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SJB warns of move to privatise highwaysax



By Saman Indrajith

Giving state lands and projects to family members and relations was better than giving them to the Chinese, the SJB says.

SJB Kegalle District MP Kabir Hashim, opening the debate under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Highways during the third reading debate on Budget 2021, said that the government was giving away state lands to Chinese investors.

“Isn’t handing over the lands to the Chinese on lease the first step towards privatisation? The decisions of the Highways Ministry are not taken by Minister Johnston Fernando or his Secretary R.W.R. Premasiri, but Secretary to the President, Dr P.B. Jayasundara.”

“Minister Johnston Fernando and his Secretary Premasiri are both talented persons. But their talent is not fully utilised. The Highways Ministry is very important. About one million people visit Colombo and 300,000 vehicles enter the city daily. Owing to traffic congestion, which leads to the waste of fuel and time we lose Rs. 1,000 million a day. Since I identified this problem we have launched several projects, including the New Kelani Bridge on pillars covering 2.5 km at a cost of Rs Rs. 40,000. The 9.5 km long outer circular highway connecting Kadawatha-Kerawalapitiya commenced after paying compensation to those who had lost lands to the project so the vehicles could now go from Mattala to Katunayake straight. We commenced a road on pillars from the Ingurukade junction via Chaithya Road to Galle Face.

“I think Minister Fernando is capable of continuing with the good work we initiated. Under the highways portfolio, there are 12,496 km. Some 34,000 km are under the Provincial Councils. There are 75,000 km of rural roads. Taken together there are roads measuring 120,000 km in the entire country. It is said that under your government all roads would be carpeted. This is something we have to wait and see. There are problems. All rural roads are under Minister Nimal Lanza. He has about 75,000 km under his purview. If we remove the roads under the Provincial Councils, the Minister Johnston will have only roads under the Road Development Authority and the Highways. There is a plan as per a Cabinet decision on Oct 12 to remove the Highways from Minister Johnston and be placed under a company headed by the Treasury Secretary. This is a joke. Both Secretary Premasiri and Minister Johnston Fernando are capable people. Then, why is this plan to set up a separate company? This is a plan with a hidden agenda. I table the Cabinet press briefing release. As per the press release the company to be set up would have the total responsibility of management of all highways. Although it is said that the said company is being set up under the Treasury, speculation is rife that a Singaporean company will be brought in and it will have 49 percent ownership and the Treasury 51 percent for 30 years. This is the first step towards privatising the highways. It is said that the lands coming under the Highways Ministry too would be given to them. What are those lands? The lands are those in and around Maradana, Beria Lake and the Manning Market. These will be finally given to the Chinese.

Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation State Minister:

Lohan Ratwatte: You were the plantations minister once. Didn’t you give the lands of the Plantations Ministry to the kith and kin of yours?

MP Hashim:

It is better to give the lands to the family members and relatives than to the Chinese. Your government is giving state lands for 30 years to the Chinese.

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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman




Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand




At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night



President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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