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SJB lawmaker claims 19 A architects sought political asylum

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… Jayampathy denies having fled

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former lawmaker and constitutional affairs expert Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne yesterday (28) denied having fled the country following the change of government. Wickramaratne said that he had not received any threats from anyone over his involvement in the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

 One-time LSSP stalwart said so when The Island sought his response to a recent claim by Samagi Jana Balavegaya lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne that he had fled the country and was granted political asylum in Switzerland.

Dr. Wickramaratne said he was abroad over some consultancy work.

“Then, I got an opportunity to conduct research on a comparative basis which I am using to work on the third edition of my PhD thesis ‘Fundamental Rights in Sri Lanka’.  Over the past few years, I was asked by judges, lawyers and academics to revise it. The second edition was in 2006 and a revised edition has been long overdue.”

 Dr. Wickramaratne said that he would definitely be back once he finished the assignment.

The LSSPer turned UNP MP in the last parliament functioned as the constitutional affairs advisor to then President Maithripala Sirisena before being accommodated on the UNP National List following the 2015 general election in terms of the agreement between the LSSP and the ruling party.

 Dr. Wickramaratne quit his seat in January 2020 to take up an overseas assignment.

Addressing a public gathering at Wilgamuwa on Tuesday (25), Kaviratne alleged that architects of the 19th Amendment, Dr. Wickramaratne and J.C. Weliamuna, PC, who had been Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner at the time of the change of government had become political refugees in Switzerland and Australia, respectively.

As Weliamuna is yet to return in spite of being recalled, The Island raised the issue with the Foreign Ministry whether the government took it up with Australia and whether the envoy and his family had sought political asylum there. The Foreign Ministry has sent us the following response: “The Foreign Ministry is presently unaware whether the former High Commissioner and his family have received political asylum in Australia. He was a non-career diplomat and his services were terminated on 31.12.2019. His stay in Australia after termination of service, is not facilitated by the Government of Sri Lanka and once the diplomatic passport is surrendered the Ministry had no reason to take up the matter with the Australian authorities.”

 Lawmaker Kaviratne alleged that if the new government succeeded in abolishing the 19th Amendment, the entire country would achieve refugee status overnight.

 Kaviratne, who had been in the previous parliament that overwhelmingly voted for the 19th Amendment said that the abolition of the people-friendly law would fast-track intended authoritarian administration. She explained how the enactment of the 19th Amendment at the onset of the yahapalana administration transformed the country. Declaring that those who fought for democratic rights of the people couldn’t be deprived of their freedom, the lawmaker empahsised the responsibility on the part of the Opposition to oppose government project.

 At the onset of her hard hitting speech, Kaviratne vowed that progressive of lawmakers wouldn’t give dictatorial powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the expense of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa by doing away with the 19th Amendment. The lawmaker explained how the 19th Amendment ended dictatorial power to dissolve parliament within one year after the first sitting. Now Justice Minister Ali Sabry was on record as having said that the law would be amended to enable the President to dissolve parliament when he wanted to so, Kaviratne said.

 Kaviratne, who switched allegiance to Sajith Premadasa having represented the UNP in the parliament, said that the SJB would fight both in and outside parliament to protect the 19th Amendment.

 She emphasized that contrary to reports, the SLPP never secured a two-thirds majority at the recently concluded general election and they wouldn’t allow reversing democratic gains made during the previous administration.

 The lawmaker alleged that the government was seeking to deprive the public of basic rights. The abolition of the 19th Amendment would be the beginning of that despicable operation.



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Fuel crisis: Key CPC facility opened for VIPs, friends as public transport shrinks

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya trade unionist Ananda Palitha yesterday (01) alleged that members of Parliament, Chairmen of various government institutions, and other politically connected persons, continued to obtain unlimited petrol and diesel from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) facility at Kolonnawa.

The former CPC employee declared that the powers that be had transformed the Kolonnawa depot into a special facility to cater to the needs of the politically influential.

Those who touted the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept had created a special category while almost the entire nation suffered due to the unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, Palitha said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and CPC Chairman Sumith Wijesinha didn’t answer their phones.

Ananda Palitha said that none of those who had been given access to the Kolonnawa depot came under essential services. “Why should lawmakers, whatever their status in society, be given access to the special facility when they aren’t included among essential services,”

Ananda Palitha asked.The SJB activist said that the government was struggling to maintain public transport after having repeatedly promised to sustain.

The trade unionist alleged that though they brought the clandestine operation at Kolonnawa to the attention of the government, it continued unabated. Barrels full of fuel had been taken from Kolonnawa, he said, among the beneficiaries were owners of V8 and other super luxury vehicles.

Ananda Palitha said that the Opposition should have taken up this issue vigorously.

Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that according to information available to them, Ceypetco had approximately 3,000 mt of diesel, 2,500 mt of petrol 95,600-700 mt of petrol 92 and was not in a position at least to meet the requirement of the essential services.

“The government is yet to come up with a plan to obtain petrol and diesel,” Ananda Palitha said, urging the government to take the public into confidence.

Palitha pointed out that the police had carried out numerous raids, targeting those who hoarded diesel and petrol, whereas a primary fuel depot that was not supposed to pump fuel for outsiders, engaged in business. The government should be ashamed of this situation, the trade union leader said, pointing out the country was heading for chaos.

The Island yesterday afternoon brought Ananada Palitha’s allegations to the notice of Lalith Weeratunga, Senior Advisor to the President,Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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Energy cooperation sought from Saudi Arabia on urgent basis

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has requested Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulelah A. A. Orkobi, to facilitate Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed to visit Saudi Arabia from July 02-05 as Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka.The request was made when the envoy called on Prof Peiris at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday (30).

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Peiris briefed the Saudi envoy on the current economic situation, including fuel shortage and its negative impact on all sectors in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris sought avenues for energy cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an utmost urgent matter.

Charge d’ Affaires of Saudi Embassy Orkobi, emphasized the importance attached to the Sri Lanka – Saudi bilateral relationship and assured all possible support to Sri Lanka, at this juncture.

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‘Halting assistance’: Japanese envoy reassures Prez

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Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi yesterday (01) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the backdrop of reports that Japan wouldn’t provide financial assistance due to the possibility of such being mismanaged.A section of the media quoted the Japanese envoy having said so at a meeting with a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members during a recent visit to the north.

Subsequent to the meeting at the President’s House, the President’s Office said that the Japanese envoy reassured the President of their support to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance.

However, the Japanese embassy didn’t issue a statement on the meeting though it regularly issued statements on a range of issues.

Recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan Sanjiv Gunasekera suddenly quit the top diplomatic posting. The government has nominated former Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage as Gunasekera’s successor.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a clarification from the Japanese embassy regarding the controversial declaration and received an assurance that the envoy didn’t say so at the meeting with the TNA (SF)

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