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Wijeyadasa says all profits from Port City will flow out to China

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by Chitra Weerarathne

The Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill would not help Sri Lanka’s economy as it seeks to allow all profits of the venture to flow out to China. The Bill was therefore disastrous, counsel Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC told the Supreme Court yesterday.

Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse appeared with Gamini Hettiarachchi for the petition filed by petitioners Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera and Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nanayakkara.

SLPP MP Dr. Rajapakse submitted that the Port City land had been reclaimed in keeping with an agreement between the government of Sri Lanka and a Chinese Construction Company. The original agreement had been revised followign the 2015 regime change. The Cabinet of Sri Lanka decided that the filled-up land in the Port City should be managed by Sri Lanka and vested in the UDA. The President had to obtain the approval of the UDA, to vest it in the Colombo Port City Economic Commission.

The Bill titled Colombo Port City Economic Commission should be a nullity. The Western Provincial Council had a solid hold on any transfer of this filled-up land in the Port City. In terms of Article 154/3/3 of the Constitution the Bill should be referred to the Provincial Council. It could not be placed on the Order Paper of Parliament, without referring it to the Provincial Council.

The delegation of presidential powers was unconstitutional. The state land might be disposed of by the presidential seal. The powers of the President should not be delegated to other persons, who might be Sri Lankans or Chinese or others. The powers of the President should not be delegated to the Commission to be an auctioneer of the people’s land. The sovereignty of the people, stated in Article 3, should be respected. Development should take place within the framework of the Constitution, upholding the sovereignty of the people. Investments of Sri Lanka should be protected.

The national security is very important. The Board of Investment might handle foreign investments. Article 27 and Article 28 of the Constitution would be violated by the proposed Bill. The Parliament had to protect the fundamental rights. A privilege was given to those to who would be in the new enclave. They would be given tax free benefits. They were living in a separate zone. Very likely the Chinese people would be employed in the new zone. Sri Lankans would not be employed. I

The Commission could lease or sell, the land within the Port City. They would manage the land in the new zone. The Port City would become a separate entity.

Dr. Rajapakshe said:”This Bill is inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution on equality. The business community in Colombo will have to collapse. The new land will be tax free. The new Bill will not help the economy of Sri Lanka. The profits in this region will flow out to China. The Bill is disastrous.”

“There will be money laundering in the newly proposed land which is stated in the Bill. Article 2,3, and 4 of the Constitution are violated. Article (2) states Sri Lanka is a unitary state. There cannot be another territory within it. The proposed Port City is excluded from the Customs Ordinance. Any prohibited article could be brought in here. All the foreign lands like India and USA are opposed to this Bill”, Counsel Rajapaksa stressed.

“This Bill cannot be passed without a referendum and a two third majority in Parliament.”

Counsel Krishmal Warnasuriya supported another petition. Among the petitioners were persons, from Samagi Jana Balavegaya.

On April 19, 2021, Counsel Weraduwa supported a petition against the Bill. The petitioner here was Kapila Perera.

General Secretary of the UNP, Palitha Ranga Bandara had filed a petition against the Bill. Counsel Viraj de Silva appeared for him.

S. R. Attygalla, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance had submitted an intervention supporting the Port City Economic Commission Bill. President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena, appeared for him.

V. K. Choksy, President’s Counsel submitted another intervention supporting the Bill. He appeared with Counsel, D.S. Ratnayake, Gamini Dissanayake, Minoli Alexander for the intervenient the Secretary of the Podu Jana Eksath Peramuna Lawyers’ Association.

Romesh de Silva, PC also submitted an intervention supporting the Bill.

The Bench comprised, Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justice Buwaneka P. Aluwihare, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena, Justice Murdhu N. B. Fernando and Justice Janak de Silva.

Additional Solicitor General Farzarna Jameel, President’s Counsel appeared with Senior Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle for the Attorney General.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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