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SLPP beset by contentious issues: Gevindu too strikes discordant note

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‘Govt. cannot turn blind eye to corruption allegations’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List lawmaker Gevindu Cumaratunga says the incumbent government cannot under any circumstances turn a blind eye to continuing accusations directed at the administration as regards waste, corruption and irregularities.

In an interview with Manjula Batugedara of Asian Mirror website, Chairman of the Yuthukama civil society organisation Cumaratunga acknowledged that such accusations were quite a formidable political challenge and needed to be addressed, expeditiously.

The outspoken MP made reference to the growing controversy over the People’s Bank making a payment to the tune of USD 1.275 mn on behalf of the government to the United Farmers Trust Limited, the local agent of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) under controversial circumstances. The government recently announced 3.1 litres of liquid nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be procured from IFFCO.

The MP questioned the rationale in transferring the funds to the Town Hall branch of the People’s Bank instead of the Indian supplier. Declaring that in spite of change of governments, the contentious issue of public sector corruption hadn’t been addressed at all, the civil society activist described the current political environment as an utterly tragic situation.

Reference was also made to the government being denied ownership of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) through fraudulent means.

MP Cumaratunga said that they were deeply disappointed and flabbergasted over the developments.

The MP told The Island that there was a spate of issues the government should tackle without delay or face the consequences. The MP underscored the urgent need to have a dialogue among constituents of the SLPP to reach a consensus on matters of public importance.

He also underscored the responsibility on the part of the government to examine whether its current strategies were geared to achieve much touted political objectives in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary polls, in Nov 2019 and Aug 2020, respectively. “What should be our response as people’s representatives if the government pursued policies contrary to the promises made to the public?” he asked.

Nothing could be as important as introducing a new Constitution as repeatedly promised during the campaign, MP Cumaratunga said, pointing out a two-thirds majority in Parliament was sought to bring in a new Constitution after having ensured the passage of 20 Amendment as a temporary measure.

Lawmaker dealt with the UPFA’s failure to manage what he called the mandate received at the 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections. That catastrophic failure led to the 2015 change of government, MP Cumaratunga said, recalling the Yuthukama efforts among the overall campaign against the yahapalana lot.

Commenting on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s faith in the war winning armed forces, MP Cumaratunga said that a new Constitution was required to ensure the protection of Sri Lanka’s unitary status.

Declaring that the 13 Amendment had been enacted under Indian pressure in the late 80s and remained a threat, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that constitutional safeguards were needed regardless of a section of those who represented in Parliament taking a contrary stand.

The Yuthukama Chief emphasized that having Provincial Council polls under the old system that had been discarded by the yahapalana administration and its allies, at a time the government was in the process of formulating constitutional and electoral arrangements couldn’t be accepted.

MP Cumaratunga declared that conducting Provincial Council polls would be nothing but betrayal of the very ideals the SLPP and its constituents stood for. Much touted slogan ‘One Country-One Law ‘would be a joke unless the government through constitutional means ensured that only the Parliament had the right to introduce laws.

MP Cumaratunga questioned the appointment of highly controversial Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera as the Chairman of the 13-member Presidential Task Force (PTF) assigned to make recommendations on how to make ‘One Country – One Law’ a reality.

Cumaratunga raised the issue at hand at a meeting some lawmakers had with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on Thursday night to discuss a gamut of issues. Yuthukama leader said that the suitability of the PTF Chairperson was questionable.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said that the government should reappraise its strategies and response to the ongoing wave of countrywide protests. Pointing out that they should be concerned over protesting farmers’ declarations they would quit cultivation. Whatever the issues and politics behind such declarations, the government couldn’t turn a Nelsonoan eye to the obvious deterioration.

Pointing out that the 2019 presidential election was held amidst a spate of controversies, including SAITM, controversial foreign trade agreements, national security, Geneva betrayal and the 99-year-leasing of the Hambantota port, MP Cumaratunga said that the incumbent government seemed bent on causing itself harm by pursuing personal agendas. The MP recalled the leadership given by Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Vasudeva Nanayakkara that enabled the then Rajapaksa Camp to hit back soon after the 2015 humiliating shock defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa suffered.



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Forex crisis will lead to power cuts, warns Ranil

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Udaya pooh-poohs warning

By Saman indrajith

UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the country would face power cuts soon if the government did not resolve the foreign exchange crisis urgently.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2022, the UNP leader said the forex issue could result in Sri Lanka running out of money to import fuel.

Wickremesinghe called on the government to make a statement on the current situation.

The UNP leader pointed out that Sri Lanka had only Rs. 1.5 billion in foreign reserves, out of which Rs. 300 million were gold reserves, which meant only Rs. 1.2 billion was the liquid amount in foreign reserves.

The former PM said the low foreign reserves could lead to the country facing power issues in the future as there would be no funds left for fuel imports. However, the Minister of Power, Udaya Gammanpila, assured that Sri Lanka had enough fuel stocks.

The Minister said it was reasonable for people to assume that there would be power cuts in the future due to the foreign exchange crisis.

Reiterating that Sri Lanka had necessary fuel stocks, Minister Gammanpila said the fuel in hand was sufficient for the next 40 days.

Although the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery had been closed for 50 days, measures would be taken to resume operations at an early date, the Minister added, assuring that the foreign exchange crisis would not result in power cuts.

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State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses

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Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat yesterday

Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday assured that the government would compensate any paddy farmer who suffered losses due to adopting organic fertiliser.

Speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, the Minister said that even if the government had not proposed to allocate funds in the Budget proposals for possible losses to paddy farmers using organic fertiliser, funds would be obtained from a supplementary estimate for the purpose.

Ranasinghe said that it was wrong to state that the government shifted from chemical to organic fertiliser abruptly. The government had promised to do so in its election manifesto and people had approved it by giving a two-third majority of votes for that. The UNP too had planned to adopt organic fertilisers in place of chemical fertilisers some 30 years back.

The State Minister said that during the past 30 years all the governments had spent billions of rupees to increase awareness of organic fertilisers among officials and the general public. In addition, there had been numerous projects introduced with the assistance of the World Bank to promote organic cultivation in the country.

Minister Ranasinghe said that there were chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides and there was information that some traders sell them at exorbitant prices. The government would get the Consumer Affairs Authority and police to implement the law against the black marketers.

He said that some farmers had raised concern that nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be washed away owing to the heavy rains, but the government would supply that fertiliser again as it was promised by State Minister of Organic Fertilizer Sashindra Rajapaksa.

The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the farmers’ associations in the Polonnaruwa District.

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Arjuna quits UNP

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World Cup winning captain and former minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday quit the UNP over its failure to get its act together

Ranatunga has communicated his decision to leave the UNP to the Leader, Secretary, Deputy Leader, and the Assistant Leader of the UNP.

Ranatunga said, in a letter to the UNP leadership, that he decided to join the United National Front ahead of the 2015 presidential election to make a change for the common good.

He has said as the first step towards that objective he contested the 2015 general election and secured the highest number of votes from the Gampaha District.

Ranatunga said that when many left the party in 2020, he remained with the UNP in order to protect it.

He said in 2020 the UNP suffered a massive loss, “and what is required is to prepare a programme to overcome the present and future challenges”.

“However, as there seems to be no such preparation there appears to be no purpose in remaining with the party”, Ranatunga said.

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