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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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About 232 out of 500 escapees from K’kadu Drug Rehab Centre arrested

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Two hundred and thirty two inmates out of the 500, who escaped from the Kandakadu Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, yesterday morning, following a clash with soldiers guarding the facility, had been arrested, Maj. Gen. Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commissioner General – Rehabilitation, said.

Hettiarachchi denied allegations from certain quarters that they had allowed inmates to escape to divert public attention away from the burning economic issues, and crippling fuel shortages.

He said an impartial inquiry would be conducted into the death of an inmate.

Hettiarachchi said that they were confident that other escapees too would be arrested soon.

Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said a 36-year-old inmate had died under mysterious circumstances on Tuesday. The deceased was a resident of Mutwal. The death of the inmate had been reported to the Welikanda police, he said.

The Police Spokesman added that a team of policemen from Welikanda had visited the Rehabilitation Centre. However, a large number of inmates had surrounded the body and did not allow anyone near it and that had led to a clash between inmates and the military personnel at the centre.

At around 8 am yesterday, a large group of inmates had broken the two main gates and escaped, he added.

The Police Spokesman said that the police and Army had brought the situation under control, after several hours.

They have also launched a joint operation to arrest the inmates, who are still at large.

There are around 1,000 drug addicts being rehabilitated at the Kandakadu Rehabilitation Center at any given time.

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Women parliamentarians’ Caucus calls for greater accountability and transparency

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International Day of Parliamentarism

Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle says accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system have become vital issues as the country makrs the International Day of Parliamentarism today (30).

In a statement issued to the media by the Caucus, Dr Fernandopulle said: International Day of Parliamentarism, which recognises the role of parliaments in national plans and strategies and in ensuring greater transparency and accountability at national and global levels. This Day was first established by the UN General Assembly through a resolution adopted in 2018 which also marked the 129th anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU, which was first established on the same day in the year 1889, is a global organization that works to promote ‘democratic governance, human representation, democratic values, and the civil aspirations of a society’.

This Day further solidifies the unique and enduring system of parliamentary democracy as the standard for political representation. Last year, in 2021, the Day focused on “Youth Empowerment” in Parliament whereas the theme for the International Day of Parliamentarism 2022 is “Public Engagement”. Conspicuously, the word ‘parliament’ originates from the French word ‘parler,’ which means ‘to talk.’ Thus, public discourse and engagement lay the very foundation of the parliamentary system of governance.

At a juncture where public engagement in the democratic process is at an all-time high, the theme for International Day of Parliamentarism aptly suits the current democratic and economic discourse taking place in society.

The Parliament is a cornerstone of any democracy as it must fulfill its fundamental role of providing a voice to the voiceless. The main responsibilities of a Parliament include the formulation, enactment and overseeing of the implementation of laws and policies that are sustainable and crucial for the progression and stability of the country. The Parliament also has a duty to hold the Executive or Government of the country accountable. Accordingly, representing the interests of the public, it must also fulfill the role of acting as a “check” to “balance” the power that the executive holds.

The Parliament must also perform “checks” and “balances” on Government expenditure as it has the responsibility of approving budgets for Government expenditure. Thus, during this economic crisis, the Parliament of Sri Lanka has a crucial role to play and effectively realize such roles and responsibilities. To do so meaningfully, public engagement is a necessity.

Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said: “I believe we should make this Day an occasion to remember the importance of accountability and transparency in a parliamentary system. The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus recognizes that it has a role to play in initiating a conversation towards realizing a process by which the Parliament can conduct self-evaluation utilising the feedback received by the public discourse. This would be vital in order to gauge the progress the Parliament has made and identify challenges and devise strategies and mechanisms to overcome such challenges to be more representative of the voices of people.”

MP Thalatha Atukorale said: “In the face of crisis, if our parliamentary system fails to realize its purpose, then we must re-evaluate the practices of our Parliament. Therefore, I believe that this Day should be used as an opportunity to formulate an effective strategy to improve transparency and accountability of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.”

MP Diana Gamage said: “On this Day, I pledge to be a voice to the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the more vulnerable, and play my role in initiating mechanisms and formulating laws that reflect the current needs of the people of Sri Lanka whom we are representing in Parliament”.

Parliament is the bedrock of a functioning democracy. In Sri Lanka, let us realise this goal for all Sri Lankans, leaving no stone unturned to ensure quality of political representation, which means gender equality and social inclusion too.

MP Manjula Dissanayake said: “To be effective and successful, the Parliamentary system must encourage public engagement and must also be based on principles of equality and inclusivity in order to better comprehend and prioritise the needs of the public”.

Vice-Chairperson of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus, MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne said: “The parliamentary system is founded upon the sovereignty of people. Therefore, the success of the parliamentary system depends on public engagement in the democratic process and how well the parliamentary system responds to such public engagement.”

MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya said: “We as Parliamentarians must not be oblivious to the fact that the public has lost confidence in the Sri Lankan Parliament and by extension, the Parliamentarians. A strong contention can be and is being made that the Parliament of Sri Lanka falls short of effectively realizing one of its main purposes: to formulate and implement policies and laws that benefits ALL people, particularly the more vulnerable. To meet that end, we must harness public discourse and engagement.”

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Proposals to revive agriculture sector unveiled

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By Ifham Nizam

The Department of Agriculture has handed over proposals with an action plan for the revival of the agriculture sector to the Minister of Agriculture, Wildlife and Wildlife Conservation, Mahinda Amaraweera.

Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Rohana Pushpakumara, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Ajantha de Silva, and its Directors, representing respective divisions, were also present.

The focus of the proposals is on the importation of chemical fertilisers and organic farming, increasing rice production in the country, promoting the cultivation of indigenous crops for export, taking measures to meet the national vegetable and fruit demand, prioritizing agricultural research and development, and other agricultural Inputs.

The proposals also deal with a number of other issues such as the misuse of pesticides and fertilisers.

The proposals consist of 11 short-term plans to uplift agriculture.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of Agriculture, Mahinda Amaraweera, requested that the proposals, aimed at increasing the income of the farming community, be implemented without delay and that everyone be committed to make the Yala season, and the forthcoming Maha season, a success. “We must make the current Yala and the next Maha season a success. The country’s economy depends on the stability of the agriculture sector.

The Director General of the Department of Agriculture handed over the relevant proposal to the Minister.

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