MR Reveals Reason for Most Local Politicians to Fail
By Gagani Weerakoon
Sri Lanka’s location is of strategic importance and therefore our country is attractive to many parties, so in this context, Sri Lanka has chosen neutrality as its foreign policy with the top priority being mutually beneficial development cooperation and being open to foreign investments, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.
He said this in a brief conversation with four newly appointed Ambassadors to Sri Lanka, following presentation of their credentials at the President’s House on Wednesday (30).
The Ambassadors of the Republic of Korea, Jeong Woonjin, the Federal Republic of Germany, Holger Lothar Seubert, Holy See (Apostolic Nuncio-designate Monsignor Brian Udaigwe) and Switzerland, Dominik Furgler presented their credentials to the President. Explaining Sri Lanka’s policy towards the Indian Ocean during the discussion with the new Envoys, the President said the Indian Ocean should be a free zone open to every country.
The President said the priority of the Government as well as the people is to achieve rapid development.
“The economy was weakened due to terrorism. We required foreign investments for speedy development. China came forward to invest in development projects. It was only a commercial transaction but some described this as a manifestation of a pro-China policy. Sri Lanka is a friend of all countries,” the President explained.
President Rajapaksa pointed out that the construction of the Hambantota Port with funding from China was a project with enormous development potential, although some call it a debt trap. He said the previous Government leased the Hambantota Port to China but it is being used only for commercial purposes.
Expressing their views, the Ambassadors commended both the President and the people for successfully controlling the COVID–19 pandemic. “Sri Lanka is so safe,” Woonjin remarked.
Seubert said he is pleased to be appointed as an Envoy to Sri Lanka that has overcome the COVID–19 pandemic.
“We are not here to lecture you but to offer any possible assistance. We are certain that Sri Lanka is capable of choosing what needs to be done. We are ready to extend our cooperation to achieve the development aspirations of Sri Lanka”, Seubert and Furgler added.
Communicating the congratulations of Pope Francis to the President for the massive mandate received during the Elections, Udaigwe said the geographical location is a great gift to Sri Lanka.
An unprecedented number
An unprecedented number of petitions – 39 - were filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the proposed 20th Amendment Bill to the Constitution. Also, 36 intervenient petitions, to make submissions opposed to the 39 Special Determination petitions, were also filed with the Apex Court earlier last week.
The 39 Special Determination petitions were perused by a five-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Sisira de Abrew, Priyantha Jayawardena and Vijith Kumara Malalgoda.
Election Commission Member Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole, United National Party General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, former Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera, MP Rauff Hakeem, UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Mayantha Dissanayake, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka President Kalinga Indatissa PC, Sirilaka Janatha Peramuna Attorney-at-Law P. Liyanaarachchi, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Audit Services Commission E.A.D. Prasad Prasanna Pushpakumara and the Sri Lanka Press Institute, were among those who had filed the Special Determination petitions yesterday.
The rest of the petitions were filed by Arif Samsudeeen, Ibrahim Lebbe, Adam Lebbe Tuan, Eric Senaratne Balasuriya, D.T. Pathmasiri, Dr. Visakesa Chandrasekaran, M.K. Jayatissa, A.S. Chulasinghe de Soyza, Bennett Samarasiri Jayawardena, P.D.S. Premasiri Gunathileka and S.K.S.H.K. Sooriyarachchi.
Previously, 12 petitions in this connection had been filed with the Apex Court on 24 September and it had increased up to 18, 24 hours later.
The number of Special Determination petitions increased to 39 with the 21 that were submitted yesterday.
Attorney General Dappula de Livera has been named as the sole respondent in these petitions.
The petitioners claim that certain provisions of the proposed Bill of the 20th Amendment severely violate the Articles of the country’s 1978 Constitution.
They call for a two-thirds majority of the Parliament and a public referendum to pass the controversial Bill.
The Cabinet of Ministers had approved the 20th Amendment Bill to the Constitution on 2 September and the Extraordinary Gazette Notification was published 24 hours later. The Bill of the 20th Amendment was tabled in Parliament on 22 September, amidst a cacophony of protests from the SJB-led Opposition.
The petitioners have alleged that certain clauses of the proposed Bill flout a number of Fundamental Rights (FR) and other provisions assured by the current Constitution. The petitioners, through each petitions, have stated that the mooted Bill contains provisions that are seriously prejudicial to the public such as the removal of the provisions allowing for the filing of FR petitions against the President, drastically curtailing the powers vested with the EC to file legal action against the violation of directives issued by the Commission, the preventing of the Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s Office and State institutions from being audited and removing the restrictions placed preventing a person with dual citizenship from contesting future General Elections or Presidential Polls.
The petitioners have further noted that the proposed Bill seeks to reintroduce the provisions allowing the submission of emergency Bills, which were invalidated by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. They have also informed the Apex Court that through the proposed Amendment, the Government has deleted the power vested with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption to probe an incident of bribery or corruption sans a prior complaint and that it also removes the qualifications needed to be appointed as the Auditor General.
The 39 petitioners have also stressed that the proposed Bill flouts the basic rights ensured by the Constitution, as well as other Articles of the Constitution and therefore they have moved the SC to deliver a verdict declaring that the said Bill will require a two-thirds majority in the House and a public referendum, ahead of its ratification.
The Supreme Court determination will be sent to the Speaker of Parliament this week.
Attention has been drawn to facts submitted through recommendations made by the committee appointed by the Government faction as well as various other factions regarding the 20th Amendment Bill, which was tabled in Parliament recently.
It has been decided to remove 32 clauses and 51 lines contained in 13 pages and the Government is planning to include new clauses at the Committee stage.
Attorney General Dappula de Livera informed the five-member Bench of Supreme Court judges on Wednesday (30) regarding the changes and he also handed over a printed document comprising 11 pages inclusive of this content, in Sinhala, Tamil and English.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has emphasised that the Government was maintaining a unified stance on the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill.
He expressed optimism the SLPP regime would be able to pass the 20th Amendment with a two-thirds majority in the Legislature.
He said although several political parties represented in the SLPP alliance could have deferent opinions on the proposed Bill, it would not be a hindrance for the Government to ratify the much talked about Amendment in the House when put to a vote.
Rajapaksa said this while meeting heads of print and electronic media outlets during a breakfast meeting held at Temple Trees on Tuesday (29).
When questioned whether power vested in the Premier would be curtailed through the proposed Bill, he insisted that it would not be the case.
He further stated that after ratification of the proposed Bill, the Government will be focused on overhauling the entire 1978 Constitution.
BASL committee report
Meanwhile, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is of the view, that according to the final report of the study of the 20th Amendment Bill of the Constitution, in terms of immunity vested in the President by way of Clause 5, no person is above the law and that to grant absolute immunity from suit is contrary to the Rule of Law.
BASL stated that depriving the citizens of a remedy when the President violates Fundamental Rights is harmful to the Rule of Law adding that nevertheless the BASL is mindful that certain powers of the President should not be justiciable and a suitable exception should be carved out.
With regards to Clause 6 of the Bill which provides for a Parliamentary Council, BASL states that the composition of the Parliamentary Council is beneficial to the Rule of Law than the composition of the Constitutional Council contained in Article 41A of the Constitution. The committee noted that non-elected members of the present Constitutional Council is not answerable to an organ of the State.
The BASL is also of the view that the Public Service Commission, the National Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission (HRC), the Commission to investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) and the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) are part of the Executive and the method of appointment proposed by Clause 6 of the Bill cannot be objected.
The BASL however noted in respect to appointments to the CIABOC and the HRC, considering their roles in reviewing/investigating Executive acts, the appointments should be made by the President nominating the names of individuals to the Parliamentary Council and the appointment being made by the President subject to the approval of the Parliamentary Council. Further there was a comment that the transitional provisions should be included permitting the incumbents to continue to serve their respective terms.
BASL is of the view that the executive should not have control over the appointment of Judges or the Judicial Service Commission and that if there is one arm of the Government that should have control, it should be the Parliament and not the President while stating that with regard to the appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, the President should not have full control over such appointments.
They state that the appointment should be made by the President nominating an individual to the Parliamentary Council and the appointment being made by the President subject to the approval of the Parliamentary Council and that the similar procedure should be followed for the appointment of the Election Commission,the Finance Commission, the Auditor General, the Attorney General and the Secretary General of Parliament in order to ensure that the Legislature and the Executive provides the necessary checks and balances relating to the appointment to the judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission.
The BASL is in support of Clause 2 of the Bill whereby the President could call for an election before the expiry of his first term of office related to the second term while they are also of the view that Clause 3 should be deleted.
The BASL is further not in support to the proposed amendment to Article 61A which attempts to confer finality to the decisions of the Public Service Commission subject only to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and thereby the amendment creates a situation whereby Administrative Tribunals are without powers to hear appeals against decisions of the Public Service Commission.
It is further observed that the power vested in the President according to Clause 14 of the Bill to dissolve the Parliament after one year but before the term of office of Parliament has expired is contrary to the Rule of Law and to the Sovereignty of people stating that it should be limited to when the Parliament by resolution requests the President to dissolve Parliament., the rejection by Parliament of the Appropriation Bill on two consecutive occasions, the rejection of the statement of Government policy on two consecutive occasions and when Parliament passes a motion of no-confidence in the Government.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) appointed a special Committee to study the Bill to amend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and to submit views on an urgent basis to be tabled before the Executive Committee of the BASL and the Bar Council.
Ranil on collective responsibility
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe entrusted newly appointed Deputy Leader of the Party, Ruwan Wijewardene the task of rebuilding the UNP after holding discussions with all relevant groups and submitting a report. Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Sagala Ratnayake, Karunasena Kodithuwakku and Shamal Senarath were also appointed to assist Wijewardene. The leader has emphasised the need of seeking views with the others in the party including Arjuna Ranatunga, Vajira Abeywardena, Naveen Dissanayake and Sandeep Samarasinghe. Reportedly there were discussions about the difficulty of contacting Ravi Karunanayake.
“Everyone on this committee should be held accountable collectively. I asked for a report within a week, but did not receive it yet. It is not appropriate to work individually,” was the message given by the UNP Leader Wickremesinghe to the relevant committee members.
"We will prepare a proper report and submit it as soon as possible. The report should be prepared after doing thorough investigations. That is the reason it takes this much time,” committee members replied.
Wijewardene opened his first regional operations office in Matara last weekend amidst a larger gathering. Sagala and other UNP district organisers had organised the event. After the opening of the office, Wijewardene went on a city trip across the Matara District for two days in order to meet the party members. He also received blessings from the main clergy at Weherahena, Devinuwara Vishnu Devalaya, as well as explained the process of rebuilding the party once again.
Prior to leaving to Matara, Wijewardene testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Attacks as the former State Minister of Defence. After testifying, he was surrounded by journalists asking a series of questions.
“This commission was appointed by Yahapalana Government. We appreciate the fact that all parties, including the former President and the Prime Minister, are being summoned for questioning. We hope the commission is continuing its procedures smoothly and independently,” he told the Media.
Wijewardene also elaborated on the fact that all security responsibilities were under the President and not under him.
“Former President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who was appointed according to the mandate, but still we got justice from the courts. After that incident, the rift between the President and our Government increased. It may have affected national security as well. Most of the time Sirisena left the country without appointing me as the Minister of Defence,” Wijewardene said emotionally.
UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam filed one petition on behalf of the UNP against the proposed 20th Amendment Bill and another petition was filed on Monday by Wijewardene.
“Within a limited period of time, the UNP filed two petitions and included a number of new arguments in them” Wickremesinghe said at Sirikotha.
It is noteworthy that the two lawyers representing Kariywasam’s and Wijewardene’s petitions also come from special backgrounds. One of them, Attorney-at-Law Eraj de Silva, is the son of Romesh de Silva, a well-known lawyer in the country, and the other is Ronald Perera PC the son of former Minister Paul Perera PC.
A UNP legal officer questioned the leader as to why he was a witness for the Anti-Corruption Commission. He replied, “My name is often mentioned in that committee. I don’t want to waste time going to the commissions from time to time. Therefore, like Mangala Samaraweera and Malik Samarawickrema, I also told the Commission that if I am a witness, all facts could be stated at once. Then, in all cases, the facts of my statement can be adjusted as required,”
SJB campaign to begin
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa's team, which successfully completed ground operations at Galle and Matara, launched a similar operation last weekend in the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts. It was attended by Premadasa, his wife, Ranjith Maddumabandara, Tissa Attanayake, Lakshman Kiriella, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Harin Fernando and all Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) members as well as a large number of former UNP Provincial Councillors and current Pradeshiya Sabha Members participated, on the theme ‘Let's Win’. The SJB Network of Organisations was established in every electorate.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa had launched an Adishtana Pooja at the Kelani Viharaya to defeat the 20th Amendment. It was organised by the SJB Youth Force led by Mayantha Dissanayake.
Several rounds of discussions on the SJB operation to defeat the 20A also concluded at the Kotte office under the leadership of Opposition Leader Premadasa. It was also decided to organise a public awareness and campaign week at district level against the 20A and finally a massive rally is planned on 8 October.
Maddumabandara, Fernando and a group of lawyers also participated in these discussions. As the second stage ground level operations will be launched in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Premadasa also launched a special round of talks with Colombo and Gampaha District candidates and organisers recently, to launch grassroots operations of the party and to culminate anti-20 ideologies.
Premadasa, Dr. Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremeratne also held a special discussion on the downgrading of Sri Lanka by the International Moody's Company, which deals with the country's economy and debt repayments.
“The country's economic risk is high. The country's income has completely collapsed. Thousands of jobs have been paralysed due to the suspension of imports. The Government is making Media appearances about a false local economy to cover up this situation,” Premadasa said.
“Even if the 20A is passed by a mistake, the judiciary will be under the control of the President. Such a tragedy is very dangerous for a country. We should remember what happened to former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake under the 18A,” Kiriella responded.
“690,000 votes were not cast to measure the coconut with a tape. Also, this country needs a Constitution or an Amendment that does not make the President and the Prime Minister a coward,” Premadasa said during the Anuradhapura operation receiving a high response.
The Prelates as well as other clergymen thanked Premadasa for his service to the shrines and other places of worship during the Rajarata operation, with special praise for his father. A Kapruk Pooja was also held at the Ruwanweli Maha Seya where he met the Chief Prelate of Atamasthana.
Sajith’s latest foundation stone
The Mount Lavinia Magistrate on Wednesday (30) remanded two suspects charged with pelting stones at Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa, while he was addressing a public gathering in Ratmalana on 29 September night. The suspects were remanded till 7 October.
Meanwhile, Premadasa said he would use the stones thrown at him for the foundation for the community hall he hoped to construct, fulfilling an earlier pledge.
Premadasa was attacked by unidentified persons while he was addressing a felicitation ceremony at the Kotalawalapura, Ratmalana, Ranasinghe Premadasa apartment complex.
Premadasa was attacked when he claimed that the SJB was the only political Party that showed gratitude to the public.
Meanwhile, when Premadasa’s associates urged him to leave the stage for his own safety, Premadasa declined and said he will not back off, being afraid of political goons in Ratmalana.
“I am glad that the Ratmalana people have defeated these political goons during the previous Election. When I came here, the public’s main request was a community hall for this area. I give my word to the Ratmalana residents that if they meet me with the relevant documents required in this regard, I will take the responsibility to build a community hall. Further, I will use the stones that were thrown at me in the construction,” he added.
Further, he noted that he would visit all the electoral districts and operation committee leaders will be those who worked as poll leaders in all districts, except in the North which he would lead.
MR publicises a secret
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that most of the local politicians tend to ruin their political careers due to the unwelcome influence wielded by their spouses.
He stated that at a time when a discourse is taking place here concerning the plight of womenfolk, it was apt to see a book being published on the late First Lady Elina Jayewardene.
He made these comments while taking part at an event held in Colombo Wednesday (30) which concerned the publication of a book on Elina Jayewardene by Sagarika Dissanayake and another written on former President J.R. Jayewardene by Pradeep Jayewardene.