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Parliament

Delimitation Committee report PM calls for debate

Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe has proposed to take up a debate on the Delimitation Committee report on Provincial Councils during the next Parliamentary session to reach an agreement on the electoral system to hold the PC Elections.

The Prime Minister had made the proposal at a party leaders’ meeting he chaired in Parliament yesterday. Sources said the party leaders were unable to reach any consensus on the electoral system even yesterday.

Therefore, the delimitation report is proposed to be submitted to the House by Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha on March 6 to a vote in the House. The report has to be passed by two thirds majority. Parliamentary sources said the party leaders proposed to revert to the old electoral system if the report did not receive the two thirds support.

The sources said the two thirds majority is needed even if the House wants to repeal the new electoral system to go back to the previous system.

The debate on the delimitation report will be held as proposed on August 23 or 24.

The Delimitation Committee, Kanagaratnam Thavalingam (Chairman), retired Surveyor General; Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike, retired Assistant Governor of the Central Bank; Prof. S.H. Hisbullah; Prof. Sangara Wijeyasandiran and retired Assistant Election Commissioner Premathilaka Siriwardena presented the report to the Minister on February 19.

The elections for the Eastern, North Central and Sabaragamuwa PCs are already due, and the term of another three PCs, the Central, Northern and North Western PCs, is due to end by September. Party leaders on July 20 agreed to schedule the PC elections on January 5, 2019 if Parliament could agree on the matters relating to the elections before the end of October.


Sajith, Wimal lock horns

Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa and National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader Wimal Weerawansa locked horns in Parliament yesterday forcing the Speaker to expunge their personal accusations against each other.

As the Minister and the MP clashed, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had to repeatedly order the two members to stop arguing and let him carry on the day’s business.

MP Weerawansa accused Minister Premadasa of hiring excess workers to the National Housing Development Authority for daily wages burdening the institution financially. Minister Premadasa said he had not recruited any worker to the permanent cadre and had not given houses the NHDA built to his close associates and family members like his predecessor did.

Premadasa then read a list of names to whom Weerawansa had given houses and their relationships to Weerawansa.

Weerawansa challenged to resign from his Parliament seat if those individuals the Minister named were still occupying those houses. He asked the Minister to come for a debate on the matter on a private TV channel. He said the Minister should resign from his portfolio for making false accusations.

The Minister said he told truth and ready to debate with the MP any time.


Speaker’s decision on Opposition Leader today

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya will make a special statement in Parliament today on the post of Opposition Leader, sources from the Speaker’s office said.

The Speaker will make the announcement at the commencement of the sittings. It was also speculated that all Government members have been asked to be present in the House today morning.

A lengthy argument on the post took place in Parliament last Tuesday.

Following that, the Speaker told Parliament that he would announce a final decision this week after consulting the party leaders and legal advisers.

The Speaker, however, agreed to allocate more time and grant more space in parliamentary committees for the Joint Opposition.


Mahinda questions SSP’s promotion delay

Promoting SSP Palitha Siriwardena to the DIG rank is questionable as he has two charge sheets against him, Public Administration and Management and Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said.

The Minister was responding to a question that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa asked in Parliament yesterday. The former President queried why IGP Pujith Jayasundara does not follow recommendations given by the Police Commission on promoting police officers. The Minister said the charge sheets were sent to the Police Commission for its perusal and said that according to the Establishment Code, a public servant who has charge sheets against him cannot be promoted.

The former President said it was unfair to cancel the promotion after giving it and requested the Minister to look into it. The Minister agreed to consider the former President’s request.

“You all are talking about increasing salaries of independent commission members, but what action you take against the IGP who refuses to follow the recommendations of the Police Commission? Can a Head of Department reverse the decisions made by the Commission? The Police Commission gives a recommendation after a careful study and it must be respected,” Rajapaksa said.

Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said SSP Siriwardena was promoted to the DIG rank and it has become problematic because of the charge sheets against him.


Dayan envoy to Russia

The High Post Committee yesterday approved the diplomatic posting of Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Russia.

Dr Jayatilleke appeared before the Committee for the third time yesterday and his appointment was approved, committee sources said.

The JVP and the TNA had objected to the appointment, the sources said. The Committee was chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and its members John Amaratunga, Lakshman Kiriella, M A Sumanthiran, Vijitha Herath, Eran Wickramaratne, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Mavai Senathiraja had attended the yesterday meeting.

The Committee took a detailed report from the Foreign Affairs Ministry before approving the appointment. The Committee received a petition against Dr. Jayatilleke’s appointment with 115 signatures of Civil Society activists and organisations.


‘Samurdhi for 300,000 families’

Samurdhi allowance will be granted to 300,000 families before the year end, Social Empowerment Minister P. Harrison told the House yesterday.

He said the government has received approximately seven to eight hundred thousand applications requesting Samurdhi, the Minister said the rest of the applicants will be given the allowance from 2019.

The Minister said Samurdhi Development Officers will be absorbed to permanent cardre and their pensions will be assured. Samurdhi officers held a protest near the Parliamentary entry road in the morning requesting the government to absorb them into the permanent carder.

The Minister said 27,000 Samurdhi Development Officers and 4,000 Samurdhi Managers are operating in the country.

“For over 23 years, Samurdhi Development Officers were used for political purposes. They were considered a voting-machine. No one has paid attention to the legality of their recruitment. We cannot resolve this matter by protesting. I will go and sit with the protesters if that way can resolve the issue. The government will stop Samurdhi Development Officers being used for political purposes,” the Minister said.


Rs. 28,000 basic salary for public service by 2020: Vajira

The basic salary of an Office Staff Assistant, the lowest rank in the public service, will be Rs. 28,000 by 2020, Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said.

The Minister, responding to a question by MEP Leader Dinesh Gunwardena in Parliament yesterday, said the basic salary of the workers in this category was only Rs. 13,000 in November, 2014.

He said the pension of the retired public servants will also be increased to match these changes in the near future.

MP Gunawardena questioned the Government whether they take steps to increase the pension on par with the Rs. 10,000 interim allowance given to the public servants. He said the pensioners receive only Rs. 3,500 interim allowance and called on the government to give them the balance Rs. 6,500 with arrears as the retired public servants are facing economic hardships with increased Cost of Living and taxes.

Public Administration and Management Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said discussions are on with the Treasury and the National Salaries and Cadre Commission on increasing pension to tally with the public servant’s salary increments made since 2016.

He said the government rectified the pension anomalies existed since 2006 with a circular issued on June 25, 2015. He said 600,000 pensioners are in the country as at August this year.

He said the government spent Rs. 420 billion to pay public servants’ salaries when it assumed office, but the sum has now increased to Rs. 620 billion.

“This will rise to Rs. 260 billion next year. No other government in history has given this many of benefits to the public service,” he said. The Minister refuted the MP Gunawardena’s claims that the government has plans to privatise certain departments as per the IMF instructions.

“Do not make false accusations to mislead the public,” he told the MP.


Independent commissions failed in their tasks - Anura Kumara

JVP leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said the Independent Commissions were unable to fulfill their main objective, to de-politicise the government institutions, even after two and half years.

“I would like to ask whether the independent commissions have accomplished at least a considerable progress during these two and half years. Has our public service reached the basic standards of independence? Have the Police become independent? Every government hides behind political revenge and compensate their supporters when they come into power. Have the commissions been able to stop it?” Dissanayake asked.

MP Dissanayake said the government has failed to resolve the issues faced by the grassroots. “Many high profile meetings and discussions are held, but the government has failed to address the issues faced by the people,” he said. Dissanayake said the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill taken up for debate does not adhere to the fundamentals of taxation.


Debate on media freedom limited to seven minutes

The adjournment debate on media freedom by the Joint Opposition (JO), previously scheduled for two hours, limited to seven minutes due to lack of quorum of members in Parliament yesterday.

JO MP Ranjith de Zoysa moved his motion around 5.25 pm and UNP MP Sidney Jayaratne brought the attention of the House towards the lack of quorum of 20 MPs while de Zoysa was on his feet.

MP Thusitha Wijemanna at the Chair ordered to ring the quorum bell to summon the members in, but only 16 MPs remained after the bell rang for five minutes. Therefore, the House was adjourned till today.

Finance and Mass Minister Mangala Samaraweera was present in the House to reply to the motion.

MP De Zoysa in his speech criticised the government for threatening the journalists publicly by naming them. Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the government, though criticised the journalists, had not abducted them by white vans, or attacked or killed them like the previous regime did.

He said those journalists named by de Zoysa were still in their media profession without any obstruction.

“That is the fundamental difference and change under the government. None of them were killed in the manner your government killed Lasantha Wickremathunga,” he said.


‘PCs, LG Bodies under JO hinder rural development projects’

Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies under Joint Opposition influence are scheming to put rural development projects such as Grama Shakthi and Gamperaliya out of action, UNP MP Ashoka Priyantha yesterday said.

He requested that Chief Ministers and Local Government Agents be instructed to assist these development projects without hindering them.

“Even though the President and the Prime Minister begin many rural development projects, they will be hindered. These people will never allow to implement them properly.” MP Ashoka Priyantha said.

Speaker Karu Jayasooriya said that if the allegations are true, it is a serious matter and must be inquired into.

Some Joint Opposition representatives recently elected to Local Government bodies are waiting to take the credit of these development projects. The projects should be taken under the Central Government to implement them proper properly, many MPs alleged.

MP Kavinda Jayawardena said Ja-Ela Provincial Council has rejected to allow a privately funded development project that he wanted to implement in his area.

 


Delay in Provincial Council Elections

Minority party leaders meet MR

Leaders of the minority parties yesterday met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to request his support to hold the Provincial Council Elections under the old electoral system, UPFA MP Douglas Devananda said.

Speaking to the Daily News he said the minority parties made the request to prevent further delay in holding the PC elections.

Ministers Rauf Hakeem, Mano Ganesan, Rishad Bathiudeen and UPFA MP Douglas Devananda had met the former President in the Parliament complex. MPs Dinesh Gunwardena and Susil Premajayantha had attended the meeting.

The minority party leaders had told the practical difficulties in holding PC elections under the new system within a short period and said it could further delay the elections. MP Devananda said the former President agreed to discuss the issue with his group.


Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill passed

The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday amidst disturbance of the Joint Opposition members.

Following a division called by NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa, the Bill was passed with a majority of 64 votes, receiving 95 votes in favour and 31 against. Ninety seven members were absent. UPFA MP Douglas Devananda abstained from voting while JVP MPs were absent.

The TNA voted in favour along with the SLFP and UNP members in the government. The JO and the ‘SLFP Group of 16’ members in the Opposition voted against.

The Bill was to broaden the legal provisions to combat transnational crimes in keeping with the modern technology. Parliament took up a full day debate on the legislation on Tuesday but its passage was put off as the JO refused to extend the time of the House to conclude the debate.

When the Bill was taken up again yesterday, the JO asked for divisions twice in an attempt to sabotage its passage. However, the Bill was passed with the majority at the divisions. Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorala presented further amendments to the Bill at the third reading in line with the Supreme Court determination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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