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Yusuf says his stand on 19 A never an issue for CC ire

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‘All CC members enjoy equal rights’ 

By Shamindra Ferdinando 

Constitutional Council member Javid Yusuf said yesterday that the Constitutional Council (CC) had not made an issue of his call for taking a stand on the much-debated 19th Amendment to the Constitution on a civil society platform in the run-up to the Aug.5 general election.

Attorney-at-law Yusuf said so in response to a query raised by The Island.

Outgoing Chairman of the CC and former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya chaired its final meeting on August 3 – two days before the election, at the Speaker’s official residence.

Asked whether the CC had taken up for discussion his declaration against the moves to do away with the 19th Amendment at its last meeting or the outgoing Chairman raised it with him on some other occasion, Yusuf said: “The answer to both questions is in the negative.”

Addressing a civil society gathering at the New Town Hall, on July 8, Yusuf declared his strong opposition to the high-profile campaign by the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to abolish the 19th Amendment enacted at the onset of the yahapalana administration.

Yusuf was among three civil society members of the 10-member CC. Of the seven other members, the Speaker, Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader held ex-officio positions.

A member of the now defunct CC told The Island that Yusuf, in his capacity as a member of the apex body couldn’t be faulted for taking a stand on the 19th issue as Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, in spite of him being  a CC member, did the same.

The former pointed out that except for the then Chairman Jayasuriya, six of his parliamentary colleagues represented in the CC either backed moves to abolish the 19th Amendment or opposed the SLPP project.

In spite of the SLPP making unprecedented electoral gains at the commencement of the releasing 2020 general election results, civil society grouping, ‘Freedom: People’s Collective’ that campaigned for the continuance of the 19th Amendment still believed the required two-thirds majority couldn’t be achieved by the ruling coalition.

Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, while acknowledging a comfortable victory for the ruling party at the 2020 General Election said that two-thirds was impossible under the Proportional Representation system. The academic who appeared on the platform of ‘Freedom: People’s Collective’ with Yusuf told The Island that a two-thirds was beyond the SLPP’s capability.

Meanwhile, UNP Colombo District candidate Oshala Herath yesterday told The Island that he was quite disappointed by the failure on the part of the CC at least to make a reference to serious allegation he made to the then Chairman himself as regards the irregularities in the registration of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). The CC couldn’t under any circumstance absolve itself of the responsibility for the conduct of the Election Commission.

Herath pointed out that the CC and the former Speaker commended the EC without taking into consideration serious accusations directed at the latter over its conduct. Herath said that he moved the Supreme Court against the SJB registration as the EC in no uncertain terms confirmed irregularities taking place in the process. The civil society activist vowed to go ahead with his campaign regardless of the heavy defeat suffered by the UNP.

Herath lambasted the poll monitors for remaining silent on what was going on. They complained, he said about the display of propaganda and campaign advertisement on social media whereas far bigger irregularities took place at the very place responsible for managing the parliamentary election, Herath said.

The CC will meet again after the new parliament begins sittings on Aug 20.

Herath alleged that all political parties to varying degrees cooperated with the EC.

 



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Fuel crisis: Key CPC facility opened for VIPs, friends as public transport shrinks

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya trade unionist Ananda Palitha yesterday (01) alleged that members of Parliament, Chairmen of various government institutions, and other politically connected persons, continued to obtain unlimited petrol and diesel from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) facility at Kolonnawa.

The former CPC employee declared that the powers that be had transformed the Kolonnawa depot into a special facility to cater to the needs of the politically influential.

Those who touted the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept had created a special category while almost the entire nation suffered due to the unprecedented disruption of fuel supplies, Palitha said.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera and CPC Chairman Sumith Wijesinha didn’t answer their phones.

Ananda Palitha said that none of those who had been given access to the Kolonnawa depot came under essential services. “Why should lawmakers, whatever their status in society, be given access to the special facility when they aren’t included among essential services,”

Ananda Palitha asked.The SJB activist said that the government was struggling to maintain public transport after having repeatedly promised to sustain.

The trade unionist alleged that though they brought the clandestine operation at Kolonnawa to the attention of the government, it continued unabated. Barrels full of fuel had been taken from Kolonnawa, he said, among the beneficiaries were owners of V8 and other super luxury vehicles.

Ananda Palitha said that the Opposition should have taken up this issue vigorously.

Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that according to information available to them, Ceypetco had approximately 3,000 mt of diesel, 2,500 mt of petrol 95,600-700 mt of petrol 92 and was not in a position at least to meet the requirement of the essential services.

“The government is yet to come up with a plan to obtain petrol and diesel,” Ananda Palitha said, urging the government to take the public into confidence.

Palitha pointed out that the police had carried out numerous raids, targeting those who hoarded diesel and petrol, whereas a primary fuel depot that was not supposed to pump fuel for outsiders, engaged in business. The government should be ashamed of this situation, the trade union leader said, pointing out the country was heading for chaos.

The Island yesterday afternoon brought Ananada Palitha’s allegations to the notice of Lalith Weeratunga, Senior Advisor to the President,Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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Energy cooperation sought from Saudi Arabia on urgent basis

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Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has requested Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulelah A. A. Orkobi, to facilitate Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed to visit Saudi Arabia from July 02-05 as Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka.The request was made when the envoy called on Prof Peiris at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday (30).

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Peiris briefed the Saudi envoy on the current economic situation, including fuel shortage and its negative impact on all sectors in Sri Lanka. Prof. Peiris sought avenues for energy cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an utmost urgent matter.

Charge d’ Affaires of Saudi Embassy Orkobi, emphasized the importance attached to the Sri Lanka – Saudi bilateral relationship and assured all possible support to Sri Lanka, at this juncture.

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‘Halting assistance’: Japanese envoy reassures Prez

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Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Mizukoshi yesterday (01) met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against the backdrop of reports that Japan wouldn’t provide financial assistance due to the possibility of such being mismanaged.A section of the media quoted the Japanese envoy having said so at a meeting with a group of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members during a recent visit to the north.

Subsequent to the meeting at the President’s House, the President’s Office said that the Japanese envoy reassured the President of their support to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance.

However, the Japanese embassy didn’t issue a statement on the meeting though it regularly issued statements on a range of issues.

Recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan Sanjiv Gunasekera suddenly quit the top diplomatic posting. The government has nominated former Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage as Gunasekera’s successor.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office has sought a clarification from the Japanese embassy regarding the controversial declaration and received an assurance that the envoy didn’t say so at the meeting with the TNA (SF)

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