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SLPP beset by contentious issues: Gevindu too strikes discordant note



‘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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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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