Govt. to formulate new tax collection mechanism to suit modern day: PM
The attention of the government has been drawn to formulate a new tax collecting mechanism which would suit the modern day, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament yesterday.
He made this observation in response to a question raised by UNP Parliamentarian S M Marikkar during the round of questions to be asked from the Prime Minister on the debts that the country had to settle in the coming years. He also asked if the government's programme to uplift the economy.
The Premier said the government had to settle a loan of US$ 15,000 billion from 2017 to 2020. He added that the government has had to implement many a programmes to face this challenge. "Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa held an untimely presidential election as he was not in a position to settle these loans," the Premier said. "His plan was to increase the prices of goods after the election and answer the people with bullets like he answered the Rathupaswala people later, who stood against him. However the people reached a decision to win the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena."
He said the entire world has placed their confidence on the unity government that it would be able to settle the loans and develop the economy. He further said that the government has had to settle US$ 3,196 billion, US$ 3,568 billion, US$ 1,945 billion, US$ 1,847 billion, US$ 3,904 billion and US$ 2,522 billion in 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026 respectively.
"In addition to the debt trap, the country had also had to face the global economic crisis," the Premier said. "However, we are not ready to take more loans to get rid of this situation. We have planned to increase the income, increase employment opportunities and find international markets for our products. One of our concerns is that the national resources have to be used to settle the loans. However, the government's attention has been drawn to formulate a new tax collecting mechanism to suits the modern day."
The Premier also said the people would have to join together to solve these issues leaving aside their differences.
The Premier also stated that the government expects to collect US$ 1,100 billion through the Hambantota project in 2017 and to collect another US$ 1,400 billion from other projects in 2018.
When S M Marikkar questioned the government's stance on public institutions that incur losses to the country, the Premier said the highest loss incurred so far was by the Sri Lankan Airlines and the government has plans to develop it through public private partnership.
Opp. Leader calls for release of military held lands to its owners
Opposition Leader R Sampanthan yesterday in Parliament, called on the Government to return the lands held by the military in the North to its people.
Moving an Adjournment Motion in the House, he observed there could be no justification for not returning these lands.
“You are violating human rights. The 2015 UNHRC Resolution says return of lands to the people should be expedited. Whether the Government is given more time at the UNHRC or not, our people cannot wait for two more years. They have come to the end of their patience,” he stated.
“People are protesting because they wish to live on their lands and continue their agricultural activities. Should these lands be used for people to live and cultivate or for golf courses and tourist resorts? I thank the people, particularly those from outside the Northern Province who support this protest to release these lands. I want the Government to formulate a policy with regard to the release of these lands. I am thankful to President Maithripala Sirisena for the land released after ourmeeting, but there should be a plan to release all these lands,” he said.
“Would the Government let this happen to other people in Sri Lanka? This makes it look like the Tamil people have no power,” he added.
“Most of these lands were taken over from the civilians for security purposes. For instance, civilians were evicted from several thousands of acres of land in Valigamam North in order to protect the Palaly Air Base from artillery fire almost 25 years ago. But even after the fighting had ended in 2009, only a fraction of that land had been returned for civilian resettlement, while large tracts of land are still occupied by the military, which is engaged in farming and trade, including running tourist hotels, while the original occupants languish in welfare centres and with host families,” he explained.
“We urge the government to take quick action in the regard and release all lands that are occupied by the security forces, in which civilians lived prior to the hostilities breaking out, be returned to the original inhabitants without any further delay,” he stated.
However, NFF member Jayantha Samaraweera speaking at the debate, expressed his strong opposition towards the Government’s move to release the lands removing Army camps in the North.
Defence State Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, replying to the motion, reiterated the Government’s commitment to gradually release the military held lands, while taking measures not to compromise national security.
“When the war ended in 2009, altogether 82,555 acres of lands in the North and East were held by the military and out of them, 30,300 acres were private lands. As of now, most of these lands have been released. The rest would also be released gradually,” he said.
SDC responsible for implementing national policies: PM
The Sustainable Development Council(SDC) that is to be set under the Sustainable Development Bill(SDB), would be vested with the responsibility to implement the national policy of sustainable development, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
He made this observation yesterday, commencing the Second Reading debate on the Sustainable Development Bill which was to provide for the development and implementation of a National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka; for the establishment of a Sustainable Development Council and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The Premier said that although the Unity Government, President Maithripala Sirisena and the Cabinet is committed for sustainable development, there is no mechanism to implement the same programme. He said that due to this reason the Sustainable Development Council is set up under this Bill and would be given responsibility to implement sustainable development national policies.
The Premier also said the debate would be continued to another day before the same was passed.
Only when complaint is received by OMP
Action will be taken against any Tri Forces member, Police or civilian
The Government will take action against any member of the tri
Forces, Police or civilians, only if the Office of the Missing Persons(OMP) receive complaints
against them about forced disappearances, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament yesterday.
He also said that steps would be taken against those persons only according to the law and not against institutions.
He said that investigations would be carried out on Forces disappearances that had taken place when a suspect surrendered to the Police or the Security Forces.
He added that action would be taken in accordance with the Missing Persons Bill.
He made these observations when TNA MP Sivashakthi Ananthan raised a question to this effect during the round of questions to be asked from the Premier.
The Prime Minister said the gazette containing the amendments to the Office of Missing Persons Bill would be presented to Parliament in April.
The Premier stated that there were around 80 suspects who had surrendered to the government, while most of them had been dealt by law.
Land around Thirukoneshwaran Kovil can be declared sacred: PM
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, yesterday observed that he would direct the matter if the land extension of 378 acres around the Thirukoneshwaran Eeshwaran Kovil could be declared as a sacred site to the Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister.
He made this observation when EPDP Parliamentarian Douglas Devananda questioned as to whether the land extension of 378 acres around the Thirukoneshwaran Eeshwaran Kovil in Trincomalee could be declared as a sacred site during the round of questions to be raised from the Premier.
MP Devananda said the Kovil had been situated at the same place since 1300 BC even before King Vijaya arrived in the country.
At this stage, the Premier stated that Thiriyaya and Thirukoneshwaran had been used as a port. The Kovil was destroyed by the Portuguese.
He added that he would direct the matter to the Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs Minister.
JO in well-orchestrated drama to create chaos in Parliament
The Joint Opposition staged a well-orchestrated drama yesterday in Parliament with a deliberate aim to create chaos, said Chief Government Whip and Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka.
The minister was addressing a hurriedly convened press conference at the Parliament complex last evening. He said the UNP is of the view that the Speaker must take severe action against those who mess up Parliament sessions.
“We as the UNP condemn such tactics, because their objective of disrupting Parliament sessions would be detrimental to the hopes and aspirations of the people. It is public money that is ultimately wasted. We are a party responsible for the people who elected us. We urge the Speaker to take further stern action next time whenever these elements try to sabotage parliamentary democracy,” the Minister said.
The Minister said the Speaker tried his level best to bring the situation under control. “The Speaker could have given orders to remove MP Dinesh Gunawardena from the House with the assistance of the Police. But he did not do so because it would be a disgrace to the senior MP. The removal was then decided by a vote. It is the House with a clear majority that decided MP Gunawardena should be removed,” he added.
UNP MPs Mujibur Rahman, Ajith Mannapperuma, Ashoka Priyantha, Wijepala Hettiarachchi, JC Alawathuwala, Edward Gunasekera, Lucky Jayawardena and MHM Navavi also addressed the press briefing.