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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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Collective Cabinet responsibility won’t be at country’s expense

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Udaya: We are ready to face consequences of revolting against backdoor Yugadanavi deal

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says that in spite of being members of the Cabinet, he along with National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa and Democratic Left Front (DLF) leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara, have supported the petitions filed against the government entering into a framework agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy in respect of Yugadanavi Power Plant, etc., as they strongly felt that collective Cabinet responsibility should not be at the expense of national security.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila emphasised they had challenged the Cabinet over the controversial agreement following careful examination of what he called a politically charged situation.

The Colombo District MP said that they were ready to face the consequences of legal measures they had resorted to. Minister Gammanpila said so in response to The Island query whether they could continue as members of the Cabinet after having objected to an international agreement, finalised by the government.

Gammanpila said that they had never tried to hide their intentions and they felt embarrassed by the way some in the government manipulated the very process that was meant to ensure transparency and accountability.

Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, on behalf of the government, entered into an agreement with New Fortress Energy, a company listed in the NASDAQ, on July 7, 2021, two days after Cabinet decided on the matter.

Gammanpila said they had tried to settle the issue at the Cabinet level and at the government parliamentary group. “Finally, we were left with no alternative but to denounce the New

Fortress deal and then throw our weight behind those who moved the Supreme Court against it,” Minister Gammanpila said.
The SLPP repeatedly demanded that whatever the issue the constituents should settle it within the government parliamentary group and the Cabinet.
Minister Weerawansa told Parliament on 11 November that an Attorney-at-Law would represent the trio at the Supreme Court proceedings.
Responding to another query, Minister Gammanpila questioned the rationale behind bringing in a company that hadn’t been involved in the tender process in respect of a high profile project involving the West Coast Power Limited (WCPL). The minister said that the US firm had spurned the tender process as it received an assurance as regards the contract.

The US government pushed for the deal meant to secure 40 percent shares of the WCPL at a cost of USD 250 mn, Minister Gammanpila said.
The Cabinet memorandum as regards the sale of WCPL shares, in addition to the floating storage regasification unit, mooring system and the pipelines and the supply of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is dated 06 Sept., 2021, months after Sri Lanka entered into FA with New Fortress Energy.

Asked whether the NFF, PHU and DLF would receive the support of other parties including the SLFP, Minister Gammanpila said that those who had pledged support for their cause remained committed and confident.

In addition to the NFF, PHU and DLF with a combined strength of eight MPs, the grouping against the New Fortress deal included the SLFP (14 members), CP (1 MP), Yuthukama (2 members) and Tiran Alles. Over two dozen elected and appointed members of the SLPP are against the New Fortress deal.

Of the smaller constituents in the government, the MEP (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna) has distanced itself from the campaign against the energy deal.
Minister Gammanpila said that in his current capacity as the energy minister he had been compelled to struggle against the energy project as it posed a threat to the country. Referring to the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa sacking ministers, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayaka and G.M. Premachandra in 1991, Minister Gammanpila said that the UNPers sought the Supreme Court intervention. The SC ruled that in case ministers had been deprived of an opportunity to discuss some matter at the cabinet, they could do so with the public, Gammanpila said, adding that they pursued a strategy based on that SC position.

Minister Gammanpila said that Sri Lanka couldn’t afford to create a foreign monopoly in the gas supply to the country. The situation would be far worse as the proposed monopoly would be American, Gammanpila said, noting that in spite of entering into a spate of other agreements with foreign partners under controversial circumstances, the incumbent government seemed to have perpetrated an unpardonable act.

Minister Gammanpila said that the US energy deal would deliver a knockout blow to Sri Lanka’s efforts to tap gas in the Mannar seas. The consequence of this arrangement would be far reaching and devastating as far as Sri Lanka was concerned, the minister said. If the New Fortress deal was carried pit. Sri Lanka wouldn’t be able to bring in other investors to extract gas from the Mannar basin, the minister said.

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State and private sector union members on sick leave demanding Rs 10,000 pay hike

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Protesting workers blocking the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat yesterday morning (pic by Nishan S. Priyantha)

Members of several state, semi-government and private sector trade unions took sick leave yesterday (08) as part of their trade union struggle to win a number of demands including a 10,000-rupee pay hike and the cancellation of the questionable New Fortresss deal.

Unions of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), the Ports Authority and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) have pledged solidarity with the protesting workers.
The unions held demonstrations near the Parliament Roundabout and the Fort Railway Station.

They opposed the government decision to raise the retirement age to 65.
“There are over 25,000 postal workers and about 80% of them have joined the union action. This is the case in other sectors too,” President of Sri Lanka Postal Services Union Chinthaka Bandara said.

He demanded that the government increase their salaries through the budget 2022. “Otherwise, we will resort to sterner trade union action. The cost of living has gone through the roof and the Central Bank has admitted that inflation has risen sharply. Most companies in the private sector have reduced the salaries of employees and the allowances in the government sector too have been slashed. People will have to starve at this rate, “Bandara said. (RK)

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Contaminated fertiliser: Case to be taken up on May 09

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By Ifham Nizam and Chitra Weerarathne

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)’s lawsuit to stop unloading here of allegedly contaminated organic fertiliser, CA WRIT 476/2 was taken up yesterday before Court of Appeal Justices Achala Wengappuli and Dhammika Ganepola.

Taking the facts into account the Court ordered that the case be recalled on May 9, 2021.

At a previous hearing the court questioned the Attorney General whether the Government was in a position to assure that they would not allow the controversial load of fertiliser to be unloaded. In response to that request Deputy Solicitor General Nirmalan Wigneswaran, who appeared on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture informed the Court yesterday that the vessel carrying the controversial fertilizer belonging to the Chinese company has left Sri Lankan maritime space.

Senior Counsel Ravindranath Dabare, Ms Nilmal Wickramasinghe (AAL) and Ms Thushini Jayasekara (AAL) appeared for the petitioners on the instructions of Ms. Samadhi Hansani Premasiri (AAL).

In the petition. CEJ argued that organic fertiliser from any country could not be imported into Sri Lanka, under any circumstance, according to the regulations of the Plant Protection Ordinance imposed in 1981 and Plant Protection Act No. 35 of 1999 as it prohibit the import of soil particles, living organisms, any virus, bacteria or fungus cultures into the country, given that organic manure/compost is made of decomposing animal and plant parts, which could consist of pathogens.
However, when the samples collected from this controversial shipment were tested Sri Lankan authorities found harmful organisms. As a result, National Plant Quarantine Service did not issue any import permit particularly for this bulk stock of so called “Organic Fertilizer”, the petitioner pointed out.

It also said that based on those facts the Director General of Agriculture had issued a letter dated 22.10.2021, addressing the Chairman, Sri Lanka Port Authority, requesting him to prevent the berth of the vessel carrying this stock of Fertilizer at the Colombo Port and not to discharge any of its organic fertilizer into the Sri Lankan territory claiming it carried a huge phytosanitary risk to Sri Lanka.

In addition to this Ceylon Fertilizer Company also obtained an enjoining order (on 22.10.2021) from the Commercial High Court of Colombo against Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd; the supplier and the People’s Bank, preventing the latter from making any payment under the Letter of Credit opened in favour of Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd which has entered into a contract with Ceylon Fertilizer Company.

However, in spite of all these Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd officially informed The Director General of Agriculture that its consignment of fertilizer which was shipped from China on 29th September 2021 would reach Sri Lanka as scheduled.

The Center for Environmental Justice therefore had to file an urgent motion CA WRIT 476/21 on (25.10.2021) to prevent the stock of fertilizer from entering the country owing to political or public pressure.

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