When the news of Parliament being prorogued was announced on Thursday, some members of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) were surprised by its timing. The reason–they were planning to hold daily sittings for the next two weeks on Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and the role of those who played important decision-making roles during [...]


COPE loses hope; reports end up as gallery talk or in Parliament library



When the news of Parliament being prorogued was announced on Thursday, some members of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) were surprised by its timing. The reason–they were planning to hold daily sittings for the next two weeks on Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and the role of those who played important decision-making roles during the past two years.

In June, the COPE summoned the Central Bank’s former Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former Treasury Secretary S. R. Attygalle and former Presidential Secretary P. B. Jayasundera along with members of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank.

Early this week, they were informed of the sitting times and their presence was requested again, only to be told later that Parliament had been prorogued and thus the vital Parliamentary Oversight Committee ceased to function. The COPE was headed by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian Charitha Herath.

According to Parliament Standing Orders, all committees except the Committee on High Posts, Liaisons Committee, Sectoral Oversight Committees and Committees for Special Purposes of the Parliament ceased to function and need to be reconstituted once the next session of Parliament begins.

Accordingly, COPE will also have to be reconstituted and current members are not sure whether the new committee will pursue the ongoing investigations on top officials and to what extent they were responsible, what they did or did not do to create the current economic catastrophe.

One member who was on the current committee was a bit sceptical. He said COPE lacks adequate teeth to act on the investigations it held in the past and merely ended up as gallery talk or piles of reports only to be placed
at the Parliament library for reference.

Given as “bravery act”; taken away as “administrative lapse”

The Defence Ministry has withdrawn a gallantry award given to a senior Air Force officer for his “bravery act” during
the war against the LTTE. The Air Force says it was “an administrative lapse”.

The decision to withdraw the prestigious “Weerodara Vibhushanaya” award comes six years after it was given to the officer (in 2016). He later went on to serve as a Defence Counsellor in a Sri Lanka embassy till 2019.

The decision to withdraw the award was following an internal inquiry. A senior official from the Air Force described it as “an administrative lapse’, giving no further details.

The gazette notification withdrawing the award was issued by the Defence Ministry on Friday.

Queues and QR codes: Adding fire to the fuel crisis

Whether the National Fuel Pass system works effectively or not, some have made sure they can make money out of it. Days after the system was introduced, banners and flyers were put up both online and offline providing the service of ‘getting your fuel pass’ of the QR code–a rare matrix bar code.

Targeting those who lack smartphones to register themselves, the sellers assured to register their vehicles and secure their fuel pass cards at service charges ranging from Rs 600 to Rs 800.

In Jaffna, some sellers took it to the next level with some creativity. They charge a little more money to print the QR code on key tags and attractive slogans. One slogan reads: “Enough of waiting in lines, get the code now.”

Field Marshal’s role attacked by leaders of public uprising

The ‘Aragalaya’ or public uprising launched several months ago under the rallying cry “Gota Go Home” has already achieved more than what most people thought possible. While it has been billed as a people’s movement, it has not stopped politicians from trying to jump on the bandwagon at a given opportunity.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka did just that in Parliament on Wednesday when he set August 9 as the date for the “final battle of the struggle.” He called on those involved in the struggle to come to Colombo on that date to win the final victory against “these corrupt politicians and the corrupt political system.” He also called on the Police and military not to interfere and to help those involved in the struggle.

The appeal did not go down well with those involved in the struggle. Several groups had already come out and urged people not to be misled by such statements. One group calling itself “Sarva Paakshika Aragalakaruwo” issued a statement on Friday terming the move by the MP to set dates for the struggle as an extension of government conspiracies to destroy the movement and one that would only put at risk the lives of those involved in the struggle.

No Presidential flag, no H.E. title– only national emblem for RW

Given that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to abolish the presidential flag, Parliament officials will fix the national emblem atop the chair he sits when he ceremonially opens the third session of the ninth Parliament on Wednesday.

This will be the first time that the national emblem will be fixed atop the President’s chair in Parliament as all other Presidents have had a personal flag. After his resignation, officials removed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s
emblem  from the seat allocated to the President in Parliament.

The then Acting President Wickremesinghe announced on July 15 that he will abolish both the presidential flag and use of the term “His Excellency.” The abolition of the term “His Excellency” has already created some embarrassing situations for MPs who have had to correct themselves after referring to President Wickremesinghe as “His Excellency the President” in public. Old habits die hard. Even the Indian Prime Minister’s office got confused. In its belated congratulatory message to the new Sri Lankan President they called him; “H.E. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

Special lane for bicycles in city, but Rosy not a “Babi aachchi”

Due to the fuel crisis, a significant number of people have switched to bicycles for their daily trips. To help them, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) also decided to set up a separate lane for cyclists within the city area. As a pilot project, a new cycling lane was opened from Colombo Port City to Armour Street on Friday. This also included a parking space.

The move came after many cyclists raised concerns about their safety given the reckless driving of many, particularly bus and three wheeler drivers.

The highlight of the event was how it was declared open by Mayor Rosy Senanayake, who arrived in her BMW vehicle with her security staff and other personnel.

A CMC official was heard saying: “This is the issue in the country, isn’t it? Politicians who are not only unaware of the plight of the people but have also lost their trust.”

Some people however were thrilled with the move, and were reminded of the famous Baila song about Babi aachchi and her bicycle with boys and girls coming around to
ring her bell.

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