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Socialist Alliance asks Prime Minister to call for early PC elections

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The Socialist Alliance has urged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to hold the Provincial Council (PC) polls without further delay.

The Uva and Southern PC elections have been delayed by more than a year. The Northern and North Western PC polls should have been held two years ago, while elections to the Eastern, North Central & Sabaragamuwa PCs are overdue by three years, leaders of the Socialist Alliance, Prof. Tissa Vitarana (LSSP), Dr. G. Weerasinghe (SLCP), Vasudewa Nanayakkara (DLF), Asanka Nawarathne (SLMP) and D. Kalansooriya (DVJP) said in representations made to the premier.

These are a blatant violation of the conditions laid down for the conduct of the PC elections by the Election Commission in terms of the gazette notification dated January 29, 1988 (Provincial Councils Elections Act, No. 2 of 1988). According to the Act, it is mandatory that the process of holding the PC election should start within one week of the dissolution of any PC and be concluded in about two months, the Alliance said in a letter to the Prime Minister.

This gross violation of the Provincial Council Election Act was deliberately committed by the UNP led ‘Yahapalana’ government. In 2017, the previous government moved an amendment to the Provincial Council Act to enable them to delay the holding of the PC election. The active support of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was received for this ‘undemocratic act’, it said.

With the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the November 2019 Presidential Election and the near two-third majority secured soon after by the SLPP to form a government, the expectation was that steps would be taken to have the PC elections soon. This was especially after the safe manner in which the General Election was conducted. However, there appears to be reluctance to hold the PC elections despite the fact that there has been considerable delay after they were dissolved, it further said.

On the basis of the Dinesh Gunawardena Committee Report, one of the reasons given for the delay was the introduction of the mixed electoral system where 70% of the elected representatives were to be chosen on an individual electorate basis, while the balance 30% would be selected on a proportional basis. Some people claim there would be a delay in the process due to delimitation problems, it noted.

But a large number of political parties and the public, including the organization of former representatives of the PCs, have been strongly agitating for early elections to be held. This delay on the part of the government has led to much distraction and criticism by all these organizations, it added.

The letter further said: “Many of these organizations have demanded that the elections should go ahead, if delays are due to the new laws, even on the basis of the earlier proportional representation system, which will have to be re-introduced. There are others who do not want the PC elections to be held until after the introduction of the new Constitution. This is in spite of the legal requirement that the elections have to be held early, within about two months after dissolution.

“There are also some concerns regarding the nature of the new Constitution and the possibility of not holding PC elections or even getting rid of the system altogether. The Left parties, grouped together as the Socialist Alliance, oppose these arguments and takes a firm stand for the holding of the PC election as soon as possible. Even at the time when the JVP threatened to kill the first five voters and the candidates who participated in the first PC election, the parties of the Socialist Alliance defied these threats and went ahead and contested and also voted.

“The members of the Socialist Alliance have stood firm behind the demand for holding PC elections since then as an important step towards protecting the democratic rights of the people.

“The Socialist Alliance wanted the democratic process at the provincial level to be extended by holding elections not only at the level of local government, but also by restoring the Village Council (Grama Sabha) system. Further, the establishment of the PC system with the devolution of power also satisfied the people of the North and the East. This has reduced their movement for separation. The movement within the Tamil-speaking people to have adequate devolution within a unitary state has gathered momentum. Extremist views have fallen to some extent. These satisfactory trends have helped to remove the false notion that devolution would pave the way for separation.

“Another reason given by some for postponing the PC election is the Covid-19 pandemic. This view has been repudiated by the Election Commission. The successful holding of the General Election too has supported this point of view. The government has also called for a return to near normalcy and named it “New normal situation”. The people in general are unhappy with the dominance of the bureaucracy in the public sector due to the non-functioning of the PCs.

“Some bureaucrats not only neglect the people but also abuse the uncontrolled power they have acquired. The claim that bringing back the PCs would add to the economic burden to the country is without any foundation as the expenditure incurred by the elected representatives is estimated to add only about 1% to the total cost. Some members of the Central government try to gain an advantage by not having PCs so that they could abuse those powers as well.

“Under the circumstances, the Socialist Alliance strongly supports the holding of early elections to the PCs and demand that the government respects both the democratic rights as well as the welfare needs of the people. The Alliance favors the rapid introduction of the mixed system of elections, but if this is bound to get delayed, we would even support the introduction of the proportional representation voting system”.



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Geneva HR vote:

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UK, Canada seek to influence member states against Lanka

The Sri Lanka Core group members, Canada and the UK, are campaigning hard to muster support for their resolution against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka Core group consists of Canada, Germany, the UK, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.

Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon met the Bangladesh High Commissioner Tareq Ariful Islam, at the Canada House, Colombo 07.

Sources said that meetings between diplomats of those countries were rare. Bangladesh is a member o the f UNHRC. The meeting at the Canada House took place close on the heels of the UK HC Sarah Hulton meeting South Korean Ambassador Woonjin Jeong. South Korea is also a member of the UNHRC.

The 47-member UNHRC is divided into five groups on regional basis. The Asia-Pacific Group consists of Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Uzbekistan; Western Europe and Other States consists of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and UK; Eastern European States consists of Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine; Latin American and Caribbean States group consists of Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela and African States group consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. (SF)

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CEB Chairman: Country would have been facing daily power cuts if not for MR’s initiative

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by Ifham Nizam

The country would have been facing a daily power cut of eight hours if not for the initiative taken by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he was the President, to commence the first coal fired power plant complex at Norochcholai, said Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) Chairman Engineer Vijitha Herath at yesterday’s inauguration of the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant in Sri Lanka.

PM Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the event. The CEB head stressed that if not for the Norochchoali plant the country would have lost more than Rs. 100 billion annually.

Power Minister Dullas Alahaperuma said that since the construction of the Norochcholai power plant in 2013, no large scale power plant had been built.

“Today, we are paying for this. Only small hydro power plants and solar power plants have been added to the national grid,” Alahaperuma said.

The power minister said that the LNG plant was coming up at an important time and would bring great relief to the economy which was heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

“Let there be a power sector that is not dependent on fossil fuels. The new power plant has been constructed at Kerawalapitiya, Wattala. This has been designed in accordance with international standards with minimal environmental damage. This power plant will have the highest efficiency F class gas turbine installed. The Kerawalapitiya Power Plant is a dual cycle power plant and will be completed in two phases. The installation of the first phase, or gas turbine, will generate 220 MW, which will be completed within 21 months and added to the national grid.”

Alhaperuma said that the second phase would add another 130 megawatts to the national grid via a steam turbine, which was expected to be completed in 12 months. With a total capacity of 300 MW over the next three years, the plant was expected to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, he said.

Speaking at the event Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that the government wanted to provide electricity at affordable prices using the most advanced technology. There had been many delays in building power plants under the Yahapalana regime; but the current government would fast-track power projects, he added.

Minister Alahapperuma also said: “The LNG power plant will be a great relief to the economy. Renewable energy is the future. It was clearly mentioned in the President’s vision of prosperity as well as in the Mahinda Chinthana. Our goal is an economy fully armed with renewable energy.”

State Ministers Duminda Dissanayake, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Lansa, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera, LTL CEO of Lakdanavi Affiliates U.D. Jayawardena, and a large number of people’s representatives and government officials were present.

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US Secretary of State names Lankan for International Women of Courage (IWOC) award

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Lankan Human Rights Activist and Attorney-At-Law Ranitha Gnanarajah is among the recipients of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) award presented by the United States Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony to honour a group of extraordinary women from around the world on Monday, March 8, at 10:00 am, the U.S. State Department announced.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice, the US State Department says.

According to the biographies of the finalists for the 2012 IWOC Awards, Sri Lanka’s Ranitha Gnanarajah, a lawyer, and Head of the Legal Department of the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) Sri Lanka continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state.

“Ranitha has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

From the inception of this award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts.

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