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Sunday, 12 May 2013

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Unusual scene in Parliament

There was an unusual scene in Parliament last week. Hardly anybody has seen former UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa walk up to his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for a serious discussion.

The unusual scene was witnessed last week as Sajith walked up to the Leader of the Opposition. HE told Ranil that he planned to raise questions about the prices of paddy, in Parliament and got the green light from his party leader.

At the very next session, Sajith stood up and queried about paddy purchasing prices.

“You can’t ask questions like that all of a sudden without following proper parliamentary procedure. If you don’t know the traditions of the House, please ask and learn from your party leader,” Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told Sajith.

Surprisingly, Ranil came to the rescue of his Reformist MP Sajith. “The Hon. Member of the Parliament asked an important and timely question. We need a response from the Government,” Ranil said.

However, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa overruled the question and said that parliamentarians should follow the proper procedure.

“There are parliamentary procedure and tradition when an honourable member wants to ask a question. There are students watching us from the Gallery and we must always conduct ourselves in an exemplary manner. I will soon arrange a class (workshop) to educate the MPs on that,” the Speaker said.

UNP helps Govt to show strength

Many political analysis felt that the UNP’s decision to bring a no confidence motion against Minister Dilan Perera has damaged the Opposition though they intended to attack the Government.

Many UNP parliamentarians have told their friends that it was the biggest blunder made by the UNP in recent times. “We were slowly but steadily advancing our campaign on electricity tariff. Then the President announced relief on May Day and destroyed our efforts. Then we thought that we could make our presence felt by bringing a no confidence motion against a Minister, but there again the Government showed its strength by defeating it by a majority of 102 votes. We only gave an opportunity to the Government to show its strength,” a prominent Kurunegala District UNP parliamentarian told Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage.

Minister Aluthgamage, during the no confidence debate against his Cabinet colleague Dilan Perera, said prominent UNP speakers deliberately kept themselves away from the debate and only three ‘retired policemen’ spoke on behalf of the UNP, referring to aging UNP parliamentarians Joseph Michael Perera, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and Jayalath Jayawardena.

The no confidence motion brought by the UNP against Minister Dilan Perera was defeated by a majority of 104 votes in the Parliament on Tuesday. A total of 136 members in the UPFA coalition voted against the motion while the 32 UNP and JVP parliamentarians voted for the motion. TNA parliamentarians were not present at the time of voting.

PM exposes UNP’s disgraceful attempts

Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne told Parliament on Tuesday that it was tragic to witness the Opposition including its leader attempting to inflame conflict between communities for petty political gain without thinking of the future of the country.

Jayaratne said the prevention of Terrorism Act would never be used as a political tool. The Prime Minister made this observation in response to a special statement made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament under Standing Order 23(2) questioning the arrest of Asath Salley under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The Premier noted that Asath Salley had told an Indian publication that Muslims in Sri Lanka should take up arms. He was taken into custody under the Section 120 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Prime Minister further stated that although Asath Salley was informed verbally and in writing to appear before the CID for questioning he absconded and was arrested at No. 25, Gamini Road, Salamulla, Kolonnawa on May 2.

The Premier said that various Opposition members were attempting to link this arrest to the PTA to gain political mileage. He added that the Opposition Leader too was attempting to obtain similar political mileage from the incident. The Premier said it was clear that the Opposition was attempting to drive a wedge between Sri Lanka and Islamic countries.

The Prime Minister also stated that various governments used various sections under the PTA in their battle against terrorism until this government successfully eradicated the terrorist menace in May 2009.

Meanwhile, the former deputy mayor of Colombo was released from Criminal Investigation Department custody on Friday. Salley was first admitted to the Colombo National Hospital after being arrested by the CID and was later admitted to a private hospital in Colombo.

According to senior Police official attached to the CID, the former Deputy Mayor was released while receiving treatment at the private hospital. The CID arrested Salley over a statement made by him to a magazine in Tamil Nadu which would affect the ethnic and religious harmony of the country.

Salley in an interview to a Tamil Nadu based magazine has said that Muslims have been left no other alternative than taking arms. He was arrested for questioning over the statement he made to the magazine. A relative of Salley’s family told the media that his family members had sent a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on behalf of him seeking pardon for his statement.

Sampanthan in hot water over TNA’s registration

R. Sampanthan and his ITAK seems to be losing its grip gradually, four years after the LTTE was defeated. Sampanthan and his men had been remote controlled by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran from his Wanni jungles. Most Tamil political leaders acted as puppets of Prabhakaran due to fear but the vanquishing of the Tiger leadership saw Sampanthan making desperate attempts to consolidate.

Plans to register the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as a separate political party has upset R. Sampanthan and LTTE cohorts. TULF leader V. Anandasangary is demanding that they should register TNA immediately as the majority of Tamil political parties in the North do not like to contest as Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchchi (ITAK).

Anandasangary, a veteran Tamil leader and the President of the Tamil United Liberation Front, was succeeded by the Tiger-proxy ITAK. Anandasangaree maintained that late S.J.V. Chelvanaykam the founder and leader of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchchi up to 1974, formed the TULF.

The TULF leader alleged that in 2004 during the Parliamentary general elections the LTTE had clandestinely pumped in money to ITAK and that was handled by LTTE’s political wing leader S.P. Tamilselvan. He added that the ITAK had ridden on their shoulders for over two years and now they are coming up with silly excuses, which are unacceptable.

It should be noted that since of late, all the four constituent political parties in the TNA were demanding the registration of the TNA as a separate political party and Sampanthan and other leaders of the ITAK have failed miserably to come up with any action to register the TNA as a separate political party.

This seeming reluctance on the part of the leadership of the ITAK has angered leaders of the constituent parties of the TNA. Leader of the EPRLF Suresh Premachandran has already demanded the registration of TNA openly. The TELO has recently gone one step more by resolving in their recent central committee meeting for the registration.

“From the time the results of the last parliamentary elections were announced, R. Sampanthan made a request to all Tamil political parties to join together. The TULF although initially opposed that suggestion, because the TNA had no mandate in the last parliamentary elections with only 63,000 votes in the Jaffna electoral district, which had a total strength of 700,000 voters,” Anandasangaree was quoted as saying.

“I am keeping quiet because one section of the ITAK is accusing me of campaigning for the registration of the TNA as a political party to enter Parliament. Though those ITAK members run a smear campaign against me, I demand that TNA should be registered forthwith without any further delay,” Anandasangary demanded.

Pavithra exposes Chandrika’s failures

Power and Energy Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said last week that “a female politicians who had gone into retirement and now dreams of retuning to politics” did not have the backbone to go ahead with the Norochcholai power plant in 1999.

However, it was obvious that she was referring to none other than former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Had Chandrika gone ahead with the original plans and constructed Upper Kotmale and Norochcholai, the country would have faced the power crisis better without the power cuts during her time. But it was President Rajapaksa who went ahead and completed construction of both projects.

Speaking during an adjournment motion in Parliament on Friday, Pavithra said the construction of the Norochcholai power plant could not commence as the “lady politician who led the country at the time” did not give green light. She said the coal power plant which was planned in 1982 had to be stopped because several environmentalists opposed it.

The minister said it had been possible to add 300MW of electricity to the national grid in 2006 through the first phase of the power project and to add a further 600MW in the second phase in 2010.

President arrives in Uganda

President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in Uganda on an official visit yesterday. During the visit, President Rajapaksa will hold bilateral talks with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and attend the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Local Government Conference 2013, after which he will launch a trade exhibition.

The President is also expected to visit the Masulita Vocational Training Centre and the Sugar Corporation of Uganda. The latter, set up in 1924, reportedly plays a major role in the Ugandan economy.

Sri Lanka and Uganda established diplomatic relations in 1972, and since then, a former Ugandan President and a Prime Minister have visited Sri Lanka. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni also visited Sri Lanka last November.

Uganda has continuously supported Sri Lanka in various international fora, including at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2012 and 2013 where it voted against the resolution on Sri Lanka.

Prior to his departure to Uganda on Friday night, President Rajapaksa opened the new office and laboratory complex of the Government Analyst’s Department at Pelawatte, Battaramulla. The state-of-the-art facility also includes the first state owned DNA laboratory in the country. Rs. 1,393 million has been spent on the construction of the six-storey building complex in Pelawatta, Battaramulla.

The Department of the Government Analyst was earlier at the Torrington Square adjacent to the Auditor General’s Department and all buildings in this area have now been taken over by the Ministry of Urban Development and are being renovated.

All the divisions and laboratories of the department are accommodated under one roof in the new complex, with each laboratory being provided with a separate instrument room. After opening the facility, the President visited all divisions of the department where section heads described the work they do.

Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem described the facility as a culmination of a struggle which went on for nearly a century. He described how the department began with minimum facilities in 1904 and went forward from there onwards. He said the DNA lab which was set up with USAID help was a first in the country and added that earlier the department had to do such testing at private institutions.

Sakvithi granted bail

Popular tutor turned fraudster Sakvithi Ranasinghe had been so smart that he even tempted prominent politicians, sportsmen and influential personalities to deposit money in his so-called financial institute.

Sakvithi held in remand custody for two and a half years for defrauding over Rs. 1,500 million deposited by nearly 3,000 unsuspecting investors was released on Rs. 500,000 cash with three sureties of Rs. 5 million each by Nugegoda Magistrate Ajith M. Masinghe on Friday.

The Magistrate also ordered him to report to the Commercial Section 2 of the CID every Saturday between 9 am and 12 noon. The Magistrate announced that the suspect will also be debarred from leaving the country as earlier stipulated by Court.

The Magistrate laying staff conditions for the release of the suspect said the sureties who should be residents in the Nugegoda Judicial District should be produced in open court with relevant Grama Niladhari Certificates before the suspect in released.

However the CID had made submissions objecting to the release of the suspect. It is reliably learnt that even though Abhaya Ranasinghe. Mudiyanselage Weerakumara Ranasinghe alias Sakvithi Ranasinghe had been released on bail in this case he will not be able to go home as he is serving prison terms in relation to several other cases.

Azerbaijan to promote Lankan tourism

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has been going that extra mile to promote Sri Lanka as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations. Last week, he made use of Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s visit here to explore the possibility of promoting Lankan tourism.

The Azerbaijan Government is now taking steps to strengthen Sri-Lanka-Azerbaijan ties by signing investment agreements between the two countries and by encouraging Azerbaijani tourists to visit Sri Lanka. Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Mammadyarov disclosed this when he met Minister Basil Rajapaksa at the ministry office for talks on economic co-operation and tourism promotion to strengthen bilateral relations. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were established in 1992.

Azerbaijan which is currently a UN Security Council member is making a major contribution to promote world peace and international security. Sri Lanka was among the countries that supported Azerbaijan’s candidature for the two-year membership which began last January. Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s expressed Sri Lanka’s gratitude to Foreign Minister Mammadyarov for the help Azerbaijan, as a member of the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Countries, gave this country.

The discussions between the two ministers also focused on Sri Lankan tea exports to Azerbaijan where there is a great demand for the island’s tea. Last year Sri Lanka tea worth around $47 million to that country.

Measures to increase exports of tea, rubber and coconut products to Azerbaijan will be taken soon, according to Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The possibility of exporting non-traditional products like furniture, cutlery, paper products, plastic containers and garments will also be explored.

Since Azerbaijan’s per capita income is around $10,200 most of her citizens are keen to travel abroad, Foreign Minister Mammadyarov said.

Hence, there is a greater opportunity to attract Azerbaijani tourists to Sri Lanka, a country well-known for its natural and other attractions, according to him.

He also made a request to launch direct flights between Colombo and Baku as between Colombo and Moscow. Minister Rajapaksa said that since Sri Lanka is now a middle-income country where its rapidly developing tourism industry has attracted large numbers of European tourists there are better facilities to accommodate visitors from Azerbaijan.

Foreign Minister Mammadyarov said Sri Lanka would receive priority when Azerbaijan makes investments abroad.

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