any other country where liberal democratic norms and traditions prevail. The police have allowed and continue to allow such peaceful demonstrations to take place unimpeded. These demonstrations do not in any way hinder the comfort, movement, safety or activities of tourists.

Specific attention is being paid to the safety and security of women tourists with measures taken to strengthen the presence of police, including tourism police, island-wide in all regions. Under this programme, police presence is being increased in all popular tourist destinations of the country with greater presence of women police officers in police stations. Emergency numbers of tourist police regional units, local police, and other emergency units such as hospitals, are available online to be accessed by travelers to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an island nation with friendly people with a high level of education, knowledge of English and literacy, and incidents of harassment or violence against tourists or foreigners are extremely rare.”

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