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TISL reminds President of impending vacancies in Right to Information Commission

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Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has called for the appointment of the new commissioners for the Right to Information (RTI) Commission in line with the procedures set out in the Right to Information Act No 12 of 2016.

 A statement issued by the TISL said: The tenure of the Right to Information (RTI) Commission which is the central oversight and appellate body established under the Right to Information Act of Sri Lanka is set to expire in September this year. Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) calls for the appointment of the new commissioners in line with the procedures set out in the Right to Information Act No 12 of 2016.

The RTI Commission is established under section 11 of the RTI Act which defines the constitution of the Commission, which consists of a chairperson and four members who serve a term of five years. Prior to the passing of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, the appointments were made by the President upon the recommendations provided by the Constitutional Council.

However, the 20th Amendment changed the manner in which the RTI Commission is appointed. The Constitutional Council which is mentioned in the Act is no longer functional and has been replaced with the Parliamentary Council. Therefore, it is now up to the Parliamentary Council to obtain nominations from the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, organisations of publishers, editors and media persons and other civil society organisations to fill positions in the RTI Commission. The Parliamentary Council is expected to make observations to the President on who should be appointed to the RTI Commission, while the President’s duty to seek such observations is mandatory.

TISL hopes that the President would take these observations into serious consideration when making appointments for the RTI Commission, in keeping with the democratic process stipulated in the RTI Act of Sri Lanka.

Commenting on this, TISL Executive Director Nadishani Perera stated that “Over the Past 5 years the RTI Commission of Sri Lanka was able to deliver commendable decisions that protected the people’s right to information. They were able to do this because the RTI Commission acted in its capacity as an independent body. TISL hopes that the President will make the new appointments to the Commission in line with the provisions of the RTI Act, ensuring the independent nature of the Commission,”

Earlier TISL took steps to invite Civil Society Organisations in the country to join hands in fulfilling their role laid out in the RTI Act. The nominations by a number of Civil Society organisations including TISL for a position in the RTI Commission were compiled and handed over to the Parliamentary Council yesterday.

The RTI Commission can be considered to be a bridge that connects the state with the general populace.  During its tenure the current RTI Commission provided progressive rulings from matters ranging from simple RTI requests on local development activities to more controversial issues such as an order to release the asset declarations of the former Prime Minister. These rulings are a testament to the independence of the commission and further proof of why the proper procedure laid out in the RTI Act should be followed when making appointments to the Commission.

TISL Executive Director Nadishani Perera also noted that “the background of the RTI Commissioners and the role that they play have a direct impact on the general public. If the appointed Commissioners are impartial, with no direct ties to politics, they would be able to dole out impartial rulings on behalf of the people. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of the general public to pay close attention to the nature of individuals appointed to the RTI Commission.”

The following names were submitted to the Parliamentary Council by TISL and other civil society organisations for consideration when selecting candidates for the RTI Commission: Dr. A.K.C.H. Priyangani Jayasundara, (Nominated by Safe Foundation), J. H. Nilmini Sunethra Kumari (Nominated by Child Vision Sri Lanka), P. Sai Balasubramaniam (Nominated by Peoples’ Development Foundation), Rev. Dr. Noel Dias (Nominated by Centre for Social Justice and Equity), D.M. Samantha Dassanayake ( Nominated by Centre for Human Rights and Community Development), Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa (Nominated by Caritas SED),  Sampath Pushpakumara  (Nominated by Families of the Disappeared), Nadarajah Sivaranjith (Nominated by NGO Consortium, Ampara), and Ainkaran Kugadasan (Nominated by Transparency International Sri Lanka).



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JVP, too, moves court against deal with US company

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By Chitra Weerarathne and A.J.A. Abeynayake

The JVP yesterday (26) filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal requesting it to declare null and void a Cabinet decision to transfer 40 percent of the Yugadanavi Power Plant to US Company, New Fortress Energy Inc.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ceylon Electricity Board, West Coast Power (Pvt) Ltd, Lakdanavi Limited, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have been named as respondents among 43 others.

The JVP’s petition has come in the way of Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Elle Gunawansa, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) moving the court against the controversial deal with US energy company,The application has also sought a writ of mandamus on the respondents preventing them from taking any action with regard to the matter until the application is taken up and its examination is concluded.

Former JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Wasantha Samarasinghe are the petitioners.

The petitioners state that the Cabinet decisions undermine the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and several other statutes, and conventions of democratic governance and Cabinet of Ministers exercising executive powers.

The petitioners state that LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., is the largest power sector engineering company in the country. It was first incorporated in the 1980s as a joint venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board and a multinational group – ABB of Norway.

The Petitioners state that Lakdanavi (Pvt) Ltd., is a fully owned subsidiary of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and is a company specialised in engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance in the energy and power generation sector.

They assert that the government has not properly explained particulars of the deal even to the Cabinet of Ministers when transferring the shares of the power plant to the American company.

They have also alleged that the government has not obtained the approval of Parliament for the agreement in question and that the relevant share transfer process has not been carried out in accordance with a formal tender procedure.

They have sought the Appeals Court to issue an order rescinding the decision taken to transfer the shares to the American company and the agreement signed by the government.

In addition, the General Secretary of the SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court on 21 Oct., challenging the government decision to transfer 40 per cent of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant to the US firm.

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Ex-Indian HC in Colombo during turbulent 1989-90 will be featured in next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar

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Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, former High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, will be featured in the next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar scheduled at 2.30 p.m. IST/SLST on Thursday 28th October.

Mehrotra will be interviewed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation. They will discuss the guest speaker’s publication ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’, which features his experience during the period 1989-1990, when he served as High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, during a politically turbulent era coupled with the separatist war in the north-east and an insurrection in the south.

His book, ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ touches on the beginnings of the conflict, briefly follows on its evolution until it reached its peak in the early 1990s, and then takes the reader in detail through the author’s own experience in the country, nearly two years after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force had been inducted at the invitation of President J. R. Jayewardene, while President Premadasa, who succeeded President Jayewardene considered the presence of an Indian military contingent on his nation’s soil as an affront to its sovereignty. Soon after his election, the President issued an ultimatum for the IPKF to leave its shores by 29th July 1989 and threatened military action against it if it failed to do so, which brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation.

The High Commissioner’s intensive consultations and tireless interaction with the political leaders of Sri Lanka, the warring factions in the country’s north-east, and the governments in New Delhi and Colombo helped signing of the joint communique on 28th July 1989 on arrangements for phased withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 with due recognition of its contribution and sacrifices made to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ provides information that has never been divulged before. The “In Conversation” webinar will delve into these experiences of the High Commissioner; whose rather brief assignment was from April 1989 to June 1990.

Following his assignment that covered the most turbulent period of Sri Lanka in modern times, Ambassador Mehrotra served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Africa before his retirement in 1992. Later, he served as UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000 and as Head of the UN Diplomatic Mission in Jakarta for Peace Talks between Indonesia and East Timor.

Those who are interested in retracing the history of Sri Lanka should register in advance for this webinar through the link below:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0nxJI2dPR8SCKK7k4hqDpg

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Cardinal lashes out at Minister known as Ten Percent

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His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith visits Sarakkuwa in the Pamunugama area where clearing of X-Press Pearl debris continuinues.Pic by Nishan S .Priyantha

By Norman Palihawadane and Nishan S. Priyantha

Monies taken in the form of commissions by forfeiting people’s welfare will never do any good to those who take them, says His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

“The biggest malady our society is afflicted with is the commissions earned by politicians through various deals. They take commissions from companies by depriving the people of their dues. Such money has blood on them and they would not do any good to those who take them,” the Cardinal said yesterday.

Speaking to journalists at the Sarakkuwa beach in Pamunugama during an inspection tour to witness the progress of cleaning work of the MV X-Press Pearl wreck the Cardinal said: “We have a Cabinet minister who is notoriously known as Mr. Ten Percent. Imagine the shame on this nation when there is such a minister taking ten percent of commission from every project he passes. The monies collected in that way would never bring out any good.”

The Cardinal said that the President, the Prime Minister and government institutions including the Ministry of Fisheries, coast conservation department, marine environment protection authority and urban development authority were duty bound to remove the wreck, clean the beach and the ocean. “In doing so, the government should be concerned about the interests of people, and not about the shipping company, its local agents or agents of the insurance companies. We demand that the government take this case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and get full compensation for the people. We have information that the agents of companies have come down and are staying in Colombo exerting influence on various political leaders and officials. Their objective is getting out of this by paying a paltry sum. If the politicians and officials permit that we will take to the streets with people.”

The Cardinal said that there was information that Urban Development Authority officials were making plans to give away Muthurajawela to foreign companies. “Muthurajawela is a national asset and belongs to the people. The politicians have no right to sell them off to Korean or Chinese companies. We would not let that happen,” he said.

Associated with the Cardinal were Ven. Pahiyangala Ananada Thera, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Chairperson, bishops and other religious leaders.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl caught fire off the coast of Colombo in May and sank while transporting 1,486 chemical containers from the Middle East with stops in India and Sri Lanka during its voyage to Singapore.

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