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Parliament

Poor attendance at Oversight Committees - Speaker

Navy to polish up new building handed over by Cabinet:

Ninety MPs have not attended a single meeting of the Sectoral Oversight Committees introduced in December 2015.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told Parliament yesterday that 40 percent of the members had not taken part in at least a single Oversight Committee meeting. He made this observation when JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa questioned as to why the building which previously housed the Agricultural Ministry is not being used to hold the Oversight Committee meetings.

“Parliament took over the building stating that the space is not enough in the Parliamentary Complex to hold those meetings.As a result the Agricultural Ministry has been paying a monthly lease of Rs 24.7 million for a new building for the last 16 months.The Prime Minister presented the cabinet paper to take over the building as an urgent matter. However, oversight committee meetings are still conducted at the Parliamentary complex,” the MP complained. The Speaker pointed out that the new building was not asked for by Parliament but was given to it by Cabinet. “It took one a half years to hand it over to us and we received its ownership last month only.The Navy is now in the process of repairing it to make it suitable to hold meetings. We can manage to find space somehow, but what matters the most is the attendance of all,” the Speaker responded.

The Speaker also said no new furniture would be purchased for the new building, but would manage with the existing furniture in an effort to save the public money.

The Speaker also told the House that the Consultative Committees would also come into operation from April in addition to the Oversight Committees. He made this observation in reply to JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena who demanded to establish those committees as soon as possible.

The Speaker further pointed out that he would make the President and Prime Minister aware that the revised set of Standing Orders of Parliament has made it compulsory for the Ministers to be present in House to reply to oral questions.The Speaker made those comments in reply to the complaints of MPs that their questions were not answered.


Foreign investments have not declined - Minister

Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama refuted claims that foreign investments to the country declined over the past three years.Responding to a question by MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena in Parliament yesterday, the minister said even though the Joint Venture Project of the Hambantota port, from which US$ 292 million FDIs was received was excluded, the country has received Rs 1.7 billion foreign direct investment to the country.

According to the answer tabled by the minister in Parliament, the country has received USD 969.7 million FDIs in 2015, USD 801 million FDIs in 2016 and USD 1,710.3 million FDIs in 2017.

MP Gunawardena questioned from the minister as to whether he admits that the FDIs have rapidly declined and that the Government failed to achieve the stipulated targets on FDIs. Minister Samarawickrama dismissed the claim saying it was not true.


President informs of Emergency proclamation

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday read out a written message received from President Maithripala Sirisena informing Parliament on the proclamation of a State of Emergency throughout the country from March 6.

The President in the message said the proclamation was made under the Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance. He informed Parliament that the reason to declare a public emergency was to ensure public security, the protection of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

The President sent the message in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution.


Government should name hate mongers - Mujibur Rahuman

The government should reveal the names of those who are instigating racial discord in a straightforward manner otherwise the blame falls on the entire government, said UNP MP Mujibur Rahuman in participating in the parliamentary debate yesterday.

“It is very clear that these racial clashes were instigated based on certain political agendas. However, the question arises as to what we have done as a government over the past 2 ½ years to stop these racial tensions. During the previous regime, it is a well-known fact that the BBS was taking the law into their own hands due to the backing they had from the former Defence Secretary.”

“At the time we said that the Rajapaksa regime rendered their support in firing racial disharmony. We came to power on the promise that we would be fair to all racial denominations. However, over the 2 ½ years since coming into power, as a government we should ask ourselves what we have done to defeat racism and prevent such racial tensions. In fact we should be ashamed that we have not made any effort to stop such racial attacks. I have personally brought this issue before the President, Prime Minister, Law and Order Minister and also have made complaints to the police on more than four occasions.

Yet nothing was done to address this issue. I am ashamed to even be part of this government,” he said adding that he feels that today he is speaking standing in front of a mirror.

Rahuman said that he has appealed to many parties on many occasions to prevent another clash happening in this country. “We have experienced 30 years of bitter war. There are parties trying to ignite racial disharmony and clashes. They have a political agenda to destabilise the country and topple the government. That is clear, but my issue is as a government why are we not doing anything to stop them? Why are we not taking action to prevent such situations? We failed to stop it and eventually this bomb of racial tensions exploded in Kandy.”

He noted that Sri Lanka has a very competent intelligence unit that could find out where Pottu Amman and Prabhakaran was, “Yet our intelligence units were not able to spot the actions of Amith Weerasinghe over the past 2 ½ years. Was our intelligence units incapable or did the government not have the desire to prevent it?”

He said all should refrain from standing on the fence in this instance and speak openly and directly. If anyone is guilty of instigating racial tensions, then they should be dealt with irrespective of whether they are Muslims or Sinhalese.

Responding to MP Bimal Ratnayake, he said people talk about Muslim women covering their faces, but added that people should also be concerned and critical of women over exposing themselves. He said every woman has the right to wear what she pleases and if society accepts that a woman has the right to expose herself, then why should a woman not have the right to cover herself?


Thambuttegama farmers attacked by men in civil - Semasinghe

Joint Opposition MP Shehan Semasinghe demanded to know who was behind the organised attack on the Thambuttegama farmers who agitated for their water in the Rajanganaya tank.

He said this moving an adjournment motion in parliament yesterday.

“The farmers got onto the streets because their pleas were not taken notice of by the government. It started as a peaceful protest, but we want to know who started attacking protesters in civilian clothing. No one was against providing drinking water, but the farmers were demanding that they also be given adequate water for their cultivation. Recently, a similar project was initiated at the Thuruwila wewa and at the time they signed an MoU with the farmer associations and they provided facilities to provide the people with drinking water while ensuring adequate water for farming.

Yet in this instance, in Thambuttegama, not a single representative of the government volunteered to speak on behalf of these farmers.

They sent state officers to do their work. But the response expected from the government cannot be got from a state officer. Ironically, when the government ministers were hiding in fear, the Divisional Secretary took the initiative to intervene and find a solution to the farmers’ issue.

He said this may have been an isolated incident but he urged the government to ensure that such incidents do not recur.


 

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