'Strategic Development Projects Act facilitates investments'

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa 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 strategic Development Projects Act for debate.
International Monetary Cooperation Senior Minister and Finance and Planning Deputy Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama:
I present the order under the strategic Development Projects Act. This Act is a special Act in our country. We seek the approval of Parliament for significant investments carried out in the country under this Act. This kind of legislations are not found in many other countries.
Under this order to the Act, we provide recognition and certain concessions for Sino Lanka Hotels and spa (Pvt) Ltd for its investments. This company hopes to construct a complex with 475 rooms and 90 service affiliated housing units.
Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.
The intention of presenting our decisions on economy to the House is to make both the government and Opposition aware of them. The Opposition can point out any loopholes and we will ultimately put the decisions into action considering all constructing proposals.
The tourism industry is a thriving industry in our country and in 2012, 1 million tourists came to Sri Lanka. Our target is to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016.
To cater to this goal, we must construct 50,000 hotels rooms. Day by day, income from the tourism industry is rising.
We hope it will become a key income source of the country soon.
We has a stand-by-agreement with the IMF. This amounts to USD 1.6 billion. There was another proposal for USD 1.5 billion from the IMF but the government decided not to pursue it. I deny the claim that we requested money and it was rejected by the IMF. This is not true. Today, we are a middle income country and our economy thriving.
Dr. Harsha de Silva (UNP):
Dr. Sarath Amunugama said the government did not request loans from the IMF, but the IMF itself wanted to give us money forcefully. There could not have been a discussion, if the government had not wanted to get a loan.
Why doesn't Sri Lanka receive adequate foreign investments? The law is not maintained properly in the country.
Foreign investors are afraid to come to our country, because they are uncertain of the situation which they would have to face.
Economic Development Deputy Minister Susantha Punchinilame:
This project is to cater to the tourism development of the country. Certain properties were taken over by the government under the under utilized property Act and Ceylinco Leisure Property was also taken up under this. This property is to be reinvested in a hotel project. It will be conducted under the trade name of Hyatt Regency.
The investment value of the project amounts to about USD 159 million. With the end of war, the infrastructure development of the country has been accelerated. The opposition, if is caring for the country, should provide correct guidance for the government to carry out these projects initiated with the aim of rebuilding the economy.
Ravi Karunanayake (UNP):
We don't have any problem with regard to this Act, but the problem is to what purposes and persons, these investments are given under the Act.
We want the government to reveal the owners of these investments. There is no transparency of the acts of the government.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa had said that there is an economic killer in the country. We want a clarification as to whether he made this statement with the awareness of the President or not. We admit there is a growth in the tourism industry but this growth is not adequate.
Economy Development Deputy Minister M L M Hisbullah:
Ravi Karunanayake MP told a lie in the House that bridges in the Batticaloa district had been damaged. It is not true.
Under the direction of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, six bridges had been constructed in the Eastern province and none of these bridges have been broken. All bridges in Batticaloa have been reconstructed. Please visit these places before making misleading statements. We are thankful for the unreserved support of the Economic Development Minister to carry out development projects in the East.
Sunil Handunnetti (DNA):
As Minister Amunugama said if all decisions pertaining to investments are taken solely by the government, what is the purpose of presenting them to Parliament? The government decides and passes the orders without any problem since it has two thirds majority.
Tax concessions have been provided for this project. They are exempted from custom duties. This is a valuable piece of land with an urban setting. The income of the government drains due to this kind of actions. Valuable assets as this are not common in the country.
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair
Health Deputy Minister Lalith Dissanayake:
Even though the Board of Investment was founded by the UNP, there was no mechanism to monitor activities in it. This government introduced this Act because it acts with transparency. This project is conducted with the investments from the government.
We have firm goals for the development of the tourism industry.
Sujeewa Senasinghe (UNP):
We accept that more tourists should come to Sri Lanka. In 2002, around 700,000 tourist came. May be around 850,000 tourists are coming today. The tourism industry has not developed as expected. You have lent land to 99 years. They are given to foreigners.
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa:
The UNP had not revealed any transaction to Parliament. They gave no relief to the people.
Shantha Bandara (UPFA):
The UNP through all budget proposals sold state property to fill the budget deficit. But we have not done no. We have recovered those institutions sold by the UNP. UNP MP Senasinghe is talking of lending land for 99 years. This in ridiculous. They said earlier no tourists are coming to Sri Lanka. But when tourist arivals are increasing tremendously, they say these tourists have no money.
We have to increase investments. So, we have to create an environment for foreigners to make their investment in the country.
If foreign investment are not coming, the Opposition would have a slogan. But now they are criticizing the government's process of providing relief to investors as investments are increasing.
This government uses power to develop the country but the UNP used it to kill youths in hundreds of thousands.
Social Services Minister Feliex Perera:
We have to develop 50,000 hotels rooms. The Singapore was a poor, dirty country in 1940. But due to its policy, it developed rapidly. Those days when a bomb blasted in Jaffna, Reuters carried news and stated that it is reported from Colombo. So, tourists did not come to Colombo. Now it has changed.
Janaka Bandara takes the chair
Ajith P Perera (UNP):
Shantha Bandara takes the Chair:
I have a question. is the Sino - Lanka Compny completely owned by Sri Lanka? Sino is Chinese. Why did this Chinese name come?
There is a Chinese investor behind business. So, we should know these agreements.
Investment Promotion Minister Laxman Yapa Abeywardena:
Today, we are revealing the facts related to the agreements in this investment of Sino - Lanka. So far, facts related to any investment made since 1973 have not been revealed to Parliament. We have no issue in revealing tax relief and other concessions given to this investment. Ajith Perera asked about the name 'Sino-Lanka'. Though Ajith Perrea is afraid of China, us people in Sri Lanka is not afraid of China that supported Sri Lanka. But the name 'Sino-Lanka' was given by the daughter of Arisen Ahubudu. Its meaning is the land developing rapidly. There is no secret behind it. The UNP lent properties to Ceylinco for 99 years but Sujeewa ask us as to why the country lend land for 99 years. We could intervene when ceylinco was bankrupt.
The UNP made these criticisms when the Hambantota port was initiated. But none proved true.
The Sino Lanka (Pvt) Ltd implements this project invested by the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, Litro Gas Company and the EPF. So, this is a government venture. With this investment, we save a valuable landscape in the heart of Colombo.
This project is carried out with the cooperation of a recognized international company. This land is given to local investors and not foreign investors. This should be commended. The key stakeholders of this project are efficient and they would prove to be successful. This is a local investment.
The investment of USD 158.9 million comes as USD 62 million from shareholders and USD 96.6 million from banks. It is after this total investment that we provide certificates for tax concessions.
All projects initiated under this Act are progressing successfully. With these investments, the country would see a brighter future. This year without even a slightest problems, we can reach the target of 1.5 million tourist arrivals. It is during the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the largest number of investments are being received by the country.

At adjournment

Economic Development Deputy Minister S M Chandrasena in Parliament yesterday said if not for President Mahinda Rajapaksa, there would not have been a spring either in the North or South. He said this is the time at which society is being reintegrated.
He made these observations in response to an adjournment motion moved by A H M Azwer on development activities in the Northern Province. UPFA MP Hunais Farook seconded the motion.
UNP MP Jayalath Jayawardena and UPFA MP Shantha Bandara also spoke.
Economic Development Deputy Minister S M Chandrasena: Any person with common sense can clearly identify the transformation taking place in the North. 'Northern Spring' is to cater to a better future for the people in the North. Infrastructure facilities in the North have been developed.
The era of brutal terrorism is over. A new era with prosperity and brighter expectations have dawned. Today, rehabilitated LTTE cadres are in the Civil Security Force.
The House was adjourned until 1.00 pm today.

‘Opposition Leader’s statement, threat to communal harmony’

Although it was the responsibility of the government as well as of the Opposition to act to prevent ethnic and communal conflicts, the Opposition Leader’s misleading statement ignites ethnic and communal fires, said Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva in Parliament yesterday. The minister was making these observations in response to a special statement made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe under standing order 23(2).
The minister said that Opposition Leader’s statement yesterday based on minister’s response on February 7 made to the Opposition Leader’s another special statement on February 6.
Minister de Silva said though he challenged the Opposition Leader to reveal facts on 10 attacks on mosques as he stated, the Opposition Leader failed to do so. He said the Opposition Leader made an incorrect statement based on a news item published in a Tamil Language newspapers and a letter sent to the President by J M Baddurdeen.
The minister said the IGP, after investigations, has stated that monks have not entered into a mosque at Inguruwatta forcibly or a Quran has not been thrown away by a mob at the Abanpola mosque as stated by the Opposition Leader.
The minister said the incident at Al-Akram mosque has been mediated by the Police. The mosque had been initiated as a preschool 12 years ago and the chief incumbent of a temple in the vicinity had complained to the Police of the mosque’s using of loudspeakers. He said the incident had taken place six or nine months ago. He said he categorically states such incidents as reported by the Tamil newspaper have not happened.
The minister said a statement under 23(2) standing order has to be made about a timely matter, not one that is six to nine months old.
He said as stated by Opposition Leader, he never said no incident has taken place in Hiriyala or Kurunegala.
He said he clearly mentioned that according to the IGP’s report some minor incidents have taken place in Waduramba, Nawagamuwa, Aluthgama, Badulla, Payagala and in Kurunegala over the issue of protest against Halal foods. The Police has taken legal action and proper action on such incidents.
He said a circular was issued on October 19 giving regulations in building religious places to prevent communal conflicts. A committee to supervise the building up of religious places was set up on July 1, 2012 on the direction of Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christian Departments and the secretary to the Buddhist and Regions Affairs Ministry. He said all Divisional Secretariats and Police offices have been informed about this circular. Meanwhile, the Police Headquarters issued a new circular in this connection. All these measures have been taken to prevent conflicts.
He said it is not a secret that various forces are attempting to ignite communal and religious conflicts to put the government into difficulty. Minister Silva said it seems that certain media too support these efforts deliberately or not by exaggerating minor incidents.
He said it was a victory of the people that the flames of communal and religious conflicts could be doused at the inception with the support of the President, Ministers, MPs, monks, religious leaders and the Police.
He said it was a responsibility of the government as well as the Opposition to prevent communal and religious conflicts. He said the support given by the Opposition in this endeavour is not given to the government but an obligation and responsibility for the motherland.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe made the special statement under standing order 23(2).
Ranil Wickremesinghe: On February 6, 2013, I had occasion to raise a question relating to a matter of public importance namely the ethnic and communal incidents that were taking place in the country and referred to the statement in the House by Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs Deputy Minister M K A D S Gunawardena, where he denied that there were such incidents.
The Leader of the House replying on February 7, 2013 stated that I had distorted the facts. He went on to inquire which were the Mosques that had been attacked and what was the period during which these incidents had occurred and challenged me to give details.
He also stated that the Inspector General of Police had referred that there had been no incidents of attacks on Mosques or religious groups.
As I had stated, I will be writing to the minister with the details but I would like to make a statement regarding the incidents which occurred in Kurunegala and Hiriyala.
In the first instance, I would like to refer to the front page report of Tamil newspaper, Sudaroli of July 26, 2012 which refers to an incident where some Bhikkus forcibly entered the Mosque at Inguruwatte and chanted pirith and demanded that the Mosque be shut down. Another incident referred to in the same paper, refers to the Ambanpola Mosque where people have forcibly thrown away the Quran.
I am also referring to the letter dated April 14, 2012 addressed to the President by M T Baddurdeen referring to an incident of Akram Mosque, Makulwewa with an attached petition and letter dated December 26, 2011 addressed to Viharadhipathi of Makulwela by the Divisional Secretary of Ganewatte, Nikadalupotha.
Therefore, the Police report that no incidents have taken place in Hiriyala and Kurunegala are incorrect. There is continuing tension in the area. Therefore, will the Government have an independent inquiry into this matter consulting the Provincial Council Members and Members of Parliament who have made complaints and brought this to the notice of the Police?

‘Fill vacancies of local bodies under RP system’

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament yesterday requested the government to fill the vacancies of members in local government bodies through the old electoral system.
He said an agreement should be reached in this regard at a meeting between the party leaders and the Elections Commissioner.
The Opposition Leader said the Elections Commissioner had stated that the vacancies of members in Local government institutions have not been filled and that the new amendments to the electoral system are not clear enough. The Opposition Leader said an issue has arisen whether these vacancies to be filled according to the newly introduced ward system or the old system of Proportional Representation (PR).
He said all should reach a consensus to fill the vacancies using the Proportional Representation system as no election had been held under the new system. He said the opposition and the government should ensure that the voting rights of the people are safeguarded if the PR system is replaced with the ward system.

Adjournment motion on Pope Benedict XVI

An adjournment motion will be moved in Parliament today in appraisal of the service rendered by the retiring Pope, the Benedict XVI to the Catholic Council.
It has been decided at the Party Leaders’ Meeting to move the motion in Parliament.
Chief Opposition Whip John Amarathunga is to move the adjournment motion. It will be seconded by Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva.

Law entrance exam:

Decision on syllabus change after discussing with CJ

Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem stated in Parliament yesterday that a decision on the syllabus change of the Law Entrance Examination would be arrived at after discussing issues related to it with the Chief Justice.
The minister made this statement replying to a question raised by DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake under the Standing Order 23(2).
The minister said a large group of students met him at the ministry to discuss this and subsequently, he discussed this matter with the Chief Justice, who is the President of the Law Education Commission.
The minister said he admits that a certain time period is needed to put into effect the new examination process.
He requested to wait until the government takes a final decision after discussing the matter with the Law Education Commission.
DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake pointed out students have been inconvenienced due to the sudden revision of the syllabus of the Law Entrance Examination when the examination is scheduled to be held in August. He said about 8,000 students sit for this examination annually, while about 225 students who pass the examination get the opportunity to enter the Law College.


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