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SLPP caused media furore over Ranil’s re-entry into parliament to divert public attention – SJB leader

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Kiriella: ‘Who wants to switch allegiance to one-man parliamentary group?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa says an increasingly unpopular Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is making a desperate attempt to divert attention from its growing woes.

A near two-thirds majority for the SLPP in parliament does not reflect the actual ground situation, Colombo District MP Premadasa, who is also the Opposition Leader says.

“Let me tell you. The government cannot overcome challenges by causing turmoil in the main Opposition. The SLPP seems to have conveniently forgotten how such despicable strategies failed in the past,” lawmaker Premadasa told The Island. The SJB leader said so when The Island raised the challenge he was facing with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s forthcoming re-entry into parliament as declared by the ruling party.

In spite of UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywardena declaring that Wickremesinghe would be nominated through its only National List slot, the party is yet to submit his name to the Secretary General of Parliament.

Noting the statements made by Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment, Business Development Shehan Semasinghe in parliament on June 8, SJB leader emphasized the government was hell bent on diverting public attention. 

Lawmaker Premadasa responded to The Island from hospital, where he along with wife, Jalani are receiving treatment for  Covid-19.

Former Deputy UNP leader Premadasa said that the SJB absolutely had no issue with the UNP filling its National List slot. Pointing out that that vacancy hadn’t been filled for 10 months much to the disappointment of those who exercised their franchise for the party at the last parliamentary election in August 2020, the SJB leader emphasized the importance of the UNP being represented in parliament.

The UNP secured one National List slot at the 2020 general election, whereas the SJB secured 54 seats, including seven National List slots. One of its National List members, Dayana Gamage has already switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Lawmaker Premadasa recalled how the SLPP boasted the passage of the 20th Amendment in Oct 2020 would restore political stability. The same lot repeatedly assured the enactment of the Bill on Colombo Port City Economic Commission (CPCECB) would be the panacea for the troubled economy.

SJB Leader Premadasa also pointed out the pathetic handling of what he called X-Press Pearl incident. Lawmaker Premadasa pointed out that the UNP missed an opportunity to take a stand on the dictatorial 20th Amendment and the CPCEC.

He warned the government that it couldn’t overcome challenges by propaganda efforts against the Chief Opposition party. Of course, some short-term political advantage could be achieved through such efforts, including social media offensives but contentious issues wouldn’t go away, the SJB leader said.

Having failed to fulfill aspirations at least of those who voted for the SLPP at 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls, a desperate government was now looking for excuses. For the SLPP leadership, the Covid-19 seemed to be the panacea for its failure to address problems, Premadasa said.

The SJB leader questioned the rationale in having an online investment forum in the wake of the country’s worst ecological disaster triggered by mishandling of X-Press Pearl incident several nautical miles away from the Colombo Port City. The amateurish handling of the container carrier exposed the SLPP in spite of big boasts of professionalism, the lawmaker said.

The Opposition Leader urged the SLPP parliamentary group to mind its own business. “Why should they worry about the SJB? Have they forgotten the recent trouble among its ranks in the wake of a constituent party seeking a role for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the SLPP?” MP Premadasa asked.

The SJB leader queried whether the SLPP successfully addressed at least one contentious issue, instead creating additional problems for itself. There couldn’t be a better example than the unprecedented ongoing countrywide fertilizer shortage experienced by farmers, the SJB leader said.

MP Premadasa said: “What is of paramount importance is to ensure the wellbeing of the people. There is absolute policy paralysis that has taken place in the government structure. Absolute incompetence has become the order of the day, economic distress, loss of employment and livelihoods, environmental and  fertilizer issues bungling of the inoculation process, lack of government focus, and  governance by default. These are the real issues and SJB will represent the interests of those struggling to make ends meet as well as other sectors affected by bungling SLPP.”

The SJB leader said that the Opposition wouldn’t be distracted by SLPP strategies. The lawmaker said that it would be a grave mistake on the part of the government to believe it was a victim of social media. The media couldn’t be suppressed today because the public always took advantage of the social media platforms to express their views, the SJB leader said, urging the SLPP administration to review its policies or prepare to face the consequences.

Responding to what he called a fresh SLPP propaganda drive, both in and out of parliament, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella alleged that the government was in such a desperate situation it would do anything to distract public attention. “We were quite amused to see a Minister and a State Minister taking up the issues related to the SJB when the government is in turmoil over Covid crisis. The Shangri-La mess exposed so called much touted One Country one Law,” Kandy District lawmaker said. MP Kiriella denied there being a crisis within the party over Wickremesinghe’s possible reentry into parliament.

Ongoing social media campaign backed by some print media coverage was nothing but a ruse to cause trouble, lawmaker Kiriella said. Responding to another question, the MP asked who would switch allegiance to a party with one National List MP and no realistic hope of staging a comeback. “The UNP group in the last parliament comprised 106 members. Now the once mighty party with a 5/6 majority is down to just oner MP and we have no doubt it will remain so,” Kiriella said.

Both Messrs. Premadasa and Kiriella said that the public could ascertain the situation for themselves once the UNP filled its National List slot.



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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