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Tribute to Ven. Baddegama Samitha

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Our good friend, one-time hero of the University students (during JR Jayewardene regime), former Member of Parliament, and former Member of the Southern Provincial Council, Venerable Baddegama Samitha passed away on Sunday (May 30). He had been preaching and delivering religious services at several Buddhist temples in Baddegama area, in the Galle district, for many years.

Ven. Samitha became a hero of the university students in the late seventies, with his leading roles as a student leader and activist against the violence unleashed by the JR Jayewardene regime on the university students. He was a student of the Kelaniya University when a United National Party (UNP) gang leader Christopher terrified the students who demanded rights of the students, such as hostel facilities. As the gang leader had protection from the government, local politicians and the police, he continued to terrify students, with pistols, along with his fellow gangsters, even inside the Kelaniya University. But when he attacked the students, inside the library and the canteen, in front of Ven. Samitha, that was the last time Christopher could attack students. His fellow students, including the girls, attacked the gangster and the thugs until they ran away. Since then, Ven. Samitha became a hero of the students, at every university, because the government thugs had been terrifying the students in all the universities. But he had to face terrible consequences with arrests, detentions and death threats.

Fearing for his life, he fled the country, giving up his university studies. After he moved to Europe, he attended many international seminars, through the New Lanka Samasamaja Party. During his stay in England, he won a scholarship to study at Lancaster University. After completion of his postgraduate studies, he was awarded a PHD. After completing his degrees, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1988, and became a member of the executive committee of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP), led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

As a politician, Ven. Samitha had been representing the views of the poor and working-class people. In 1991, he entered mainstream politics through the Nava Sama Samaja Party. In 1997, he was elected as a member of the Southern Provincial Council and later, in 2001, he was elected to Parliament of Sri Lanka and had been an MP since 2001-2004. Samitha Thera was the first ever Buddhist monk to enter Parliament, as an MP.

Ven. Samitha had been immensely popular among the people in Sri Lanka, regardless of their ethnicities, until his death, including the local community because of his commitments and the dedication to ethnic harmony and serving the people. He helped people in the local community in numerous ways. When I came to England for the first time, I did not have friends or relatives in England so I asked him whether he could help me to find a temporary place. He arranged his friend to welcome me at London Heathrow airport and to provide temporary accommodation in his place in Kent.

Thank you for your service for the nation.

May he attain Nirvana.

 

Rajasinghe Bandara



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Opinion

MPs can show their colours

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I refer to this article, ‘Covid bonanza for….’ by Shamnidra Ferdinando.

It was obvious that the LC could not easily be cancelled. It will be interesting to know when the LC was actually opened; before or after Cabinet approval? The answer will be revealing.

Now that the vehicles will come in, come hell or high water with burning ships, there is a simple solution.

If the government is sincere in its intentions to reverse this totally unnecessary expenditure, which the country cannot afford,  scraping the bottom of the vangediya as it is, then the vehicles can be sold in the open market, in a transparent manner and at a profit, too, and the wasted  funds reimbursed to the Treasury. Personally, I know this will not happen, seeing what we are helplessly seeing being enacted in the country yesterday, today and alarmingly, tomorrow, too.

The next best option is for those MPs who oppose this criminal waste of public funds, to work out a method by which they can sell the vehicles presented to them by the starving masses, in a transparent manner and utilise the proceeds again in a transparent manner to uplift the lives of the millions of poor citizens in their electorates.

ACabinet given opportunity for Members of Parliament to show their true, even if highly faded and smudged, colours!

 

CITIZEN FERNANDO

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Opinion

Gazette Bill in blatant conflict with Constitution

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The Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill had been gazetted on March 24 after Cabinet approval, and placed in the order paper of Parliament on April 9. Normally, before placing a Bill on the order paper of the Parliament, it goes through the levels of the Legal Draftsman, Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, and the Cabinet of Ministers.

According to a news item that appeared in the Daily News, on April 27, the Attorney General has informed the Presidential Secretary that the Port City Economic Commission Draft Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution. But the same Attorney General has advanced the submissions and amendments in court, during the hearing of 18 petitions filed by members of civil society alleging the Bill is inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has found more than one third of its clauses are conflicting with the Constitution – the supreme law of Sri Lanka. Thus, it has been proved the Gazette Bill was in blatant conflict with the Constitution.

High officials of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General and the Legal Draftsman who are supposed to have been involved in the drafting of this Bill are professionals of recognized capability. They are committed to follow the best practices of their professions and should adhere to standards in procedural manuals and professional codes of conduct and ethics. They are bound by the oath taken by them in line with the Constitution and the accountability of the offices they hold. They also would have been supported by several legal eagles and experienced politicians in the Cabinet.

Citizens are confused as to how on earth such a Bill, in blatant conflict with the Constitution, could have been approved by the Attorney General and be drafted by the Legal Draftsman. 149 Members of Parliament have voted to amend 26 clauses of 75 clauses of the Legal Draftsman’s Bill. This is tantamount to a No Confidence Motion on the Legal Draftsman.

JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA

jdkgama02@gmail.com

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Opinion

Probe into expressway construction and floods

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The news item appearing in your issue of 10th June, regarding the Expressway Construction and Floods, is of interest to me, as I had handled Road Projects when attached to the then Department of Public Works [PWD] and later the Ministry for Highways.

It’s stated that Minister Johnston Fernando had instructed his Ministry Secretary to investigate immediately, whether there was any truth in the claim that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work, in the first phase of the Central Expressway, from Kadawatha to Mirigama; and continues to say ‘Yahapalana adjustments to the construction master plan may have lead to the present situation’, which could be insinuated as placing the blame on the previous Yahapalana government. This is the usual blame-game adopted by bankrupt politicians. It will not be surprising if the present government will be blamed when a new government is formed, for mismanagement of projects carried out now.

As far as I know, while construction is on, there comes up certain problems, which may necessitate altering or deviating from the original design. Hence the responsibility lies entirely on the Engineer, and not on any politician or government in power. Here the integrity of the Engineer counts. Sad to say, there have been accusations where professionals have given way to political pressure and projects have become failures. I would like to quote Moeller’s theory “One of the major reasons for a country to be subjected to bad governance is when its professionals do not speak out, but worst still, these professionals actually gang up with those committing anarchy for their own benefit. What the professionals do not realize is that in the long term, they too would be subjected to the worst treatment by these despotic dictators whom they were keen to protect. Moeller’s theory being proved time and again consorting with an autocratic regime is a worst act of treason against one’s own country and its people”

To the credit of Minister Johnston Fernando, he also mentions the likelihood of this flooding by saying “We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall in the known history was reported from this area”. Whatever, the findings of the investigations be, the accusation should be taken as fault finding of Engineers, and they should now come forward to protect their prestigious profession and give reasons, which lay, incompetent politicians, do not have the capacity to understand. Hope the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers will expose the viles of politicians to steer this country in the correct direction. This goes for other professions as well.

G. A. D. SIRIMAL

Boralesgamuwa

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