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SLFP dissidents boycott talks with Prez over defection as PM rules out resignation

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Shantha Bandara receiving his letter of appointment from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (pic courtesy PMD)

Udaya says treachery caused irreparable damage

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ongoing efforts to reach a consensus among those political parties that contested the last parliamentary election on the SLPP ticket have suffered a double setback over the SLFP-led demand for Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation and a rebel MP accepting a state ministry. Former President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the leader of the SLFP, has asked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to constitute an interim Cabinet leaving all other Rajapaksas out.

The SLFP has received the backing of the 11-party dissident group to push for an interim Cabinet, sans the Rajapaksas, sources say. The President received 41 lawmakers of the dissident group at the President’s House on Sunday (10). However, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa on the following day responded to the SLFP’s request made on the previous day in talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his address to the nation.

Without referring to the demand for his removal made by a section of those elected on the SLPP ticket, Premier Rajapaksa declared he was confident of resolving the crisis though it couldn’t be possible within the next few days.

The SLFP parliamentary group has resolved to accept the formation of an interim cabinet under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who holds the defence portfolio. The SLFP, in line with the 11-party dissident group’s strategy, has also asked for the restoration of the 19th Amendment at the expense of the 20th.

However, swearing in of Kurunegala District MP Shantha Bandara, one of the 14 SLFPers in Parliament as State Minister of Promoting the Production & Regulating the Supply of Organic Fertilizer, and Paddy and Grains, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chilies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promotion, Seed Production and Advanced Technology Agriculture, on Monday late afternoon has undermined the talks between the SLFP and the President, SLFP sources told The Island. The SLFP has also removed Shantha Bandara from the positions he held in the party.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila yesterday told The Island that the grouping decided to call off the second meeting with the President scheduled for 7 pm Tuesday (12) following the swearing in of Shantha Bandara in place of Shasheendra Rajapaksa. “We never expected the President to engineer a defection at a time we are engaged in discussions. In fact, we discussed a way out of the crisis and with the greatest difficulty managed to secure the support of all political parties, represented in Parliament except the JVP, to explore the possibility of an interim administration. We had no option but to pull out of talks. We are really disappointed in the President’s action,” the former Energy Minister said.

Lawmaker Gammanpila said that the dissident group engaged in talks with other political parties on behalf of the President and was largely successful in reaching a consensus before swearing in of Shantha Bandara derailed negotiations.

Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Dr. W.A. Wijewardena on Monday declared that political stability and a government with at least a simple majority was nothing but a prerequisite for talks with the IMF scheduled to begin in Washington on Monday (18).

Responding to another query, MP Gammanpila said that though names of three lawmakers had been mentioned as possible defectors, finally only Shantha Bandara received the State ministerial position. Blaming Highways Minister Johnston Fernando, who is also the Chief Government Whip for the unexpected defection, lawmaker Gammanpila said that current uncertainty couldn’t be addressed by such treachery.

MP Gammanpila said that the defection couldn’t have taken place at a worst time as the Opposition, too, took a courageous stand to avert further deterioration. But, utterly foolish political move on the part of the government ruined everything, the former minister said. Meanwhile, the SLPP leadership has adopted a wait and see policy in the wake of its founder being deprived of the finance portfolio. Authoritative sources said that the SLPP was watching the situation in the wake of a section of those elected on its ticket and appointed through its National List deciding to operate as a separate group. The dissidents included about a dozen SLPP members, including Susil Premjayanth, who was sacked from the state ministry he held last year following his criticism of the SLPP policies.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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