UNP MP Anura Bandaranaike who delivered the Lalith Athulathmudali memorial lecture posing for a picture with the late DUNF leader's wife Srimani and daughter Sarela. For excerpts of Mr. Bandaranaike's speech, please see page 6. Pic. By Lakshman Gunatilleke.
Government is to introduce constitutional amendments to enable members of parliament to cross over, a senior Cabinet Minister revealed yesterday.
The move stemmed from the willingness of some UNP parliamentarians to cross over to the government side and support the devolution package, Minister and PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne told The Sunday Times
"As a first step, they will support the constitutional amendments to enable the cross over," he said.
The UNP however, dismissed claims that any of its MPs were planning to cross over. "We have no knowledge of any of our members supporting the package as it is in parliament. I have heard no such thing so far," UNP General Secretary Gamini Athukorale told The Sunday Times.
Mr. Jayaratne said the People's Alliance was holding talks with Tamil parties and was confident of gaining their support for the amendment and the reforms.
"We will need only a further 18 votes to push through the constitutional reforms, and we could get this by introducing the constitutional provision for MPs to cross over," he said.
Dismissing Mr. Athukorale's denials, Mr. Jayaratne claimed that many UNP MPs were in favour of the package.
They were, however, reluctant to admit their stance publicly as party discipline required them to abide by the whip, he said.
Government legal officers have pointed out that crossovers could be facilitated by deleting the Article 161 (11) of the constitution.
The Article reads: "Where a Member ceases by resignation, expulsion or otherwise to be a member of the recognised political party to which he belonged upon the commencement of the constitution, his seat shall become vacant upon the expiration of one month from the date he ceased to be a member of such party ......"
According to the present constitution, after the vacancy has occurred the Secretary General of Parliament should inform the Commissioner of Elections of such a vacancy and the Commissioner should require the secretary of the party through which the member was elected to fill the vacancy.
Minister Jayaratne, meanwhile denied speculation in sections of the Sinhala media that Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike planned to retire from politics due to health reasons.
"She is an active participant at cabinet meetings and also attends parliament," he said adding that in the event she decided to step down, a new premier would be chosen on the basis of seniority.
In what is seen as a possible solution to the crisis engulfing the Permanent Commission on bribery and corruption, the President has called upon its commissioners to resign and transferred its director general to the Justice Ministry.
Commission Chairman T.A.D.S. Wijesundera, a former Supreme Court judge and Commissioner Rudra Rajasingham, a former Police Chief have been called upon to resign as Director General Nelum Gamage has been shifted to the Ministry of Justice on the directions of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. A new team to head Sri Lanka's apex body fighting graft is to be named shortly.
The President 's intervention comes amidst a long-drawn controversy raging between the Commission and its Director General as a result of which the latter filed a writ application in the Supreme Court alleging that the Commission had acted with "malice and hostility" towards her.
This was subsequent to the Commission calling upon the Director General to appear before subordinate officials of the Commission to explain allegations of drawing unauthorized holiday and risk allowances.
Ms. Gamage was also called upon to explain herself with regard to the role she played regarding investigations into corruption allegations against two suspects with whom her husband Lal Gamage is alleged to have had business dealings. Mr. Gamage was later charge-sheeted by the Commission over alleged failure to declare his correct age when working at the National Building Research Organisation for one and a half years.
The Director General's petition that was due to be heard before the Supreme Court on Monday was postponed till December 11.
AirLanka, the national carrier is not known to keep to time but few would expect it to give gift clocks without the dial.
A key Cabinet Minister and his wife travelling on AirLanka Serendib Class were in for first class surprise when this happened to them.
They were given four identical looking blue boxes with the AirLanka logo (two on the outward journey and two on the return), usual complimentaries given to the pampered few in that part of the cabin.
The Minister opened one and there it was, a lovely little clock on a gold mount. An ideal gift he thought for his loyal staff. Or so he thought.
That was until one of the three who received a blue box had the spunk after opening it to query what it was. A pin-holder may be. Or just an ornament. Or was the Minister trying to tell her she had no sense of time?
Upon further ministerial inquiry it was learnt that only the one opened by him had the clock. All the others were without the dial.
No surprise then, when that Minister's colleague, Aviation Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake says this week in Parliament that AirLanka is running at an "unprecedented" profit.
Emirates wings over AirLanka
Emirates Airlines, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, is to control the total management of AirLanka, the national carrier of Sri Lanka and own 40 percent of the local airline, The Sunday Times learns.
A three-member Emirates team led by its CEO Tim Clarke is due in Colombo on December 8 to finalise negotiations. He had been in Colombo this week talking to PERC officials on the takeover of AirLanka management. Aviation Minster Dharmasiri Senanayake told parliament this week the national carrier had made "unprecedented profits" and praised the new chairman Harry Jayawardena.
AirLanka began operations in 1979 as a successor to Air Ceylon with a management tie-up with Singapore Airlines. In the 1990s it linked up with Royal Jordanian Airlines. But this is the first time, a stake in the ownership and total management control is to be vested with a foreign airline.
New Delhi — The political situation in India has never been more fluid than it is now, following the fall of the Inder Kumar Gujral led United Front coalition government Friday evening.
There are, on the one hand, powerful forces which want a dissolution of the Lok Sabha or the lower house of parliament, and fresh nation-wide elections. There are other, equally vociferous ones, which are against the dissolution of the House and a plunge into unfathomed electoral waters, barely one and a half years after a similar exercise.
But unfortunately, no political grouping seems to have the automatic ability to cobble together a stable, widely acceptable coalition. Indeed, brave and frantic efforts are on, but President K. R. Narayanan is not willing to give the warring parties oceans and oceans of time to settle their differences and come to an understanding.
Sources say the President might just let this weekend pass before taking, what increasingly seems to be the inevitable decision — to dissolve parliament and ask the Election Commission to hold fresh elections.
The United Front said in its letter to the President on Friday, that it would not support a government led either by the BJP or the Congress (I). Significantly, it also said that it would not tolerate "horse trading" by which it meant efforts by the BJP and the Congress (I) to split the existing parties and form a government supported by splinters. Since a government can be formed now only with such splinter groups, the UF has indirectly signalled its readiness to face dissolution and fresh elections.
The UF, however, seems to have a dissident in its ranks, the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) led by G. K. Moopanar. The TMC, in its letter to the President, had said that it was against fresh elections now and that it would support any coalition which was stable and secular, and which was not led by either the Congress (I) or the BJP.
By saying so, the TMC had distanced itself from the UF. Having said that it would not support a Congress (I) led regime, it had alienated many Congressmen.
The Congress (I) has already indicated its intention to try and form a government, as with 139 MPs, it is a substantial force in the house of 542. But it has run into difficulties. Few find it politically respectable to join hands with the Congress (I) which had precipitated the present ugly situation. Most regional parties, like the Telugu Desam and Assam Gana Parishad, seem to be congenitally anti-Congress (I).
As regards the TMC, it finds itself alienated from the UF, the Congress (I), the Communists and the BJP. The DMK, its ally in Tamil Nadu, is not ready to follow suit, because it appreciates the UF's sacrificing office for its sake. The Communists are all for fresh elections, and the Congress (I) is not yet willing to support the TMC because it is trying to form a government itself.
That leaves one with the BJP, which is said to need about 50 MPs more to form a government. It has 162 MPs of its own and has many allies too. Initially, it was said that 30 Congress (I) MPs were on the verge of crossing over to the BJP, but this had not happened.
The attitude of the 147 first time MPs, from a cross section of parties, who do not want parliament to be dissolved, is not known. Whether they would stick to their parties or go along with the BJP is a million dollar question now.
An express train ran off the rails on the Gintota-Bope bridge yesterday killing two people and injuring nine as one compartment plunged 30 feet into the river, officials and eye witnesses said.
They said the Matara-bound express from Vavuniya was derailed between the Piyadigama and Richmond Hill stations around 2 p.m. yesterday, with scores of people being trapped in four compartments that escaped the river plunge but turned turtle. The victim was later identified as 10-year-old Anuruddha de Soyza. The other person who drowned was identified as Anthony de Silva.
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