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Conduct your protest in a civilized manner: Law and Order Minister

Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara, called on the Joint Opposition (JO) to conduct its protest in a civilized manner, while assuring that the Police have not sought any interim order from Courts to stop the protest.

Responding to the queries by the Joint Opposition members, he said the Police would not obstruct the JO’s protest, also adding, “You come to Colombo, we will provide security to you all.”

“You want the Police to attack your protest and you will do things to provoke Police personnel. We will not fall into that trap,” he noted.

He told Parliament yesterday, that the Police had only requested a Court order to ensure that business of the Parliament be carried out without any obstruction. “The MPs must be able to attend Parliament and to do so, roads leading to Parliament must not be obstructed,” he said.

“We have been made to understand that the protest’s real intention is to make MP Namal Rajapaksa the future leader of the group over former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa,” he commented.

UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri said there was information that there could be an internal clash of the JO during the protest and that this could lead to the loss of lives.

Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the JO is trying to take the people’s lives for granted. Minister Harin Fernando said that he would supply 1,000 rice packets free to the protesters if the JO conducted themselves peacefully during the protest.

UNP MP Asoka Priyantha pointed out that the CTB was hesitating to release its buses to the JO, as it had not settled its previous dues.

JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena accused the Government of trying to obstruct the JO protest by obtaining interim court orders. He went on to charge that the Police went to Court following a complaint by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. The Speaker plainly rejected MP Gunawardena’s claim and asked the MP not to level baseless accusations against him.

Due to ‘Janabalaya Kolambata’ protest

Parliament sittings limited to two and half hours

Parliament sittings were limited to two and half hours yesterday, as Joint Opposition members got on to the middle of the House accusing the Government of trying to obstruct their ‘Janabalaya Kolambata’ protest scheduled for today.

However, the Government passed the three items listed on the Order Paper for yesterday, without a debate. The JO MPs stormed the Well of the House disrupting sittings. While the JO MPs were shouting slogans in the middle of the Well, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe moved a determination to pay a monthly allowance of Rs 100,000 to the Chairman of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) and a monthly allowance of Rs 75,000 to each of its members and it was adopted without a division.

The Leader of the House and Minister also moved a resolution to appoint a Parliament Select Committee to recommend measures to improve communal and religious harmony in Sri Lanka. He also moved the Pharmaceutical Society of Sri Lanka (Incorporation) Bill for Second Reading. Both the resolution and the Bill were passed without debate or division.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya then adjourned the sittings till today and asked that the Adjournment Motion be moved. However, UPFA MP Dullas Allahapperuma was not present to move the Motion which was related to the ‘Janabalaya Kolambata’ protest. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe observed that the JO MPs could have expressed their concerns during the adjournment debate without resorting to obstruct Parliament sittings.

When Serjeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando was taking the Mace away, the protesting MPs tried to block his way. However, he managed to proceed while the protesters were shouting against the Government.

Investment agreement signed by BOI with M G Sugars (Pvt) Ltd., faulty: Kiriella

The Government yesterday, admitted in Parliament that the investment agreement signed by the Board of Investment (BOI) with M G Sugars Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., for revival and restructuring of the Kantale Sugar Factory, was faulty and not in line with the Cabinet decision.

Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament that the BOI had agreed to give both the land and factory to the company, whereas the Cabinet only granted approval to give the land where the factory is located.

He said M G Sugars Lanka has now gone before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre to settle the matter. “They claim the ownership as they have the agreement as proof. There had been a mistake. Now we have the Attorney General to settle this matter,” he said.

He further said that the Government had re-awarded the tender to another company after calling fresh bids and that company too is claiming ownership for the project now.

The Minister was responding to a question raised by JVP MP Dr Nalinda Jayatissa. Following the reply, JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake demanded that persons responsible for the blunder be revealed.

Govt presents ‘Bill to Amend Finance Act’ for First Reading

The Government presented a Bill to amend the Finance Act for First Reading in Parliament yesterday, to give effect to several revenue proposals in the Budget 2018, including ‘Debt Repayment Levy, Carbon Tax, Cellular Tower Levy and Mobile Short Message Service Levy.’

The Bill proposes sweeping changes to the existing taxes and levies, while introducing several new ones. Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake, presented the Bill on behalf of the Finance and Mass Media Minister.

The Bill proposes a new levy called the ‘Annual Company Registration Levy’ on companies registered under the Companies Act. No. 7 of 2007. It also introduces a Vehicle Entitlement Levy for a selected number of vehicles specified in the Bill.

According to the Bill, every mobile telephone operator who owns a cellular tower, would have to pay Rs 200,000 per year for each tower commencing from January 1, 2019. A Carbon tax, as proposed in Budget 2018, would be levied for every year commencing from the date of commencement of this Act on motor vehicles based on the age and fuel type of vehicle. Electric vehicles are exempted from the tax.

The Bill also provides for one-time payment of ‘Luxury Tax’ on motor vehicles based on band of engine capacity or motor power of the vehicle. The tax will apply on every specified motor vehicle of which, the first year of registration falls on or after the date of commencement of this legislation. “Specified motor vehicle,” means any assembled or unassembled diesel motor vehicle of which the cylinder capacity exceeds 2,300 CC or a petrol motor vehicle of which the cylinder capacity exceeds 1,800 CC or an electric vehicle of which motor power of the engine exceeds 200 Kw.

Dual purpose petrol motor vehicles with a cylinder capacity of not exceeding 2,200 CC, dual purpose electric motor vehicles, vans, single cabs and wagons are exempted from this tax.

The SMS Advertising Levy (for bulk SMS advertisements) of Rs 0.25 per SMS (payable by the advertiser), will also come into effect once the Bill is approved in Parliament.

A 7 percent ‘Debt Repayment Levy’ will be charged for every month, commencing from the date of commencement of this Act, from every financial institution on the value addition attributable to the supply of financial services by each such institution.

JO protest, a civil disobedience: Minister Ajith P. Perera

State Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P Perera said that the JO protest which had been scheduled to be held today in Colombo, was a civil disobedience which involves illegal conduct.

He said that the JO had failed to fulfill the basic factors that had to be followed before launching a protest.

“They should inform the relevant authorities about the venue and route of the protest and a permit to use a loud speaker should have been obtained. They have not done any of it so far,” he said.

He said that democratic protests were not new to the country, the Constitution itself, has assured freedom of speech. Anyone can launch a protest without disrupting the ordinary life of the public.

Minister Perera alleged that the organizers had not informed the Police in order to take necessary precautions and to reduce the disruption caused to the public.

“JO organizers have been clamouring that they are ready to stay in Colombo and continue with the protest until the the government is toppled,” he said.

The Minister wished them the best of luck and added that they are willing to see how many people would join the protest. He further challenged the protesters to capture Colombo, the Police, Army and the Parliament and carry out their protest as they have been crying out for attention.

Black Maria gives Johnston a lift to Parliament

Former Minister and Kurunegala District MP Johnston Fernando, who was remanded by the Kurunegala High Court on Monday, came to Parliament in a Black Maria yesterday.

The MP who was remanded over an alleged financial irregularity, came to Parliament in a van belonging to the Prisons Department amidst tight security of the Prison Department security personnel.

The MP was also seen taking part in the in-House demonstration conducted by the JO in the middle of the House.

The remanded MP also met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament.

JO protest only to cut down Gota’s supporters, boost Namal: Harin

MP Namal Rajapaksa should be held responsible for all the activities expected to happen at the protest organized by the Joint Opposition in Colombo, today said Minister of Telecommunications & Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando.

“MP Rajapaksa should take the sole responsibility if any public property is damaged or any casualties happen as a result of their protest,” he said.

Minister Fernando, addressing the media yesterday at the Parliamentary premises, said that they have not informed the relevant officials about their protest plans, therefore anything could happen.

He further said that the government had not taken any initiative to interrupt the protest and added that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of the public.

He said that “Jana Bala” has been organized by the Joint Opposition to make Namal Rajapaksa as the leader of the party due to the prevailing issues within the Rajapaksa Family. He pointed out that they do not have a motive to protest and added that the only intention is to get back the power to their own family again.

“The purpose of the protest is to cut down the supporters of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and to show Namal Rajapaksa as their leader,” he said.

He further said that all their supporters act very weirdly, considering the amount of slaves they have, it is not a big deal for them to gather a satisfactory number of individuals to participate at the protest.

Cabinet approval for revised long term generation plan

State Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P Perera, said that the Cabinet has approved a revised long term generation plan which also includes 300 MW of coal power generation by 2024.

The Minister responding to queries by MP Hesha Vithanage, said that the demand for electricity is growing every year, while maximum reported Peak Demand in 2020 is 3077 MW.

He assured that the government had taken all necessary measures to meet the demand. Accordingly, the required numbered Thermal energy power plants, Floating natural gas terminals, Hydro power stations, Wind power stations, Natural gas power stations and Renewable energy plants would be constructed in the coming years to successfully meet the energy demand.

The Minister further said that permission would not be granted to establish Mini hydro projects due to environment pollution caused.

He said that construction of 15 M feet high wind barrier at the Norochcholai Power Plant was started two months before and is expected to be completed in 9 months. He added that the emission of coal dust and fly ash at the Norochcholai Power Plant would be totally controlled.

‘Family background report for housemaids: Law to be amended’

The government yesterday acknowledged in Parliament that there are several loopholes in the law in which a family background report was made mandatory for Sri Lankan women to travel to Middle East countries as housemaids and suggested that the law be amended.

In 2013, the previous government made it mandatory for the women who wish to go abroad to work as a domestic aides, to submit a report on their family background, which should be certified by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE).

During the Oral Question Round, Deputy Minister of Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara said that although the number of women who are mothers of toddlers has reduced after the implementation of the said law, many women whose applications were rejected due to the family background report have travelled to the Middle East using forged documents and visit Visas.

“Because of this, the government cannot track such women when they are facing difficulties in Middle Easters countries to aid them,” he added.

Furthermore, Nanayakkara said that there is international pressure regarding this Law, alleging that it violates the rights of women and causes gender discrimination.

“It is alleged that this law discriminates women because it implements an age limit and prohibits certain types of women engaging in foreign employment just because they are females. We do not say that this law should be completely abolished. We also do not want to see the children suffer. But this Law should be amended to overcome these loopholes,” Nanayakkara observed.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Sunil Handunnetti said that there was a mafia created by foreign employment agencies.

He stressed, “These agencies do not care about our children. They only want to make more and more money. It is they and not the international community who want to abolish this Law. The government should not allow this to happen.”

The Deputy Minister said that the government has appointed a Cabinet subcommittee to look into the matter.

In the meantime, both Government and Ppposition members of Parliament revoked against lifting of the mandatory Family Background Report (FBR) for women migrant workers.

Minister of Women and Child Affairs Chandrani Bandara, SLFP MP representing the Group of 16 Sudarshani Fernandopulle and JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti insisted that the FBR should not be lifted as it was implemented with the intention of reducing the adverse psycho-social implications of children left behind by the mothers working abroad.








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