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Welikada prison report leak: Minister Thalatha to seek IGP’s explanation

Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala turning down a request by the JVP to table the Committee report on the killing of Welikada Prison inmates said that she would call for an explanation from the IGP on the leak of the report to the media.

She was responding to a question by JVP MP Dr.Nalinda Jayatissa in Parliament yesterday. Dr.Jayatissa queried over the delay in the investigations on the killing of about 27 inmates at Welikada Prison in November, 2012.

He also asked the recommendations given in the report by the three-member committee appointed to look into the incident.

Minister Athukorala, observing that the Committee which was appointed on January 22, 2015 submitted its report on June 9, 2015.However, refused to reveal its recommendations stating that premature disclosure of information could affect negatively when identifying the suspects and taking legal action against them. She said that the report has been forwarded to the IGP to implement its recommendations.

JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake and Dr.Jayatissa pointed out that the report was published in full in a certain newspaper in several editions. “There is no point in you keeping the report without disclosing its content to the public.

The witnesses and family members of victims who gave evidence before the Committee have come under various threats. The culprits get off the hook due to delay in implementing the law. Its six years since the incident took place and three years since the report was submitted. The inmates who were killed were linked to various crimes committed during the former government. The names of several powerful political figures of that time were linked to those crimes. It was those evidences that were killed during this infamous incident,” Dr.Jayatissa said.

Minister Athukorala, while stating that she was not aware of the publication of the report’s content in a newspaper, said that explanation should be called from the IGP if that was true.

“The IGP or a higher official than him has no right to leak the report. It is a document before the courts of law now,” she replied.

The Justice Minister said the weapons and bullets used in the prison riot had been sent to the Government Analyst’s Department to ascertain the identity of persons who shot at the prisoners.

“There is a certain delay because we want to ascertain the facts. But the investigation is progressing. We cannot file legal action in haste. The Attorney General must be satisfied over the investigation,” she said.

Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka at this point reminded the House that punishing those responsible in the killing of Welikada Prison inmates was a key pre-election pledge of the Government.

“If the investigations were stuck around ascertaining as to who shot at the prisoners, then only the low ranking officers who pulled the trigger to execute the orders they received would be punished. If you have a genuine interest, investigate as to who were behind the crime and who gave orders to do so,” he commented.


Angunakolapelessa Prison video leak: Stern action against culprits

Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala reiterated that she would definitely take disciplinary action against the persons who leaked the inside information of Angunakolapelessa Prison.

She made this comment in response to a question by JVP MP Dr.Nalinda Jayatissa in Parliament yesterday.

“The prison officials have the power under the Prisons Act to control any incident within the prison premises. There was no bloodshed and no weapons were used. This was entirely different to the incident at Welikada Prison. On November 16, when there was a political coup, a death row prisoner convicted for the murder of six persons in Hokandara was murdered by another prisoner inside the prison. Another prisoner was inhumanly assaulted by an inmate on November 22. This incident occurred on that day as the prison officers who tried to control the situation were attacked back,” she said.

“I will definitely take disciplinary action against those responsible for leaking inside information of the institution,” she added.

Dr.Jayatissa said the failure to take action against the offenders of the killing of inmates at Welikada Prison in 2012 has led to more such incidents also citing the incident at Angunakolapelessa prison as an example. “The Justice Minister was keen on inquiring as to how the video was leaked than investigating on the assault on the prisoners,” he commented.


Modern elevators to be installed in House - Deputy Speaker

Making a special statement in Parliament yesterday on behalf of the Speaker regarding the issue raised by MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Dinesh Gunawardena about the 12 MPs being stuck in an elevator, Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri said the matter had been reported to the company that had installed the elevator, Aitkin Spence Elevators (Pvt) Ltd who had inspected the relevant elevator and issued a report to Parliament.

“In the report they had stated that this elevator is approximately 36 years old and due to the excessive weight, the micro switch had malfunctioned and the alarm had also failed. Although the elevator should have stopped working, it had travelled a short distance and stalled. The company, having inspected the elevators at the Parliament complex had recommended that modern elevators be fitted, replacing the over 36-year-old elevators as soon as possible,” the Deputy Speaker said.

He said the Parliament General Secretary has already been issued instructions to take measures to install modern elevators as soon as possible to ensure the safety of MPs and the public using these elevators.


‘Dr. Lester’s home a mound of rubble today’

On the day of Dr.Lester James Peries’ funeral, the President and Prime Minister promised to convert his home into a museum on a policy decision taken by the government, said Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament yesterday.

“The President and Prime Minister made this pledge in our presence. However, as of today instead of making Dr. Lester James Peries’ home into a museum, his wife has been evicted and that house demolished. This is a very pathetic situation. Sadly, today this great cinematographer’s home is just a mound of rubble.

Former Cultural Minister T.B.Ekanayake was also there at the funeral and hailed the pledge made by the President and the Prime Minister. Hence, I would like to urge the government to keep to their promise and construct a museum in Dr. Lester James Peries’ honour as a duty and responsibility of the government,” Rajapaksa said.

Raising a question under Standing Orders 27/2, Rajapaksa drew the attention of Parliament to the pathetic plight that Sri Lankan cinema has been plunged to.

“The golden era of the Sri Lankan cinema was between 1963-1980 and the cinematographers of that era were able to introduce investigative cinematography to the country by protecting the country’s identity. Even today it is a blessing that there are many professional cinematographers in the country who are dedicated to the industry. However, they are facing numerous difficulties at present and it is an irony that the government has failed to address these issues,” he noted.

The Opposition Leader said in order to uplift the cinema industry infrastructure should be developed, technical facilities at old cinema halls need to be upgraded, human resources developed, cinema regulating and distribution should be streamlined, financial assistance for film production provided and measures should be taken for the welfare of those in the film industry, while appreciating their contribution to the country.

He noted that during the previous government, tax concessions were provided for films made at a cost exceeding Rs. 35 million, but unfortunately, the current government had removed these concessions. “Currently there are around 80 films that have been produced which are unable to receive screening turns and having spent so much to produce, a film they face grave financial difficulty in having to wait for years to screen their films.”

Having raised many issues affecting the country’s cinema industry, Mahinda Rajapaksa urged the government to take measures to uplift the facilities for the betterment and protection of the film industry in the country and honour their pledge made at the funeral of Dr.Lester James Peries’ to construct a museum in honour of the country’s greatest cinematographer.

In response, Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister Sajith Premadasa said he would take measures to provide a comprehensive response to the points raised by the Opposition Leader. Rajapaksa also requested the Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister to focus his attention to the Ranminitenna Tele-Cinema village. However, Minister Premadasa noted that the Tele Cinema village and the surrounding area was gazetted under the Media Ministry.


Bimal requests report on degree awarding status

JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake yesterday requested the Higher Education Minister to submit a report about the accreditation process followed to grant degree awarding status to private education institutions.

Rathnayake raising a Point of Order during yesterday’s Parliamentary sittings brought to the attention of the House about a Gazette Notification which was tabled on the same day.

He said, “Through this Gazette the government allows two private education institutions to offer degrees. There is a process conducted by an accreditation committee prior to that. The institutions like SAITM medical faculty did not go through a proper accreditation process and the whole country witnessed what happened after that. Such things should not be happen in the future.”

“Therefore, I request the Higher Education Minister to provide a report to Parliament regarding the private education institutions which were granted degree awarding status during last 4 years. It should include the information such as the members of the accreditation committee and the procedure followed,” he added.


CID to record Opposition MPs statements on Parliament brawl

The CID had summoned the opposition MPs to record their statements with regard to the brawl in Parliament. However, the Speaker who created this incident has not been summoned for a statement, which is wrong, said MP Chandima Weerakkody.

He raised a question with the Deputy Speaker of Parliament yesterday as to why only the opposition MPs had been summoned.


Ten new lifts to cost Rs 100 mn

A decision has been taken to fix 10 new lifts in Parliament at a cost of about Rs 100 million, Parliament sources said.

The decision was taken after the company that inspected the lifts recommended replacing them as they were old more than 30 years.

The conditions of the lifts were checked after the incident of 12MPs getting stuck in the Parliament VIP lift early this month.


Cabinet nod to temporarily suspend several spice imports

Cabinet approval has been granted to temporary suspend imports of several spices including pepper, nutmeg, tamarind and arecanut in order to protect local farmers, Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara said in Parliament yesterday (20).

Kicking off the debate on two orders under the Sri Lanka Export Development Act, Bandara said that spice re-exporting rackets had been carried out by unscrupulous exporters fraudulently enjoying tax relief under free trade agreements.

“The exporters had imported spices from countries like Vietnam and Indonesia and re-exported them to India and Pakistan as Sri Lankan grown spices. As a result of this racket, prices of locally manufactured spices have decreased rapidly and our farmers had to endure huge financial difficulties due to the lack of demand. Under the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) a stock of 2,500 tons of pepper could be exported to India duty free. These exporters used such advantages to derive profits fraudulently,” Bandara noted.

He said that the proposal to temporarily suspend spice imports was presented by the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama.

Furthermore, Bandara said that under the Orders which were taken into the debate, several taxes imposed on imported sanitary napkins would also be scrapped. Apart from a 30 percent Cess tax would be imposed on imports of polypropylene bags.

Further, he said, “14.3% of export income is from condiments but there were many issues with regard to the condiments sector especially with regard to pepper, areca nut, tamarind, nutmeg, cinnamon etc. There is a huge demand and value for Sri Lankan black pepper. Sri Lankan pepper and cinnamon is known to be the best in the world, but during the past few years the farmers growing these condiments have been facing serious difficulties and they even launched many protests drawing attention to their issues. This is a quite rightful demand. Therefore, the decision to temporarily suspend spice imports was made to protect the local spice cultivators.

 


 

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