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SLPP Chairman pushes for consensus with Tamil community



GL turns bridge builder between North and South 

‘We must not be captured and dominated by the past’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Education Minister and Chairman of the ruling SLPP Prof. G.L. Peiris declared in Jaffna that they shouldn’t allow the past to prevent a consensus among the communities for the benefit of all.

Prof. Peiris stressed the need to remove artificial barriers that separated communities. The Minister discussed how the ongoing new constitution-making process spearheaded by a nine-member committee chaired by Romesh de Silva, PC was proceeding.

The Minister said that the TNA had submitted far-reaching proposals to the Committee and the SLMC had been asked to furnish its suggestions. The SLPP, too, would soon be making representations, the minister said, underscoring the need for political parties to work on areas they could agree on without being trapped in problems.

The Minister, while acknowledging the need to be mindful of the past, emphasized the importance in not allowing the past to dominate the present. Prof. Peiris recalled how he sat for direct negotiations

with LTTE representatives-Anton Balasingham and Tamilchelvam  few years after the same people tried to assassinate the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Prof. Peiris said that he too received injuries and some shrapnel still remained in his body. The Education Minister said that he did not bear any grudge against anyone responsible for the suicide attack that almost claimed his life.

The minister was referring to Dec 1999 attack on the final PA rally in Colombo.

The minister said so in speeches delivered at the Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai and Uduvil Girls College where one-time External Affairs Minister explained measures taken by the incumbent government to strengthen education and agriculture sectors. Prof. Peiris said that the government considered both sectors priority and was determined to help the community.

In his address at the Jaffna College, Prof. Peiris underscored the pivotal importance in interaction between Tamil and Sinhala speaking people at different levels, particularly the students as part of the reconciliation process. Referring to the Norway arranged Ceasefire (CFA) during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Prime Minister, Prof. Peiris shared a little bit of his experience as the Chief government negotiator at the talks with the LTTE.

Prof. Peiris said that the negotiations and related activities had been structured in such a way there were many exchanges of students between the Northern Province and the rest of the country. Such exchanges helped improve relations between the two communities, Prof. Peiris said, recalling the time Tamil and Sinhala students engaged in debates.

Education Minister Peiris over the last weekend assured the Tamil community that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government would do everything possible to boost the education opportunities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

 The Education Minister’s visit (Feb 5-8) took place amidst large scale protest campaign in the Northern and Eastern Provinces organized by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led political groups and the Muslim community demanding justice for those who had been missing as a result of the conflict, release of land occupied by the military, immediate halt to excavations et al.

Prof. Peiris said that the negotiations and related activities had been structured in such a way there were many exchanges of students between the Northern Province and rest of the country. Such exchanges helped improve relations between the two communities, Prof. Peiris said, recalling the time Tamil and Sinhala students engaged in debates.

At the onset, Prof. Peiris paid a glowing tribute to the Jaffna College for the role it had played over nearly 200 years in the education sector even during the turmoil in the North. Prof. Peiris also discussed the responsibility on the part of the government to ensure all possible assistance to the North though there were difficulties.

Prof. Peiris, who is also the Chairman of the ruling SLPP said that the recent setting up of a Research and Training Complex at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Jaffna would be a tremendous boost not only to the Northern and Eastern regions, but to the whole country. Appreciating the role played by Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Akira Sugiyama in the fruition of the Rs 2.8 bn project, Prof. Peiris said that Japan always backed appropriate projects on Sri Lanka’s request though some countries imposed programmes they were interested in.

Prof. Peiris said that following the commissioning of the Agriculture Faculty in Kilinochchi on Feb 5, he, in the company of Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera and UGC Chairman Prof. Sampath Amaratunga had an opportunity to meet Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University and Deans of Faculties and other officials in Kilinochchi where entire gamut of issues was discussed. The Minister emphasized the importance of the Education Ministry visiting the Northern Province to explore ways and means of helping the education sector instead of the officials visiting Colombo.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought the entire education sector under one ministry as he felt the need to address the issues in an orderly manner and the ministry was successful in doing so in spite of constraints.

In his address at the Uduvil Girls College, Prof. Peiris acknowledged the extreme difficulties experienced by the northern farmer community. The minister explained how the farmers had been denied and deprived of sufficient compensation for their hard work. The Minister pointed out how agricultural produce from the provinces, including the North, go waste on the way to major markets.

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EC opposes govt. move to appointment its henchmen to monitor local councils



By Priyan de Silva

The Election Commission (ECSL) has opposed a move by the government to appoint representatives of the Chairpersons of the Regional Development Committee to monitor local government institutions.

ECSL Chairman Nimal G. Punchihewa told The Island that the government had informed the ECSL of its plan to appoint representatives of the Chairpersons of the Regional Development Committee to monitor the local government bodies and the ECSL had decided to write to the Ministry of Local Government opposing the move, he said. A Chairman of a regional development committee ESD a representative of a particular political party and it would be unfair by other parties for such appointments to be made, the EC Chairman said.

Punchihewa said that the administration of local government institutions could be done through Municipal Commissioners and Divisional Secretaries.Many political parties had complained against the government move, he said.

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JVP says govt. has enough funds for elections



By Saman Indrajith

The JVP would file a fresh application before the Supreme Court against the government for not holding the local council polls, JVP MP Vijitha Herath said yesterday.Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, Herath said that his party had ascertained fresh information by invoking the Right to Information Act about the funds needed for the holding of the elections and his party would file another fundamental rights case against those responsible for conducting elections.

“The LG polls were to be held on 09 March. They were postponed until 25 April, and later they were put off indefinitely. The President appoints Governors to the provinces and the local councils are under them. Now, he says no party commands the support of 50 percent of voters.

Is this reason why he is not holding elections? His claim that there are no funds for elections is not acceptable. The Election Commission (EC) has, in a letter to the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, asked for Rs 1,100 million in installments for conducting local government elections. The Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, on 07 March, informed

the EC that the latter’s request had been referred to the Minister of Finance on the same day. But so far the money has not been released. As per a report released by the Treasury, the government revenue was Rs 177,900 million in January this year alone. Of that amount, Rs 156,760 was allocated to government institutions. The Treasury has Rs 21,410 million. In February, the government revenue was at Rs. 271,750 million and of that Rs. 208,620 million was spent. The balance was Rs 63,130 million. In January and February, the Treasury had Rs 84,270 million. These figures have been officially confirmed by a Deputy Treasury Secretary. The EC is seeking only Rs 2,460 million for elections. So, the claim that there is no money for elections is false as per official records. We will submit this information to the Supreme Court when we file a fresh application. We will prove that the government has lied to people,” Herath said.

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Rosy’s appointment violative of election laws – Mujibur



SJB mayoral candidate for Colombo Municipal Council Mujibur Rahuman alleges that President Ranil Wickremeisnghe has violated election laws by appointing UNP’s mayoral candidate Rosy Senanayake as the Presidential Advisor on Local Government.

Participating in a talk show hosted by a private TV channel, Rahuman said that Senanayake was a candidate for the delayed local government polls. “She has submitted nominations for the Colombo Municipal Council from the UNP list. It is illegal to appoint a candidate to such a post pending an election. The local council polls have not yet been cancelled and cases pertaining to the holding of elections are in progress,” he said, adding that of all the posts the local government candidate had been given the post of Presidential Advisor on Local Governance.

“More than three months have lapsed since Senanayake stepped down from the Colombo Mayor post, but she is still occupying the Mayor’s Residence. The President says that he is implementing the system change demanded by people. The change he is actually doing is giving appointments to his cronies. Is it the change the people expected,” Rahuman queried.

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