'Govt saved SriLankan from depths of destruction'
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody presided when Parliament met at
1.00 pm yesterday. After the presentation of papers and oral questions
the House took up the order under the Ports and Airports Development
Levy Act for debate.
International Monetary Cooperation Senior Minister Dr Sarath
Amunugama: I present the order under the Ports and Airports
Development Levy Act. This gazette was issued to revise the Ports and
Airports Development Levy on certain selected sectors. These sectors
will be exempted from this levy. This was a proposal made in the 2012
budget presented by the President.
The exemption applies to the importation of raw materials for the
manufacture of drugs, construction machinery, airline goods and selected
goods by entrepreneurs qualified to obtain a tax interval.
The second part is infrastructure development. We all know that until
President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power no infrastructure was
developed adequately. But now roads and other infrastructure is
Deputy Chairman of Committees Murugesu Chandrakumar takes the Chair.
We know that to develop a country infrastructure should be developed.
Some question as to why roads, harbours, airports are being developed by
the government. It is our policy.
We have to develop them to attract foreign investments. We also have
a competition from other countries in the region.
We grant tax reliefs for investments after presenting them to
Although we manufacture products if there are no ports to export them
production is useless. Recently we took a decision to establish
investment zones around each port in the country.
Harin Fernando (UNP): Granting relief to those that are not
profit making is a disputable matter. We know no harbour in history has
suffered loss, but it happens here.
The Sri Lankan Airlines earned a profit of Rs 4428 million for the
last time in 2008. Thereafter it suffered a loss. But the Sri Lankan
Airlines staff rose from 4969 to 5900 which is a burden.
Ports and Highways Deputy Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena:
Harin Fernando is thinking of profit making institutions. According to
his vision we have to set up pubs to earn profits. But this is a country
and investing in a harbour is not like investing to set up a pub.
The Opposition made many criticisms against the construction of the
Hambantota harbour since its inception.
No politician thought of a project to construct new ports in the
country other than the Colombo Port. President Mahinda Rajapaksa took a
decision to develop six harbours.
During the UNP regime in 1987 the government took loans to import
equipments to the Colombo Harbour. But the equipments imported are not
in operative condition.
We have to pay the loan until 2040. The Ports Authority could have
earned profits since 2010 but could not do so due to the loan that we
have to repay to Japan.
Vijitha Herath (DNA): Today Minister Sarath Amunugama said we
have to increase production to develop the country. It is true. But he
said earlier we have to increase the services sector to develop the
The tax reliefs are granted at several occasions.
They are granted to those who manufacture products to export. But
some do not export but release the products to the local market, so that
a large amount of inland revenue is reduced. They are protected by
Arundika Fernando (UPFA): Transport and other services are
maintained to provide a service to the public and are not profit
oriented. Some members criticise the overseas tours of government
These visits are not meant for entertainment, but to build the
reputation and image of the country. It is during the present regime
that the SriLankan airline service was uplifted, at a time when it was
at the point of destruction.
SriLankan at present undertakes flights to 45 destinations in 25
countries. The Katunayake International Airport has been modernised and
an alternative airport is being constructed.
Perumal Rajathurai takes the Chair.
Niroshan Perera (UNP): When we consider the air services, we
have to compete with a large number of countries. The SriLankan and
Mihin Air have faced many challenges.
Mihin Air is a symbol of the government's corruption. It has deprived
Rs 13,000 million for the country. Each passenger of this service
deprives Rs 21,000 for the country. The government's initial investment
on Mihin Air was Rs 250 million.
Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne: The changing of
pilots to bring down a pet is not correct. We do not change the
scheduled pilots, there is a set timetable for them.
Within the next 5 years, we have a master plan to convert SriLankan
into a profit making venture. We request the President to give us a tax
concession to meet this target. Mattala airport construction is
progressing successfully. It is for these ventures that we need tax
exemptions. We hope to expand the number of destinations of our
airlines. The number of passengers too will be increased.
Day by day our airline services are strengthened. We welcome
Opposition proposals, but reject false allegations. I hope the tax
concessions provided today will be of immense use for the improvement of
Sujeewa Senasinghe (UNP): There is a scarcity of members.
There must be members to listen. There is no quorum.
The quorum was sounded.
The fate of SriLankan airline is regretful. It is overwhelmed with
corruption. In 2004, it earned a profit of Rs 7,424 million. It was a
profit making institution.
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair.
The Emirates attempted to maintain it as a profit making venture. The
extravagant expenditure on foreign tours by state officials including
the President must be controlled. The number of tourist arrivals still
lags at 800,000.
Social Services Minister Feliex Perera: Two thirds the income
of a flight is spent on fuel. The fuel price hike affects the profit of
aviation service companies. When we formulate a particular business, the
related institutions should be developed as well. So, measures have been
taken to open another duty free shopping complex at the Katunayake
airport. Another institute to train pilots is also being set up at
Katunayake. These institutes will help to earn an income and develop the
Shantha Bandara (UPFA) takes the Chair.
At times of need we have to increase or reduce the tax. For example,
during the potato harvesting season, the tax on potato import is
increased while it is reduced during the off season.
Health Deputy Minister Lalith Dissanayake: It is not fair to
speak of the officers in Parliament who cannot voice their views here.
Sri Lankan catering is a profitable institute. They not only cater to
the SriLankan Airlines but to other Airlines as well.
Mihin Air has got 6 planes, but has to pay for them while earning
profits. One concept in the Mahinda Chinthanaya is to develop
infrastructure and other related areas of Ports.
The construction of the water break which commenced in 2008 is
nearing completion. We have to thank the President for taking measures
to initiate massive development projects in the Hambantota area.
A H M Azwer takes the Chair.
Ajith P Perera (UNP): When we speak of these institutions I
would like to question about their qualifications.
Some of them are called Doctors, but some have not earned them
International Monetary Cooperation Minister Sarath Amunugama:
There is a Committee in Parliament called High Port Committee which
attends to appointment of persons to High Ports.
Members of both Opposition and government side are members of the
said High Port committee. So the Opposition members have to attend the
committee and discuss the matter.
There is an issue with regard to good governance in the country.
The order was passed.
The House adjourned until 1 pm today.
Quorum bell summons Members
The quorum bell to summon members to the House was rung on three
occasions in Parliament yesterday while the order under the Ports and
Airports Development Levy Act was being taken into consideration.
When the bell was rung members from both, the Opposition and
government side rushed to the House and sittings continued.
Government side members told the Chair that consultative committees
and other committees were sitting in the committee rooms and some
members were taking part in them.
They said if members questioned about the quorum in this manner the
committees would not be able to execute their duties.
However A.H.M. Azwer who was in the Chair at the last occasion when
the quorum bell was sounded said he would bring the matter to the notice
of Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa.
UNP MP Ajith P. Perera speaking at the debate said government members
have to protect the dignity of the House.
The member in the Chair said it was the responsibility of members of
both government and the Opposition to protect the dignity of the House.