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SJB suggests govt use constitutional proposals finalised during yahapalana rule



By Saman Indrajith

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) yesterday (15) said that the government was bound by a national responsibility to introduce a Constitution acceptable to all communities in the country.

 Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, Colombo, said that only the Soulbury Constitution had been able to ensure the contribution of the minority and minor parties to constitution making.

 “When the country was set to be granted independence, Lord Soulbury came to Sri Lanka in 1946 and announced that he was working on a Constitution for the independence of Sri Lanka. He met the representatives of all parties, religious and communal organisations and minorities for that purpose. After Independence in 1948 it was implemented. Thereafter our leaders introduced two constitutions – the first republican constitution by Sirimavo Bandaranaike government in 1972 and the Second republican constitution by the JR Jayewardene government in 1978. The minority parties were not involved in formulating them. Both governments had two-thirds majorities in Parliament. The incumbent government too has the same power and we are asking it not to commit the same mistake. It is bound by a national responsibility to bring about a constitution acceptable to all.”

He said that the Yahapalana government had prepared an interim report on a new constitution and the incumbent government could make use of it. “During the time of Yahapalana government I moved a motion in Parliament in February 2016 to convert the then Parliament into a constituent assembly for preparing a new constitution. That motion was passed unanimously and the constituent assembly was formed. A steering committee ensuring the representation of all parties in Parliament was appointed. It had 20 MPs including me. The others were the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Rauff Hakeem, Susil Premjayanth, Rishad Bathiudeen, Patali Champika Ranawaka, D.M. Swaminathan, Mano Ganeshan, Malik Samarawickrama, Dilan Perera, R. Sampanthan, Dinesh Gunawardena, Douglas Devananda, Anura Dissanayake, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Bimal Ratnayake, M.A. Sumanthiran, Prasanna Ranatunga, Jayampathi Wickremratne and Thusita Wijemanne.

“We had 78 meetings. We summoned representatives of all political parties, civil and religious organisations, trade unions and chief ministers of the provincial councils. I remember that it was the chief ministers of in the southern parts of the country who demanded more devolution of power to their provinces. The steering committee after considering all those opinions prepared an interim report and submitted it to Parliament and it was discussed during five sitting days. Almost every MP was given time to present his or her opinion over the content of the report. Finally, taking into consideration those opinions and the interim report, we prepared a document, which cannot be called a draft as there were agreements and disagreements. While we were getting ready to submit that document to the House, the 2018 October the coup took place and we lost parliamentary power. If the government is taking a genuine effort to formulate a constitution acceptable to all communities it could start from where we stopped. It does not need to start it all over again. There is no point of trying to reinvent the wheel. It could make use of the interim report and our observations. The incumbent government could start discussing the points of disagreements. As I said once the wheel has been invented and the government could move ahead because that process had the participation of all parties and all communities. It was for the first time after the Soulbury Commission that such a collective effort was made. The government could make use of it. If this government could bring about a constitution acceptable to all communities alike that would be a victory for our nation. The international community will praise this country and the government too can gain from it.”

Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara also addressed the media.

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MCC inconsistent with Constitution



AG agrees with Prof. Gunaruwan report

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, has informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, Project Implementation Agreement, as well as Articles of Association of MCA (Millennium Challenge Act), Sri Lanka, are violative of cerain provisions of the Constitution.

The AG has said so in a 20-page report sent to Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President.

The President’s Office on Sept. 3, 2020, sought the AG’s opinion on the MCC Compact and related matters in the wake of the Cabinet-appointed Prof. Gunaruwan Committee strongly advising against going ahead with the US initiative. The US sought Sri Lanka’s consent for the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and MCC. The previous government finalised ACSA in early August 2017.

Dr. Jayasundera made available the Gunaruwan report to the AG.

The outgoing US administration in Dec 2020 announced Sri Lanka had been left out of the MCC project.

AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne confirmed the MCC et al were inconsistent with the Constitution and other laws.

The Island,

 however, learns that the AG’s Department on two previous occasions, in letters dated Oct 10, 2018 and June 10, 2019, addressed to Jonathan G. Nash, Chief Operating Officer, MCC, and Director General, External Resources Department, respectively, asserted that the Compact and the Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA) were in line with the Sri Lankan law.

The first letter was sent during Jayantha Jayasuriya’s tenure as the AG and the second under incumbent AG without his approval, sources said. Dappula de Livera succeeded Jayasuriya in April 2019 about a week after the April 21 Easter Sunday carnage. Jayasuriya is the incumbent Chief Justice.

Prof. Gunaruwan’s Committee soon after the last presidential election in Nov 2019 failed to obtain the AG’s Department opinion in spite of making representations through the Prime Minister’s Office.

In the run-up to 2019 parliamentary election, then Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the Attorney General had approved the US project though the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) called it a sell-out.

The following is the text of the letter dated Oct 10, 2018 captioned ‘Legal Status of Proposed MCC Compact signed by Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, Senior Additional Solicitor General, addressed to Jonathan G. Nash, Chief Operating Officer, MCC:

“I refer to your communication dated 27th September, 2018 in respect of the above captioned matter. In this regard, I am made to understand that the delegation from the Government of Sri Lanka was able to have fruitful discussion with the Millennium Challenge Corporation Team in resolving some of the outstanding issues.

“Having gleaned through the proposed Millennium Challenge Compact, the draft Program Implementation Agreement (PIA) as well as the Points of Discussion (without prejudice) between the negotiating parties which has been made available to me, I wish to at the very outset opine that no existing laws of Sri Lanka inhibit the Compact and the PIA being implemented in Sri Lanka. If I may elucidate further, the covenants of the Compact and the PIA do not infringe any existing domestic law or any previous undertakings given by the Government of Sri Lanka. It is acknowledged that the Compact imposes legal obligations on both parties to the Agreement

“Further, consequent to the negotiations and discussions had between parties, it is proposed that the Government of Sri Lanka would seek the passage of a law in Parliament to establish the MCA- Sri Lanka as a non-profit Company limited by guarantee under the Companies Act No.07 of 2007 to implement the provisions of the Compact. It is envisaged that the proposed enactment would encompass the Compact and the PIA as Annexures, which would form an integral part of this enactment.

“Thus, I am of the view that the passage of the said enactment by Parliament would result in the Compact and the PIA, having the parity of status of a domestic law in Sri Lanka.

“In the Context of the above, it is requisite that Section 7.1 of Article 7 of the Compact referring to the provisions on Entry Into Force, would be revised with the deletion of the sentence pertaining to the Compact prevailing over the domestic laws of Sri Lanka.

“However, in order to assuage any concerns with regard to the implementation of the Compact, by an unlikely event of a legislation in the future which may impinge or infringe the said compact, upon notification by the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media (the relevant Ministry) of this fact, a legal opinion would be tendered that the proposed legislation if proceeded with would violate the covenants of the Compact. This would enable the relevant Ministry to forward its observations to the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament, that the Attorney-General has opined that the proposed Bill if enacted would violate the Compact.

“In the circumstances, I believe that the aforementioned matters would confirm the legal status of the Compact and its entry into force.”

“Copies were sent to Ms. Caroline Nguyen, Managing Director- Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America Millennium Challenge Corporation and J. Charitha Ratwatte, Head of Policy Development and Chief of Party MCC- Sri Lanka Project.”

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Environmentalist accuses Govt. of resorting to trickery to hand over 800,000 acres to pvt. companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Gama Samaga Pilisandara’ is a psychological operation to counter people’s resistance to a move to hand over chena and grasslands to large companies, environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said yesterday.

Chamikara claimed that the government had earmarked 800,000 acres of land to be given to corporations, and those lands would mainly consist of forests and areas used for chena cultivations and to feed cattle by small scale farmers.

“The Gama Samaga Pilisandara is an attempt to misguide the people by giving them false promises. The government tells people they could cultivate lands belonging to the Forest Conservation Department and instructs officials not to punish people who send cattle into forests. People walk away feeling good but a few months later they will find that these same lands handed over to big companies.”

They had conducted a survey on the lands that had been given to corporations by the government during 2020 Most of those lands in fact were those used by cattle herders and chena cultivators, he said.

For example 70,000 acres in Demaliya and Wandama were being given to a company engaged in sugarcane cultivation, and almost all those lands were those used by small scale farmers and cattle herders, Chamikara said. Among the lands that were given were those earmarked for those displaced by the Uma Oya project. The previous administrations tried to provide irrigation water to those lands through the Handapanagala scheme.

Chamikara said: “Another 62,000 acres have been earmarked in Moneragala, Ampara and Badulla districts for sugarcane cultivation. 80% of these lands are chena cultivations. In Rambaken Oya 5,426 acres have been earmarked for 15 companies to carry out various agro projects and most of these lands are now used by small scale cattle herders. Recently, the Department of Agriculture wrote to the Forest Conservation Department requesting that 80,000 acres in Moneragala, Anuradhapura and Badulla districts be released. These lands are to be used for corn cultivation. The Forest Conservation Department then asked the Department of Agriculture to identify the lands and we know that these lands for the most part are those used by small scale cattle herders and chena cultivators.”

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Contempt of Court case against GMOA President re-fixed for hearing on March 03 and 10



By Chitra Weerarathne

The Court of Appeal yesterday re-fixed for hearing on March 3 and March 10, the Contempt of Court application against the President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya.

Counsel Ravindranath Dabare said that his client Dr. Padeniya was under self-quarantine and was unable to attend Court.

Dr. Padeniya was summoned for Contempt of Court under Article 105/3 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka for allegedly having criticised a Superior Court ruling in respect of the admission of students to the Sri Lanka Institute of Technology and Medicine, Malabe, at a public rally on April 7, 2016, disrespecting a Supreme Court order pertaining to the enrolment of a student in the Private Medical College, which will ultimately lead to an MBBS degree.

The Court of Appeal bench comprised Justice Arjuna Obeysekera (President) and Dr. Mayadunne Corea.

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