Parliament 18-07-2018 | Daily News

Parliament 18-07-2018

Govt. acts according to Army Commander’s recommendations: Prime Minister

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, reiterating that all administrative decisions of the Army are being taken in consultation with the Army Commander, said that it was in the past that the political authority took an upper hand in all affairs of the Army.

He made this observation in Parliament yesterday, in response to a questioned raised by Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, who queried on the scale-down of the number of Army camps and soldiers in the North. MP Gunawardena charged that the Government was deliberately weakening the Army, adding that unrest was seen developing within the defence establishment, because their promotions and welfare were being hindered.

The PM stressed that it was the Army Commander who has to decide the number of Army personnel and camps and their locations, adding that the Government acts according to the Army Commander’s recommendations.

The Premier also pointed out that there had been no change in the number of ranks and positions in the Army and therefore, their promotions had not been affected in any way.

The Prime Minister also said that Army Commander Mahesh Senanayaka, was willing to meet the JO MPs and explain the true facts relating to the concerns they have raised.

The Prime Minister was also highly critical of the construction bill concerning the Akuregoda Defence Headquarters building, observing that it accounts for a major share of capital expenditure of the Army, restraining the investment in more important affairs. He pointed out that many in the Army were not happy that such a large sum of money was being spent on the new Defence Ministry building, without investing that money more prudently.

“Who was behind this construction? Who wanted the Army Headquarters in Galle Face to be shifted to a new location? How much money have we spent on it now? Still the constructions are going on. All in the Army are against this spending,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe complained.

“Today a Brigadier can become a Major General before he retires. It was in the past that political hands interfered into all these affairs. Today, neither the President nor I muddle in the internal matters of the Army. The war is over. What we wish now is to protect the Army and take it forward,” the PM noted.

The Prime Minister further observed that the restructuring of the Army is a normal procedure in any Army in any country. “Today, our tri-forces engage in UN peacekeeping activities. The recognition for our Navy has risen as we strive to become the hub of the Indian Ocean. A large number of soldiers who were recruited during the time of war, are now retiring after completing their service period. Those who possess skills and experience, find other jobs after retirement, but we need to help those with ordinary skills to find suitable jobs. This is a timely need when we speak of the welfare of Army personnel,” the PM explained.

Commenting on the Aava Group operating in the North, the Premier said it is a law and order matter that the Police could deal with. “It is not a gang of shooters. The Police can confront this group successfully,” he added.

MP Dinesh Gunawardena alleged, that a circular has been issued to reduce the number of Army personnel in the North by about 23,000, adding that about 100-150 Army camps in the North would be closed down as a result.

Party Leaders’ meeting to resolve holding of PC elections: Speaker

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told Parliament yesterday, that a Party Leaders’ Meeting has been convened on Friday to resolve matters pertaining to the holding of Provincial Council Elections.

He made this observation in response to a query by Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena. MP Gunawardena asked as to how and why the Government was delaying PC elections, while the Supreme Court had once given a ruling that elections should not be postponed without the approval of the people at a referendum.

“How can the Government or the Election Commission override the SC ruling and keep delaying elections? I am asking for an interpretation of the Speaker as to whether it amounts to contempt of SC,” MP Gunawardena said.

The Speaker pointed out that he had no whatsoever intention to delay elections, adding that the existing matter could be solved during the Party Leaders’ meeting. “It was unfair to blame a single party for the delay in PC elections and no party leader had asked me to delay the elections,” he said.

Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella intervening at this point, reminded that former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa had on many occasions, acted in contradiction to SC decisions.

“The Supreme Court gave an order not to remove Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. Your Government threw that order to the dustbin and summoned Parliament within 24 hours and removed her. You have conveniently forgotten the past,” he told the JO.


Fuel price formula to be disclosed soon: Arjuna

Particulars concerning the fuel price formula will be disclosed to the public very soon, Petroleum Resources Development Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said yesterday. He further said that his ministry had received several RTI applications, demanding information on the fuel price formula. Minister Ranatunga pointed out that all decisions pertaining to the fuel price formula is not under the purview of his ministry, but is under the Finance Ministry and the General Treasury. Ranatunga expressed his confidence that the Finance Ministry would announce the details of the fuel pricing formula at its earliest.

Minister Ranatunga, explaining the features of the formula, said that it would be used to reduce fuel prices when the world prices drop and to increase when there was an increase in the world market. A committee comprising officials of the General Treasury and the Petroleum Resources Development Ministry, would implement the fuel pricing formula and give recommendations on increasing or decreasing of fuel prices, he added.

Minister Ranatunga made these observations in answer to an oral question by MP Jayantha Samaraweera, with reference to taxes charged by the government on kerosene oil.

Minister Ranatunga also revealed that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation incurs a loss when selling kerosene at a lower price than its cost. According to Minister Ranatunga, the CPC spends Rs. 97. 89 to produce a litre of kerosene, while selling the same for Rs. 70.

Minister Ranatunga also said that no tax is charged by the government in importing kerosene oil.

‘Army restructuring will not hinder national security’


The restructuring process within the Sri Lanka Army will in no way jeopardizes the national security of the country, State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardena assured yesterday. He said that the restructuring process is purely an administrative decision of the SL Army, pointing out that restructuring is not a decision by the President, Prime Minister nor the government. State Minister Wijewardena also said that there is no need to be alarmed of a removal of Army camps from the North or a 25% scaling down of Army troops, since neither of decisions was included in the restructuring process. The restructuring process is a numerical balancing of Army troops, he pointed out.

“This is a decision taken by the SL Army. This restructuring process is not an act of taking revenge from the Army or demeaning its value. This is not an international conspiracy either. The restructuring in no way remove any Army camp from the North. If the Opposition still holds fears, the Army Commander is willing to appoint several high ranking Army officers to hold a discussion with the Opposition, to explain the restructuring programme.” State Minister Wijewardena pointed out.

The State Minister also said that the restructuring process would increase the efficiency of the SL Army.

“Some Army units lack in numbers. So such units will be merged under this restructuring process. This might seem like a decrease, but such thing do not happen. The number of troops in the field or the number of Army camps would not decrease under this restructuring process,” State Minister Wijewardena stressed.

He also denied allegations that certain Senior Army officers would not be able to apply for promotions by reason of this restructuring procedure. He pointed out that a decision has been taken to position all senior officers holding ranks in an equal grade.

As we are the largest group, give us Opp. Leader’s post: JO

A team of Joint Opposition members met Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in Parliament yesterday and urged him to recognize them as the largest group in the Opposition and grant them the post of Leader of Opposition.

NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa told the media that the Speaker promised to convey his ruling on the matter during the next sitting week. The Speaker had asked the JO group to convey their request in writing, adding that he could consider it.

The meeting took place at the Speaker’s office at the Parliament complex. The Speaker had said that he has an understanding of the request made by the JO group.

“We informed the Speaker that we would submit a written communication during the next sitting week. The Speaker promised that he would convey his decision to the House within the same week,” MP Weerawansa said.

Tax exemptions under new Nation Building Tax Act


The amendments to the Nation Building Tax Act have added a series of tax exemptions which were overlooked by the initial Act brought in by the previous regime in 2009, State Minister Eran Wickremeratne said.

He said the new amendments have also removed the tax exemption on alcohol.

The added exemptions include sporting goods including motor-less items such as Para gliders and parachutes, high tech agricultural equipment, coconut oil and coconut based products.

Wickremeratne observed that enterprise friendly banking loans should be encouraged to increase the number of entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. He pointed out that the banking sector should provide more opportunity for innovative and creative business proposals when granting loans.

He said the government aims to increase the number of entrepreneurs by a 100,000 for which the government has introduced more than 100 loan schemes that offer financial facilities for people from all walks of life.


Wekanda Housing Scheme people cry for help

UNP MP Mujibur Rahuman urged the Government to pay immediate attention concerning the plight of the Wekanda Housing Scheme flats at Stuart Street in Slave Island to avert a disaster similar to Meethotamulla.

Speaking in the debate on the Nation Building Tax (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday, the MP said the lives of 114 families living in the Wekanda Housing Scheme flats and at least 32 neighbouring families are at risk due to the poor condition of the building which could collapse at any moment.

“They hardly pass a day worrying that they would be buried alive under the flat at any moment. This disaster may outdo the Meethotamulla garbage dump collapse,” MP Rahuman said.

The MP said that the housing scheme had been built in 1974 by the then Minister Peter Keuneman, but it had not been maintained properly for years. The MP said the matter and the possible disaster have been conveyed in writing, both to the President and the Prime Minister, calling for their immediate action.

“In 2012, the National Building Research Organisation found that the building was not fit for human habitation. Now, it is on the verge of collapse. The tenants demand that they should not be shifted elsewhere, but be resettled in the same area. I spoke to the Housing Ministry which agreed with us and the residents to do so. The ministry even expressed its wishes to sign an agreement with the aggrieved party, but now I heard that it back-tracked on its position,” the MP explained.

“The lives of innocent people are in danger. Now we are told that a fresh Cabinet paper has to be submitted to provide alternative houses for the tenants of the flat. We demand that a clause be included in the particular Cabinet paper that the tenants of the flat should be relocated within Stuart Street in Wekanda area,” MP Rahuman said.









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