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Sumanthiran’s privilege issue referred to Parliamentary Ethics and Privileges Committee

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday announced that TNA parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran’s complaint that he had been wrongly accused of evading sessions of the Presidential Commission of inquiry into political victimisation could be referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

 The Speaker said that a motion could be permitted to refer to the privilege matter raised by MP Sumanthiran on Nov 28, 2020.

 On Nov 28, 2020, MP Sumanthiran raised a privilege issue as regards the Commission of inquiry into political victimization and announced that he would be named for evading the commission proceedings. “I have received from time to time summons from the commission to attend before the commissions. I have been named a respondent in that summons. Since they were in the Sinhala language I wrote to the commission that I be provided with the material to respond and to send an English to Tamil translations of those matters. I appeared twice before the said commission and made the same request. There the Commissioner ordered that I be provided with material and their translations. Nothing of the sort happened.

“Last week, I received another summons very late after I went home from parliament sittings, and I responded to the Commissioner concerned the following day informing him of the fact that the material had not been provided to me in English or Tamil and I was not able to appear before the Commission when there were parliament sittings. Later, I read in the newspapers that Commissioner of Inquiry Upali Abeyratne had said some MPs, including me were not coming before the commission and we would be named. This is in breach of my privileges. I urge the Speaker to inform the Commission of Inquiry that I should not be named since I was attending parliament.”

Earlier in the day, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya called on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to intervene in restoring STF security accorded to TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that MP Sumanthiran’s life had been exposed to danger and the latter’s security should be restored without further delay.  “We know the results of removing the security of political leaders who are in danger. When Janaka Perera contested for the Chief Minister post of the North Central Province, his security detail was removed. There was only one bodyguard left with him on the day he was killed. That was a very unfortunate incident. We have lost many good Tamil political leaders. It is our duty to protect the minorities and we call on the Speaker to take action to restore MP Sumanthiran’s security.”

 MP Kiriella said that an MP’s security should not be removed just because that MP attended a protest march. “When Mahinda Rajapaksa participated in Pada Yathra his security was not removed.”

 Gampaha District SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said that it was wrong to state a court order had been taken against the march. “As far as we know that the court order had been taken against violating the quarantine laws. You cannot remove the security of an MP on the charge of violating quarantine laws. It is wrong to describe our attempt to restore security of MP Sumanthiran as an attempt to give security to a terrorist. Then what about the security accorded to Karuna Amman and Pillayan? Who is Pillayan? He used to come to my office on all fours. Now, he has bodyguards. Sumanthiran was always against terrorism. It is unfair for you to lump him with the terrorists.”

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: MP Sumanthiran was given special security owing to threats to his life. That has been removed now. However threats prevail even now. I therefore request the Speaker to intervene in this matter to restore MP Sumanthiran’s security.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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