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Parliament

Rs.101 mn luxury tax for President’s new security vehicles

Bimal requests disclosure of details

A supplementary estimate was submitted in Parliament yesterday seeking approval for a total of Rs.21.4 billion (21,415,388,000), including an additional allocation of Rs.101,000,000 for the payment of luxury tax on the importation of two security vehicles for the President.

Demanding an explanation for the government spending a considerable amount for luxury tax for the two vehicles imported for the use of President Maithripala Sirisena, Opposition Lawmaker Bimal Rathnayake said, “Even though we are not against providing security to the President, an allocation for luxury tax is made to shoulder the importation of two vehicles for the President. The luxury tax per each vehicle exceeds Rs.50 million. Therefore, we would like to know the details of these vehicles.”Among the allocation was a request seeking approval for Rs.1,500,000 for setting up community-based green clubs at a divisional secretariat-level by the Finance Ministry.

“The government, allocating Rs.130 million to establish green clubs in the country’s 25 districts in par with Budget proposals, becomes a political matter when an election is announced,” he added.The key allocations looking for House approval includes the additional allocation of Rs.1.595 billion to provide for the foreign and domestic components related to the Urban Regeneration Programme which is financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank under the loan agreement which was signed on April 25.

Based on Cabinet Decisions, Rs.666 million is to be allocated to settle outstanding bills of rehabilitation projects in areas affected by floods and landslides in the Matara District, which were commenced before December 31. A sum of Rs.150 million is also to be provided for the repayment of Security Deposit Holders of the Golden Key Credit Card Company, as per a Cabinet decision taken on June 17.

The Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education is to be allocated Rs.1 billion for township development in lagging regions. Rs.1.24 billion is allocated to implement the Budget Proposal on interim allowance of Rs.2500 for public sector employees. The supplementary estimate also seeks a sum of Rs.6,298,000 to purchase 20 walkie-talkies and other related equipment for the President.

The estimate was presented by Chief Government Whip Gayantha Karunatileka.

When the estimate was tabled, MP Bimal Rathnayake inquired as to how the government would explain the need for two more security vehicles for the President after a Presidential election had been announced. He said that the green club project was a political project, and that the allocation would be spent on the government’s political campaigns.

Chief Government Whip Gayantha Karunatileka said that either the Finance Minister or the Finance State Minister would explain the estimate to the House.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that there would be a debate on the estimate on October 23 and 24, and that the matter could be sorted then.


Court order violation; monk’s cremation in Hindu temple premises

Sampanthan urges government to bring culprits to book

The Neeraavi Pillaiyar Temple in Chemmalai, Mulaitivu, has become a site of controversy as the Sinhalese community in the area are attempting to take over a Saivite Temple, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian R. Sampanthan said.

Making a statement in Parliament, yesterday, under standing orders 27/2, MP Sampanthan said that a Buddhist temple called the Gurukande Viharaya had been illegally constructed between 2004 and 2009 when no civilian was permitted to enter that area.

“More recently, an attempt was made to restore that viharaya. This led to unrest between the people living in that area, who were all non-Buddhist, and the monks who had occupied the area,” he added.

“Upon this matter being reported to the relevant magistrate, an order was made prohibiting the reconstruction of the viharaya. The chief incumbent of the viharaya has filed an application in the Vavuniya High Court; the matter is still pending,” the parliamentarian said.

MP Sampanthan said, “On or about September 21, the Gurukanda Raja Maha Viharaya Chief Incumbent passed away in Colombo after falling ill.”

Mullaitivu Police have filed an intimation in the Mullaitivu Magistrate’s Court, stating inter alia that;

“(a) A police complaint had been filed by the administrative body of the Neeraavi Pillaiyar Temple stating that the Chief Incumbent of the Gurukanda Raja Maha Viharaya had passed away. It stated that if his body was brought to the premises in dispute, it could result in a breach of peace in the area. The magistrate then ordered on September 21 that the above complainants and the new chief incumbent of the viharaya be present in court on September 23.

“(b) That the body of the deceased bhikkhu should not be cremated or buried in the said premises until a final order was granted regarding the matter. When this was taken up in court on September 23, the counsel appearing on behalf of the Maritimepattu Predeshiya Sabha stated that steps had been taken for the cremation without obtaining the necessary permission in terms of the Cemeteries and Burial Grounds Ordinance,” he said.

MP Sampanthan said that the counsel appearing on behalf of the Buddhist vihara had told court that they were willing to conduct the cremation ceremony at another location, and that the administrative body of the Hindu temple was agreeable to this.

Accordingly, court made order of consent that the said cremation not be conducted at the premises in dispute and instead be conducted in the alternate location.

“After the order was made, a group of monks led by Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera took the body of the deceased chief incumbent to the place where the court order was issued prohibiting the cremation, and proceeded to cremate the body despite protests by a large number of people in the area who were gathered there at the time,” the MP said.

“A clash then erupted and the priest of the Hindu temple was severely injured. A lawyer appearing for the administrative body of the Hindu temple was also assaulted.

“The police was present during the entire incident, but they did nothing to prevent the monks and others violating the court order; they only prevented the members of the Hindu community who were present from entering the premises,” he added.

Ven. Gnanasara Thera was sentenced to six years in prison for Contempt of Court and was later pardoned by the President.

Sampanthan said that he had written a letter to the President on September 27, highlighting these facts, and that he tabled that it should be included in the Hansard.

He said it was unacceptable that the police had remained silent and not taken any action in this regard despite being present when the incident occurred.

He urged the government to take immediate action to bring the offenders to book for violating the court order.


Delays in Kerawalapitiya plant’s power generation

CEB: Power-purchasing in 2016/2019 cost Rs.52.230 bn

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) yesterday probed the delay in power generation from the controversial 300MW Kerawalapitiya Power Plant Project.

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) officials, testifying before the committee, admitted that the delay caused them to opt for emergency power purchases.

The government had to spend Rs.52.230 billion for emergency power-purchasing since 2016 to date, it was revealed during the investigation.

A sum of Rs.8.56 billion in 2016, Rs.19.4 billion in 2017, and a sum of Rs.11.58 billion in 2018 had been spent for emergency power purchasing. From January to July, a sum of Rs.12.67 billion had been spent for the same purpose. Emergency power had been purchased from external sources outside the power generation scheme of the CEB.

The CEB Director Board members told COPE that they had to opt for emergency power purchasing because they did not receive the expected power generation from Sampur and Norochcholai power plants, and because of the delay over the construction of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant.

It was also revealed that 50 diesel power generators had been imported at a cost of Rs.3 billion. They had generated power for 39,000 hours and had been non-operational owing to breakdowns for 73,398 hours from January to July.

The COPE Committee was told that four electricity units are generated from a litre of diesel.

The Auditor-General told the COPE that it was cheaper to allocate funds to build a small power plant than to generate power using diesel generators.

The CEB Director Board said that all 50 diesel generators were now operational.

JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti chaired the investigation. MP Lakshman Seneviratne and Minister Ajith P. Perera were also present.


Government moves several bills in Parliament

The government moved several bills prior to the early adjournment of Parliament, yesterday.

The government passed the regulations under the Public Contracts Act amended with the concurrence of the President under Section 36 of the Public Contracts Act No. 3 of 1987 and the regulations published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 508/7 of June 2, 1988, last amended by Gazette Extraordinary No. 1773/36 of August 30, 2012, further amending and published in Gazette Extraordinary No. 2055/18 of January 24, 2018, which was presented on July 9.

The bill was moved by Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development and Vocational Training and Skills Development Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

The government also moved the bill on Prevention of Offences relating to Sports to provide for the prevention of match-fixing, corruption, and illegal manipulation and betting in sports, and for the appointment of a special investigations unit for connected matters.

The Institute of Environmental Professionals, Sri Lanka (Incorporation) Bill was also moved.

The Finance Minister also tabled an order under Section 22 read with Section 26 of the Finance Act No.11 of 2004 relating to International Telecommunications Operators Levy and published in Gazette Extraordinary No.2123/19 of May 14, which was presented on July 25 for approval.

The Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development, Vocational Training and Skills Development Minister moved the Companies (Amendment) Bill to amend the Companies Act No.07 of 2007.

MP Wijepala Hettiarachchi introduced the Bill to amend the Lions Clubs International District 306A-National Development Foundation Trust (Incorporation) Act No.28 of 1986 at yesterday’s session as well.

 

 

 

 


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