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UNP ‘NL imbroglio’ continues, resignation of Gen. Secy makes matters worse 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The filling of the solitary UNP National List vacancy is likely to be further delayed due to the recent resignation of its General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam. 

Sirikotha sources yesterday told The Island that in terms of the UNP Constitution the appointment of the General Secretary was solely the prerogative of the leader contrary to the belief that it required Working Committee approval.

Responding to another query, sources pointed out that as only the General Secretary is constitutionally authorized to notify the Election Commission (EC) of the appointment of NL members, recent resignation of Kariyawasam caused an additional issue. 

When The Island sought an explanation from former minister Kariyawasam as regards his sudden decision to quit the post of General Secretary ahead of the NL appointment, the UNPer emphasized that he wanted to quit the post even before the last parliamentary election in August. The unsuccessful Kurunegala district candidate said that he would continue to work with the party regardless of his resignation.

Of the 225 MPs, 29 are appointed through the National List. The UNP and Ape Janabala Pakshaya are yet to appoint their NL slots of one each.    

Well informed sources said that former minister Arjuna Ranatunga recently recommended UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as their best option to fill the vacant NL seat after the resignation of Kariyawasam. In the previous parliament, the UNP group comprised 106 lawmakers whereas Ape Janabala Pakshaya hadn’t been represented in parliament before.

The breakaway UNP faction registered as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said that the UNP should name its NL member without further delay. SJB NL MP Mayantha Dissanayake told The Island that the current leadership should accept responsibility for its failure to resolve the NL issue before the vote on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. MP Dissanayake questioned whether the delay in filling the vacancy was deliberate. “In the case of the UNP, the strength of the parliamentary group is immaterial. The leadership should have ensured the participation of the UNP at the debate over the 20th Amendment as well as the 2021 budget debate,” lawmaker Dissanayake said.

Responding to several other queries, MP Dissanayake emphasized that his personal opinion was that Sajith Premadasa was the most suitable person to take over the UNP. Declining to recommend who should be the UNP NL member, lawmaker Dissanayake said that should be the prerogative of the party. However, the SJB would find it comfortable to initiate unification talks once the UNP picked its new leadership.

The SJB won 54 seats, including seven NL slots at the last election. Lawmaker Dissanayake said that his father the late Gamini Dissanayake and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa’s father the late Ranasinghe Premadasa perished in LTTE terrorism. “Our party was mercilessly targeted over the years. We survived. Current crises shouldn’t be allowed to destroy Sri Lanka’s foremost registered political party.”

MP Mayantha Dissanayake’s brother Navin, another defeated candidate, remains with the UNP. The SJB spokesman stressed that their party basically followed UNP policies and remained committed steadfastly to what he called sound UNP political strategy.

The Island also raised the issue with lawyer Nimal Punchihewa, widely expected to receive the appointment as the Chairman of the EC. Punchihewa, long standing member of the Human Rights Commission said that there were several issues to be tackled. Punchihewa said that those issues could be discussed following the formalization of the EC. He however acknowledged that the current law didn’t make it mandatory for filling of the NL vacancies. Similarly, vacancies at Local Government bodies, too, could remain vacant indefinitely in the absence of required provision in the law pertaining to LG authorities. Punchihewa assured that once finalized, the EC would take appropriate action to address issues at hand.

Warring Ape Janabala Pakshaya factions hadn’t been able to resolve their differences, political sources said, adding that former MP Ven. Athureliye Rathana and Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara remained at loggerheads over the party NL slot. Ven. Rathana unsuccessfully contested the Gampaha district whereas the Kurunegala list containing Ven Gnanasara was rejected on technical grounds.

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MCC inconsistent with Constitution

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AG agrees with Prof. Gunaruwan report

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, has informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, Project Implementation Agreement, as well as Articles of Association of MCA (Millennium Challenge Act), Sri Lanka, are violative of cerain provisions of the Constitution.

The AG has said so in a 20-page report sent to Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President.

The President’s Office on Sept. 3, 2020, sought the AG’s opinion on the MCC Compact and related matters in the wake of the Cabinet-appointed Prof. Gunaruwan Committee strongly advising against going ahead with the US initiative. The US sought Sri Lanka’s consent for the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and MCC. The previous government finalised ACSA in early August 2017.

Dr. Jayasundera made available the Gunaruwan report to the AG.

The outgoing US administration in Dec 2020 announced Sri Lanka had been left out of the MCC project.

AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne confirmed the MCC et al were inconsistent with the Constitution and other laws.

The Island,

 however, learns that the AG’s Department on two previous occasions, in letters dated Oct 10, 2018 and June 10, 2019, addressed to Jonathan G. Nash, Chief Operating Officer, MCC, and Director General, External Resources Department, respectively, asserted that the Compact and the Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA) were in line with the Sri Lankan law.

The first letter was sent during Jayantha Jayasuriya’s tenure as the AG and the second under incumbent AG without his approval, sources said. Dappula de Livera succeeded Jayasuriya in April 2019 about a week after the April 21 Easter Sunday carnage. Jayasuriya is the incumbent Chief Justice.

Prof. Gunaruwan’s Committee soon after the last presidential election in Nov 2019 failed to obtain the AG’s Department opinion in spite of making representations through the Prime Minister’s Office.

In the run-up to 2019 parliamentary election, then Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the Attorney General had approved the US project though the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) called it a sell-out.

The following is the text of the letter dated Oct 10, 2018 captioned ‘Legal Status of Proposed MCC Compact signed by Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, Senior Additional Solicitor General, addressed to Jonathan G. Nash, Chief Operating Officer, MCC:

“I refer to your communication dated 27th September, 2018 in respect of the above captioned matter. In this regard, I am made to understand that the delegation from the Government of Sri Lanka was able to have fruitful discussion with the Millennium Challenge Corporation Team in resolving some of the outstanding issues.

“Having gleaned through the proposed Millennium Challenge Compact, the draft Program Implementation Agreement (PIA) as well as the Points of Discussion (without prejudice) between the negotiating parties which has been made available to me, I wish to at the very outset opine that no existing laws of Sri Lanka inhibit the Compact and the PIA being implemented in Sri Lanka. If I may elucidate further, the covenants of the Compact and the PIA do not infringe any existing domestic law or any previous undertakings given by the Government of Sri Lanka. It is acknowledged that the Compact imposes legal obligations on both parties to the Agreement

“Further, consequent to the negotiations and discussions had between parties, it is proposed that the Government of Sri Lanka would seek the passage of a law in Parliament to establish the MCA- Sri Lanka as a non-profit Company limited by guarantee under the Companies Act No.07 of 2007 to implement the provisions of the Compact. It is envisaged that the proposed enactment would encompass the Compact and the PIA as Annexures, which would form an integral part of this enactment.

“Thus, I am of the view that the passage of the said enactment by Parliament would result in the Compact and the PIA, having the parity of status of a domestic law in Sri Lanka.

“In the Context of the above, it is requisite that Section 7.1 of Article 7 of the Compact referring to the provisions on Entry Into Force, would be revised with the deletion of the sentence pertaining to the Compact prevailing over the domestic laws of Sri Lanka.

“However, in order to assuage any concerns with regard to the implementation of the Compact, by an unlikely event of a legislation in the future which may impinge or infringe the said compact, upon notification by the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media (the relevant Ministry) of this fact, a legal opinion would be tendered that the proposed legislation if proceeded with would violate the covenants of the Compact. This would enable the relevant Ministry to forward its observations to the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament, that the Attorney-General has opined that the proposed Bill if enacted would violate the Compact.

“In the circumstances, I believe that the aforementioned matters would confirm the legal status of the Compact and its entry into force.”

“Copies were sent to Ms. Caroline Nguyen, Managing Director- Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America Millennium Challenge Corporation and J. Charitha Ratwatte, Head of Policy Development and Chief of Party MCC- Sri Lanka Project.”

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Environmentalist accuses Govt. of resorting to trickery to hand over 800,000 acres to pvt. companies

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Gama Samaga Pilisandara’ is a psychological operation to counter people’s resistance to a move to hand over chena and grasslands to large companies, environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said yesterday.

Chamikara claimed that the government had earmarked 800,000 acres of land to be given to corporations, and those lands would mainly consist of forests and areas used for chena cultivations and to feed cattle by small scale farmers.

“The Gama Samaga Pilisandara is an attempt to misguide the people by giving them false promises. The government tells people they could cultivate lands belonging to the Forest Conservation Department and instructs officials not to punish people who send cattle into forests. People walk away feeling good but a few months later they will find that these same lands handed over to big companies.”

They had conducted a survey on the lands that had been given to corporations by the government during 2020 Most of those lands in fact were those used by cattle herders and chena cultivators, he said.

For example 70,000 acres in Demaliya and Wandama were being given to a company engaged in sugarcane cultivation, and almost all those lands were those used by small scale farmers and cattle herders, Chamikara said. Among the lands that were given were those earmarked for those displaced by the Uma Oya project. The previous administrations tried to provide irrigation water to those lands through the Handapanagala scheme.

Chamikara said: “Another 62,000 acres have been earmarked in Moneragala, Ampara and Badulla districts for sugarcane cultivation. 80% of these lands are chena cultivations. In Rambaken Oya 5,426 acres have been earmarked for 15 companies to carry out various agro projects and most of these lands are now used by small scale cattle herders. Recently, the Department of Agriculture wrote to the Forest Conservation Department requesting that 80,000 acres in Moneragala, Anuradhapura and Badulla districts be released. These lands are to be used for corn cultivation. The Forest Conservation Department then asked the Department of Agriculture to identify the lands and we know that these lands for the most part are those used by small scale cattle herders and chena cultivators.”

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Contempt of Court case against GMOA President re-fixed for hearing on March 03 and 10

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By Chitra Weerarathne

The Court of Appeal yesterday re-fixed for hearing on March 3 and March 10, the Contempt of Court application against the President of the Government Medical Officers’ Association Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya.

Counsel Ravindranath Dabare said that his client Dr. Padeniya was under self-quarantine and was unable to attend Court.

Dr. Padeniya was summoned for Contempt of Court under Article 105/3 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka for allegedly having criticised a Superior Court ruling in respect of the admission of students to the Sri Lanka Institute of Technology and Medicine, Malabe, at a public rally on April 7, 2016, disrespecting a Supreme Court order pertaining to the enrolment of a student in the Private Medical College, which will ultimately lead to an MBBS degree.

The Court of Appeal bench comprised Justice Arjuna Obeysekera (President) and Dr. Mayadunne Corea.

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