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SLPP MP draws attention of parliament to many shortcomings in election process

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By Saman Indrajith

The election deposit that must be submitted by an independent candidate to contest an election had remained the same since 1981 while no deposits were required for recognised political parties, Parliament was told on Wednesday (23). 

Opening the adjournment debate on the performance report of the Election Commission, SLPP National List MP Sagara Kariyawasam told Parliament that independent candidates had been required to deposit just Rs. 2,000 when contesting an election since 1981 while recognised political parties did not have to make any deposit. “We need to increase the amount to be deposited by a candidate,” Kariyawasam insisted. 

MP Kariyawasam thanked the Election Commission and its staff for having conducted the 2020 parliamentary election in a free and fair manner and in a peaceful atmosphere. “In addition, the election was held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures were adopted to ensure that the election did not result in the spread of the disease within the country is laudable.”

Nevertheless, he noted that the gazetting of the candidates’ preferential vote numbers had been delayed due to disagreements among the three members of the Election Commission. “The Commission has three members and the quorum for a meeting is also three. As such, it is clear that increasing the number of members of the commission to five is sensible.”

Kariyawasam stressed that due to the severe restrictions imposed on election propaganda, only candidates who had enough financial resources could advertise on electronic and print media. 

MP Kariyawasam also pointed out that many of those engaged in essential services continued to be disenfranchised as they were required to remain at work on election days. “As per current election laws, even those in the health sector such as doctors and nurses, employees working on expressways, staff of aviation services and those in the hotel industry are not entitled to postal voting. As such, it would be better to introduce advance voting for such persons on a day closer to the polling day at their places of work.”

The MP, however, pointed out that a large amount of funds was needed to carry out advance voting, which was one reason why the deposit money should be increased. 

He said that given the massive workforce and effort that is needed to hold an election, it was time to explore the possibility of launching a pilot project on introducing electronic voting. 

The Government Printer, Department of Posts, police and Government employees were yet to be paid for work they had done during the elections, Kariyawasam said.

Kariyawasam drew the attention of Parliament to a large number of rejected votes.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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