Udays reiterates New Fortress Energy deal harmful, dismisses SLPP warning over dissenting views
…strategy in line with post-2020 general election
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila has reiterated that the rebel group within the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) parliamentary group would continue its role regardless of consequences.
The leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila has stressed that their right to function as a dissident group was in line with an assurance given to the electorate in the run-up to the last parliamentary election in August 2020.
According to the Minister, the PHU and the National Freedom Front (NFF) led by Wimal Weerawansa reached consensus on several contentious matters.
The declaration was made at an event held at Muthurajawela where the former Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) stalwart launched a tree planting campaign to match the number of preferential votes he received at the last general election. The SLPP Colombo District candidate secured 136,331 preferential votes and was placed third in the list. Retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera (329,092) and Wimal Weerawansa (267,084) topped the district list.
Minister Gammanpila was responding to SLPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, who warned that dissent within the government parliamentary group wouldn’t be tolerated.
Addressing the weekly media briefing at the party headquarters, Prof. Peiris said whatever the differences within the parliamentary group once the government took a stand all constituents should abide by that decision. The Foreign Minister was referring to a spate of contentious matters, including the most recent dispute over an agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy group to supply LNG to Sri Lanka under controversial terms.
Minister Gammanpila emphasized that they had the right to pressure the government in case it pursued policies contrary to that of the mandates received at 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary polls.
Having discussed the political campaign the PHU carried out over the past several years, lawmaker Gammanpila said that they opposed the 20th Amendment to the Constitution when the cabinet approved the proposal without an internal discussion. “We didn’t keep quiet just because the controversial decision was taken at the very first cabinet meeting following the general election,” MP Gammanpila said.
Minister Gammanpila emphasized that the New Fortress deal was inimical to the country.
Several parties, including some of those who backed the SLPP at the presidential and parliamentary polls have moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal against the New Fortress deal.
Referring to the SLPP’s 2019 presidential election manifesto, Minister Gammanpila compared the way the cabinet of ministers, contrary to the party manifesto, had approved Indian and Japanese investment in the ECT (East Container Terminal) of the Colombo port. Lawmaker Gammanpila pointed out that they had no option but to oppose the ECT project as it was contrary to their manifesto.
The NFF and the PHU have received the backing of the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party), the second largest party in the ruling coalition, in addition to the CP (Communist Party) and Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara led DLF (Democratic Left Front). The dissident group consists of over two dozen lawmakers and the crisis undermined near two-thirds majority enjoyed by the SLPP in parliament. The government group comprises 145 members.
Minister Weerawansa recently told The Island that they had to go public over the New Fortress deal as their efforts to halt it failed to achieve the desired results.
The NFF leader declared that the government brazenly manipulated the cabinet process to facilitate the US investment, a charge strongly denied by the SLPP.
MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium
Ali Sabry responds to accusations
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.
Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).
The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.
Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.
At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.
Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.
The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.
“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.
Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.
Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.
Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.
Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.
MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.
Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations. The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.
In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “
The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.
No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister
By Ifham Nizam
The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.
“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.
The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.
CBSL chief expresses optimism
Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe told the media, on Sunday, that the country’s dollar crisis could be managed as the IMF was set to approve a 2.9 billion-dollar bailout package on Monday. He said that Sri Lanka now had adequate foreign reserves for imports for essential sectors.
Dr. Weerasinghe added that the IMF package would boost investor confidence and enhance the country’s access to more foreign funds and investments.
The IMF package would include budgetary support, which was a new element in IMF lending, he said. Sri Lanka started negotiations with the IMF, in 2022, following the onset of the current economic crisis.
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