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Parliament

Kiriella urged to reveal ministers evading SO questions

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in Parliament yesterday was critical of the ministers who have not provided answers to questions by the Opposition Leader or party leaders under Standing Order 27 (2). Dissanayake said nine such questions were left unanswered over three months. He demanded the Leader of the House to reveal the names of the ministers who have not answered to nine questions.

Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella said he cannot reveal the names of those ministers. He said Speaker Karu Jayasuriya can make a decision on these ministers and accused Dissanayake of raising “unnecessary questions”.

Dissanayake said, “How come asking which ministers did not answer the 27 (2) questions is an unnecessary question? All the MPs are using public money. The public has a right to know what their representatives are doing. They deserve to know which ministers don’t answer questions. Some questions have not been answered for over three months.”

MP Douglas Devananda reiterated the same issue and pointed out that five questions he raised are yet to receive answers.

Speaker Jayasuriya said he shall look into the matter.

A question raised under SO 27 (2) is any question relating to a matter of urgent public importance asked by the Leader of the Opposition or a leader of a recognised political party at the conclusion of questions after due notice has been given to the minister concerned.

 


Speaker shows displeasure over Wijeyadasa’s comment

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday expressed his disappointment over a statement by UPFA MP Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe that Parliament was the most corrupt institution in the country.

Speaker Jayasuriya was responding to UPFA Gampaha District MP Nimal Lanza when he queried the opinion of the Chair on the statement by Dr. Rajapakshe.

“If MP Rajapakshe holds such an opinion of the august assembly then he should not remain in such a corrupt place,” the Speaker said.

MP Lanza, raising a point of order, said MP Rajapakshe had stated in public that parliament was the most corrupt institution in the country and there were media reports.

“MP Rajapakshe stated that parliament is corrupt and the laptops fixed on our tables are nothing but a bribe. This statement is not good for the dignity of Parliament, its Speaker and the MPs. We need an explanation from the Chair on this matter,” MP Lanza said.

“The Chinese Parliament donated the laptops. Parliament had been given donations by other countries as well. It is not a bribe. If any MP does not like laptops, they could refrain from using them. I regret the statement of MP Rajapakshe. If he thinks so, then he should not be here,” Speaker Jayasuriya said.

 


SriLankan board against reductions: ‘Reduced ground-handling charges benefit airlines, won’t attract tourists’

The Board of Directors of Sri Lankan Airlines were not in agreement with the decision made to reduce the ground handling charges for services provided by Sri Lankan Airlines to other airlines, JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake observed in Parliament yesterday, adding that this was a political decision which brings no benefit for the country and it causes huge losses to the government.

Raising a question under standing orders 27/2 in Parliament yesterday, he noted that based on a Cabinet decision, the Government had reduced the ground handling charges at the BIA for six months from August 1.

“This decision was announced by the Director General of Civil Aviation and the Government has also taken steps to provide fuel for aircraft and lubricants at concessionary rates and grant tax concessions. They had made this decision on the presumption that the ground handling charges at the BIA was high and that by reducing the ground handling charges would be a boost to attract more tourists to the country. However, experts in the field have pointed out that this was a futile exercise and that by this decision the Government stands to lose a huge sum of money,” he said.

Dissanayake noted that the benefit of the reduction went to the airline companies and not to the passenger. “However, these airlines, while enjoying the reduction, have not signed any agreement to increase the seating capacity of their flights to the country or reduce the price of tickets. Therefore, the claims that this decision would attract greater numbers of tourists to the country are baseless,” he added.

The JVP leader pointed out that due to the reduction in ground-handling charges alone, SriLankan Airlines loses around $ 710,000 (Rs. 124,840,652) per month. Within the six months that the reduced ground handling charges are offered, the country would stand to lose around $ 4.3 million (Rs. 776 million). “Similarly, as tourist arrivals have yet not returned to normalcy after the Easter Sunday attacks, due to the decision made to reduce ground handling charges Sri Lankan Airlines stands to lose an estimated $ 800,000 monthly, amounting to a loss of $ 4.8 million during the six months. This is in addition to the loss incurred by providing fuel concessions.

“Since 2008, SriLankan Airlines had not increased ground handling charges and in 2016 these charges for various airlines was reviewed. Accordingly, a decision was taken to remove all unfair benefits enjoyed by certain airlines and a system of providing concessions based on the number of flights was approved. Accordingly, Air India and Singapore Airlines increased charges by 18 per cent, Saudi Airlines by 15 per cent, Turkey Airlines by 13 per cent, Korean Airlines by 8 per cent and Emirates by 4 per cent. Meanwhile, Etihad had reduced their charges by 4 per cent, Qatar Airways and Air China by 5 per cent, Air Asia and Malaysian Air by 6 per cent, Air Arabia by 10 per cent. Under such circumstances, there was no requirement to reduce the ground handling charges,” he said.

According to Dissanayake, by the reduction, Emirates stands to gain around $ 1,200 per flight. “However, while Emirates has to pay $ 4,864 per flight to Colombo, SriLankan Airlines has to endure a charge of $ 5,118 in Dubai which is operated by the Emirates Airlines ground handling company, Dnata.”

 


Exports grew 11.3 per cent in first quarter of this year - Nalin

In comparison to the 1st quarter of 2018, exports have shown a growth of 11.3 per cent during the 1st quarter of 2019, said Development Strategies and International Trade Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara Jayamaha.

Opening the debate in Parliament yesterday for the approval of three Orders under the Sri Lanka Export Development Act, Jayamaha said the service exports has recorded a notable growth of 27.3 per cent compared to the 1st quarter in 2018.

“During the 1st quarter in 2018, our total revenue from exports was USD 7584.4 million. It has been increased to USD 8441.7 million in the 1st quarter of 2019. Furthermore, the industry export sector has recorded a growth of 5.6 per cent. If we look at the service export sector, we have been able to record a growth of 61.2 per cent in ICT related services in 1st quarter in 2019,” he said.

Jayamaha said the government believes that the country should go forward by increasing exports. We want to record a 20 per cent increase in exports by 2020.

“We should reduce our export-import gap as well. We can’t bear the current gap. To reduce this and increase our exports, the government has initiated several new projects. Through projects such as the ‘Exporter 2000’ and ‘One Village One Product’ initiative, we will recognise new exporters and introduce them to the global market,” he said.

 


PCs’ stamp duty non-payment has caused serious issue - Alahapperuma

A serious issue has arisen at local government institutions over stamp duty since the Provincial Councils do not pay it, said UPFA- MP Dullas Alahapperuma in Parliament yesterday.

He said the issue had gravely affected the Southern Province and several other areas. “The most dangerous factor is that thousands of appointments have been given and when the Treasury does not authorise funds for their salaries, the Provincial councils paid for them with the money allocated for the stamp duty of the local government bodies.”

After two years, this money is returned to the Treasury and the provincial councils will never get those funds back, he said. “It is irrelevant which party is in power, this is a serious issue. This is a grave violation of the fundamentals of democracy,” he said.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya agreed that it was a serious matter and asked to focus on the issue.

Minister Gayantha Karunatillaka inquired from Alahapperuma which Provincial Councils he was referring to in his allegations.

Alahapperuma said the crisis affects all provincial councils and not just the Southern Province. Even the Wayamba Province is affected with the crisis.

UNP Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri said this situation is traditional. “No matter which government is in power, this is a right which is granted to the Local Government member. This is a privilege given to LG representatives through an Act, and they cannot be deprived of it. Every Chief Minister does this at some point. When we represented the Provincial Councils in 2011, we also had to face this situation,” he said.

He, therefore, urged the Speaker to intervene and resolve the issue. “Today the garbage issue cannot be resolved because the fund for the disposal of garbage is stuck at the Provincial Councils, and they are not releasing the funds. The Local Government bodies cannot function independently due to the issue and the matter needs to be sorted out so that the Local Government institutions could function efficiently and independently,” he said.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the issue had been prevalent over a considerable period. He said relevant measures needed to be taken to resolve the issue.

 


Over 1,000 flights cancelled following Easter Sunday attacks - Abeysinghe

Over 1,000 flights scheduled to reach Sri Lanka were cancelled in May following the Easter Sunday terror attack, Transportation and Civil Aviation State Minister Ashoka Abeysinghe yesterday said.

The State Minister was responding to a question by JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake raised under the 27 (2) Standing Order.

Abeysinghe pointed out that a cancellation of one flight amounts to a direct revenue loss of USD 11,000 and an indirect revenue loss of USD 49,500.

Dissanayake was critical of the government’s decision to lower the ground handling charges provided by the SriLankan Airlines for other airlines.

The State Minister said, “This question mainly focuses on SriLankan Airlines. It is not under the Transportation Ministry but under the Finance Ministry. Finance State Minister Eran Wickremeratne will give a comprehensive answer to this question at the next sitting. You may know that Sri Lanka has the highest embarkation charges in Asia. Lowering these charges comes as a Cabinet decision to attract foreign tourists to Sri Lanka.”

 


NFC, NA failed in preserving films - Nalinda

JVP Kalutara District MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa said in Parliament yesterday that although conserving films is a part of preserving the national heritage, the National Film Corporation (NFC) and the National Archives (NA) failed to bring about a sound solution to preserve films for decades.

Dr Jayatissa said the NFC does not have a proper mechanism to preserve films produced by past Lankan cinema artistes. “This is an old problem. In 1956 when Rekawa was created, Dr Lester James Peiris requested that a film conservation unit should be set up. He repeated that request on numerous instances. Even at his deathbed, he made the request. Unfortunately we have failed as a nation to make his dream a reality. All past films whether they are artistic creations or commercial films, they should be persevered. It is up to the future generations to decide on their importance,” Dr. Jayatissa said.

Several projects were initiated by the NFC for the purpose, but none succeeded, he said. Thereafter, the National Archives accepted the task but it does not have trained persons and physical resources for the purpose,” he said.

Chief Government Whip Lands and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka responding on behalf of the Cultural Affairs Minister said the NFC had a programme to conserve films and 356 films had been preserved. He said relevant persons are trained. So far five persons had been sent to obtain training from the Indian Film Heritage Foundation.

Minister Karunathilaka said the subject minister would provide a detailed response to the JVP MP’s request.


 

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