Island’s first-ever Nursing Faculty opens on December 20: Rajitha

The first-ever Nursing Faculty will be opened affiliated to the University of Colombo on December 20 by President Maithripala Sirisena at the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.

The Minister responded so when JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa pointed out that the country needs 42,000 nurses more.

“The Faculty comprises a 19 storey fully-fledged building, and 14 storey building for hostel facilities. The Government spent Rs. 14,500 million on the Faculty,” Minister Kiriella said.

“The country now has 32,000 nurses but it needs 74,000 nurses,” MP Jayatissa said.

He was opening the Committee Stage debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament yesterday when the Finance Heads of the Health and Indigenous Medicine Ministry were taken up for debate.

He commended the move to allocate Rs. 1,250 million to construct three new medical faculties and requested to further upgrade the teaching hospitals. The Minister said the Government has decided to double the student intake for the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital from 130 to 300. Dr. Senaratne said the fund has already been allocated for the purpose.

The JVP MP brought the attention of the Minister that the Suraksha Insurance Scheme does not cover the illnesses commonly seen among the children. “The scheme covers cancer, third stage kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, transplant of organs, blindness, among others, but not the malnutrition, hearing and eyesight problems. These should also be included,” he said.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya commended the constructive engagement of MP Jayatissa and Minister Senaratne stating that it was a good example of healthy Parliamentary debate. “This is how Parliamentary debate must happen. I congratulate the two members,” he said.

As many as 2.5 m people lack houses: Sajith

Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa said 2.5 million people in the country lack houses.

“The government has spent Rs. 17.5041 billion to build houses during the past three years, but the previous regime had allocated only Rs. 5.629 billion to resolve the issue between 2010-2014,” he said.

He was speaking in Parliament yesterday during the Committee Stage Debate on the Budget Proposal for financial year 2018 under the finance heads of the Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Ministry and the Housing and Construction Ministry.

“Our Ministry recorded a historical milestone in 2016. Having been elected in 2015, we were able to conduct a proper census by 2016. According to its statistics, 2.5 million families are suffering without shelters. About 840,000 houses were not plastered, 440,000 houses have tin roofs, 216,000 families lack a land or house, and 278,000 live in temporary housing,” he said and added that the government has drawn up a comprehensive housing policy, and it would be passed in Parliament and implemented very soon.

Minister Premadasa said the government would establish 500 reawakened villages by the year end and by 2020 another 2,000 villages totalling 2,500 villages. “We will exceed these figures and building 504 reawakened villages are in progress. We intend to resolve the housing issues from Devundara to Point Pedro,” he said.

“The government has commenced a programme to shelter over 2,500 families of war victims in the north. Rs. 3 billion will be allocated to resolve housing issues of the people of the North and East irrespective of their race and religion. The government has allocated Rs. 500 million for the housing projects in the East as well,” he said.

The Minister thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s Rs. 600 million contribution to resolve the housing issues in Sri Lanka.

He said Rs. 12,000 million was allocated to the Housing and Construction Ministry in the budget.

He said 99 percent of the allocation was used and every penny of it would be used to facilitate the people.

Sajith slams Wimal, Jayantha

Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa yesterday in Parliament fired salvoes at MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Jayantha Samaraweera exposing a long line of corruption and fraud allegations against them.

The Minister brought to the limelight with facts and figures, the large scale corruption and fraud in the Ministry under former Minister Wimal Weerawansa and when MP Samaraweera was the Chairman of National Housing Development Authority (NHDA).

The Minister was responding to a speech by NFF MP Samaraweera during the Committee stage debate of Budget 2018 when the Finance Heads of the Housing and Construction Ministry were taken up for debate.

Starting from the allegations of distributing housing units of the NHDA projects to family members and close associates of Weerawansa, Minister Premadasa went on to elaborate on the corruption, fraud and waste behind printing diaries, relaunching Sevana lottery and spending millions of public money on the wedding ceremony of a family member of Weerawansa in the guise of holding a workshop for journalists at the Golden Rose hotel.

The Minister highlighted the unsolicited proposals given by the Ministry during the time of his predecessor, adding that not a single house were constructed with some of those projects. “Where had this money gone? This is how you robbed the nation under the cover of patriotic slogans. You are a set of rogues. Shame on you. You all looted lands and robbed housing projects and made your own fortune from that money,” the Minister charged.

While dismissing the allegations directed at him by MP Samaraweera as “utter lies”, the Minister cleared the doubts on projects carried out by the Ministry under his guidance. “I was not to make these comments in the House, I was forced to do so because you threw false allegations. Why couldn’t MP Weerawansa come to the House instead of sending second-hand players? Ask him to come,” he challenged.

The Minister quoted sections of Dhammapadaya and went on to advise the MP, “Be correct and then try to correct others,” (Owa Denu Parahata Thama Sammathehi Pihita Hida).

Healthy population by 2025: Health Minister

The Health Ministry would reduce the deaths caused by non-contagious diseases by 25 percent, alcohol consumption by 10 percent, salt consumption by 30 percent, smoking by 30 percent, high blood pressure by 30 percent, improve physical fitness by 10 percent, and rid the population of obesity and diabetes by 2025, Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.

He was participating in the Committee Stage Debate on the Budget Proposal for financial year 2018 under the finance heads of the Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Ministry and the Housing and Construction Ministry in Parliament yesterday.

He said that around 1,500 dengue control officers were deployed countrywide, 54 fogging machines were imported from Germany, 50 vehicles were provided to the Western Province to eradicate dengue and was able to reduced over 40,000 monthly dengue cases to around 7,000.

The Minister said the government had increased the taxes on tobacco by 90 percent - the highest in the world - to reduce smoking.

“As a result, we faced many issues and even the officials of tobacco companies from Britain came to Sri Lanka and held discussions with government representatives, but we did not budge. Even WHO had commended Sri Lanka’s stand. As a result, the sale of cigarettes had reduced by around one million,” the Minister said.

The President had decided that tobacco cultivation would be banned from 2020 and growers would be given alternatives, he said.

Senaratne said the government was able to reduce the sugar content in sweetened beverages through the traffic light system and educate the public. He said measures would be taken soon to introduce the same system for salty and fatty foods and drinks.

“Today we have created a truly free health system. In the past, only Rs. 1.5 million was allocated to treat cancer patients, but today it is limitless and the government is committed to saving cancer patients irrespective of the cost it takes. So far this year, we have spent Rs. 4,727 million on 1,285 cancer patients. Of them, 1,019 have received treatment worth over Rs. 1.5 million. In the past, cancer patients died since they lacked medication. They were given only painkillers since cancer medicines were very expensive. The patients had no idea that they were dying without medication,” he said and added that in the past, a huge drug mafia was operative and a few pharmaceutical companies were manipulating the drug market. “Now the government had broken the monopoly and made drugs freely available for all at affordable prices,” the Minister said.

“Stents for heart patients and lenses for eye diseases are provided free. It costs the government Rs. 324 million,” he said. Minister Senaratne said the largest kidney hospital in Asia would be established in Sri Lanka. “The country’s health sector will see a great improvement under President Maithripala Sirisena. We will bring in an efficient health system that provides one doctor for every 5,000,” the Minister said.

Parliamentary chit-chat causes concern

Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake was seen in the back bench seats of the Opposition yesterday in Parliament chatting with UNP MPs.

Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake and Serjeant-at-Arms Anil Parakrama Samarasekera sent parliament messengers to the Minister and reminded him that he should be sitting on the other side.

Minister Dissanayake entered the main Chamber from the opposition side entrance and was seen seated next to UNP MP Sandith Samarasinghe and speaking to him. UNP MPs Chaminda Wijesiri, Ashoka Priyantha and Heshan Withanage were listening to the Minister. The Minister continued his conversation even after he received the message.

The Committee Stage debate of Budget 2018 was in progress and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya was presiding. Parliament sources said the Cabinet Ministers are not sitting in the Opposition side as per the tradition. However, it does not amount to any violation of the Standing Orders, the sources said.

Hambantota Port Joint Venture

Gazette in Parliament on Thursday

Party leaders decided to present the gazette notification under the Strategic Development Projects Act on the Hambantota Port Joint Venture in Parliament on Thursday (7).

A special Cabinet meeting has been called on Thursday to get its approval for the gazette. After obtaining the approval, it will be presented to the House on the same day.

If a debate on the gazette is requested, the party leaders have agreed to facilitate two-hour debate on it from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm on Friday.

The gazette notification will declare the venture as a project coming under the Strategic Development Projects Act, thus qualifying it to receive certain tax concessions and exemptions. 


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