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SJB threatens to walk out of Chamber over MP Edirimanne reading AG’s report implicating Sajith

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday threatened to leave the Chamber if what it called derogatory remarks on Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made by SLPP backbenchers, were not expunged from Hansard.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella threatened to boycott the third reading debate on Budget 2023 if the Chair failed to conduct House proceedings, as per the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Kiriella said that as per Standing Orders, an MP could not abuse parliamentary privileges to level personal attacks on an Opposition Leader, or an MP, during their absence in the House. “If there are any charges, or accusations, against a particular MP, then that should have been raised through a substantive motion.”

Kiriella said so when SLPP backbencher from the Kalutara District Sanjeewa Edirimanne had alleged that Opposition Leader Premadasa was involved in financial misappropriation are regards the Central Cultural Fund.

Presiding member, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Angajan Ramanathan, said that the point of order raised by the Chief Opposition Whip had been noted and permitted MP Edirimanne to proceed.

As Edirimanne continued to speak of the CCF affair, Kiriella asked the Chair to stop Edirimanne.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that MP Edirimanne was making his speech on the basis of an Auditor General’s report and therefore it should be permitted.

Kandy District SLPP MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, stood Edirimanne.

Kiriella said it amounted to character assassination and the MPs who have only three years of parliamentary experience should study the Standing Orders. “The CCF matter has been investigated by several institutions. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has ruled that there was no evidence to prove the allegations against the Opposition leader in the CCF affairs.

It is now before the parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE. How could that matter, under investigation, be abused to level allegations against the Opposition Leader?”

Kiriella asked the Chair to stop the violation of Standing Orders and give a ruling on the matter immediately or otherwise they would walk out of the Chamber.

Deputy Chairman of Committees Ramanathan told MP Edirimanne to refrain from levelling personal attacks on MPs who were not present in the Chamber.

MP Aluthgamage: It is not possible to assassinate a character of a person if that person has no such character. There is no character assassination in this instance.

Kiriella: We will walk out. As per the Standing Orders on character and conduct of an MP could not be debated in this manner.

As Kiriella led SJB MPs to walk out the Chamber, the Deputy Chairman of Committees promised to refer the matter to the Speaker for a ruling.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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