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Winner should be decided on the number of electorates won, not popular vote-SLPP MP

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Presidential election

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (5) said that he strongly believed Sri Lanka should adopt a system similar to that of the US as part of the overall measures to ensure a level playing field at the presidential election.

Convenor of Yuthukama civil society organization Cumaratunga said that he would soon hand over their proposals to a Committee led by Romesh de Silva, PC, tasked with formulating the new Constitution.

Lawmaker Cumaratunga said so when The Island asked him whether he still wanted an electoral system similar to that of the US in the wake of unprecedented turmoil caused by President Donald Trump threatening to seek Supreme Court intervention, having declared himself the winner.

MP Cumaratunga said that regardless of the chaos caused due to President Trump’s stand, the US system ensured political stability by preventing a particular candidate from exploiting special circumstances to his or her advantage.

Asked to explain, the lawmaker said that ‘Yuthukama’ was of the view that like in the US the winner shouldn’t be decided on the popular vote. Instead, Sri Lanka should go for a system that decided the winner on the number of electorates won by him or her instead of the number of votes.

Responding to another query, Cumaratunga pointed out that as electorates were constituted on the basis of territory and population, the winner at presidential election should be decided on that. The NL MP emphasized ‘Yuthukama’ never advocated a US electoral college system where each State is worth a certain number of electoral college votes depending on the size of its population.

Referring to the 2015 presidential election lost by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Cumaratunga said that President Rajapaksa lost the election though he comfortably secured a far larger number of electorates than Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena. However, Sirisena secured certain electorates in the Northern and Eastern Provinces as well as Nuwara Eliya on the basis of agreements with members of the UNP-led unholy alliance, MP Cumaratunga said.

Appreciating the enactment of the 20th Amendment as a sort of stop gap measure to restore stability, lawmaker Cumaratunga emphasized the importance of thwarting political maneuvering.

He recalled how all electoral districts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces were delivered by one-time LTTE mouthpiece, the TNA to the then Opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka. Having accused the war winning Army under Fonseka’s command of war crimes on the northern battlefields, the TNA had no qualms in backing him, MP Cumaratunga said, pointing out such political maneuvering wouldn’t be practical if Sri Lanka decided the winner on the basis of the total number of electorates secured by a candidate than the number of votes.

National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa has backed Cumaratunga’s call for far reaching changes in the presidential election system.

MP Cumaratunga alleged that UNP leader JRJ granted citizenship to Tamils of Indian origin in the run-up to the 1982 presidential election. Acknowledging that the matter shouldn’t be politicized under any circumstances and the needs of those who had been brought to Sri Lanka by the British considered humanly, MP Cumaratunga said however developments invariably paved the way for promotion of agenda often inimical to the State.

The MP also cited President Ranasinghe Premadasa bending backwards to appease the SLMC at presidential election in late 80s for the same reason. MP Cumaratunga alleged that both JRJ and Premadasa sought to win over selected sections of voters even at the expense of stability.

President Trump’s strong reaction to his rival Biden’s challenge shouldn’t deter Sri Lanka from introducing much required change. The MP blamed the crisis on the President, emphasizing it shouldn’t be, in anyway considered a defect of the system.

Pointing out that the Constitution that had been enacted over 40 years ago was repeatedly tinkered over the years and a new Constitution was long overdue, the ‘Yuthukama’ Chief called for uniformity and streamlining of the entire electoral process. The MP expressed the view that the success of the new Constitution making process depended on cohesive action to deal with both constitutional and electoral issues.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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