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SJB flays SLPP over appointments to commissions

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (11) questioned the composition of various commissions with the focus on the Police Commission, Public Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, at No 30, Marcus Fernando Mawatha, SJB lawmaker Mujibur Rahman alleged that the commissions had been packed with those near and dear to ‘pohottuwa’ administration.

The Colombo District MP said that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution touted as the panacea for all our ills paved the way for politicization of commissions. Lawmaker Rahman said that the government owed the public an explanation why 80-year-old former Minister Jagath Balasuriya was named the Chairman of the HRCSL.

MP Rahman said that the new HRCSL Chairman’s wife Kumari served as the Governor of the Southern Province during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency and their son, Tharaka is the current State Minister for Regional Cooperation.

Rahman said that a near 2/3 majority received by the SLPP at the parliamentary election last August shouldn’t be abused. It would be a grave mistake on the part of the government to reward henchmen at the expense of the integrity of the commissions.

Referring to various other appointments to the commissions, the MP said that those who backed the SLPP at the 2019 presidential election and the parliamentary poll last August were accommodated much to the disappointment of those who really appreciated the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 2015.

The SJB member frowned on the appointment of former IGP Chandra Fernando as the Chairman of the Police Commission. Fernando served as a member of the PCoI that recently concluded the probe into political victimizations during the yahapalana regime.

Responding to another The Island query, lawmaker Rahman said that the Muslim community had been deprived of representation in the HRCSL. Recollecting the establishment of HRCSL in 1997 during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga presidency, lawmaker Rahman said that the body always included a representative from the Muslim community. However, the appointments made in terms of the 20th Amendment deprived the Muslim community their entitlement, the MP asserted.

Rahman said that he raised the issue in parliament recently in the presence of Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC. The former UNPer claimed that Minister Sabry refrained from responding when he urged him to take up HRCSL matter et al with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Lawmaker Rahman pointed out that new HRCSL had been constituted when the one in place was yet to complete the stipulated five year period. If the SLPP administration desired to replace HRCSL or any other commission before they completed the assigned period, a motion should have been moved in parliament to pave the way for new appointments, the MP said.

MP Rahman alleged that the SLPP got rid of the 10-member Constitutional Council to pave the way for five-man Parliamentary Council which was nothing but a rubber seal therein to endorse President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s strategy. The SJB spokesperson also found fault with the SLPP for depriving civil society an opportunity to represent what he claimed was a well-balanced Constitutional Council chaired by the Speaker.

The Constitutional Council included three civil society members.

Former UNP Minister and one-time Chairman of that party Kabir Hashim, MP represents the Muslim community in the recently constituted Parliamentary Council. PC comprises Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Douglas Devananda and Kabir Hashim, who represent Tamil and Muslim communities, respectively.

Asked whether the SJB would request MP Hashim to take up denial of a Muslim representation in the HRCSL with the Parliamentary Council, MP Rahman said that the member did. “We’ll continue to raise this issue. Parliamentary Council cannot turn a blind eye to our just demand,” MP Rahman said.

The MP compared the HRCSL appointed by the Constitutional Council headed by Karu Jaysuriya and the incumbent body. Responding to another query, Rahman acknowledged that by the time he raised the HRCSL issue during debate on justice ministry, the appointments had already been made.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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