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UK accepts complaint regarding SJB lawmaker’s alleged British citizenship

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Civil society activist Oshala Herath yesterday (2) said that the UK Government had responded to his query regarding Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Naltional List MP Diana Gamage being a British passport holder.

Herath said that he had received a response from the UK Visas and Emigration Section on Dec 1 as regards his Nov 25 query although Election Commission (EC) and other relevant authorities were yet to take up the matter.

Herath, who served in former President Maithripala Sirisena’s media unit, in different capacities, alleged that those responsible for inquiring into the matter were silent on the presence of a British passport holder in Parliament. Herath said the CID was yet to initiate an inquiry.

Having switched her allegiance to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) recently, MP Gamage voted for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. In terms of the 20th Amendment approved with an overwhelming 2/3 majority, dual citizens are permitted to contest general election or enter Parliament through NL.

Herath made available a copy of the response he received from the UK Visas and Emigration Section to The Island.

Responding to another query, Herath said that he was informed that though the release of information relating to Diana Gamage was restricted in terms of Data Protection Act of 2018, his complaint would be investigated by the relevant unit.

A person, named G. Bunker, who has signed the document on behalf of ‘Central Operations’ has said the e-mail received from Herath was sent to the appropriate department. Bunker has advised Herath that he shouldn’t expect to receive information pertaining to the result of his complaint as release of such material could jeopardise their investigations. Herath said the British would have simply dismissed his complaint if it had been baseless.

MP Gamage, taking part in Hiru ‘Salakuna’ programme, strongly denied being a British passport holder. She is on record as having said via social media that she renounced her British citizenship in 2015 to launch her political career here.

Herath said he was confident that the five-member EC appointed in terms of the 20th Amendment would conduct a proper inquiry into his complaint. Attorney-at-law Nimal G. Punchihewa heads the EC. Other members are M. M. Mohamed, Gunapala Wickramage, Jeevan Thyagaraja and K. P. P. Pathirana. The previous EC consisted of Mahinda Deshapriya, Nalin Abeysekera, PC and Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole.

The defeated Colombo District UNP candidate at the last general election in early August alleged that the previous EC, instead of conducting a proper inquiry, had thrown its weight behind Diana Gamage. Herath made available his correspondence with the then EC Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya to The Island in respect of MP Diana Gamage’s matter and the re-registering of ‘Ape Jathika Peramuna’ as SJB in the run-up to the last general election.

Herath alleged that the SJB had accommodated Diana Gamage on its NL as she as the General Secretary of Ape Jathika Peramuna had played a significant role in enabling Sajith Premadasa-led rebel UNP group to contest the general election.

In the run-up to the general election, the Supreme Court dismissed Herath’s petition against the registration of the SJB.

Herath said that he would soon write to the new EC Chairman as well as the newly formed five-member Parliamentary Council (PC) regarding the previous EC’s failure to probe the matter. The PC couldn’t turn a blind eye to the EC’s failure though in terms of the 20th Amendment the President was the appointing authority, he said.

Herath said that he had brought MP Gamage’s citizenship issue to the notice of the Secretary to the President, the Speaker and the Attorney General.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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