Parliament | Daily News



‘Government committed to minimise alcohol consumption’

The government’s endeavour is to minimise alcohol consumption, State Finance Minister Eran Wickramaratne said in Parliament yesterday.

He was speaking in Parliament yesterday during the second reading of the Excise Amendment Bill.

“In 2011-2013, the Excise Bill was amended exempting kithul, palm and coconut toddy tappers from having to obtain a permit. Therefore, there was some difficulty in monitoring the quantity of toddy received by the State distillery. Taking these issues into consideration, now we have made it mandatory to obtain a licence for toddy tapping from all other sources other than kithul. This is also a measure to curtail the illegal distilling,” he said.

Wickramaratne refuted allegations levelled against the government recently that attempts were being made to promote alcohol consumption. “On the contrary, we intend to reduce the alcohol consumption. Between 2003 and 2005, the gross alcohol consumption was around 2.2 litres. By 2008-2010. it had increased to around 3.7 litres. By 2017, pure alcohol consumption is bound to increase further. We need to take measures to reduce alcohol consumption,” he said.

He noted that India and Thailand have a higher percentage of pure alcohol consumption in Asia than that of Sri Lanka.

He said that In Sri Lanka, the consumption of hard liquor is much higher than that of soft liquor. Many people consume illicit liquor and it causes great harm to their health. The Minister noted that the alcohol consumption is reduced to minimise ill health effects.

The Minister said the government intends to reduce the alcohol consumption and its ill effects, but it cannot limit people’s freedom or their basic rights.

Minister Wickramaratne said alcohol consumption cannot be achieved by imposing levies alone.

“If we impose greater taxes, the person addicted to alcohol will not suffer but his family. Therefore, what the government can do in this regard is limited and the greater responsibility lies with society and religious leaders. They must educate people about the ill effects of alcohol and influence them in reducing their consumption,”the Minister said.

Talking with regard to the levy on teledramas, and films, Minister Wickramaratne said the proposed gazette was presented to minimise the impact that imported teledramas make on the local teledrama and film industry.

The foreign teledrama levy had been revised many a time to safeguard the domestic film and teledrama industry, he said.

Cinema theatres are digitised: Gayantha

The project to digitise the cinema theatres in the country is in progress, Chief Government Whip and Lands and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gayantha Karunathilake said.

The Minister said the Mass Media and Information Ministry has commenced introducing the 2K digital technology to the cinema theatres. He added that necessary steps are being taken to prepare a national policy to introduce the digital technology to the cinema theatres.

He said the National Film Corporation are discussing with banks to provide loans for cinema theatres since cost of fixing a digital projector is around Rs. 7 million.

The Minister was responding to a question raised by JVP Parliamentarian Dr.Nalinda Jayathissa during the round of questions for oral answers in Parliament yesterday.

Minister Karunathilake said that according to the Public Administration and Management Ministry, digitising cinema theatres is in progress. “The cost of fixing a digital projector in a cinema theatre is nearly Rs.7 million. Since 117 cinema theatres should be converted to digital technology, a large sum of money will have to be spent on the project,” Minister Karunathilake said. “The owners should digitise the cinema theatres personally.”

He added that the country has 173 cinema theatres. “Of the theatres, 53 are categorized as 2K, three as 4K and 85 cinema theatres screen films using the technology of which resolution is lower than 2K” Minister Karunathilake said.

“Thirty two cinema theatres screening films using negatives of 35mm and 117 theatres of them should be converted to digital technology,” he said.

‘Prison inmates have major part in illegal liquor, drugs trade’

The trade and use of illegal liquor and drugs could be minimised if inmates of prisons were prevented from handling the racket, UNP Parliamentarian Ajith Mannapperuma said.

He was speaking in Parliament yesterday during the second reading of the Excise Amendment bill.

Mostly the illegal liquor trade is conducted by the inmates in prisons, he said and added that they have the protection and also the communication facilities.

He said heroin, cocaine and cannabis are used abundantly in Sri Lanka. “This could be prevented if the Police is empowered by way of a gazette by the Finance Minister,” MP Mannapperuma said.

He said the forces render a commendable service to raid cannabis.

The Parliamentarian said the raid on illegal liquor has been stopped because those cases are rejected by the Court. The Police should be given more power to arrest the situation, he said.

Appeal made to allow tapping coconut, Palmyra for toddy

TNA MP S. Sivamohan appealed to the government to allow tapping coconut and Palmyra trees in addition to Kitul Palm for toddy as specified in the Excise Amendment Bill taken up for debate in Parliament yesterday.

According to the Amendment, it was specified that no toddy shall be drawn from any tree other than from Kithul. He said the government had increased the tax for toddy producers from Rs. 600,000 to a million.

“You can impose the tax for companies functioning in Colombo or around the big towns but it is not suitable for the cooperatives that depend on toddy tapping from Palmyra and coconut. They are poor people who depend on this industry. Please consider my proposed amendment.

Wherever natural toddy taping is done, cooperative societies should be exempted from the tax. Taxing a million rupees from big companies who import artificial spirits in manufacturing artificial toddy is fair enough.

I am not opposing imposing taxes on big companies, but appealing on behalf of the toddy tappers,” he said.

Heated argument erupts in Parliament

Chief Government Whip and JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday demanded in Parliament the government to reveal the names of the Parliamentarians who had involved in the Ampara and Digana clashes to Parliament.

He added that according to the Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne, two MPs had involved in the incidents and the 225 MPs have a right to know who those MPs are.

He made the demand during a heated argument erupted yesterday in Parliament when Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam stated that Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa’s statement made in Parliament on Wednesday was totally misleading and tends to arouse racism.

Minister Kariyawasm said Wimal Weerawansa stated in Parliament that shops in Kuliyapitiya had been set on fire. “Weerawansa also said a Parliamentarian had involved in the incident. MP Weerawansa also said that the MP had got the suspects released by influencing the Police. But it is totally wrong.”

The Minister said that only two minor incidents were reported. A glass of a kotthu stall had been damaged and a Parliamentarian had not involved in the incident in any way. “Wimal’s statement arouses racism and it was an attempt to achieve a political mileage.”

Joint Opposition member Bandula Gunawardena responding to Kariyawasama queried who was arousing racism. He pointed out that Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senarathna had said that two Parliamentarians, two members of a new party and secretary of a MP had involved in the Ampara and Kandy incidents.

MP Gunawardena said Minister Rajitha had said there was a political influence behind these incidents. He said the Joint Opposition had expressed its support to the government to bring the situation under control and to build up reconciliation. “Is it correct to imprison the MPs in such a situation?” MP Gunawardena queried.

UNP MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha stated that he condemned Wimal Weerawansa’s attempt to ignite the racist conflicts in Kuiyapitiya. Initially it has started in Ampara and Kandy. He said that this was the result of racist seeds sowed by MPs like Wimal Weerawansa and Gammanpila.

Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake stated that the media reported what Cabinet Spokesman Rajith Senarathne said. He added that according to the latter, two MPs, an organiser of new political party, two members of local government institution, a secretary of an MP had involved in the conflicts.

“Minister Rajitha had said that there was a political influence in this incident,” Anura Dissanayake said. “If there is evidence, it is very clear who has done the crime.The government has to reveal to Parliament today who has done it,” he said.

Joint Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena requested the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to protect the rights of the Parliamentarians. He said that there was an attempt to arrest two MPs. He said that following the 83 Black July, the government banned the JVP, Sri Lanka Communist Party and Nawa Sama Samaja Party stating that they had involved in the riot.

“The members were arrested and remanded,” MP Gunawardena said. “But later it was revealed that the UNP had involved in it.”

Joint Opposition MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena said the Parliamentarians who work with both Sinhalese and Muslim communities face difficulties in such a situation but not others who deal with a single community. He said that isolated villages of Muslims and Sinhalese should be provided with security without pointing fingers at others.

MP Wimalaweera Dissanayake said the incidents were not organised but ignited following an incident in Ampara. “The shops in Ampara were closed yesterday in protest for an arrest of a well known businessman,” MP Dissanayake said. “The Law should not be misused,” he said.

“I speaks three times a day with the IGP and other authorities to find out the latest situation,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya stated. He said the CID is investigating the situation.

MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that if there is a CID investigation, a statement has to be made following the investigation report, but not before it. “The Cabinet Spokesman had made the statement before the investigation was over,” he said.

PCs blamed for not appointing recruited principals

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam complained that the government recruited 4,000 persons for Principal Service Grade 3, but many schools are administered by acting principals for the failure of Provincial Councils to assign them to the needy schools.

He said that those acting principals are teachers.

He added that the Provincial Councils have assigned them to most difficult schools where they are reluctant to serve. The Minister said 278 who obtained the highest marks of the 4,000, have been granted foreign training as well.

He added that he had obtained a Cabinet approval to attach them to schools and had informed the matter to the Public Service Commission, but it has proved a failure since the Provincial Councils have not taken any proper action.

He said that assigning those principals to the schools was beyond his capacity.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that if the Minister informed him about the matter in writing, he would summon the Governors of the Provinces and discuss the matter to find a positive solution.

Minister Kariyawasasm was responding to a query made by UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri during the round of questions for oral answers.

‘Do not involve in clashes’ Rohitha requests Sinhala, Muslim youth

Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Rohitha Abeygunawardena requested the Sinhala and Muslim youth not to involve in the clashes since nothing is destroyed but the nation itself in a clash.

He was speaking in Parliament yesterday during the second reading of the Excise Amendment bill.

He said yesterday was the women’s day but the situation has worsened to such an extent that the mothers cannot live peacefully in the country.

He said it was the responsibility of the government to bring about a solution to the issue at hand. He added that the then government could resolve the Beruwela issue since there was a leader. “But today there is not a leader,” MP Abeygunawardena said.

Ceylon Distilleries Corp former employees await justice: Nalinda

The grievances of then employees of Ceylon Distilleries Corporation in 1992 when it was privatised should be addressed even by now, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Parliamentarian Dr. Nalinda Jayathissa yesterday said.

He was speaking in Parliament yesterday during the second reading of the Excise Amendment bill. He said that those employees had been promised to be granted 10 percent of the shares of it. But the decision had not been fulfilled to date, he added.

He said a commission established in 1996 had admitted that those employees had faced an injustice.

“I urge the government to do justice to these employees,” MP Jayathissa said.

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