ECONOMYNEXT – What should have been a slow news week owing to the Sinhala & Tamil new year holidays ended on a somewhat tumultuous note today with a dissident government MP claiming that he received a threatening phone call from the president himself. The allegation followed a controversial press conference yesterday in which the MP had launched a scathing attack on the president over the China-backed Colombo Port City.
A controversial draft bill on a proposed economic commission for the USD 1.4 billion Port City made headlines this week, with some 15 petitions being filed against it in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court as of yesterday. Opposition lawmakers, civil society and other actors claimed that the proposed commission poses a challenge to the island nation’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered United National Party (UNP) has had internal discussions about naming a surprise candidate for the party’s only national list seat in parliament.
This is a quick look at these and other developments that transpired this week, in today’s edition of the EN Weekly Roundup.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe claimed that he received a threatening phone call from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa this morning.
The MP told reporters today that an irate president had hurled abuse at him in language that was not befitting a head of state. Rajapakshe claimed he was forced to respond in kind.
Sri Lanka’s China-backed Colombo Port City will be a driver of growth and knowledge transfer but the draft bill for a Commission directly under the President raises questions over the constitutionality and regulatory integrity, opposition legislator Harsha de Silva said.
He said the Port City Commission envisaged during the last administration would have had members appointed by a Constitutional Council and Central Bank Governor and Treasury Secretary would have been ex-officio members.
Speculation is intensifying on who will fill the vacant national list seat of the United National Party (UNP), with party officials saying there is agreement to nominate ex-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe though he has reportedly declined the offer, leading to other names being suggested.
A UNP source told EconomyNext that some younger members of the party had discussed the possibility of naming incarcerated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) former MP Ranjan Ramanayake to represent the UNP in parliament.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka said it is challenging a law to set up a commission to run Colombo Port City, a China-backed project which is exempt from a series of laws and regulations that applies to the rest of the island.
The law may affect the Unitary State, sovereignty of the people, fundamental rights and powers of the parliament, the BASL’s executive committee said.
Sri Lanka is once again reconsidering a previously announced date to begin administering the second dose of the Covieshield AstraZeneca vaccine, officials said.
The ministry of health maintains that this is to reflect the latest scientific findings, though concerns have been raised that it may in fact be due to a shortage in jabs.
Sri Lanka recorded 11 deaths including that of a one-and-a-half-year-old infant due to traffic accidents on Sinhala and Tamil new year’s day yesterday, police said.
The 11 fatalities were the result of 10 separate accidents, eight of which involved motorbikes. (Colombo/Apr16/2021)