9th July 2000
Business| Sports| Sports Plus|
The bone of contention of many a government has been
the price of bread and other products made out of flour. Even the Trade
Minister's appeal has no effect with bakers refusing to reduce the prices.
A notice displayed at a leading bakery in colombo says it all. See
Executive presidency; LTTE participation; referendum still pose problemsA last minute document produced at the end of a six-hour dialogue between PA and UNP leaders to clinch a deal on Constitutional reforms could sour what the Government has claimed to be a major success, "opening a new chapter in the country's history".
The one-page document relates to transitional provisions that should come into effect between the existing constitution and the new one and refers to the term of office of the President which runs to 22 December 2005, while giving her powers to be the Prime Minister and an MP.
The UNP delegation had refused to agree to these provisions and wanted time to study the PA's proposal. The proposal had also not detailed whether the President can sit as an MP by virtue of the office, or whether the President will have to contest an election or come on the National List.
While having reached some agreement on a wide range of issues, The Sunday Times learns that the Government is continuing to discuss ways and means of securing a two thirds majority in this Parliament without the UNP support.
Meanwhile, another issue has arisen as to whether it is constitutional to present the newly agreed provisions to the existing Parliament and hold a referendum on it during the tenure of a new Parliament that must be formed by October.
The Attorney General was asked for an opinion on this vexed issue.
With the present Parliament due to be dissolved by mid next month, and a general election held by October, a referendum of the people will have to be held only thereafter, during the tenure of a new Parliament.
There was debate as to whether one parliament can bind another parliament.
During Friday's discussions, President Chandrika Kumaratunga had stated that the new proposals,
especially the provisions relating to devolution were meant to be "a concession to the Tamils".
She said so in response to a question as to what she expected to gain by agreeing to these new provisions.
President Kumaratunga said if the Tamil Parties agreed to this new package it was not necessary to get the LTTE support.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said it had to be agreed that the LTTE had military control over a large segment of the North and East, and that it held the key to the success of any devolution package.
It was decided that the package be put to the Tamil parties for their approval. Earlier in the week, however, most of the Tamil Parties said that the package should be put to the LTTE.
The consensus was to put the package now to the Tamil parties and send a copy to the LTTE. The UNP had wanted the Maha Sangha also consulted.
Some of the major areas of the PA-UNP agreement were:
* An Interim Council of the North and East for five years.
* The unit of devolution will be the existing provincial boundaries, but they will be called Regional Councils in English and Palath Sabhas in Sinhala.
* The SLMC has requested a new administrative district comprising Pottuvil, Sammanthurai and Kalmunai (includes predominantly Sinhalese Lahugala) - this however was not agreed to yet by the UNP.
* The word "unitary" will be omitted from the description of the Republic of Sri Lanka.
* The state shall promote the "Sri Lankan identity" in a multi-cultural, multi-religious Republic.
* An amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka in relation to the chapters on devolution will be possible only after a two thirds majority in Parliament, plus each of the MPs voting region-wise and approving such amendment, and then where necessary by a referendum.
The PA and the UNP are scheduled to meet once again after the Tamil
parties have studied the package. The UNP refused to join the Government
in discussing the package with the Maha Sangha.
UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale told The Sunday Times the party had sent a show-cause notice to Mr. de Mel asking why he spoke in parliament without approval and voted for the extension of the emergency in violation of a party decision.
He said an explanation was sought before July 10.
In parliament on Thursday, Mr. de Mel caused a sensation when he rose to speak just before the concluding speech by Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte. The 75-year-old Mr. de Mel who had switched parties many times said he believed the time had come for him to put the country before the party. He voted for the motion to extend the emergency and was escorted out by Minister Alavi Moulana amidst cheers from government MPs and protests by UNP members.
The UNP claimed Mr. de Mel had made an unauthorised speech during the time allocated for Rajitha Senaratne, but the government claimed it had given him part of the time allocated for Gen. Ratwatte.
The UNP later charged that the Speaker had conspired with the government
to allow Mr. de Mel to speak and said it would move a motion of no-confidence
on the Speaker.
The complaint was lodged against the private secretary of Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake after the minister's wife Kusum Wickramanayake failed to return the cassette recorder which was taken forcibly after a Sunday Times reporter interviewed her on Friday regarding corruption allegations that have rocked the Seva Vanitha Movement.
The Sunday Times has sought Police intervention to obtain the return of the tape recorder.
Ms. Wickramanayake, who is also the Secretary of the Seva Vanitha Movement grabbed the recorder after the journalist interviewed her by prior appointment.
Ms. Wicrkamanayake at the end of the interview wanted to listen to the recording and after listening to it wanted certain parts of the interview deleted.
Attempts by The Sunday Times to contact her at her office later in the day failed and the cassette recorder had not been returned so far.
See detailed story
By Shelani de SilvaThe National Joint Committee has been refused permission to hold a conference presided over by Buddhist prelates at the BMICH on the proposed constitutional reforms, with the BMICH director saying they do not allow political meetings.
NJC Secretary Piyasena Dissanayake said the conference was to be presided over by Mahanayakes and attended by several members of the Maha Sangha to discuss the position of the Sinhala people regarding the proposed reforms.
He said political parties had not been invited for the conference and it was unfair for the BMICH to shut them out on the basis they were holding a political meeting.
He said that when the NJC called over at the BMICH, the director had told them that since the conference was of political nature he had to consult President Chandrika Kumaratunga, chairperson of the board of management.
Later the director had informed him that the application was turned down.
"This is an insult to the Mahanayakas and the Sangha.
This is politically motivated. We are planning to take legal action for violation of fundamental rights," Dr. Dissanayake said.
He pointed out that a three-day conference was held at the BMICH last month, with more than 50 papers being presented on strictly political matters and some presented by politicians.
BMICH Director Bandula Ekanayake said the application was rejected since they considered the conference as a political meeting.
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