Parliament 04-07-2018 | Daily News

Parliament 04-07-2018

 Speaker tells Ranaweera: Stop creating trouble in Parliament

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya repremanded Joint Opposition (JO) MP Prasanna Ranaweera in Parliament yesterday (04), warning him to avoid creating another scene in Parliament as he did on Tuesday, with regard to the controversial statement of State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran in relation to the LTTE’s return, which disrupted Parliamentary activities.

The Speaker made the request when Ranaweera raised a Point of Order in response to a matter of privilege made by State Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P Perera.

Minister Perera referring to the behaviour of Wimal Weerawansa and Prasanna Ranaweera on Tuesday, said it was a disgrace to the entire Parliament.

Referring to the parliamentary code of conduct governing the behaviour of parliamentarians within the Chamber, he said, “It clearly outlines the manner in which members need to behave in a civil manner and the decent language that should be used during political discourse, especially during debates. No Member shall assault, harass or intimidate any person and every Member shall act in a respectful manner with regard to his fellow Members, the Parliamentary Staff and people of the country. They should behave with dignity and courtesy, without tarnishing the dignity of Parliament.”

“On Tuesday during a heated situation in parliament, MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Prasanna Ranaweera insulted the Speaker on a personal level and threatened him. Their behaviour brought disgrace upon the entire Parliament. It was a violation of MP privileges. Therefore, action should be taken against them by the Committee on Privileges,” Perera noted, adding that these MPs behave in this manner without fear of consequence, because the committee on privileges follow a very lenient stance when dealing with such behaviour.

In response to Perera’s allegation, the Speaker told him to submit a proposal to the Committee on Privileges.

Reacting to Perera’s reference to his behaviour the previous day, Ranaweera, raising a point of order, said he needed to respond to him as his name was mentioned. However, the Speaker prevented him from responding and disallowed his point of order.

When an agitated Ranaweera tried to protest against the Speaker, a clearly annoyed Speaker retorted, “I’m kindly asking you to sit down. You interrupted yesterday’s sitting and I can’t allow you to do the same today. So please sit down.”

UPF, MSTF did not incur losses: PM

The University Provident Fund and Mahapola Scholarship Trust Fund (MSTF) did not incur losses, but suffered a deprivation of revenue from investing in the questioned Treasury bond issuance on February 27, 2015, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday ensured.

Higher Education State Minister Mohan Lal Grero also rose to confirm that neither of these funds under went losses, but deprivation of revenue.

The UGC had already sought instructions from the Attorney General and had taken legal action to recover this loss of revenue, Grero added.

PM Wickremesinghe explaining the transaction relating to UGC on February 27, 2015, said that the National Savings Bank had invested UPF in Treasury bonds worth Rs. 880 Million and accordingly, received its investment profits. The NSB acted as a Primary Dealer in the bond market.

“The problem arose when the Treasury Bond Commission revealed that Perpetual Treasuries Limited had made unconscionable profits from the questioned bond transaction amounting to Rs. 141 MN. Accordingly, the UPF had lost revenue due to it from investing in those bonds.

This is not a problem with the parties who invested in the bonds and the PTL, but an issue between the PTL and CBSL. This money belongs to the government, not to anybody else,” PM Wickremesinghe explained.

The Premier pointed out that PTL accounts are suspended and steps have been taken to recover the revenue losses suffered by these funds. He also said that the Finance Minister had been instructed to look into possible legal measures to make sure that such a situation may not arise in the future.

The UPF worths Rs. 37 BN as at January 01, 2016.

Premier Wickremesinghe pointed out that UPF and Mahapola Trust Fund were invested in Treasury bonds even before 2015. These investments have been done via State institutions such as the NSB, BOC, People’s Bank and Primary Dealers Wealth Trust Securities, First Capital Treasury and Commercial Bank. He pointed out that there was no report suggesting that these two funds incurring losses due to investing in Treasury bonds.

Govt. will not delay holding PC elections

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government had no desire to unnecessarily delay the Provincial Council elections.

He said so in Parliament yesterday, in response to a question raised by Joint Opposition MP Dullas Alahapperuma.

“Despite a court order, the government took technical measures to delay the elections in three provincial councils. Accordingly, the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provincial Council elections was postponed which had been nine months. In September last year, the Prime Minister assured Parliament during the debate that Provincial Council elections would be held by March this year. But, the government had failed to even take the Delimitation National Committee report for debate in Parliament. Within the next three months, the North, Wayamba and Central Provincial council terms would come to an end, but the Prime Minister and the subject minister had failed to say when the elections would be held,” Alahapperuma said.

In response, the Prime Minister said that Provincial Council elections need to be held. He said the issue that had arisen and which is currently in discussion, is on whether following the same electoral system as in the LG elections which would create administrative issues. “Various parties have differing views, while some are of the view that we should hold elections under the former electoral system and decide on the new system at a later election. However, there are still some parties who have not expressed their views on their preferences. Hence, we hope that these parties too would take a decision soon, so that we could amend the laws if needed and hold the elections without further delay.”

He said the government had intended to hold the Provincial and Urban Council elections by November or December last year, and if that had been done, then by March, a decision could have been taken. In order to move forward, we need to know what the party leaders’ stand is in this regard,” the PM said, adding that if the party leaders are agreeable, then he had no issue in holding elections.

Adding to the debate, Speaker Jayasuriya said he too had a comment to make in this regard. “At the last Party Leaders meeting, we could not come to an agreement on the electoral system that the election should be held under. There were two opinions and we hope that with Friday’s debate, we could come to some agreement.”

Wimal’s, Prasanna’s conduct harmful to dignity and decorum of Parliament, country: Speaker

The unparliamentary conduct of MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Prasanna Ranaweera during a protest against Deputy Minister Vijayakala Maheshwaran’s controversial statement, was harmful to the dignity and decorum of Parliament and the country, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said yesterday.

In a special statement at the commencement of sittings yesterday, Speaker Jayasuriya said that everyone in Parliament should be ashamed and regretted of what happened on Tuesday.

“We should be ashamed of disrupting the sittings of the House by attempting to grab the Mace to prevent the passing of Regulations under the National Medicine Regulatory Authority, which were of national importance. As soon as we came to know of the seriousness of the statement made by Deputy Minister Vijayakala Masheswaran, I took the initiative to hold an inquiry. I ordered for the acquiring of a copy of the video tape which showed Minister Maheshwaran’s speech and a translation of it. In my capacity as Speaker, I did everything possible, including contacting her party leader and to the Attorney General for legal instructions,” Speaker Jayasuriya said.

He observed that the conduct of the two MPs was a disgrace and unbecoming of a parliamentarian.

“At a time our Parliament has been recognized as a model parliament in the world, by the Inter Parliamentary Union, the conduct and behavior of some opposition MPs had caused a very embarrassing situation. It is a great harm done to the good name of the country and its Parliament,” he further said.

Speaker Jayasuriya pointed out that he had instructed the Attorney General to take legal action after an investigation into the statement by the Deputy Minister. “That is the highest action possible for a Speaker under the powers of the Constitution,” he said.

Meanwhile, State Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P Perera, said that a Code of Conduct for MPs was in force and action should be taken against MPs Weerawansa and Ranaweera.

“They used filthy words when addressing the Speaker. They led another group of MPs to disrupt sittings. We too condemn Deputy Minister Maheshwaran’s statement. We also demand an inquiry and action against her statement. But that does not mean we should resort to unparliamentary behavior and use of vulgar words in the House. Actions by some opposition MPs including MPs Weerawansa and Ranaweera, amounted to a breach of privileges of some other MPs including myself. Action should be taken against them under the provisions of the Code of Conduct,” State Minister Perera said.


SL’s current exchange balance of Rs 9.9 billion highest in history: Eran

The country’s current foreign exchange balance is the highest in history being $9.9 million (around Rs. 9.9 billion). The government has managed the economy in a positive manner. By the end of 2017, exports had increased dramatically to $11.4 billion. Fish exports had increased by 42%, tea exports had increased by 20.5%, spice exports had increased by 28% and rubber exports had increased by 9% and mineral exports had increased by 51% in 2017. FDI had increased to 1.913 billion by 2017, said the State Finance Minister Eran Wickramaratne in Parliament yesterday.

He said the government was focussing on a long term economic progress path and expressed confidence that the government would continue for the next five years as well.

“I heard some saying that we had devalued the rupee. If a country is to progress, its exports should exceed its imports. Over the past 25 years, the country’s exports had been reducing gradually. When the previous government was defeated, the country’s GDP had reduced from around 30% in 1994 to around 14%. When we came into power, we initiated a mechanism to rebuild the country’s GDP. We did not wish to keep the rupee at an artificial level, but wanted to keep it on par with the market value,” he said.

Responding to a comment made by JO MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage that the rupee had depreciated by 20% under the current government, Minister Wickramaratne said during the first six months of this year, the rupee had depreciated by 3.35%.

“However, in comparison, the Indian rupee during the same period had depreciated by 8.06%. The Pakistani rupee had depreciated by 10.48%, the Thai Bath had depreciated by 5.43%, Indonesian rupiah had depreciated by 5.2%. The Singapore dollar had depreciated more than the SL rupee against the dollar by 4.6%. The American dollar had strengthened due to the economic policies of the new American President. Further, during this same period when comparing the Euro against the US dollar, the Euro had depreciated by 6.87% against the dollar. The Sterling pound had also depreciated by 8.21%. Sri Lanka has the lowest depreciation due to the strong macro economy,” he said.

Distribution of financial rewards to Customs officers: New amendments soon: Mangala

New amendments would be brought in to change the currently followed method of distributing financial rewards to Customs officials for detections made, in a manner that would enable the distribution of these rewards to all officials in an equal manner which would be fair to all, said Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

The Minister said the existing method of financial rewards to Customs officials favour only a very small segment of officials in the Customs Department which was not fair by all. He said so, moving several resolutions under the Customs Ordinance for the Second Reading Debate in Parliament yesterday.

“As per the existing provisions of the Customs Ordinance, only some Customs officials earn large sums as rewards from the detection they make. It is customary for them to receive 50 per cent of the fines so imposed. The chance to earn rewards is not broad-based. There was one officer who earned almost 100 million rupees within a 12 month period as rewards. We should not envy them, but we need a more fair system that was fair to all. It is only a small group, roughly around 1% of the Customs workforce who receive rewards of over 10 million per year,” the minister said.

However, Minister Samaraweera said amendments into the Customs Ordinance would take time and until then, he proposed that 50 percent of the fines should be distributed equally among all employees of the Department from the General Manager to the cook. “Ten per cent of the fine could be given to the detectors and the balance 40 per cent should be equally distributed. This system would come in to effect from this week,” the Minister said.

The Minister noted that these proposed amendments to the Customs and Excise Ordinance, would be brought in through the Budget debate this year.

JVP demands policy on asbestos imports

The JVP yesterday, demanded to know the Government’s exact policy towards importing asbestos and urged that action be taken to prevent the collapse of the local tile industry.

JVP MP Vijitha Herath pointed out that the country had benefitted only once by cutting off import taxes in importing asbestos. “Soon after the Tsunami disaster and when the rebuilding process began, the then government cut off taxes on asbestos roofing sheets. That was a good move, as there was an urgency in building houses for those who lost their houses in the disaster,” he said.

Herath made these observations, participating in the Second Reading stage debate on Resolutions under the Customs Ordinance.

MP Herath also said that the government made contradictory statements on asbestos and its practice is contrary to what it promises.

“Now there is a recent announcement by the Housing Ministry that it would not use asbestos roofing sheets for the houses it would build. But the tax reduction on asbestos is still on. Then there was an earlier statement which said that the government would ban asbestos. I saw on TV the other day the President declaring open a housing scheme in Polonnaruwa. All the houses in the scheme had been covered by asbestos roofing sheets. Have the government changed its position?” Herath questioned.

“When the Presidential statement on the banning of asbestos came, local tile industries obtained bank loans and increased their production. They did not even harm the environment by increasing their production. They followed environmental protection guidelines when extracting clay for the industry. They only use the clay dug up from the tanks. So they received SLS Standard Certificates. Their tiles are much safer than the asbestos being dumped here from other countries. But today they are at a loss. Their industry had collapsed and they are helpless. How could they run their industries profitably when the government keeps tax concessions it had granted to importing asbestos in 2004 aftermath the Tsunami?” he pointed out.

Herath also pointed out that the government policies in permitting re-exporting spices including pepper, arecanut and tamarind have resulted in the collapse of local industries. He urged the government to amend these policies to protect local industrialists.

Wanted Commission to probe alleged funding by China Harbour Company to MR

Minister Kabir Hashim yesterday urged for a Presidential Commission to investigate into a US$ 7.6 funding done by China Harbour Company to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Minister Hashim further demanded that a debate be held in Parliament on the same subject.

Minister Hashim questioned whether this funding was done as a part of an agreement where 50 acres of land belonging to the Hambantota Port being sold for just one dollar.

Minister Hashim said a Presidential Commission should be appointed immediately to investigate into the incident.

“Three months before the last Presidential Election, Mahinda Rajapaksa instructed the General Treasury to enter into an agreement with the China Harbour Company. What is this agreement? That is, a promise given to sell 50 acres of land for a dollar. All these were done three months before the Presidential Election. So the question is, did the company pay Rajapaksa US$ 7.5 for signing the agreement? These are major robberies. A Presidential Commission should probe into this matter immediately and a Parliament debate should also be held,” Minister Hashim pointed out.

“It was the same case scenario concerning the 50 acres of land in a high security zone which was also given to China. We changed it. In 2013, Rajapaksa gave tax concessions to selected branded products. They reduced taxation even on dog food. The tax concessions were also given to certain brands used by people such as Wimal Weerawansa and their family members. That is how they reduced taxes. They didn’t give tax concessions for food items used by the general public,” Minister Hashim also pointed out.

Due to wrong decisions by govt. 22 mn people have to suffer: Mahindananda

The rupee had devalued by 20 percent in comparison to 2014 and due to this devaluation, the government has to bear an additional Rs. 800 billion in foreign debt value.

“During the former regime only Rs. 500 billion was spent on development activities, including the Southern Expressway, the planning of the Kandy Expressway, the Katunayake Expressway, the Hambantota Port and Airport and the Norochcholai Power Plant etc. But with the devaluation the value of the debt had increased by 800 billion, which clearly indicates the inefficiency of the government. Due this, your wrong economic policies are clearly visible,” Joint Opposition MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said in Parliament yesterday, adding that the losses to the country by the Treasury bond scam was Rs. One trillion.

Mahindananda noted that when they handed over the government, the tax income was one trillion rupees and under the current Good Governance regime, it had increased to two trillion rupees. “This government increased taxes in order to cover up the damage done by the Treasury bond scam. One person was responsible for the bond scam and wrong decision, but 22 million people in the country are paying the price for it,” he said.









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