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Time has come for President to delivered on his promises: Karu J

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The time has come for the President to deliver on his recent promises, Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), said at a news conference last week.

He stressed at the inception that “We are not expressing these views with the intention of either

overthrowing the government or coming into power. Instead, we state these views as it is our duty as citizens and as an organization to intervene in matters that affect the country and are important to the common good.”

In the course of his address Jayasuriya expressed support for a new constitution saying that the legislature needed to be strengthened and there was a need for a new constitution. But the drafting process must be properly done with expert input and respect for constitution making traditions.

Commenting on the speech made by President Rajapaksa at the army’s 72nd anniversary, he said if what was said there are fulfilled, NMSJ believed that he will be able to take the country forward and earn the respect of our society by fulfilling the wishes of the people even if delayed.

It is commendable that the president has admitted that there have been shortcomings in the last two years. During his recent meeting with the UN Secretary-General, Rajapaksa had assured he would not only establish democracy but would also protect human rights in our country.

“Now it is his job to fulfill those promises,” Jayasuriya said.

Commenting on the president’s assurance that a new Constitution and a new electoral system will be introduced to the country within the next year, he described this as “a very important and crucial announcement that will have a profound effect on this country.”

He added: “It is also commendable that he finally understands how democracy in the country has been destroyed by the adoption of the 20th Amendment which further strengthened the executive presidency.”

Saying that the vast majority of the country’s population today do not accept the current Constitution based on the executive presidency, it’s good that the president also now understands the need for a new Constitution.

He further said:

The character of this country, i.e. its sovereignty, the nature of the sovereignty of the people, social freedoms and rights as well as the independence of the judiciary, is determined by the Constitution.

NMSJ has continuously advocated the need for a new Constitution on the basis that the legislature should be strengthened.

Constitutional reform must be undertaken for the common good, with honest intentions and without ulterior motives. Those those who lead the drafting must have a high level of knowledge on legislative and constitutional traditions and these must be safeguarded. Drafting must ensure citizens’ participation and previous wrongs not repeated.

The first thing that needs to be done is to identify the basic principles on which the Constitution is to be drafted and to reach a consensus on those principles. Also, the document containing those principles should be published in advance to make the public aware of what is being proposed and discussions on drafting a new constitution based on those principles should begin only then. The new Constitution proposed must be subject to the approval of the Supreme Court.

Although, the president has once more claimed “One Country, One Law,” at present there appears to be no such policy. Those who destroyed King Buwanekabahu’s royal court are now at large holding responsible positions. Even those sentenced to death by the courts for serious crimes have been pardoned by the president. Ministers are even able to forcefully enter prisons and issue death threats to inmates. These are serious incidents.

The first thing to be done is to set an example to the country by enforcing the law in relation to such incidents and we request the authorities to do so. In a situation where death row inmates are being pardoned, we believe that the future of a popular artist like Ranjan Ramanayake must not be ruined. Justice should be delivered to Ramanayake at least now. These incidents suggested government is following two policies instead of one.

At the same time, there are serious doubts as to how the law is being enforced in relation to the Easter Sunday attack. It is a very dangerous situation. That suspicion will remain until all those who directed and supported the attack are punished. Even the Catholic Church in this country has raised its doubts. We also request the government to fully disclose the report of the Presidential Commission which, we believe, will help to dispel any doubts. Do not let this issue continue further.

We also feel that holding on to the Upali Abeyratne Commission report, which gave malicious decisions that ridicules the judiciary and the country, is a disgrace. These days there is also talk in political circles of holding provincial council and local government elections. Prior to that, the election commission and other commissions must be freed from the rampant politicization.

It is also alleged that a plan is being discussed to distribute state resources to the advantage of the ruling party during the election period. Allegations are leveled regarding an attempt to hand over the national wealth of the country in the name of rural development to political activists who are not representatives of the people. This should not be allowed. The whole country must stand up against it.

According to the reports we have received, it seems that there has been a major collapse in the country’s agriculture sector. If immediate action is not taken in this regard, a famine could occur in the country in the future. Although the use of organic fertilizer is a very valuable decision, no country in the world has done it immediately and successfully. Experts in the field are of the opinion that it should be done according to a five-year plan.

The government should keep in mind that the prices of essential commodities such as flour, sugar, gas and cement severely affects the masses. If immediate steps are not taken to strengthen the country’s economy, improve the living standards of the people and reduce the cost of living, mass protests may take place in the country.

The people of our country often hand over power and appoint rulers with the hope they will work for their welfare. Instead, whenever the government tries to oppress the people by plundering the national wealth of the country, the people who put them in power will eventually rise up against it. This is a universal reality. The fate of the rulers who do not understand this is often unfortunate. Therefore, the rulers of this country need to understand this at least now.

We are pleased that Sri Lanka has made great strides with regard to controlling the Covid-19 pandemic as well as its inoculation drive. We would like to express our gratitude and pay our respect to all those who have dedicated themselves to this cause.

Jayasuriya concluded by saying NMSJ hoped that the views and suggestions that it had made with good intentions will be brought to the attention of the president and the government.



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Endure daily power-cuts or face countrywide indefinite blackouts, warns Minister Gammanpila

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‘Electricity supply cannot be maintained at the expense of transport sector’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday (18) said that the foreign currency crisis was so acute the country had no option but to implement daily 90-minute power cut until the hydro power generation increased with the onset of rains.

Minister Gammanpila, who is also the leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) has advised the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to impose daily 90-minute power-cuts or face the consequences.

Gammanpila said that the entire country would face indefinite blackouts if the CEB tried to avoid 90-minute power cuts. The warning was issued at a media briefing called by Minister Gammanpila at the Power Ministry where he stressed that power cuts were inevitable in view of the foreign exchange crisis.

The cash-strapped government was able to pay for stock of diesel on Tuesday (18). In spite of vessels carrying diesel entering Sri Lankan waters nine days ago the government had to struggle to pay them, the lawmaker said.

At the onset of the briefing, Minister Gammanpila flayed the CEB for blaming the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) for the rapidly developing crisis.

MP Gammanpila said: “About 60 percent of the electricity requirement was met by hydro-power till end of Dec 2021. By then, hydro-power generation was down to 38 percent. Struggling to cope up with the situation, the CEB on January 11 asked us to provide additional fuel with effect from January 13. The CPC was not prepared to meet their requirement for obvious reasons. We were told they needed additional supplies at the end of January.”

Minister Gammanpila asked as to how the CPC could supply 1,500 metric tonnes beginning January 13 as it didn’t have the required stocks. The Energy Minister emphasised that the cash-strapped government couldn’t maintain extra stocks.

Lawmaker Gammanpila emphasised that his ministry had no option but to refuse to provide diesel to the CEB at the expense of the transport sector. The lawmaker pointed out that the country couldn’t afford to allow the disruption of transport by releasing sparse stocks available to them.

The Energy Minister asserted that disruption in public and private transport would be far worse than being subjected to daily 90-minute power cut.

Advising the CEB to be mindful of the current situation, Minister Gammanpila said that of the 37,000 tonnes of diesel the government paid for on Tuesday, 10,000 tons would be made available to the CEB. Declaring that would be sufficient for just eight days, Minister Gammanpila said that the CPC would also provide 2,200 tons of furnace oil and 700 tons of diesel to a privately-owned power station that supplied electricity to the government.

Minister Gammanpila said that it would be better to experience daily 90-minute power cuts than facing the prospect of three-hour disruption after having uninterrupted supply for a short period.

The outspoken lawmaker said that there was no point in denying the fact that the country was in severe difficulty due to the foreign currency crisis.

Pointing out that Sri Lanka received USD 750-800 mn a month, the Energy Minister asked how banks coped up with the situation as the government sought 2/3 of that amount for oil imports.

Minister Gammanpila told The Island that the public should be taken into confidence. The current crisis would cause further problems, the lawmaker said, urging the decision makers to be responsible to those who elected them.

The MP warned the failure on the part of the powers that be to realise the actual ground situation and take tangible measures to cut down the fuel bill would plunge the country into an unprecedented crisis.

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Sri Lanka disputes Canadian Travel Advisory

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… immediate steps taken to apprise Ottawa

Sri Lanka has challenged a Canadian bid to undermine ongoing efforts to attract tourists. In the wake of the latest Canadian Travel Advisory on Sri Lanka issued on January 13, 2022, the Foreign Ministry has stated that the communique contained erroneous and outdated information that did not reflect the actual situation in Sri Lanka. As such, the Ministry has taken steps to apprise the Canadian authorities of ground realities.

The following is the text of the statement: “There are flawed references to the economic and security situation in the country as well as inaccurate information with regard to the safety and security of female travelers and harassment of foreigners.

Sri Lanka has successfully overcome the immediate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now in a state of normalcy with all public service, corporate and business, and education activities functioning normally without interruption, in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The nationwide inoculation programme has been commended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and almost 90% of the eligible population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A campaign has been launched to provide the booster dose to the population above 20 years of age.

Despite the pandemic, Sri Lanka has received several international accolades in the tourism industry including CNN’s “Where to Travel in 2022”; the Global Wellness Institute; Conde Nast Traveler 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards as well as other endorsements received previously in 2019 by Lonely Planet and the National Geographic Travel. GoSL looks forward to more tourists visiting Sri Lanka from Canada and elsewhere with the gradual normalization of travel globally.

It is important to note that even though Sri Lanka’s economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is making every endeavor to reinvigorate its economy this year, through the implementation of prudent policies. Food security and law & order are the topmost priorities of the Government, and the availability of all essentials is considered as a vital part of the Government’s functions. As such high priority is given to ensuring that all essential items continue to be available to the public at all time and there are sufficient stocks of food items.

With regard to the security situation, the GoSL maintains minimum presence of military in the North and the East to ensure security and stability in keeping with national security imperatives and this is similar to such presence elsewhere in the country. There is no arbitrary arrest and detention of persons by the police or security forces. Since the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009, security forces have conducted a comprehensive demining operation in the North and East, with technical support of several foreign Governments and international agencies. As at December 2014, 94% of the de-mining had been completed, while presently, the figure has risen to 98.7%. The Advisory states, that ‘there is a threat of terrorism’ and that ‘further attacks cannot be ruled out’. It is notable that since the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019 the GoSL has taken all necessary measures to ensure public safety and national security throughout the country, to prevent any resurgence of terrorism. It is noteworthy that during this period, there has not been even a single terrorist related incident in Sri Lanka, due to the enhanced vigilance and proactive measures taken by the relevant security authorities.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country with a rich, cosmopolitan heritage where different communities have peacefully co-existed over centuries. There is no civil unrest in the country. Sri Lanka has a long democratic tradition with strong institutions, and a vibrant civil society. Freedom of association and assembly are safeguarded with peaceful demonstrations occurring in Sri Lanka as in any other country where liberal democratic norms and traditions prevail. The police have allowed and continue to allow such peaceful demonstrations to take place unimpeded. These demonstrations do not in any way hinder the comfort, movement, safety or activities of tourists.

Specific attention is being paid to the safety and security of women tourists with measures taken to strengthen the presence of police, including tourism police, island-wide in all regions. Under this programme, police presence is being increased in all popular tourist destinations of the country with greater presence of women police officers in police stations. Emergency numbers of tourist police regional units, local police, and other emergency units such as hospitals, are available online to be accessed by travelers to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an island nation with friendly people with a high level of education, knowledge of English and literacy, and incidents of harassment or violence against tourists or foreigners are extremely rare.”

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Speaker: MPs borrowed only 330 books from Parliamentary library in 2021

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122 of them are novels!

By Saman Indrajith

The MPs’s poor reading habit had led to deterioration of their conduct in the House and made their speeches full of unparliamentary language, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday.

The Speaker said that it was very embarrassing to note that all 225 MPs had borrowed only 330 books from the House library during the whole of last year.

Making a special statement at the commencement of the sittings, the Speaker said that the Members of the House should take note of their conduct during the debates. “Once you have crossed the bar of the House you are considered honourable members of the House of Parliament. The honourable title demands that you speak and behave accordingly in a respectable manner which in turn reflects back on the House. When I first spoke in Parliament I did so after weeks of preparation. Today, very few members prepare before their speeches. According to the information furnished to me by the library only 330 books have been borrowed by the MPs during the year 2021, and 122 of them were fictions. Ninety-four of the books borrowed were on political science and 27 on sociology, only 11 books on economics. Five books on science, four books on law and three books on technology, one book on education, and one book on Sinhala literature among those books borrowed by the MPs.

“For a House of 225 members this is embarrassing. This lack of knowledge and preparation on subjects have led us to insufficient awareness, false allegations, in speeches. Most of the speeches are to score political points. This has led to shameful, unparliamentary conduct. As the Speaker it is my duty to conduct the House affairs productively and ensure the rights of all its members.

“The members must understand that it is their sacred duty to uphold the dignity of this institution. If people lose faith in this House that means they lose faith in democracy. Repercussions of such a situation would be a grave danger for all political parties and citizens of this country. People expect the members of the government and Opposition to act responsibly.”

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