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SJB disrupts sittings over convict Premalal taking oaths as MP

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A section of the protesting SBJ lawmakers in parliament yesterday.

By Saman Indrajith

SLPP Ratnapura District MP Premalal Jayasekera, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, was sworn in as an MP amidst protests from the SJB in Parliament, yesterday.

At the commencement of sittings, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that Jayasekera could take his oath as an MP.

As the announcement came, SJB Kandy District MP and Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella protested against the swearing in. He was joined by SJB MPs wearing black shawls around their necks.

Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena pointed out that as per the Standing Orders, the MPs could not raise points of order when the Speaker was making an announcement.

SJB MPs Harin Fernando, Nalin Bandara and Kiriella shouted that it was illegal for Jayasekera to take oaths as an MP.

Amidst the din, Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando accompanied Jayasekera to the Speaker’s Chair and he was sworn in.

MP Jayasekera was congratulated by SLPP members Vijitha Berugoda, Janaka Wakkumbura and front row members of the government side.

Thereafter the Speaker permitted the Opposition to raise their points of order.

Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella: “Today, a person who has been sentenced to death by a High Court took oaths as an MP before the Speaker (shouting from the government ranks). In 2010, when Sarath Fonseka was elected to this House but could not come to take oath as he was in the prison. We raised the issue asked the Chair to permit him to take his oath. But Prof GL Peiris raised objections, citing the provisions of the Section 89 of the Constitution and informed the House that the MP elect could not take oaths if he or she had been convicted by a court. As per Prof Peiris, the MP elect would lose his seat the moment he was convicted by a High Court. In addition Prof Peiris told this very same House that a person sentenced to death could not become an MP. He said that in such a situation the Speaker’s ruling had no power above the court’s conviction. Prof. Peiris said that it was clearly outlined in the Constitution.

Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena: A new MP who had been elected by his people now has taken his oaths. Thereafter, there is no room for others to raise points of order against it. As per Standing Order, anyone who is sworn in before the Speaker as an MP has rights and privileges of an MP.

SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka: The Constitution states that a person sentenced to death cannot become an MP and is not even entitled to cast his vote. That was the reason given when I was incarcerated in 2010. That was not at least by a court of law but an outfit which had exercised the powers of a court. I was taken into custody by the orders of the then President. As per the rules, I could not have been arrested by an officer junior to me. But they did so. I was given a 30-year sentence after I took an oath as an MP. Today, one took oaths after he had been sentenced to death.

SJB MP Harin Fernando: This is not something personal against Premalal Jayasekera. I will read the judgment to the House. The Speaker permitting this swearing in is setting a wrong precedent. I request that all those sentenced to death should be given an opportunity to visit their homes once a week.

Thereafter, the Speaker moved the House to proceed with the day’s business. The SJB MPs got up and shouted. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and SJB MPs threw their black shawls to the well of the House and left the chamber in protest.

However, none of the TNA or NPP members joined the protest. After several minutes passed SJB MPs Lakshman Kiriella and Eran Wickremaratne were seen returning to their seats.

Newly sworn in MP Jayasekera took a seat in the back row of the government ranks.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in the chamber several minutes after the new MP taken his oaths.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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