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SJB suggests govt use constitutional proposals finalised during yahapalana rule

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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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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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