Parliament 08-12-2017 | Daily News

Parliament 08-12-2017

Although a Chinese investment, H'tota Port would function within  Sri Lankan framework

The Hambantota Port would function within the legal framework of Sri Lanka although it becomes a Chinese investment, said Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama in Parliament yesterday.

He said that the Hambantota Port was constructed at a cost of Rs. 183 billion. "However, its burden had been put on the people," Minister Samarawickrama said. "The government is taking measure to reduce the burden of the people. Massive investments would be attracted to the country due to this move and large number of employment opportunities would be created in due course."

He made these observations, during the debate on the resolution under the Strategic Development Act on Gazette Notifications on the shareholder agreement on two joint venture businesses: the Hambantota International Port Group (Pvt.) Ltd. (HIPG) and the Hambantota International Port Services (Pvt.) Ltd. (HIPS), which would operate commercial and common user facilities respectively, at the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port.

Chief Oppostion Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake joining the debate, said that this agreement would be inked following a debate in Parliament. The Hambantota Port has been handed over to a Chinese company for 99 years. The Ports Authority brought in a new investment. Tax relief had to be granted to the Ports Authority. The Hambantota Port has been estimated at US$ 1,400 million. "The tax relief that was not enjoyed by the Ports Authority earlier, has been granted to these companies," Anura Dissanayake said. "These companies have been released from income tax for a period of 32 years. Chinese nationals working in the Hambantota Port have been released from payee tax for a period of seven years. But Sri Lankans have not been granted the same relief. These tax reliefs should be amended."

Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that the clause that MP Dissanayake pointed out 'agreements would be inked following a debate in Parliament' was changed. When we brought it for discussions in Parliament, the opposition created a tense situation and it was passed without debate.

The minister further said that this investment was US$ 1.12 billion. "All countries in the South Asian region attempted to attract the same investment to their countries," Minister Samarasinghe said. "In such a situation, we have to provide such tax reliefs. On the other hand, these reliefs has been approved by the Cabinet. We have not done it stealthily. This is just the beginning and yet another US$ 600 million have to be invested."

Joint Opposition Member Indika Anuruddha said that government members while they were in the opposition during the previous regime, criticized the Hambantota Port as a swimming pool of Mahinda Rajapaksa. They did not commend it as a valuable asset and its strategic importance as they do today. The did condemn the Mattala Airport in the same manner.

Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena said that the motion had to receive a two thirds majority of Parliament. "Or else, the Chinese would face a serious legal issue if this motion is not passed with a two third majority. This matter is before the Supreme Court," MP Gunawardena said."

Former President provided adequate security:PM

Providing additional security to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he attends the forthcoming Local Government Election rallies could be considered if a formal request was made to the Law and Order Ministry, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Prime Minister made this observation in reply to a question raised by Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena in Parliament yesterday.

The MP requested for additional security personnel, vehicles and other requirements needed by the former President during the upcoming election season, reiterating threats to his life. He requested the Government to reinstate the number of security personnel reduced from former President Rajapaksa’s security contingent during the election period.

MP Gunawardena quoting Neena Gopal's ‘The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi,’ pointed out how the lack of security led to the former Indian Premier’s assassination. The Prime Minister replying to the above concern, said such unfortunate incidents would not occur in Sri Lanka.

“We have a special advantage by protecting Mahinda Rajapaksa. We would not let any harm happen to him,” he added in a lighter vein.

The PM detailed that a security contingent of 154 that comprises an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Chief Inspector, nine Inspectors of Police, 14 Sub Inspectors, female Sub inspector, 31 Police Sergeants, two female Police Sergeants, four Police Sergeant Drivers, 63 Police Constables, 14 Sub Police Constable Drivers and four female Police Constables have been provided to former President Rajapaksa.

He said former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s security contingent was only 61.

“The security for former Executive Presidents had been provided based on threat assessments and intelligence reports. Based on those reports Mahinda Rajapaksa had been provided with more security. If he wishes for more security, let him make a request to the Law and Order Ministry. I assure you that we give special consideration for requests of the fourth and fifth Executive Presidents of the country,” the PM commented.

Daham Pasal will be made compulsory by 2019 :Buddhasasana Minister

Buddhasasana, Sustainable Development and Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera said that ‘Daham Pasal’ education would be made compulsory by 2019.

He said so, joining the Committee Stage debate of the Budget 2018 under Expenditure Heads of the Ministry of Buddhasasana, in Parliament yesterday.

“We are taking this stand with the intention of making it the core that spreads Buddhism to the world. There is no point in simply talking about Theravada if we do not implement it practically. We wish to develop tourism in a decent and meaningful manner. We could develop the economy within the principles of Buddhism. We need to develop our minds as the mind is the most powerful weapon. Hence, we need to connect the village and temple on a strong bond,” The Minister noted that it served no purpose in having the best buildings and facilities, if we were unable to establish a just and spiritual society. Citing a Native American proverb - When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money, the minister said.

Money alone is not enough and we also need compassion and care for all living beings and the environment.“It is a sin to go to temples and churches and spread hatred. We are not just proposing the propagation of daham paasals, but our aim is to commence a drive to make country's people religious not just by word but also by deed,” he added.

Fourth Public Accounts Committee report presented to Parliament

The fourth Public Accounts Committee report was presented to Parliament yesterday, by its Chairman, Deputy Minister of Finance and Mass Media Lasantha Alagiyawanna.

The Public Accounts Committee's responsibility was to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to meet public expenditure and to probe the managerial efficiency and financial discipline of the Government, its Ministries, Departments, Provincial Councils and Local Authorities, which the minister said, had been carried out satisfactorily. “We have included the reports on 36 institutions, while we intend to hand over reports on 832 institutions, utilising modern technology. Through this report, our intention is to minimise the shortcomings of these institutions.”

“Next year, reports of 832 state institutions would be presented. We need to discuss this in Parliament and take a decision on further steps that need to be taken. Although the reports of the Public Accounts Committee had been presented, further steps in this regard has yet not been discussed. During the next few days, the reports needs to be discussed and debated and approval be given to initiate further action,” he said, presenting the report to Parliament.

Meanwhile, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the minister’s request would be considered and hoped the attention of Party leaders would be focussed on the matter concerned. He assured that this matter would be studied in future.

MP Buddhika Pathirana urged that a tradition of debate needs to be implemented and urged that it be discussed with Party leaders and a mechanism for debate should be established.

Tourism sector recorded highest tourist arrivals of 2.2 million in 2016:Amaratunge

Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunge said that in 2016, the tourism sector recorded the highest tourist arrival of 2.2 million earning $ 3.5 billion to the national coffers. He said despite unforeseen challenges they had to face, the tourism industry was resilient in weathering these storms and was on track to achieve the target of surpassing the two million mark and reaching the set target of 2.5 million.

He said so, joining the Committee Stage debate of the Budget 2018 under the Expenditure Heads of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs in Parliament yesterday.

Noting that the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index published by the World Economic Forum in Geneva, ranked Sri Lanka highly in its competitive rankings, he said the total revenue that had been earned by related public sector institutions, had been milked from the booming tourism industry running into billions of rupees. “Earnings by Heritage sites in the Cultural Triangle forms the largest source of income, he said.”

Emphasizing on the contribution to employment in the country through the tourism industry, the minister said, “The contribution of the tourism industry towards employment generation, was a bonus, while tourism could be considered an umbrella industry with direct and indirect employment totalling to over 320,000. However, if we take into consideration all other sectors related to tourism and travel enterprises, this figure would be around 800,000. But was expected to increase further.”

The minister noted that in providing a strategic direction towards the tourism sector, the government has launched “Tourism Vision 2025” strongly founded on the principles of sustainable tourism and the blue-green economy, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. “Building on Tourism Vision 2025, we have launched a four year strategic plan for 2017-2020 which targets doubling of revenue and employment in the industry by 2020, ensuring long-term sustainability of the industry,” he said.

In terms of increasing accommodation to meet the rising demand, room capacity has risen by 52 percent with an addition of 7,622 rooms during 2010-2016 and the capacity in the supplementary establishments had risen by 96% with an addition of 5,640 rooms during the same period, Minister Amaratunge said.

He pointed out that the country could not sustain the tourism industry simply by marketing the country’s beaches alone. He said the country should pursue ways to differentiate and add value in a crowded and highly competitive market, while consolidating the country’s position in areas such as experiential and MICE tourism.

According to the Tourism Minister, Nanu Oya, Galle, Ella and Colombo Fort Railway Stations would be modernised and declared as archaeological sites.

Sri Lanka Telecom evaluated country's 10th best institution:Harin

Sri Lanka Telecom(SLT) needs to be restructured and done even with the intervntion of Parliament, said Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando in Parliament yesterday.

He also said that although joint opposition members charged otherwise, the SLT was so successful that it was evaluated as the 10th best institution in the country by Business Today. "Its profits seemed to have dropped due to the depreciation of currency and not due to its ill management," said Minister Fernando. "Trade Union activists don't understand this situation, while the members should not level criticism based on their claims."

He made these observations yesterday, while considering the report of the Select Committee on the Buddha Sasana Ministry, Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry, Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry, Special Assignment Ministry, Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry and Science Technology and Research Ministry, during the Committee Stage debate on budget proposals for financial year 2018.

Minister Harin Fernando further said the Ministry Secretary had made a statement that Rs. 15 billion was allocated to the Ministry last year and without our knowledge had been misinterpreted by opposition members. What the Secretary meant was that the project was not one that was suggested by the Ministry. He added that the ICTA project was to digitalize the entire country. "We called for tenders, but failed as we stuck to the law," Minister Fernando said. "If we practiced the same method as the previous government, we could have done so. But if we failed, we would have been blamed throughout our entire life."

Tourism zone to be established in Dedduwa, Galle:Gayantha

Land and Parliament Reforms Minister Gayantha Karunatillake said a tourism zone would be established in the Dedduwa area in Galle.

He said so, in Parliament yesterday, while considering the report of the Select Committee on the Buddha Sasana Ministry, Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry, Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry, Special Assignment Ministry, Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry and Science, Technology and Research Ministry, during the Committee Stage debate on budget proposal for financial year 2018. “We were able to obtain land from Dedduwa for this purpose and we will engage in an inspection tour of the area.

The government intends to set up this area as a main tourism zone in the country.

We also intend to include eco friendly water sports facilities for tourists, while this project would also create a large number of employment opportunities. We have also discussed the need for an alternative road to Hikkaduwa. We intend to gazette the Hikkaduwa area as a tourism zone and develop the area,” Karunatillake said.

Speaker wants 2017 Annual Performance Reports by June 2018

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday, directed the Sectoral Oversight Committees to instruct public institutions to present their annual performance reports for the year 2017 by June 2018 at the latest.

The Speaker made this direction, noting that some public institutions delayed annual reports for several years. He directed the special attention of the Oversight Committees to get the public institutions coming under their purview to submit their annual reports at the correct time.

The Speaker reminded the House that the Parliamentary Watchdog mechanism had been strengthened to pave way for real time evaluation of public institutions.

SLT profits falling due to corruption, mismanagement:Aluthgamage

Profits incurred by Sri Lanka Telecom is reducing under the inefficient management of the present government, said Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Mahindananda Aluthgamage in Parliament yesterday.

He also said that the profits incurred by the SLT had been Rs. 3.3 billion in 2013 and 1.7 in 2016, while it had dropped to Rs. 302 million this year.

He made these observations yesterday, while considering the report of the Select Committee on the Buddha Sasana Ministry, Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry, Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry, Special Assignment Ministry, Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry and Science, Technology and Research Ministry during the Committee Stage debate on the budget proposal for financial year 2018.

MP Aluthgamage furtrher said that the a sum of Rs 15 billion was allocated to the

Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry without the knowledge of the Minister. He added that it was said by the Ministry Secretary. But it was not utilized properly.

He added that the profits of the SLT was reducing due to corruption in the SLT and its mismanagement. He added that the CEO was misusing money immensely. He added that he feared that the SLT would be sold due to its failure to prove productive.








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