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The only MP to oppose 19A welcomes 20A for restoring people’s sovereignty

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By Saman Indrajith

Local government and Provincial Council Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament yesterday (21) that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution would restore people’s sovereignty that had been diminished by the 19th Amendment.

Participating in the second round of the 20th amendment bill debate, the minister said that as per the constitutional provisions, sovereignty in the country was in the people and inalienable. Sovereignty included the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise. Within the powers of the government came the executive power of the people. That executive power of the people was exercised by the President. The 19th Amendment had reduced the powers of the executive and thereby diminished the people’s sovereignty. The 20th amendment would rectify that and restore people’s sovereignty by unshackling the executive, the Minister said.

“The 19th amendment weakened the executive power. For example, 6.9 million people voted for the incumbent president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Now nearly one year has passed but he still cannot appoint an IGP he thinks fit for the job because of the 19th Amendment. Before the 19th amendment was brought in appointments to all the key positions including the Chief Justice, Attorney General, IGP etc., were made by the President elected by a majority of people. The 19th Amendment vested that power in a constitutional council which had nine members. Of those nine votes, seven were in the hands of persons appointed by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. That means two MPs elected from two districts exercising executive powers of an entire population. What happened in practice? Opposition leader was R Sampanthan, an LTTE proxy. The prime minister was Ranil Wickremesinghe and we know his attitude. It was those two who made all important appointments. In other words Sampanthan from Trincomalee district and Wickremesinghe form Colombo district exercised the sovereign powers of an entire nation. Is it justifiable?” the Minister queried.

“The Constitutional Council had three civil society members who were not responsible to parliament or people. They were representatives of NGOs. Is it justifiable?”

Minister Weerasekera said that as the one and only MP who had opposed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament, he was happy to see that the day had come to replace it with the 20th Amendment. 



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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