Parliament | Daily News


Speaker says he needs a deputy speaker urgently

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday in Parliament, said that the need for a Deputy Speaker is felt badly to as there was nobody to assist him in his work.

The Speaker said that he had brought this matter to the attention of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday. “It does not matter whether he is from the Opposition or from Government. I could work with anybody. The appointment must be done soon. I am unable to handle this work all alone,” he lamented.

He pointed out that he was yet to receive an official communication from the President over the resignation of Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala. Sumathipala has sent in his resignation letter to the President.

The Speaker made these observations in reply to a Point of Order raised by UNP MP Nalin Bandara, who questioned as to why Parliament was delaying electing a new Deputy Speaker.

“The Group of 16 MPs who had recently joined the Opposition, had written to the Parliament Secretary General last month, stating that they have resigned from all positions they held and left the Government. Thilanga Sumathipala had signed this letter which means that he too had resigned from the post of Deputy Speaker.

The seat has fallen vacant. Why aren’t we electing a new person?” the MP questioned.

The Speaker said a new Deputy Speaker could be elected once the President submits to Parliament the resignation letter by Sumathipala. “I have officially communicated this matter to the President,” he said.

UNP MP S M Marikkar charged that there were complaints that Sumathipala used his office and official vehicles for political activities.

The Speaker replied that Sumathipala has returned the office and official vehicles, adding that he was unable to trace whether those were misused in the past.

Joint Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena pointed out Sumathipala could continue in the post even though he switched the sides. “As MP S B Dissanayake previously pointed out, there had been Opposition MPs as Speakers and Deputy Speakers in the past,” he added.

Mothers entitled to 84 days maternity leave

The Government presented two amendment Bills yesterday in Parliament that entitles women to 84 days of maternity leave, irrespective of the number of children they have.

As per the existing law, women with two or more children are only entitled to 42 days of maternity leave, whereas women who give birth to their first and second child receives 84 days maternity leave.

Two Amendment Bills to the Maternity Benefits Ordinance (Chapter 140) and the Shop and Office Employees (Regulation of Employment and Remuneration) Act (Chapter 129), have been presented to grant 84 days of maternity leave to every woman who gives birth to a live child.

Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathillake presented the Bills for First Reading.

Out of the 12 weeks of maternity leave, a woman could utilize two weeks’ leave prior to her confinement. If she had worked for any number of days during the last two weeks before her confinement, she could utilize such leave with the rest of the 10 weeks’ leave immediately after her confinement.

If the confinement does not result in a live child, the woman would receive 42 days of maternity leave. Out of which, she could utilize two week’s leave prior to her confinement.

Maternity leave is on a paid leave basis, given in addition to holidays and other annual leave an employee is entitled to. The Bills would be moved for debate at a future date.

Delimitation Report on PCs and National Audit Bill to be taken up on May 22, 24

Party Leaders who met in Parliament yesterday, decided to take up the Delimitation Report on Provincial Councils on May 22 and the National Audit Bill on May 24.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena speaking to the Daily News yesterday, said the Government was waiting for a report from the Auditor General to go ahead with the Audit Bill and that was the reason the Bill was postponed yesterday.

Questioned on the elections system for Provincial Councils, he said Government leaders were yet to communicate a final decision on it to the Party Leaders. However, Party Leaders representing the Government, had met the Prime Minister on Thursday, to discuss about the Provincial Council Elections. They had told the Party Leaders that they would report back their positions within the few days.

MP Gunawardena said different views with regard to the Provincial Council Election system were expressed at the meeting by Ministers Rauf Hakeem, Mano Ganesan, MP Bimal Ratnayake and himself.

The Party Leaders had reappointed the same members to the Public Finance Committee, which stood dissolved following the prorogation of Parliament. “The Committee members were reappointed so that they could clear the Audit Bill and other financial bills. The committee was previously headed by TNA MP M A Sumanthiran. Its Chairman was not named during the last party leaders’ meeting,” he said.

He said the members for other Parliamentary Committees, including COPE and COPA, would be decided by a Selection Committee headed by the Speaker when it meets on May 17.

The issue of the Deputy Speaker post had also been discussed at the meeting and the Speaker had explained that the post could not be considered vacant until he receives an official communication from the President.

Fuel prices up due to heavy losses:Bimal

Despite the Finance Minister and Government claiming the reason for the increase in fuel prices, it had been due to the heavy losses incurred by the government, according to the documents submitted by the Petroleum Corporation to the Parliamentary Cope Committee. A litre of 92 Octane Petrol although the selling price was Rs. 117, the true cost for the whole process from the Port to the Refinery and its distribution, was only Rs. 72, said JVP – MP Bimal Ratnayake.

“The Goods tax of Rs. 27, Customs tax of Rs. 12 and Aviation Services tax Rs. 5.64, Nation Building tax 86 cents and Government charges were Rs. 45.50 as taxes per litre of Petrol.

For the 95 Octane Petrol which was sold at Rs. 127 previously, the true cost is Rs. 83. Additional taxes are added as Goods tax of Rs. 27, Customs tax Rs. 12 and Aviation Services tax Rs. 5.80, Nation Building tax 97 cents and Government charges Rs. 45.77 per litre of petrol, which means 1/3rd is added as taxes,” he explained.

“Similarly, auto diesel, the true cost is Rs. 72, but it was sold as Rs. 95 until last Thursday. For every litre of diesel when taxes are added, Rs. 23.49 is added as Government tax. The same goes for Super Diesel. The government could have reduced the taxes they charge in order to reduce the burden on the people, but instead, they are piling the maximum burden on the people. The increase in fuel prices will invariably be transferred onto every other commodity, heavily burdening the ordinary people who are already finding it difficult to survive,” he said, adding that it was a very unfair move by the government, where they are taxing the people without reducing the number of ministers and saving on costs.

Joining the Second Reading of the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill, MP Bimal Ratnayake, said the biggest issue facing the workers at the BIA was the disparity in wages between the top management and the lower ranking workers.

However, responding to Ratnayake’s remarks, Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, said there was no basis for such an allegation as the lowest wage of an Airport worker was around Rs. 70,000, while the highest officer’s wage was Rs. 96,000. “There isn’t a huge disparity between the two wages and it is certainly not correct to state that the lower ranking workers are paid very low wages. The strike was staged demanding a bonus of Rs. 100,000 in a day, which was very unreasonable,” he added.

Audit Bill postponed indefinitely

The National Audit Bill which was scheduled for debate yesterday, was postponed indefinitely.

Government sources said Party Leaders who met on Wednesday decided not to take up the Audit Bill yesterday, as the Prime Minister was unavailable.

Parliament took up the Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill instead. The debate was limited to about two hours, while the House was adjourned early as a result. Yesterday’s Parliament sittings, previously scheduled to continue till 7.30pm, lasted only until 1pm.



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