By Shamindra Ferdinando
Pointing out the way the President’s Office offhandedly rejected a report issued by the Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) on National Security against the privatization of Sri Lanka Telecom, top SLPP rebel spokesman Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (19) questioned the very basis of the role of the Oversight Committees if they were treated that way.
SOC, headed by retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, tabled its report in Parliament on 09 June.
Addressing the media at the SLPP office at Nawala, the former External Affairs Minister pointed out how President Ranil Wickremesinghe had disregarded the conclusions made by the vital committee while extolling the importance of the SOC system and the youth participation in them.
Prof. Peiris said that it would be a grave mistake for the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to think privatisation would be the panacea for the current economic crisis.
Prof. Peiris warned of further deterioration of the ground situation, once the restructuring of domestic debt got underway later this month, in line with an agreement with the IMF.
Prof. Peiris alleged that the proposed Anti-Corruption laws and the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission bill were intended to suppress dissent. Declaring that certain provisions in the Anti-Corruption bill were meant to discourage whistle-blowers, the National List MP claimed that the government seemed to be preparing the ground for robber barons.
Commenting on the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission sessions scheduled to begin on Monday (19), Prof. Peiris said that the UN body would definitely look into the recent happenings in Sri Lanka. According to him, the Geneva body would react to suppression of media freedom and other obstacles placed by the government as part of its overall defence against public protests.
“Once domestic restructuring gets underway, countrywide public protests will erupt,” Prof. Peiris predicted, asserting that the Opposition would seek the intervention of the Supreme Court to thwart enactment of a Bill, titled Broadcasting Regulatory Commission.
Citing the Supreme Court ruling, dated 05 May, 1997, given during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s tenure as the President in respect of a Bill very much similar to the ones proposed by the incumbent government, Prof. Peiris explained why they were confident the current SC would block the relevant Bill.
The bottom line is that the Parliament couldn’t enact a law contrary to the Constitution, the former Minister said, recalling the Supreme Court objecting to one-third of the Bill, titled Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
Prof. Peiris said that the Bill, examined by the Supreme Court in 1997 and the one expected to be tabled in Parliament soon, were similar the ruling that the earlier Bill couldn’t be implemented even with a 2/3 majority and should be subjected to a referendum applied in the current context, too, the MP said.
Prof. Peiris especially referred to the large number parate executions carried out by banks to recover bad loans to highlight the plight of small scale businessmen. Declaring that the print media carried an unusual number of parate execution notices in the recent past, Prof. Peiris urged the government to review the situation and take appropriate measures to consolidate the economy or face the consequences.