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SLPP MPs sink differences, ready to defend Udaya

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Motion of no confidence

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena says the government parliamentary group will defeat the no-faith motion moved by the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over the increasing of fuel prices on June 11.

Foreign Minister Gunawardena, who is also the leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, said that government members wouldn’t be deceived by various strategies pursued by the SJB and other Opposition groups. The Minister said so at an event in Maharagama, where coconut saplings were distributed among the public.

The two-day debate followed by a vote is scheduled to be held today (19) and tomorrow. The no-faith motion is the first moved by the SJB against the government since last October. The SJB group comprises 54 lawmakers while one of its seven National List members, Diana Gamage has already pledged her support to the SLPP. She voted for the 20th Amendment in Oct last year and the Colombo Port Economic Commission Bill on May 20th.

Minister Gunawardena gave the assurance three weeks after SLPP General Secretary Attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam MP, demanded the resignation of lawyer Gammanpila over the fuel price hikes. Lawmaker Kariyawasam faulted minister Gammanpila over

the increase in fuel prices whereas the latter explained it was a decision taken by the Cost of Living Committee chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on June 09 and approved on the following day, in writing by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha, in his capacity as the Finance Minister.

Since then Basil Rajapaksa has entered parliament on the National List and succeeded Mahinda Rajapaksa as the finance Minister. Basil Rajapaksa re-entered parliament on July 08.

Minister Gunawardena said that as the government consisted of several political parties they took different stands on matters of importance. However, they would work together as members of the government parliamentary group to thwart political projects launched by the Opposition against it.

Minister Gunawardena said that the government wouldn’t be distracted by Opposition strategies. The government parliamentary group comprised 145 members with the largest section being the SLPP. The SLPP consisted of 116 members whereas the SLFP group comprised 14 members and the National Freedom Front 06 members and other partners several seats among them.

Minister Gammanpila told The Island that since the eruption of the controversy over the fuel price hikes as he repeatedly pointed out there was no other option other than upward revision of fuel prices or had to face the consequences. The minister said that he was glad the issue at hand attracted public attention to the extremely dicey financial situation. The minister pointed out that no less a person than President Gotabaya Rajapaksa acknowledged the daunting challenge facing the country in meeting annual loan repayment amounting to USD 4 bn and the crisis caused by the CPC and CEB being in debt to the Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank to the tune of Rs 737 bn.

Minister Gammanpila emphasized that both petrol and diesel were being sold at a loss at the moment and downward revision was not realistic. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader stood his ground in spite of heavy attacks on him by some members of the SLPP.

Meanwhile, now facing certain defeat at the vote on first no faith motion moved by the SJB against the government, the Opposition over the weekend met under the joint leadership of Sajith Premadasa, MP, and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya at Janaki Hotel where they discussed how the Opposition could move forward.

Former Speaker Jayasuriya, in his speech explained how the people were deprived of democratic gains made by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution by the enactment of the dictatorial 20th Amendment by the Rajapaksa administration.

One-time UNP Deputy Leader and minister in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government addressed the gathering in his new capacity as the Chairperson of the NMSJ (National Movement for Social Justice), the brainchild of the late Maduluwawe Sobitha thera.

UNP leader and its only MP Ranil Wickremesinghe was represented by Deputy Leader of the UNP Ruwan Wijewardene, who stressed the importance of the Opposition reaching consensus on a common agenda.

TNA representative M.A. Sumanthiran, MP, warned that their support to the Opposition project would depend on a clear assurance given by them as regards the national issue. The President’s Counsel said that in spite of them working with the Opposition, their cause had been betrayed and an assurance was nothing but a prerequisite for their support.



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SLFP asks govt. to address SLPP constituents’ grievances or face consequences

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior Vice President of the SLFP Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa says the continuing mismanagement of the affairs of the ruling coalition is causing turmoil.

“The deepening crisis we are in should be examined against the breakdown in basic discussions at party level,” Prof. Piyadasa, told The Island, underscoring the urgent need to address the issues affecting the coalition.

Due to the absence of a proper dialogue among constituent parties of the SLPP, the government was moving in the wrong direction and conducting its affairs in a messy manner at the expense of political stability, Prof. Piyadasa said.

Prof. Piyadasa warned of dire consequences unless the SLPP took meaningful measures expeditiously to address the grievances of the constituent parties. Responding to another query,

Prof. Piyadasa emphasised that the SLPP shouldn’t treat constituent parties according to the number of seats each secured at the last parliamentary election in August 2020.

The SLFP with 14 seats, including one National List is the second largest party in the SLPP led coalition. The SLPP obtained 116 seats.

Appreciating an opportunity the SLFP recently had to make representations to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as regards problems experienced by the party, Prof. Piyadasa emphasized the need for a mechanism wherein all constituents could take up issues. Noting that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in spite of being the President, didn’t hold a position in the SLPP, Prof. Piyadasa urged the ruling party to take the constituent parties as well as the public into confidence.

Asked to explain, Prof. Piyadasa stressed the responsibility on the part of the government to acknowledge the precarious economic situation. The raging Covid-19 epidemic had caused a debilitating setback to the national economy, Prof. Piyadasa said, drawing attention of the government to take into consideration choking of key revenue sources-remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad, tourism and garment and other exports.

Wouldn’t it be better for the government to take the public into confidence and explain the financial crisis the country was experiencing? Prof. Piyadasa asked.

The academic questioned the rationale in some government spokespersons declaring that the national economy was on a sound footing. Such declarations sounded foolish against the backdrop of Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila warning of banking sector collapse and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa acknowledging the daunting challenge in settling annual foreign debt amounting to USD 4 bn.

Prof. Piyadasa said that the SLFP shouldn’t be expected to blindly throw its weight behind the SLPP. Pointing out that there hadn’t been consultations at party level after the 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary polls, respectively,

Prof. Piyadasa called for a serious re-assessment of the overall coalition strategy.

Asked whether the SLFP was considering future options, Prof. Piyadasa said that party leader Maithripala Sirisena, MP was engaged in consultations with the party at district level. Referring to consultations, the former President had in Galle, Puttalam and Ratnapura, Prof. Piyadasa said that Kandy would be the next venue. At the grassroots level, both members and supporters believed the party shouldn’t hesitate to take a path of its own unless the SLPP changed its style of governance, Prof. Piyadasa said.

The academic however, acknowledged that some of those who represented the party in the government at a higher level felt the need for the continuation of the existing arrangement. But, district level consultations underscored the growing disenchantment among the electorate, the one-time SLFP General Secretary said.

In the run-up to 2019 presidential election, Prof. Piyadasa functioned as the Chairman of the SLFP as the then President Sirisena didn’t want to exercise powers as the leader of the party.

Prof. Piyadasa alleged that the SLPP caused quite a crisis by responding brashly to various situations. There couldn’t have been a better example than demanding Energy Minister Gammanpila to resign over the increase in the fuel prices. “All of us were surprised over Minister Gammanpila being attacked over the unpopular decision taken by a committee chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the participation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who held the finance portfolio,” Prof. Piyadasa said.

The SLPP shouldn’t make the mistake of trying to intimidate and dominate constituent political parties, Prof. Piyadasa said. The SLFP backed the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution at the expense of the 19th Amendment though the party remained committed to abolishing of the executive presidential system.

Having informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of his predicament, the SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena refrained from voting for the 20th as he was one of the architects of the 19th enacted in 2015, the SLFP senior Vice President said.

According to Prof. Piyadasa, the incumbent government deteriorated in a very short period as those in authority acted in an irresponsible and reckless manner.

Prof. Piyadasa said that the government was in a bind though an influential section seemed to be unable to recognize the ground situation.

Commenting on the growing controversy over the recent death of a 16-year-old domestic servant Ishalini as a result of an incident at the former minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s Bauddhaloka Mawatha residence, Prof. Piyadasa emphasized whoever in power would have to inquire into the real problems. Thousands of children wouldn’t have sought employment as domestic servants if their parents could provide for them, Prof. Piyadasa said, urging all political parties represented in parliament to address grievances of the community.

“We are in such a desperate situation that no political party can take advantage of the deterioration of the national crisis,” Prof. Piyadasa said.

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SJB complains of sexual harassment of its female MP; Speaker denies allegation

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday in a statement said that an allegation made by SJB Matale District MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne pertaining to an issue of verbal sexual harassment was not true.

Raising a point of order MP Wijeratne said that she regretted over some government MPs singing lewd songs about SJB Ratnapura District MP Thalata Atukorale while the debate on the no-confidence motion against Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila was in progress during the last sitting week of parliament.

MP Kaviratne said it was a violation of MP Atukorale’s Parliamentary privileges. “There are only 12 female MPs in this Parliament. This house is not there to criticise women or to discuss the wives or mistresses of MPs. Its objective is to make decisions on issues faced by the public,” she said.

MP Wijeratne said that she also regretted that Speaker Abeywardene’s failure to prevent a female MP being subjected to verbal sexual harassment in the House. “You have a wife and a daughter but you were sitting there laughing. “You were laughing when MP Athukorala was being verbally harassed. I as a female MP regret your silence and express my disapproval,” MP Wijeratne said.

Speaker Abeywardena said he would inquire into the allegation.

Later issuing a statement, the Speaker’s office said that MP Wijeratne’s allegation was untrue.

The statement said that there had been no occurrence of such an incident while Speaker Abeywardene was in the Chair. Therefore, the Speaker had no involvement in such an incident as alleged by MP Kaviratne. “It is regrettable that MP Kaviratne made such irresponsible remarks without perusing the Hansard and video records of parliament sitting sessions. The MP should have perused the records before making such an allegation. Without doing so the MP has made remarks misleading the public and bringing disrepute to the House,” the Speaker’s statement said.

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As COVID-19 cases rise, Minister wants all hands on deck

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Health Minister declaring open the Centre

All health workers had been vaccinated, and they had to report for work, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister of Health yesterday said at a ceremony to open a Covid-19 treatment unit constructed at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital.

The unit was constructed with the help of the Sri Lanka Air Force. Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana was present on the occasion.

The centre has five wards with 160 beds. The estimated cost of the construction was close to Rs. 200 million, however the Air Force was able to construct it at a cost of about Rs. 35 million.

The Minister of Health said, “As the number of patients increases, hospitals have to be maintained and hospital capacity has to be increased. The presence of healthcare workers is needed to treat people. We have given both

doses of the vaccine to everyone in the health service. Therefore, they have acquired immunity. We have also taken steps to vaccinate their family members.”

Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Director of Mulleriyawa Base Hospital Dr. Priyantha Karunaratne, Director of Civil Engineering Services of the Air Force and a number of Air Force personnel and health staff were present on the occasion.

 

 

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