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Ven. Gnanasara vows to complete ‘job’ by next Feb. to satisfaction of all

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Ven. Gnanasara stresses a point at a special press conference held at the Presidential Media Division (PMD) yesterday-pic courtesy PMD

Regardless of Sabry’s concerns, govt. going ahead with ‘One Country, One Law’ project

By Ifham Nizam and Shamindra Ferdinando

No sooner had Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, indicated his intention to quit his Cabinet portfolio over the appointment of BBS General Secretary Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara as Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to spearhead ‘One Country, One Law’ initiative than the controversial monk said that their responsibility was to ensure that the country had one law.

Minister Sabry is expected to make an announcement this week.

Ven. Gnanasara, yesterday, addressed the media from the Presidential Media Division (PMD) and fielded questions online. He said he would meet representatives of all political parties represented in Parliament and outside as well as civil society groups.

Presidential Spokesperson Kingsley Ratnayake said at the commencement of the press briefing that Minister Sabry had met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa before the latter left for Scotland on 30 Oct. Ratnayake said so when the media asked whether the Justice Minister would meet the President to discuss the issue at hand on his return.

Therefore, President Rajapaksa was aware of Justice Minister’s reaction, Ratnayake told The Island, adding that the PTF would go ahead with its work.

Ven. Gnanasara, who contested the last general election from the Kurunegala District on the ‘Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya‘ ticket unsuccessfully, declared that once his PTF completed its task in four months everybody would be pleased with the outcome. According to the relevant gazette issued last week, the PTF has been entrusted with the following tasks: (i) To make a study of the implementation of the concept; One Country, One Law within Sri Lanka and prepare a draft Act for the said purpose, and

(ii)To study the draft Acts and amendments that have already been prepared by the Ministry of Justice in relation to this subject and their appropriateness and if there are suitable amendments to submit proposal for the purpose and include them in such relevant draft as is deemed appropriate.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested the PTF to submit a report to him once a month and the final report should be submitted on or before 28 Feb., next year.

Mrs. Jeewanthi Senanayake, Senior Assistant Secretary to the President has been appointed the PTF’s Secretary.

The other members of the Task Force are: Professor Dayananda Banda, Professor Shanthinandana Wijesinghe, Professor Sumedha Siriwardana, N.G. Sujeewa Panditharathna, Attorney-at-Law Iresh Senevirathne, Attorney-at-Law Sanjaya Marambe, Eranda Navarathna, Pani Wewala, Moulavi Mohomad Ulama Council, Galle, Mohomad Inthikab, Lecturer, Kaleel Rahuman, and Azeez Nizardeen.

Responding to another query, Ven. Gnanasara pointed out that even in parliament only a handful didn’t have court or prison records. “The Country’s law is above everyone, if there is an offence then it should be legally dealt with,” the BBS leader said.

Commenting on the role of the PTF, the Thera said: “We are not tasked to draft laws. We are to ascertain whether the public needs had been addressed through the prevailing legal system by looking at them in a different and practical angle. We are not expected to look at things the way how legal experts do.”

The Thera said no citizen should be subjected discrimination before the law on the basis of his or her race, religion, caste or any other factor.

Ven. Gnanasara emphasised that if the citizens could place the country above all, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, the PTF was ready to listen to all opinions regarding the legal framework and other related matters.

The youth of this country were the worst affected by racial, religious and provincial divisions and therefore they have a special place in this process”, the Thera said, adding that all young people representing universities, higher education institutions and various organisations would invited to submit their ideas and suggestions to the Task Force.

The Thera also said that he hoped to discuss the matter with all political parties, religious and civil society organisations and groups in the coming days and added that the discussion was open to all who came without any hidden agendas.

After consulting all those sections, the views and recommendations of the Task Force would be submitted to the President within the given time-frame, he said.

Prof. Sumedha Siriwardana, Member of the Presidential Task Force for One Country, One Law, said that the Task Force had been mandated to make recommendations for the implementation of “One Country, One Law” principle in Sri Lanka after conducting a study. He said the Presidential Task Force did not have the power to make laws and that it would be done by the legislature.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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