Parliament | Daily News


Country’s economy not unstable as JO claims:Finance Minister

In case crude oil prices in the international market reach a record hike, the government being sensitive to the difficulties of the general public, would endure the loss irrespective of the fuel price formula, Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said. He pointed out that the country’s economy is not unstable as claimed by the Joint Opposition. If the economy is unstable, the Minister questioned, as to how the government had been able to grant loans worth close to Rs. 54 BN under the Enterprise Sri Lanka for young entrepreneurs across the country. He also pointed out that the government had commenced 39,666 projects under the Gamperaliya, worth Rs. 20 BN. He also pointed out that the previous regime never gave the benefit of low crude oil prices to the people even when a crude oil barrel price decreased to US$ 45.

Minister Samaraweera made these observations in reply to the Adjournment Motion moved by the Opposition on the mid-year fiscal position report 2018 of the Finance and Media Ministry.

Minister Samaraweera said that when the present government took office in 2015, they inherited an economic time bomb. “We took over a country with a depleting economy. In the 1990s, the government revenue was 21%, but by 2014, it was 11.4%. Sri Lanka was then the country with the lowest government revenue. The gap between the government revenue and expenditure reached a Rs. 601 BN. The previous regime used US$ 4.1 BN to defend the rupee in 2012, when there was a currency crisis. We only used US$ 250 MN to it. We cannot use our foreign reserves as we are supposed to pay humongous debts this year and also in the coming two years. The largest debt installment in Sri Lankan history worth Rs. 1.9 Trillion, would be paid this year. In 2020 and 2021, the government had to pay Rs. 4,000 BN as debt repayment. More than a two third of these debts have been taken by the Rajapaksa regime,” Minister Samaraweera pointed out.

Minister Samaraweera also said that in 2015, they had to take over a Central Bank which under had gone losses. “We started this journey with a Central Bank that was undergoing losses. In 2013, it was Rs. 24,264 BN and in 2014 it was Rs. 32,309 BN,” he pointed out.

The Finance Minister also denied JO allegation that the prices of goods have increased drastically. Contrary to the allegations, Samaraweera pointed out that there haven’t been serious increases in essential food items at present in comparative to the prices of the same in 2014.

Finance Minister Samaraweera also said the government would strengthen an export oriented liberalized economy in order to manage future instances similar to the present global financial turmoil.

He also denied JO allegations that loans by Enterprise Sri Lanka had been granted based on political favourations.

Govt. agrees to re-consider Budget date scheduled for November 5

The Government yesterday, agreed to re-consider the date of the Budget speech scheduled for November 5.

JVP Leader and Chief Opposition Whip Anura Dissanayake, pointed out that it was Parliamentary tradition to have one month’s time in between the First Reading Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill.

“This is a matter of three days. We can adjust it,” said Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella.

Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera presented the Appropriation Bill (Budget 2019) for First Reading in Parliament yesterday. The ‘Budget 2019’ is themed “A strong economy and a prosperous nation.”

The highest allocation has been made to the Defence Ministry, while the corresponding figure is Rs 306 billion. Compared to estimates for this year, this is an increase of nearly Rs 16 billion. The Health Ministry has been allocated Rs 185 billion, while the Education Ministry has been allocated Rs 105 billion.

The total estimated expenditure of the Government for next year is Rs 4,376 billion, which is an increase of Rs 394 billion compared to the estimated expenditure for this year.

The Bill has set an upper ceiling limit of Rs 1,944 billion for borrowing for the next financial year.

The Government expects a total revenue of Rs 2,432 billion for 2019, compared to the estimates for this year this which is an increase of Rs 257 billion.

We are not ready to form a government with rejected groups

Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday, insisted that there is no mandate to form a government with groups rejected by the people.

“We are not ready to form a government with rejected groups, he said.

Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella, confronted former Minister and ‘SLFP Group of 15’ MP Chandima Weerakkody in Parliament yesterday, and called him a “political opportunist.”

The minister made this comment when MP Weerakkody accused the Government over the soaring cost of living.

“You were also a part of this Government for three years. You cannot get away from criticisms concerning the cost of living, just because you switched sides in Parliament. You should be ashamed. You were part of this Government as well as the previous. You are nothing but a political opportunist,” he accused the MP.

MP Weerakkody said that the pensioners who were protesting at the Parliament roundabout complained to him of the rising cost of living and blamed the Government for doing little to control the cost of living.

In the meantime, the Leader of the House also dismissed claims of a “caretaker government,” stating that it is not possible to form a coalition Government with groups rejected by the people.

He was responding to a question by UNP MP S M Marrikar who asked for an explanation on the media speculation of topping the Government.

“There is no people’s mandate to form a government with groups rejected by the people.

Therefore I don’t take such claims seriously. The people gave the mandate for the ‘Yahapalana’ Government and to the United National Front. We are not ready to form a Government with rejected groups,” the Minister replied.

Counter Terrorism Bill presented in Parliament for First Reading

The Government yesterday, presented the new Counter Terrorism Bill in Parliament for First Reading in Parliament.

This vital piece of legislation which received conditional Cabinet approval early this month, would do away with the widely-objected Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979.

Foreign Affairs Minister Thilak Marapone presented the Bill to make provisions for the protection of Sri Lanka and its people from acts of terrorism and other associated offences. It provides for the identification, apprehension, arrest, custody, detention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of any person who had committed an act of terrorism or any other associated offence.

The provisions of the proposed legislation apply to any Sri Lankan citizen within or outside the country’s territory.

It covers the territorial waters and the airspace of Sri Lanka and the office premises of diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka, including residences of those diplomats.

The Government also presented new bill titled ‘Recovery of Damages for the Death of a Person’ for First Reading.

It provides for the recovery of damages for the death of a person caused by a wrongful act, omission, negligence or default of another.

According to the new Bill, the family members or the guardian of the deceased person, would have the right to “maintain action for damages” against the person whose wrongful act, omission, negligence or default caused the death of that person.

The parents, children, siblings, grandparents or the guardian of the person whose death had caused by the above mentioned reasons, have the right to apply for the recovery of damages for the loss of that person’s love, affection, care and companionship and the mental pain and suffering.

Presidential pardon had never been misused under Yahapalana rule:Minister Rajapakshe

There had been no occasion where President’s power to pardon was misused under Yahapalana rule, Higher Education and Cultural Minister Wijayedasa Rajapakshe yesterday said. The Minister observed that this was not the case prior to 2015. Minister Rajapakshe pointed out that the present government, soon after taking office, adopted new criteria to follow when granting President’s pardon, and has deviated from the framework only on three occasions.

“The first occasion was when freeing Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka who was imprisoned by the previous regime.

The second occasion was pardoning the girl from Batticaloa who defaced Sigiriya frescoes, and the last was when President pardoned the LTTE suicide bomber who attempted to assassinate him. Aside from these on three occasions, the government has strictly abided by the criteria.” Minister Rajapakshe said.

Minister Rajapakshe pointed out that the recommendations on the prisoners who deserve pardon from the President come through a special committee of experts headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge. He denied that there has been any political or otherwise influence over the said committee.

Minister Rajapakshe made these observations in response to an oral question by JVP MP Nalinda Jayatissa in reference to the number of prisoners released on special presidential pardon during the period 2006-2015. Jayatissa drew attention to a prisoner who had been granted pardon by the President on March 08, 2010. It was pointed out that the said prisoner, who was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment over two deaths, is the wife of a former minister. According to him, the said prisoner was sentenced for murdering two females. Hence, Jayatissa questioned as to what steps the government would take for such misusing of President’s powers to Pardon.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake who also rose to make an observation, pointed out that there had been two more incidents where such misuse had taken place. “There is one former mayor from Kandy area, who was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for misappropriation of public money, was granted President’s pardon. And then, there Basnayake Nilame of Sabaragamuwa too received pardon.” Dissanayake said.

MP Jayatissa requested that the report including the recommendations suggesting the release of the said prisoner be tabled at Parliament. Minister Rajapakshe assured that he would inform the Justice Minister concerning the matter.

It was pointed out that 29,309 prisoners have been granted President’s pardon from 2006 to 2015, marking special occasions such as Independence Day, International Women’s Day, Prisoners Welfare Day, Vesak Day, Poson Day and the Dalada Perahera. It was also pointed out that no prisoner who had been sentenced under rape and child abuse been granted special presidential pardon.

COPE to request Speaker to summon Sports DG before EPC

The Committee On Public Enterprises (COPE) yesterday, decided to request Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon the Sports Director General before the Ethics and Privileges Committee(EPC) due to his failure to appear before the COPE despite repeated summons.

The Football Federation of Sri Lanka was summoned before the COPE yesterday and it extensively questioned its present management over a report that had attempted to conceal the irregularities and fraudulent acts of its past President Manilal Fernando.

“There is a court case going on against former President Manilal Fernando, based on the findings of a previous COPE report in 2016. The COPE questioned as to why this case has been stalled. The Federation has come up with a new report stating that the previous findings were faulty. Those findings had already been confirmed by way of a ministerial level inquiry as well. It was the Football Federation that had initiated legal action against its former President Fernando, but now it is trying to cover him up,” the COPE sources told the Daily News.

“The Sports Director General did not turn up for the meeting despite being summoned. He had dodged the COPE on two occasions. Therefore, we have decided to recommend the Speaker to summon him to the Parliament Ethics and Privileges Committee,” the sources added.

Sittings interrupted twice due to lack of 20 MP quorum

Parliament sittings were interrupted twice due to lack of quorum of 20 MPs yesterday.

The Presiding member ordered for the ringing of the quorum bell on two occasions to summon the MPs to the main chamber.

The House took up a full-day Adjournment Motion on the ‘Mid-Year Fiscal Position Report 2018’ of the Finance and Mass Media Ministry, moved by the Joint Opposition. UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri and Wijayapala Hettiarachchi asked for the quorum of 20 MPs. However, the sittings continued as MPs filed into the chamber when the quorum bell went off.

Office for Reparations Bill to be moved for debate today

The Office for Reparations Bill will be moved for debate in Parliament today.

Parliament is likely to take up a vote at the end of the debate. The Government in conformity with the Supreme Court decision, would move further Amendments to the Bill at its Third Reading. However, human rights activists have also emphasized the need for further amendments to the Bill to preserve its spirit.

The Bill provides for the provision of individual and collective reparations for aggrieved persons. As per the Bill, “aggrieved persons” mean persons who have suffered violations of human rights or humanitarian law, their relatives and missing persons.

The scope of legislation applies to the conflict in the North and the East, as well, as “any political unrest or civil disturbance, systematic gross violations of the rights of individuals, groups or communities of people of Sri Lanka and enforced disappearances.”

Under the “individual Reparations,” the Bill, facilitates any monetary payment or material benefit provided to an aggrieved person, micro-finance and concessionary loans, educational programmes, training and skills development programmes, administrative assistance and welfare services, including psycho-social support provided to an aggrieved person, measures of restitution, including the provision of land and housing and other appropriate measures identified by the Office for Reparations.

Under the “Collective reparations,” the Bills facilitate remembrance of deceased persons, including memorials, development of infrastructure, educational programmes, training and skills development programmes, community development programmes or services and other appropriate programmes as identified by the Office of Reparations in consultation with the affected communities.

The Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority Act, No. 29 of 1987 will be repealed by the new Bill.









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