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SLTB made profits only in 2017 and 2018 - State Minister: Opposition Leader misguided to ask wrong questions

Transport and Civil Aviation State Minister Ashok Abeysinghe in response to the Opposition Leader's question, said, “I first sympathise the fact that someone has wrongly encouraged you to ask these questions under Standing Orders 27/2, because none of these allegations you make have taken place at the SLTB. First I must point out that the SLTB is not bound to comply by the State Management Services Department salary structure. After the good governance government assumed power in 2015 we are in the process of including the SLTB in the State Management Services Department salary structure. Therefore, no specific recruitment and promotions mechanism has been approved for the SLTB. Hence, the current promotions of the SLTB are being done based on their existing process. After the SLTB has been brought under the State Management Services Department salary structure, we intend to streamline the process.”

With regard to claims that the SLTB is heading towards a loss making institution, he said the SLTB had never made profits under any previous government. “The SLTB only recorded profits in 2017 and 2018. In 2017 the SLTB recorded a profit of Rs. 1.6 billion. Moreover from 2010 to 2015 even the annual reports were not issued and Rs. 25.5 billion in EPF, ETF and gratuity was not paid and of the 106 depots 76 were recording losses. Records indicate that from 2010 to 2015 even the employees salaries were paid with great difficulty,” he said, adding that the SLTB had in fact made profits under the current government contrary to the Opposition Leader’s allegations.


Speaker tables Special Parliamentary Committee report into Chamber fracas

Stop CID probe into Chamber incident - Opposition Leader, UPFA:

Law cannot be suppressed by Parliament privileges - Kiriella:

UPFA MPs led by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa called on the Speaker to stop CID investigations into the unruly incidents in the Chamber on November 14, 15 and 16 stating that MPs are protected by the Parliament privileges.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya tabled the report of the Special Parliamentary Committee that investigated into the unruly behaviour of MPs and forwarded the same to the Parliament Ethics and Privileges Committee.

The UPFA MPs taking the floor expressed their displeasure on handing over the investigations on the incident to Police. However, Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella dismissing those arguments stressed that the country’s law is supreme and that it cannot be suppressed by Parliament privileges.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, while stating that the content of the report would be discussed at a Party Leaders’ Meeting, said that Police investigations are related to the attacks on the MPs and that he cannot interfere into them.

UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena taking the floor soon after the report was tabled said that a UPFA team led by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday to discuss this matter.

“We are interested in the rights of the MPs.The Prime Minister agreed that we should not allow our privileges to be handed over to Police. Our MPs are being summoned by Police in relation to the report of the Deputy Speaker. We are protected by the Privileges Act. If you say our MPs can be summoned by the Police for an incident within the Chamber of the House, then our privileges have no meaning. You have to protect the privileges and rights that have been enshrined on the MPs and Parliament. You have to make a very clear decision.You should have a special Party Leaders’ Meeting on this,” MP Gunawardena told the Speaker.

The Speaker replied that the PM too agreed when pointed out by him that police investigations should not be interfered. “There is a separate Police investigation that I have no role. That happened because two of your MPs have complained against me to Police and they recorded a statement from me too,” the Speaker commented.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said that it is not proper that external parties such as Police to conduct investigations on incidents inside the Chamber. “The Speaker has the power even to punish MPs. Parliament’s powers should not be passed to Police,” he noted.

MP Bandula Gunawardena observed that previous instances of brawls in Parliament had never been taken to Police or court. “Parliament is supreme and we must solve our own problems,” he said.

UPFA MP S.B.Dissanayake urged the Speaker to deal with the report within the provisions of Parliament Privileges Act.

The UNP Backbench MPs strongly counter-argued the claims by the UPFA MPs while urging the Speaker to take stern actions against the MPs who misbehaved in the House without letting them hide behind the Parliamentary privileges.

“We are happy that the unruly conduct of MPs has been controlled to some extent now due to stern actions by the Speaker,” MP Chaminda Wijeyasiri said.

“Parliament has been belittled and the public viewed the unruly incidents in the Chamber with disdain. This institution must be accountable to the people. The people have a good impression on the Speaker as a clean and disciplined leader. We urge you to do everything in your capacity to take stern action against the MPs who were responsible for the unruly incidents,” said Deputy Minister Ajith Mannaperuma.

“The Police officers were attacked with chillie powder. If you undermine this incident, the next day the MPs may resort to acid attacks inside the chamber. This incident happened in the presence of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He did not do anything to prevent the unruly attacks. The Opposition Leader too had a responsibility to control his group,” said UNP MP Sidney Jayaratne.

“The country’s law must be implemented against the MPs who attacked the Police officers. The public servants should not be harassed using Parliament privileges,” UNP MP Hesha Vithanage said.

“The MPs should not be allowed to break the civil laws of the country in the name of privileges. If anybody says that there should only be an internal inquiry we condemn that statement. There must be a comprehensive investigation and the wrong doers must be punished. Otherwise the public would curse Parliament,” UNP MP Prof.Ashu Marasinghe said.

The Speaker while observing that he does not intend to drag this issue unnecessarily said, “We will take a decision after a Parliamentary inquiry based on the committee report. But what if there was a murder inside the chamber after getting hit by the chair which was thrown at the police officers. The Speaker cannot take the responsibility for that. Therefore the Police are investigating on it and we cannot interfere into it,” he added.


Country should not sign SOFA pact with USA - JVP MP

Sri Lanka should not enter into agreements which have an effect on the country’s integrity and independence and Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake said.

Measures with regard to the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with USA has been initiated and such decisions which have an effect on the country’s integrity and independence could be detrimental to the country, Ratnayake said.

Moving the Adjournment motion in parliament yesterday, Ratnayake said on March 5, 2007 the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) was signed between the US and Sri Lanka allowing US forces to utilise various facilities in Sri Lanka such as our ports, airports and communication facilities.

“This agreement was signed by the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and then US Ambassador Robert O’Blake. That agreement, as far as we know was never presented to the Cabinet or parliament.To our knowledge it was not only secretly signed but both parties who signed this agreement were US Citizens.Thereafter we brought up the issue in parliament for months to reveal details of this agreement to parliament. After six months in July 2007, a section of the agreement was tabled in parliament but several of the annexes were not included.”

He pointed out that we are a small country surrounded by powerful countries and protecting our foreign policies was vital as otherwise Sri Lanka would obliged to give political favours to these countries. “This was evident in the instance where when the Northern railway contract was given to India we had to give the Southern railway contract to China.When we gave Mattala to China, we had to give Palali to India etc.When we surrender to one powerful country we would be obliged to bow down to others too. If these governments in our country don’t have the backbone to stand up to protect the integrity of the country, then they should refrain from entering such agreements that would jeopardise the country’s security.

Even when Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister, he vowed to reveal the government stand on this issue, but to date he has not done so. However, both the President and the Prime Minister has hoodwinked parliament and the people and on August 4 2017 they sign the ACSA agreement again. The Cabinet paper was presented by the President on June 30 ,2017 as the Defence Minister and it was signed on August 4 having added more features.Yesterday, however, the President came to parliament and spoke of the country’s integrity and the security forces etc, but he was instrumental in signing this secret pact with the USA. I state with responsibility that this betrayal agreement jeopardises the country’s security and integrity, especially concerning the security forces. The Tri Forces representatives had warned that this agreement is unhealthy for the country, but the President went ahead. The current President has signed this agreement without any time frame.There is a clause that says either party can get out of this agreement having given six month’s notice, but we all know that getting out of these agreements is not so easy.”

He said that when we are supplying all these services to the US, we could end up being targeted by the countries that the US is fighting against.When these sharks and whales fight, eventually it is the small fish like us who get caught up in the middle.The US has never spent a dollar to protect any country, so we get no benefit from this agreement.This effort is to eventually make Sri Lanka and American colony.

“Now the government is trying to sign a new agreement with the USA called Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Discussions are now underway. Our leaders speak as if they have so much concern for the country and they are the greatest patriots,” Ratnayake charged.

Reading out sections of the agreement Ratnayake said, "In terms of the proposed agreement prepared after a several rounds of talks between the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US mission in Colombo, it has been proposed that US personnel be accorded the privileges, exemptions and immunity equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention. The US personnel may enter and exit Sri Lanka with U.S. identification and with collective movement or individual travel orders; that Sri Lanka shall accept as valid all professional licenses issued by the United States, its political subdivisions, or States thereof to US.” This is what the Sri Lankan Government agreed to.

He noted that according to the agreement, US personnel would be able to enjoy the privileges, exemptions and immunity equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention. US personnel may enter and exit Sri Lanka with U.S. identification and with collective movement or individual travel orders; that Sri Lanka shall accept as valid all professional licenses issued by the United States, its political subdivisions, or States thereof to US. Further US military personnel would be allowed to wear the US military uniform in Sri Lanka and carry their weapons.”

"The Government of Sri Lanka recognizes the particular importance of disciplinary control by US Armed Forces authorities over U.S. personnel and, therefore, authorises the Government of the United States to exercise criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel while in Sri Lanka,” Which means they will not come under the law of the land. So no matter what they do here, we will not be able to take any action against them, he pointed out.

Therefore he requested the full text of the ACSA agreement to be presented to parliament and called for a parliamentary debate on the SOFA agreement prior to entering into it.

Minister Gayantha Karunatilake responding on behalf of State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the ACSA agreement had been initially signed in 2007 for ten years and after it lapsed, the US had wanted further discussions to re-sign it. He said the Defence Ministry has not taken a decision on whether to enter into this agreement and have also not presented any Cabinet paper.


MR perturbed over SLTB appointments

Pay hikes in total violation of Circulars :

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed dissatisfaction over the illegal appointments in the Sri Lanka Transport Board.

Raising a series of Questions on the illegal appointments at the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) flouting SLTB circulars and political revenge against workers, he said although the government had pledged to resolve these issues, so far no action has been taken.

He raised the issue of political appointments against company circulars and the interdiction, transfers and political revenge suffered by some employees at the SLTB.

“Those in positions as drivers, conductors and technical services, who had not fulfilled required qualifications had been illegally appointed to management grade positions, while those employees who are eligible for these positions were removed from their posts. The Unions charge that the number of promotions exceeds 5,100. By such actions the SLTB will be reverted back into an institution making losses. It is a key ploy of the UNP to plunge these institutions into loss making ventures and then sell them off to their best friends,” Rajapaksa said.

He noted that the recent promotions and pay hikes are in total violation of the State Administration Circular 06/2006 and 03/2016 flouting SLTB finance circular 2018-01 and management circular 2018-04.

The Opposition Leader urged the government to intervene and immediately stop the illegal promotions, cancel the removal of qualified employees from their posts and halt all transfers. He also asked that the recruitments exceeding the approved employee cadre, be stopped immediately.

“If this situation at the SLTB continues, there won’t be any alternative but to sell it off. Therefore, it is the duty of the government to protect the SLTB,” Rajapaksa said.


Drop in Rupavahini ratings, profits - JVP leader

National television station, Rupavahini had been operating for the whole of last year by obtaining Rs.40 million monthly to meet their operating costs, JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said. According to information last month's salaries were paid by obtaining funds from its fixed deposit and Rupavahini has also obtained a huge sum as loans from several banks. However, the amount due to the institution is around Rs. 400 million, Dissanayake charged.

Posing a question on the crisis facing the national TV network the Rupavahini Corporation under standing orders 27/2 in parliament yesterday he said that while there were around 1000 employees working there, it is ironic that politicians and their goons are destroying this institution.

“Prior to 2005, Rupavahini was a profit generating institution placed at No. 1 in the country, but by 2014, the situation changed and it was recording losses. By now this situation has gone from bad to worse and Rupavahini is in a critical situation. Currently the audience rating of Rupavahini has dropped to 2.4 and is in eighth place in the grading list.”

He said the reasons that has led to the downfall of Rupavahini is the unsuitable political appointments. He said a marketing director was recruited on January 15, 2018 on a very high salary. Dissanayake inquired if the proper recruitment procedures were followed when making this appointment.

He also asked if proper procedures were followed over the past four years when signing commercial agreements with external institutions and asked what action would be taken with regard to the plight of the union activists who have been targeted for having come forward to protect the institution.


MP unhappy over Kandy night market

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said he had notified the relevant minister regarding the night market that is set to commence in Kandy today, which was raised by UPFA MP Padma Udhayashantha Gunasekera in Parliament yesterday.

Gunasekera gave a letter to the Speaker yesterday regarding the night market that is slated to commence in Kandy today adding that Kandy is a sacred city and such activities should be stopped immediately.

In response the Speaker said he had forwarded the matter to the relevant minister, but refused to allow Gunasekera to take up this issue under standing orders 27/2 in Parliament yesterday.

 


 

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