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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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Chinese contractor obtaining Port City sand for Colombo harbour projects unlawfully: FSP

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Front-line Socialist Party (FSP) spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda yesterday (25) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government had allowed China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to obtain sand unlawfully from the Port City project for the construction of the East and Jaya Container in the Colombo Port.

Addressing the media at the FSP office in Colombo, Jagoda claimed that though in terms of the agreement the sand was to be brought from the Muthurajawela area, the contractors for both projects, CHEC, obtained sand from the Port City project.

Jagoda said that on a monthly basis approximately 4,000 cubes of sand, worth Rs 80 mn, were transported illegally with the government looking the other way.

The breakaway JVP faction said that the government owed an explanation regarding the suitability of sea sand for such large-scale construction and whether the Chinese met the required standards as regards concrete work.

Jagoda also asked whether taxes were paid for the massive loads of sea sand procured by the Chinese. The former JVPer alleged the way CHEC conducted its operations here indicated that it didn’t respect Sri Lanka’s law. (SF)

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CBSL denies 70% pay hike

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… seeks opportunity to tell Parliament its side of story

 No salary increases for Central Bank workers until 2027

Trade unions, etc., agreed to pay hikes

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Governing Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), embroiled in an ongoing controversy over recent salary hikes granted to its employees, has sought an opportunity to explain to Parliament what a senior official called the rationale behind the pay hike.

Authoritative CBSL sources told The Island that the request had been made through the Finance Ministry to Parliament seeking an early meeting with the relevant committees.

The Governing Board consists of Dr. P Nandalal Weerasinghe (Chairman), A N Fonseka, Dr. Ravi Ratnayake, Anushka S Wijesinha, Vish Govindasamy, Rajeev Amarasuriya and Manil Jayesinghe.

Responding to queries, sources denied accusations that the CBSL employees had been granted over 70 percent salary increase with effect from January this year. When The Island pointed out that several lawmakers had openly accused the CBSL of doing so and State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya declaring that the government couldn’t intervene due to the enactment of new CBSL Act, sources said that the Parliament could address the issues at hand by giving the CBSL an opportunity to give its side of the story.

Sources said that following the latest salary revision, the monthly salary bill increased by 50 percent. However, those who had been attacking the CBSL, over the salary increase, had conveniently forgotten 24 percent of that amount had been deducted and sent directly to the Inland Revenue Department as PAYE (Pay As you Earn) tax.

Sources pointed out that CBSL staff would not be entitled to salary increase until 2027 whereas the government usually granted pay hikes to workers in the state sector.

Sources denied claims that the latest salary increase has been granted under the new CBSL law. Referring to the relevant legal provision in the law, sources said: “The CBSL followed the same procedure it has been following during the last few decades. This has nothing to do with the new CBSL law. These provisions were there even in the previous law.”

Sources said that those who had received higher salaries paid taxes amounting to 36% to the government, and the latest salary increase had been determined, following consultations between the top management and recognized trade unions of the CBSL. According to sources, the management and trade unions commenced signing of three-year collective agreements, beginning in 2000. The latest agreement covers the 2024-2026 period.

Sources said that instead of asking the CBSL for an explanation, a section of the media had gone on the offensive on the basis of unsubstantiated claims and accusations. “They politicized the issue and sought to direct public anger at the bank at a time it was working overtime to bring about economic recovery,” a senior CBSL official said.

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Wijeyadasa: Presidential election will be held in 2024

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Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, over the weekend assured that presidential election scheduled for later this year would be held.This assurance was given at a meeting held at the Batticaloa Divisional Secretariat on Saturday (24).

Referring to his role and that of several unnamed others during the unprecedented 2022 crisis, Minister Rajapakse said that contrary to speculation, claims and reports, presidential poll would be followed by parliamentary polls and other elections.In terms of the Constitution and the presidential election law, election should be held in October 2024.

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