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Wayamba Governor lambastes EC for double standards

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… questions HRCSL silence over CC member’s controversial stand

By Shamindra Ferdinando

North Western Province Governor A. J. M. Muzammil yesterday (30) alleged that the Election Commission (EC) seemed to be brazenly selective in the implementation of relevant laws pertaining to the conducting of parliamentary polls scheduled for Aug 5.

Muzammil said that the EC owed the public an explanation as to how the EC allowed Constitutional Council member attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf to appear on the political stage whereas Governors were strongly advised against participating in the ongoing polls campaign.

In spite of the dissolution of parliament on March 2, 2020 to pave the way for parliamentary polls, the 10-member CC headed by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is staying put.

The EC, embroiled in a deepening controversy over the re-renaming of the Ape Jathika Peramuna as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) consists of Mahinda Deshapriya (Chairman), Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

Muzammil made available to The Island several letters he had received from the EC as well as Secretary to the President and his response to both EC and Secretary to the President to highlight the fact that the EC was following what he called a highly biased policy.

The EC had conveniently chosen to ignore Yusuf throwing his weight behind a civil society project meant to sabotage a high profile SLPP campaign seeking a two-thirds majority at the August 5 poll to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Muzammil said.

The former Colombo Mayor was referring to Yusuf calling for a common stand against the moves against the 19th Amendment enacted at the onset of yahapalana administration.

Yusuf is on record as having said that the government would have conducted parliamentary polls regardless of the severe threat posed by the corona epidemic, if not for the timely intervention made by the EC in terms of the 19th Amendment.

Muzammil emphasized that the EC put off the scheduled polls in terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act of 1981 not under the 19th Amendment as referred to by the CC member. The bottom line is that in case of a calamity even the Election Commissioner had the power to put off an election, Muzammil said, urging the EC not to play politics with the process.

Muzammil said that the controversy over a CC member taking a political stand took place close on the heels of EC member Prof. Hoole controversial comments in an interview conducted in Jaffna. The CC remained silent on the EC member’s conduct and the EC ignored a CC member taking sides in the ongoing political battle, when all of them should be strictly neutral. The civil society grouping Yusuf is aligned with campaigning against the SLPP and was canvassing for the UNP, its breakaway faction the SJB, the JVP and the TNA to save the 19th Amendment, Muzammil said.

Responding to another query, Muzammil said that the polls monitoring bodies seemed to be strangely silent on what was going on at the EC. The EC lost public credibility by turning a blind eye to the CC member declaring his intention to save the 19th Amendment by campaigning with a section of civil society.

A spokesperson for civil society grouping Freedom said that due to practical difficulties caused by the Corona crisis they couldn’t conduct public meetings since the one held on July 8 at the New Town hall. However, several media briefings were held since the inaugural meeting to highlight the need to save the 19th Amendment to prevent emergence of an authoritarian administration, the spokesperson said, adding that quite a useful webinar on economic issues, too, was conducted. A second webinar would be held today, Friday (31), with the participation of Jayadeva Uyangoda, Javid Yusuf and Suren Fernando. The Freedom spokesman said that they took a strong stand in respect of the 19th Amendment on a programme on TNL television recently.

Muzammil said that he didn’t find fault with the civil society for campaigning against the SLPP. The issue is why the EC allowed a CC member to be part of the campaign whereas Governors appointed by the President were told not to engage in any promotional activity.

Muzammil said that he received a letter from Presidential Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera that instructed him not to promote any candidate at public expense. The Wayamba Governor pointed out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) had issued several statements recently advising public servants et al, including those in the media emphasizing the importance of neutrality in the whole process. However, the HRCSL hadn’t commented on the CC member taking a political stand, Governor Muzammil said, adding that his position on the HRCSL was subjected to correction.

Yusuf, in a recent interview with The Island explained his rights as a member of the civil society as well as the CC, vowing he wouldn’t serve the CC at the expense of his primary role.



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Govt. allows private operators to import fuel for industries – minister

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ECONOMYNEXT – The Government has allowed private bunker fuel operators to import fuel for industries, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Friday, in a bid to reduce the burden on cash-strapped state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

The move comes as a severe dollar shortage has reduced CPC’s ability to import fuel and meet the demand as earlier amid long motorists’ queues for fuel.

“Approval was given to all the private bunker fuel operators to import and provide diesel and fuel oil requirements of industries to function their Generators and Machinery,” Wijesekera said in his Twitter platform.

“This will ease the burden on CPC and fuel stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday.”

Approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations providing in bulk. The meeting was held yesterday. pic.twitter.com/dhAonet10J

— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) May 27, 2022

In April, Sri Lanka cabinet has agreed to amend the Petroleum Products Act making provisions to issue licenses to “properly identified parties” to import fuel which will end an import monopoly held by the CPC.

There was a push to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to import its own oil as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was unable to get foreign exchange and the power utility ran out of cash due to lack of a price increases.

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Protesters ask PM to serve justice for May 09 attack

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ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of anti-government protesters agitated in front of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe ’s office Colombo demanding justice for May 09 attack by the supporters of previous prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and immediate measures to overcome ongoing economic crisis to prevent a looming social unrest.

The youth-led groups which had been protesting near presidential secretariat and prime minister’s official residence in the heart of commercial Colombo shifted neat the prime minister’s office and shouted against the new government’s inaction against the brutal attack at unarmed and peaceful protesters by Rajapaksa supporters on May 09.

They demanded the new Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to implement the rule of law without being biased to any parties and serve the country.

Rukshan, a 25 years old protester said, as per the initial demands of their protests, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his position, but his successor should do his duties towards the country and the people without trying to protect corrupt politicians.

“When we started the protest back in April our main demand was to bring all Rajapaksas before justice and get all the wealth they have stolen from the common people of this country,”  Rukshan told Economy Next.

The protest started around mid-day on Thursday (26) and protesters’ route was blocked by police barricades on the main road in front of the prime minister’s office.

The protesters, however, withdrew from their positions and regrouped at a nearby road to go towards the Wickremesinghe’s office.

However, by the time the protesters regrouped, a court order was issued by the Fort Magistrate to stop the protest due to inconvenience to the public.

“Ranil Wickramasinghe should remember why he is here now. We’re not asking him to resign. He is here to do his duty towards this country and its people,” Rukshan said.

“On May 09, we were attacked but no justice has been served yet. That is the main reason we came today to the prime minister’s office,” he said.

“We still see queues for medicine, fuel, and gas. To be honest, there is no medicine in the market. No medicine for cancer patients. If you get bitten by a dog, then there is no medicine for you. They (the market) don’t have any of that.”

Wickremesinghe has been working over a new budget and discussing with international partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of essentials, officials close to him have said. However, it will take time, they say.

Rukshan said the country is running due to the state workers, who are working as they are being paid salaries after the government’s excess money printing.

“When that stops, then there will definitely be a revolution in this country,” he said.

“When a person goes to office in the morning, there is no fuel for the vehicle, or no public transport available. They get late and the salaries are being cut because of that. And when they come home, they don’t have gas to cook a meal.”

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Weerawansa’s wife gets two years for passport offence

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Her lawyers file appeal challenging sentence

Colombo Chief Magistrate Buddhika Sri Ragala on Friday sentenced Shashi Weerawansa the wife of former minister Wimal Weerawansa to two years in prison. Shashi was found guilty of using falsified documents to obtain a passport.

The Magistrate also ordered the accused to pay a fine of Rs. 100,000 in addition to the imprisonment and an additional six months of jail if she does not pay the fine.

Sashi Weerawansa is found guilty by the court for obtaining diplomatic and general passports by submitting birth certificates with forged names and dates of birth.

She had applied for a diplomatic passport in 2010 by submitting false personal information which was different to what appears in her previous normal passport that expired on May 24, 2009.

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