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CJ rejected President’s nomination for SC – Kiriella

Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday revealed that the Constitutional Council did not approve the President’s nomination of appointing Justice Deepali Wijesundera as a Supreme Court Judge because the Chief Justice rejected it.

Kiriella made these observations during the Adjournment Debate moved by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) regarding the conduct of the CC.

Leader of the House also gave reasons behind the appointments of CJ Nalin Perera and IGP Pujith Jayasundara.

“Now the UPFA criticises these appointments. Let me reveal the reasons behind each appointment. When an IGP had to be appointed, President Maithripala Sirisena sent three names to the CC. Pujith Jayasindara, Wickremasinghe and Wickramarathne. He told the CC to select one of them. So the CC held a vote among its 10 members. Jayasundara got five votes and Wickremesinge received only one vote.The President also sent three names for the AG’s post. They were Suhada Gamlath, Jayantha Jayasuriya and Kapila Waidyarathne. Then the CC told the President to send his preference for the post, and he sent only one name and that was Jayantha Jayasuriya,” Minister Kiriella said.

“When it comes to Justice Deepali Wijesundera, it was again the President who appointed Justice Preethi Padman Surasena as the President of the Court of Appeal in January 2018. Surasena was four ranks behind Wijesundera, but he was the preference of the President for the post,” Kiriella said.

“According to the 19th Amendement to the Constitution, the CJ’s approval should be sought to appoint Supreme Court Judges. The President had nominated Justice Wijesundera’s name as SC Judge. But the CJ rejected that. So the CC could not approve her name,” he said.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Vijitha Herath said that some UPFA MPs are saying they will seek the possibility of challenging the CC in Court. But according to the Section 41(I), the CC cannot challenged it in Court, he said.

“When the Auditor General was appointed, seniority did not considered. He was the one who provided a strong report regarding the Treasury Bonds scam. That report was a hard blow on this government. Because of that appointment which was made with the involvement of the CC, the public had the chance to know the truth about the Bond scam. The CC is an important body. If there are flaws in its procedures, we should introduce amendments and should make it more strong,” he said.


Farmers should be paid Rs. 50 for paddy kilo – Opposition Leader

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa proposed in Parliament yesterday that the purchasing price of a kilo of paddy from farmers should be increased to Rs. 50.

“According to Agriculture Department statistics, 700,000 hectares of paddy lands have been cultivated and the expected harvest is around 3.3 million metric tonnes. In comparison to the last year, an increase of around 100,000 hectares of paddy cultivation was recorded and the expected harvest is estimated to increase by one million metric tonnes. However, the decision made by the government to axe the fertiliser subsidy resulted in reducing the number of cultivated paddy lands,” he said.

“The government that was formed in last October for a short duration granted the fertiliser subsidy to the farmers. As a result, the farmers who had been incurring losses over the past are now expecting profits this season. Therefore, I urge the government not to stop the fertiliser subsidy again,” the Opposition Leader said.

Rajapaksa blamed the government for failing to come up with a proper paddy purchasing mechanism. “The government claims that Rs. 5 billion has been allocated to buy paddy, but in comparison with the expected harvest, this amount is totally insufficient. Even though the government claims to have allocated funds to buy paddy, paddy storages have not been set up so far. Despite the government stipulating a guaranteed price for paddy as Rs. 38 for a kilo of Nadu and Rs. 41 for a kilo of Samba, the farmers claim that Nadu is sold at Rs. 24-28 and Samba at Rs. 38,” he said.

“Over the past several years, the price of rice has not declined and samba is sold at Rs. 120 per kilo and Nadu at Rs. 80 per kilo. Therefore, it is not hard to see how much the middleman earns from a kilo of paddy,” Rajapaksa said.

“During our rule, we built 300 paddy storages and vested them in the public. But this government has closed those and allowed traders to buy paddy directly from farmers at very low prices,” he said.


Harrison proposes free fertiliser

A proposal has been made to provide fertiliser to the farmers for free through the next budget, Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Livestock Development, Irrigation and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister P. Harrison said.

He said the proposal made by the Opposition Leader to buy a kilo of paddy from the farmers at Rs, 50 per kilo was most welcome. “But it will be an issue when deciding the price a kilo must be sold to the consumer,” he said.

“The government has discussed fluctuating rice prices with the rice mill owners and asked them if they purchase paddy at Rs. 35 per kilo, how much the selling price will be. Now we have formulated a mechanism that would safeguard the farmer, mill owner and the consumer, and we have decided to gazette on April 5 that a kilo of Nadu purchased from the farmer at Rs. 38 could be sold at a maximum retail price of Rs. 80 and a kilo of Samba purchased at Rs. 41 could be sold at a maximum retail price of Rs. 85. Then there won’t be a huge increase in the price of rice,” he said.

Referring to a statement by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa that the government axed the fertiliser subsidy to farmers and that paddy be bought from farmers at Rs. 50 per kilo, Harrison said the Opposition Leader made a wrong statement that the government had removed the fertiliser subsidy.

“We have not removed it and we still give the farmers fertiliser at Rs. 500 and a concession of Rs. 3,300 per bag of fertiliser. The Opposition Leader alleged that we have not set up any paddy storage facilities. This is not true. The Paddy Marketing Board has 207 stores. Of them, 118 have been opened. We have opened 20 storage facilities in the Polonnaruwa District, 18 in Ampara and 35 stores in the harvesting areas. We have set up two in Matale, eight in Kurunegala, two in Puttalam and 27 in Badulla. Hambantota has 17 stores and the Paddy Marketing Board has opened nine. Of the seven stores in Moneragala, three were opened now. Two more in Ratnapura, one in Matara and four of six stores in Killinochchi were opened now. Another four stores in Vavuniya and four in Jaffna, one in Mannar and seven in Trincomalee are opened,” he said.


COPA 2017 first report presented

The first report of the Committee on Public Account (COPA) 2017 was presented in Parliament yesterday for the period from June 6, 2017 and its Chairman SLFP MP Lasantha Alagiyawanna said the subject ministers of the entities that have been investigated are expected to give explanations on the matters in two months.

COPA Chairman Alagiyawanna said the report included 27 investigations on 25 public institutions. He said the COPA report also included investigations on the progress review reports by the Auditor General on current issues n the country.

The report, therefore, includes an investigation and recommendations on the AG’s review on concessionary given to farmers for fertilizers, he said.

“The people think that these reports submitted by COPE are not fruitful because no actions are taken I urge all parliamentarians to contribute to making this process worthwhile. Responses given by the subject ministers will be a progressive step towards the success of these committees,” Alagiyawanna said.

Alagiyawanna said the report has five common observations, four special observations on specific institutes and 87 common recommendations.


Judges in doubt if their religions counted for promotion – Gammanpila

United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Udaya Prabhath Gammanpila yesterday told the House that some judges have expressed their doubts whether their religion plays a certain role during the appointments to higher posts.

Gammanpila was participating in the Adjournment Debate on the conduct of the CC in Parliament yesterday.

According to Gammanpila, these doubts imply that their appointments to the Supreme Court and other high posts are not taken into consideration since they are Buddhists.

“Many controversial appointments were done by the Constitutional Council to judiciary. A High Court judge was appointed to the Appeal Court without considering five judges who are more senior to the promoted. The Chairman of the Appeal Court was appointed without considering four senior judges in the Appeal Court. When 42 court rulings are pending, an appointment was made to the Supreme Court. One should not lose a chance for a promotion just because that person is a Buddhist. Now these judges have doubts that they would not be promoted because they are Buddhists. They call us and tell about their doubt.” Gammanpila said.

“The CC should reveal the criteria they follow when appointing someone to the posts and ensure the transparency. Otherwise, the people will be suspicious about the Court systemm and it will affect the entire country,” Gammanpila said.

He said that five from the 10 members of the CC should be appointed by the Premier and the Opposition Leader jointly.

Gammanpila asked the Constitutional Council (CC) members who were appointed by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and then Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan to resign from the posts and let the Premier and new Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to fill those posts.

“Now the legitimate Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa attends the CC meetings. The members who were appointed by the Premier and then Opposition Leader Sampanthan are still there. This is a nothing but a grave malformation. These five members should resign from the CC and let the Premier and new Opposition Leader to fill their vacancies,” he said.

He said that there are doubts in the country about the way the CC appointed the Attorney General, the Inspector General of Police and Supreme Court and High Court Judges.

“We do not say that the seniority should always be given the priority when appointing persons for such posts. Occasions may come to consider other facts such as the efficiency of the person for a certain posts. But the people who were rejected for such posts have every right to know why they were rejected. The public should know about it. But the CC has failed to inform them about it thus far. In February 2016, the post of Attorney General fell vacant. The tradition is to fill this vacancy by appointing the next most senior officer at the Attorney General’s Department which is the Solicitor General or a SC Judge. In 2016, Solicitor General was Suhada Gamlapath. But the CC did not appoint him. The CC did not even appoint a SC Judge for the post. It gave the post to Jayantha Jayasuriya, who was a junior officer at the Department at that time. No one knows why Gamlath lost the post. This same thing happened when appointing the IGP in the same year. Pujith Jayasundara was appointed as the IGP, while Deputy Inspector General of Police S.M Wickremasinghe was the most senior officer at the Police. Why DIG Wickremasinghe was not appointed as the IGP? No one knows the answer, not even Wickremasinghe. Also, when appointing the Chairman of the High Court, four senior Judges were neglected and a junior Judge was given the post. What were the criteria the CC followed there? No one knows.” Gammanpila said.


Oct. 26 coup made it vital to strengthen democracy, rule of law - Eran

The political coup on October 26 emphasised the importance of strengthening democracy and rule of law, Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne yesterday said.

He was participating in the adjournment debate on the Constitution Council.

State Minister Wickramaratne said that strengthening the CC hold utmost importance.

“This debate is somewhat on ruler and the ruled. It will show on which side the participants of the debate are. This debate is also about the separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. If a democracy is to prevail, the separation of powers must be protected.” Wickramaratne said.

“Before 19th amendment was introduced, the President had sweeping powers in this country. He could arbitrarily appoint and promote important police officers, prosecutors, public servants and judges. The so called Parliamentary Council of the time was actually not that independent. It was more of a rubber stamp. That is why we had a situation in which 17th amendment was emasculated and 18th was brought in, firstly to remove the second term limit on running for Presidency and to have a full time presidency. Secondly, to remove the checks and balances there in Parliamentary democracy that could bring government servants to their knees before the executive powers of the President. This was the reason why amendments were brought to limit presidential powers and to enhance the powers of the Cabinet. Now the Executive Presidency’s actions are up for judiciary review.”

“We have a history of discrimination. We have a history of appointing wrong people. I recall particularly the situation where Dr. Shirani Bandaranaike was removed by a flawed process. That day Justice Sri Skandharaja presided at the divisional bench with Justice Anil Gunaratne and Justice Salam in impeaching CJ Shirani Bandaranaike. They held that the process was flawed and it was issued. Justice Skandharaja had to pay a heavy price. He was overlooked five times from the appointments he should have received. His blood vessel burst and later he died as a heartbroken man. He was on his deathbed and expected then President to look at his situation but he was not promoted. He died as the President of Court of Appeal, who was then the Justice Minister? Anil Gunawardena was also not promoted either as the President of the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court because he was also in the bench. He was overlooked three times until we corrected the situation in 2015. Discrimination has been a part of the history, and we need to get away more and more from it.” the State Minister said.

“Then we also have the problem of independent persons in the CC. We know that H.A. de Silva, Colvin Gunaratne, these people were appointed not under the UNP government but under a SLFP government. These people acted independently. So it does not matter who appoint them. These people who are appointed need to act independently. We had a debate recently on CC approving nominees on seniority. Seniority is important but it should not be the only determinant. It should be on meritocracy whether it is on judiciary service or public. It cannot only be done on seniority. Efficiency, good performance, integrity, contribution to jurisprudence should be considered. For such assessment procedure, a CC is necessary. We prefer to have more independent people in the CC,” the State Minister said.


‘People have right to know criteria for appointing high posts’

The citizenry has a right to know the criteria followed by the Constitutional Council (CC) when appointing crucial posts such as the Attorney General, Inspector General of Police and the Chief Justice, United National Party (UNP) National List MP PC Dr. Jayampathi Wickramaratne yesterday said.

Dr. Wickremeratne was participating in the Adjournment Debate moved by the Opposition.

He said he fully agrees the criteria should be made public and if there is a necessity amendments, those should be introduced to that.

“The proposal of appointing crucial posts to the country such as the AG, CJ and IGP through a mechanism which can gain a national acceptance was came from Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam. Prof. G.L Peiris supported immensely to polish and develop that idea. Dr. Tiruchelvam made that proposal during the effort for a Constitutional Amendments during 1994-2000. But those Amendments were not passed. After that when then President Chandrika Kumaranatunga formed a probationary government with the JVP, this CC was formed under the 17th Amendment.” Wickramaratne said.

“During those times, the majority of the CC comprised civil society members. There were seven civil society members and only three MPs in the CC. Even the 19th Amendment to the Constitution proposed that, but the UPFA did not agree with it. They wanted more MPs in the CC. It was them who politicised the CC,” he said.

He said the problems raised regarding the CC at the moment would not have arisen if the President followed a certain criteria when nominating persons for a certain posts. “The President could have asked for opinions from experts such as the CJ, Justice Minister, the AG and the President of Bar Association of Sri Lanka. If he did that these problems would not have arisen,” he said.


‘Those opposing CC now, did not send their views then’

The Parliamentarians who are now shouting against the Constitutional Council did not send a single observation when it informed the House in 2016 about the procedures and rules it will be adopting, non-Cabinet Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Harsha de Silva yesterday said.

Dr. De Silva was participating in the adjournment debate on the conduct of the Constitutional Council.

“The CC decided to follow the rules adopted by the CC under the 17th amendments. The President was informed via a letter on November 2016 and Parliament on December 2016. MPs were expected to give in proposals, but not a single MP who are shouting now sent a single observation. So the procedures remain as it happens in the 17 amendment,” he said.

Minister De Silva referred to a recent comment made by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on the 19th Amendment.

“I read in the press that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the front runner for the presidency in the SLPP, saying “give us the vote and give us back the government and we will get rid of 19th Amendment and go back to the 18th amendment”. I am certain that 6.2 MN voted for us are going to say you go jump in the Beira lake or something like that,” he said.

UPFA MP Keheliya Rambukwella raised a Point of Order that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has not made any such claim as alleged by De Silva.

“De Silva mentioned that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the front runner has said that he will get rid of the 19th amendment and bring the18th. He has not made such statement anywhere,” Rambukwella said.


Special security for budget reading

Special security measures will be implemented during the reading of the 2019 Budget, Speaker of the House Karu Jayasuriya yesterday said in Parliament.

Selected areas in and out of the Parliament premises will be inspected on March 1 and March 4 prior to the commencement of the Budget reading on March 5 as a part of the special security measures.

The gallery will be opened only for invitees.

Special transport and parking facilities will be arranged during the period.

 


 

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