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Sumanthiran launches blistering attack on Supreme Court

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Seeks rehabilitation of cabinet

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Thursday came under a scathing attack in parliament during the debate on the 22nd constitutional amendment with TNA legislator M. A. Sumanthiran accusing the highest judiciary of swinging like a pendulum. In his blistering speech on Thursday, the TNA lawmaker accused the supreme court justices of inconsistencies and said they appeared unable to read and understand their own determinations of just a few years ago. Sumanthiran said the same court which had allowed the 19th amendment to pass without a referendum in 2015 was now demanding a nation-wide plebiscite.

“It’s not only the parliament that swings like a pendulum,” Sumanthiran said. “It is (also) the Supreme Court, so change that Supreme Court also. Ask them to go home.” “If they can’t read and understand their own determination in the 19th Amendment, with the very same words, within a few years, they said no, this requires a referendum.

How can that be? They’re supposed to be learned?” He also discounted claims by the government that the 22nd amendment was reducing the powers of the presidency and insisted that there was no radical reform in the bill to move towards the abolition of the much-maligned executive presidency.

“You are lying to the people saying this is a first step towards that (abolition), when in fact, none of the powers of the executive president are taken away by this bill. It is false. You’re lying to the people of this country,” he said.

However, he said there was nothing objectionable in the bill except that it could undermine people’s confidence in parliament and their elected representatives to deliver on promised political reforms.

“I must say, there are no harmful provisions in this bill. But the harm is that you are showing the country something when it is not. And that is potentially harmful, because the confidence that people have in these institutions have been eroded, and now totally destroyed.”

After his outburst against the Supreme Court, Sumanthiran later applauded the same court for shooting down the controversial Bureau of Rehabilitation which envisaged the arbitrary detention of people for “de-radicalisation and rehabilitation.”

The bill was similar to regulations promulgated by deposed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier last year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act to hold anyone for up to two years for ” de-radicalisation and rehabilitation” without judicial approval or oversight.

“Of course, today, there was a good determination,” Sumanthiran said referring to the highest court saying that the bill cannot pass without a referendum.

“On the Bureau of rehabilitation bill, we said withdraw it. It goes against the fundamental principles that a person must be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not to be just rounded up and taken and put into rehabilitation.

“And I don’t know why the minister even presented this bill in his House. I’ve asked the question publicly whether the cabinet should be rehabilitated for even presenting this bill.”



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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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CEB says suspension of power cuts not possible

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By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) says it is not in a position to discontinue power cuts despite an assurance from some quarters that there will be no power cuts till the end of the G C E Advanced Level examination on 17 February.

CEB Chairman Nalinda Illangakoon, contacted for comment, told The Island that they had not taken any decision to halt power cuts, especially at night. He however stressed that during the examination hours there would be no power cuts.

“We have not agreed with anyone to do away with power cuts,” he said, adding that they had clearly pointed out that Rs. 4.1 billion was required to continue power supply without power cuts until 17 February.

He also said that the CEB could not do business on credit. “I am responsible for my institution. Anybody can say anything but I have to run it,” he added.The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) yesterday said that the power sector stakeholders had agreed not to impose power cuts from yesterday until the end of the GCE A/L examination.

The HRCSL said in a statement that there will be no power cuts until February 17.They also said that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had come to an agreement with the PUCSL to provide continuous fuel supply for electricity generation during the A/L examination.

Covering the cost required for power generation must be identified as a priority in the proposed tariff revision, PUCSL instructed the CEB. Accordingly, the two parties agreed to pay the relevant expenses incurred within 60 days, the statement said.

The HRCSL also said the Power and Energy Ministry should intervene to provide coordination facilities for the agreement.Accordingly, an agreement was made not to continue with power cuts during the exam period starting today.This agreement will be included as a recommendation of the HRCSL, and the PUCSL agreed to implement the recommendations.

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PM’s Office: IMF impressed with progress made by govt.

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Director Dr. Krishnamurthy Subramanian has said the political will displayed by the Sri Lankan leadership to speed up reforms and implement difficult tax increases in order to revive the economy is highly appreciable, according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s Office yesterday (26)

Dr Subramanian, who called on Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the PM’s Office in Colombo yesterday (26) was quoted as having said almost all the requirements for the IMF relief package for Sri Lanka have been completed and the moment the final assurances from major lending countries is completed, the process would be finalised.

“We will bat for you,” IMF Executive Director said using cricket jargon. “We play forward with a straight drive for you and whenever necessary, we play cover drives too,” said Dr Subramanian who was the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India from 2018 to 2021.

The Prime Minister briefed the IMF delegation about steps taken by the government to face the unprecedented economic challenges faced by the country and to enhance agricultural produce to meet local demand and also for export.

While elaborating the measures taken to reduce non-essential imports and increase export production, he stressed the need for welfare for the poorest segments of the society. Dr Subramanian said that as the Prime Minister pointed out a safety net for economically vulnerable groups is an essential requirement when plans are formulated to restructure debt and revive the economy.

However, he emphasised that the public sector should be ready to make sacrifices as they are at least assured of salaries, while many others have lost their avenues of income.

Secretary to the Prime Minister, Anura Dissanayake, Deputy Governor of Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara, who is IMF Alternate Executive Director, Dr. P.K.G. Harischandra, Director and Dr. V D Wickramarachchi, Deputy Director of Economic Research Department of Central Bank also took part in the discussion.

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