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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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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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