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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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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.

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…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.

 

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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested

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The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.

 

 

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