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SLPP’s opposition to privatisation and restructuring discarded: Mahinda, too, votes for Electricity (Amendment) Bill

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Mahinda Rajapaksa Ranil Wickremesinghe

Over a dozen SJB MPs, Maithripala skip vote

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In spite of differences between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) over the latter’s call for early General Election, a consensus seems to be emerging on the overall political strategy with the ruling party voting for the Sri Lanka Electricity Amendment Bill, political sources say.

The SLPP has so far declined to officially endorse Ranil Wickremesinghe candidature at the forthcoming Presidential Election though several members publicly supported the UNP leader.

SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, in spite of publicly declaring his opposition to the government privatization and restructuring plan, voted for the Bill along with his elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa, MP, his son, Shashendra Rajapaksa and General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, who recently warned of the SLPP withdrawing support to the government.

However, SLPP National List MP Namal Rajapaksa skipped the vote. Namal Rajapaksa was among about 10 SLPPers absent at the time of the voting.

During the debate JJB MP Vijitha Herath declared that the Bill was enacted to pave the way for the Adanis.

The Supreme Court determined the Bill as a whole is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84 (2). This inconsistency shall however cease if Clause 1(2) and Clause 1(3) were amended, the SC declared.

Political sources said that the SLPP’s stand was surprising against the backdrop of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s declaration on May 12 that the privatization and restructuring programme of the government should he stopped, pending the conclusion of the Presidential Poll later this year.

The following MPs voted for the Bill: Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the House Susil Premjayantha, Bandula Gunawardena, Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, Gamini Lokuge, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera, Major (retd.) Pradeep Undugoda, Premanath C. Dolawatte, Madura Withanage, Nalin Fernando, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, A.H.M. Fowzie (SJB), Indika Anuruddha, Sisira Jayakody, Prasanna Ranaweera, Nimal Lanza, Kokila Harshani Gunawardena, Milan Jayatilleke, Upul Mahendra Rajapaksa, Sahan Pradeep Vithana, Vudura Wickremanayake, Piyal Nishantha de Silva, Anupa Pasqual, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Sanjeewa Edirimanne, Lalith Warnakumara Manju, Dilum Amunugama, Lohan Ratwatte, Anuradha Jayarathna, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, Rohana Dissanayake, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, Nalaka Bandara Kottegoda, Jeevan Thondaman, S.B. Dissanayake, C. B. Ratnayake, M. Rameshwaram, Ramesh Pathirana, Manusha Nanayakkara, Mohan de Silva, Geetha Kumarasinghe, Sampath Atukorale, Isuru Dodangoda, Kanchana Wijesekera, D.V. Chanaka, Ajith Rajapaksha, Chamal Rajapaksha, Douglas Devananda, Carder Masthan, Seevanesathurai Chandrakanthan, Wimalaweera Dissanayake, S.M.M. Musharaff, D. Weerasinghe, Kapila Nuwan Atukorale, Mahinda Rajapaksa, D. B. Herath, Shantha Bandara, Johnston Fernando, U.K. Sumith Udukumbura, Samanpriya Herath, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Ashoka Priyantha, Priyankara Jayaratne, Ali Sabri Raheem, Shehan Semasinghe, S.M. Chandrasena, S. C. Muthukumarana, M. G. Weerasena, Siripala Gamlath, Jagath Samarawickrema, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Thenuka Vidanagamage, A Aravinda Kumar, Janaka Tissakuttiarachchi, Major (retd) Sudarshana Denipitiya, Vijitha Berugoda, Shashendra Rajapaksha, Dr. Gayashan Nawanandana, Kumarasiri Ratnayake, Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, Janaka Wakkumbura, Premalal Jayasekera, John Seneviratne, Akila Saliya Ellawela, Muditha Prishanthi, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Kanaka Herath, Tharaka Balasuriya, Sudath Manjula, Rajika Wickremesinghe, Ali Sabry, Tiran Alles, Dr. Seetha Armbepola, Suren Raghavan, Wajira Abeywardena, Jayantha Ketagoda, Sagara Kariyawasam, Yadamini Gunawardena, Manjula Disanayake, Ranjith Bandara, Jayantha Weerasinghe and Mohamed Faleel Marjan.

Of the 103 MPs who voted for the Bill, two represented the SJB (Manusha Nanayakkara and A.H.M. Fowzie).

Sources said that Udayakantha Gunatilleke, though being present in Parliament at the time of the voting, hadn’t voted. The JJB’s three MPs -Anurta Kuamar Dissanayake, Vijitha Herath and Dr. Harini Amarasuriya – voted against the Bill, whereas the 10-member Tamil National Alliance (TNA) abstained.

Twenty MPs who had been elected on the SLPP ticket at the last General Election voted against the Bill, along with 36 SJB MPs. The SJB won 54 seats at the last General Election.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena (SLPP/Polonnaruwa) skipped the vote, whereas other SLFP MPs voted for the Bill. They included Wijeyadasa Rajapakse and Nimal Siripala de Silva, leading two factions in the SLFP.

Sources said that the SLPP’s backing for the Bill meant that the May 12 statement regarding their opposition to privatization and restructuring was not relevant.

They said that the SLPP was most likely to support the Economic Transformation Bill (ETB) that had been challenged by the SJB in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court summarized the Constitutionality of Sri Lanka Electricity Bill as follows:

The Bill as a whole is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by a special majority of Parliament required under Article 84 (2). This inconsistency shall however cease if Clause 1(2) and Clause 1(3) are amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clauses 3(6) (a) and 10(1) (c) are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority required under Article 84(2). However, the inconsistency shall cease if those Clauses are amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

The first proviso to Clause 11(1) of the Bill is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84 (2). However, the said inconsistency shall cease if the Clause is amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 17 is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84(2). The said inconsistency shall however cease and Clause 17 may be passed by a simple majority if the Clause is amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 18(3) (e) (ii) of the Bill is inconsistent with the provisions of Article 12(1) and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84(2). The said inconsistency shall however cease if Clause 18(3) is amended as set out in the Summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 18(3) (f) of the Bill is inconsistent with Article 12(1) and Article 14(1) (g) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84(2). However, the said inconsistency shall cease if the Clause 18(3) (f) is amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 18(5) (b) (ii) is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84(2). The said inconsistency shall however cease if Clause 18(5) (b) (ii) is amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 21 and Clause 23 are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84(2). The said inconsistency shall however cease if those Clauses are amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 38 (2) of the Bill is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall only be passed by the special majority required under Article 84(2). The said inconsistency shall cease if Clause 38(2) is amended as per the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.

Clause 48 is violative of Article 4(a) read together with Article 3 and 76 and hence needs to be passed by the special majority of Parliament and approved by the People at a Referendum.

The definition of ‘national grid’ in Clause 53 of the Bill is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and shall be passed by the special majority of Parliament required under Article 84(2). However, the said inconsistency shall cease if the said definition is amended as set out in the summary of the Determination of the Supreme Court.



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Dispute over cobalt-rich seabed: FSP alleges India exploiting hapless Lanka

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Pubudu Jagoda

… Indian HC denies dispute

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top spokesperson for Jana Aragala Sandhanaya, Pubudu Jagoda, yesterday (12) said that India was brazenly exploiting the continuing political and economic crisis here to secure rights to explore a cobalt-rich underwater mountain in the Indian Ocean, situated in an area staked by Sri Lanka in terms of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Jagoda, who also represents the Peratugaami Pakshaya (Frontline Socialist Party), a breakaway faction of the JVP, said so when The Island sought further clarification after he discussed the developing situation with India, in an interview with Asoka Dias on Sirasa ‘Pathikada.’ telecast earlier in the day.

Jagoda told The Island that the unprecedented Indian move on Afanasy Nikitin seamount that lies entirely within an area, also claimed by Sri Lanka way back in 2009 as being within the boundaries of its continental shelf, should be a warning to both the government and the Opposition.

The former JVPer declared that Jana Aragala Sandhanaya would take up this issue vigorously in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election. Jagoda emphasized that India took advantage of hapless Sri Lanka while frequently uttering like a mantra its self-proclaimed Neighbourhood First Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). The Peratagaamis-led grouping recently pledged to contest both the Presidential and Parliamentary polls.

While asserting that political parties represented in Parliament, along with the government, lacked the courage to take up this issue with India, Jagoda therefore urged the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to deal with it diplomatically at the highest level.

The Indian High Commission spokesperson said there was no dispute and asked The Island to refer to a statement dated July 08, 2024 issued by Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Appearing on ‘Pathikada’, Jagoda questioned the failure on the part of the government to respond to the Indian move much earlier.

Pointing out that India sought the intervention of Kingston Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) to secure approval for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts located at the Afanasy Nikitin seamount thereby undermined Sri Lanka’s efforts to win recognition of the outer limits of its continental shelf, Jagoda said that India seemed to be resorting once again to bullying tactics.

War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who always jealously guarded the country’s interests, made Sri Lanka’s claim on May 08, 2009, as ground forces were engaged in the last phase of operations on the Vanni east front. The war was brought to a successful conclusion 10 days later.

Jagoda explained how India unfairly pressured Sri Lanka over Chinese research ship visits, finally leading to the government to declare a ban on such stays during whole of this year. The FSP spokesman also expressed concerns over the Katchatheevu issue, massive Indian poaching and the recent death of a Special Boat Squadron (SBS) member as a result of aggressive maneuvers resorted to by an intercepted trawler off Kankesanthurai.

Jagoda alleged that poaching on such a scale couldn’t take place without India’s tacit approval. “They have a much bigger Navy and significant Coast Guard assets therefore there cannot be any excuse for not being able to effectively hinder crossing of the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary at will by their poachers,” Jagoda said. Declaring that destructive bottom trawling had been banned in Indian waters though the invading Indian fishing fleet freely adopted the highly harmful method in our waters, Jagoda alleged that New Delhi conveniently turned a blind eye to what was going on in the neighbour’s waters.

Referring to the dispute over the Indian claim contrary to that of Sri Lanka, the FSPer said the Indian media coverage of the issue indicated that they intended to go ahead with the exploration of the cobalt rich region. Reference was made to India reaching agreement with Taiwan to undertake the exploration amidst rising tensions between China and India.

Acknowledging that the two issues – Sri Lanka’s submission made in terms of UNCLOS in 2009 and India’s appeal to ISA this year – were before the UN as declared by Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, Jagoda said that the government should discuss the contentious matters with India without further delay.

Jagoda said that no political party represented in Parliament so far commented on the developing situation.

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Another FR petition to stay Presidential Poll at 11th hour

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Another fundamental rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday (12), requesting the court to prevent the Election Commission from declaring the next presidential election.The petitioner, a lawyer by profession, has argued that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which reduced the President’s tenure to five years from six, was not passed properly.

He has argued that the 19A must be approved by the people at a referendum and holding a presidential election, as per the aforementioned amendment, is a violation of the Constitution.

The members of the Elections Commission, the Secretary General of the Parliament and the AG were named as respondents.

The petition says that the 19th Amendment strips the President of the power to dissolve Parliament a year after it was elected. The Supreme Court at that time said the provision had to be approved by the people at a referendum for it to become law. A referendum was never held, and therefore 19A could not be considered law.

The petitioner has said the Elections Commission is planning to hold a presidential election this year based on 19A and that it is unconstitutional to hold the election until 19A is subjected to a referendum.

The petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to declare the holding a presidential election, five years into the term of the President, unconstitutional. He also urged the court to instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to subject 19A to a referendum.

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COPF uncovers major failings in online visa procurement process

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Harsha de Silva

The Committee on Public Finance (COPF), chaired by Dr. Harsha de Silva, released a critical report revealing major discrepancies in the procurement process and agreement with a Consortium, comprising GBS Technology Services, IVS Global-FZCO, and VF Worldwide Holdings Ltd.

Issuing a press release, MP de Silva said the Committee’s findings highlight significant concerns and recommend urgent corrective actions.

The COPF found that the company got the deal through an uncompetitive Procurement Process

“The Consortium was appointed without a competitive bidding process, preventing the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DOIE) from securing the best value for money.

“Proposals were submitted before finalising the System Specification Requirement (SSR), raising concerns on procedural integrity.

“Critical Issues Identified:

Unclear Fee Structure: Lack of transparency in fee components, including discrepancies in service fees and convenience fees.

“Data Breach and Termination: A significant data breach was reported by a major travel vlogger in May 2024 potentially triggering a termination clause.

“Conflicting Exclusivity: The exclusivity granted to the Consortium contradicts the presence of existing service providers and the recommendation by the evaluation committee.

“Uninvested Funds: The USD 200 million investment promised to Cabinet remains uninvested and not mentioned anywhere in the agreement.

“Terminated Service Provider: Mobitel, the previous ETA service provider since 2012, submitted multiple proposals for system improvements and a comprehensive proposal for new services was overlooked.

“Recommendations:

Comprehensive Forensic Audit: The COPF recommends that the Auditor General undertake a comprehensive forensic audit of the entire procurement process. This audit should be completed at the earliest opportunity to serve as the foundation for necessary actions, which could include abrogating or amending the Consortium Outsourcing Agreement.

“Data Protection Measures: The COPF urges the Ministry of Public Security (MOPS), DOIE, and the Sri Lankan Data Protection Authority to review the KPMG report and take immediate and decisive actions to ensure the complete security and protection of all data handled through the ETA application process.

“Dr. Harsha de Silva, Chairman of COPF, stated, “The absence of a competitive bidding process in the procurement of online visa services has likely resulted in an agreement that does not provide the best value for money. Our findings call for immediate action by the Auditor General to address these critical issues and ensure transparency and accountability, which could even mean abrogation of this agreement.”

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