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SMS to employees when employers make EPF deposits – Labour Minister

Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said yesterday in Parliament that a new mechanism has been devised to send an SMS to employees every month regarding the deposits made to their Employees Provident Fund by their employers.

Minister de Silva said that employees will be informed when the employer makes a deposit as soon as it is done through this mechanism.

He said that in the past there was no provision or technology for such methods, and the EPF Act needs to be amended to incorporate these changes. The Minister also said that the present system requires the filling of forms. These should be changed into online methods to suit the modern times and technologies.

The Minister also said that most often private-sector employers do not register their new employees for months after they have joined. “The reason is that the EPF Act does not specify oduration for these employers to register their new employees. “Therefore, we will include in the amendments the specific clause that employers must register their employees within a month of joining and failing which, the employee can go to the Labour Department and register themselves,” the Minister said.

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva added that as per President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity policy framework, all loopholes in the labour laws will be rectified to ensure that workers’ labour rights are safeguarded.

Amendments to ERA facilitate and protect people’s voting rights

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday that amendments will be made to the Electoral Registration Act (ERA) No. 44 of 1980 to facilitate and protect the sovereign voting rights of the people of the country. The Leader of the House was presenting the Electoral Registration (Amendment) Bill (Second Reading) in Parliament.

He said that this will enable young people who have attained the age of 18 and other required qualifications to exercise their voting right after the certification of the electoral roll and the commencement of the next annual electoral roll revision during the current annual voter list revision.

The Minister said that by including the whole electoral system through the database will simplify voting.

The Minister said that this amendment would strengthen the voter rights and make it easier to confirm the voting data.

Export of betel leaves earned good income in 2015, 2016 – State Minister Wakkumbura

In 2015, 2,403 metric tonnes of betel leaves had been exported raking in an income of Rs. 1,235 million. In 2016, 1,955 metric tonnes of betel leaves were exported, earning Rs. 1,126 million for the country, Development of Minor Crops State Minister Janaka Wakkumbura said.

He was responding to Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Buddhika Pathirana in Parliament yesterday.

"Over 95 per cent of betel is exported to Pakistan. Betel can be cultivated in almost every part of the country except the high altitude areas and it is a crop that can yield a relatively good harvest and a profitable source of income,” the State Minister said.

SJB MP Pathirana said that since betel and areca nuts are suspected cancer causing substances, the global demand for them had dropped. He, however, asked the State Minister if the Plantation Ministry has devised a plan in collaboration with the embassies of the countries that we export these crops to, to exploit and increase the export of these crops. He also asked the State Minister if measures have been taken to prevent the import of areca nuts and pepper to the country as this scam had been in operation even during the previous regime.

State Minister Wakkumbura said that the import of areca nuts had been stopped and the import of pepper has been completely banned. He said that with the stoppage of the import of areca nuts, the price has skyrocketed locally to around Rs. 1,000. “As a result of the stoppage of the import of pepper from Vietnam, the price of pepper has increased to between Rs. 850-900 in the local market. Businessmen have informed us that their trade ties are broken when they are unable to supply the export requirement of areca nuts during the off season. We have not given any permission for the import of these two items and the President is firm on the decision not to allow imports of these items,” he added.

MP Buddhika Pathirana said that during the recent past turmeric prices had shot up to Rs. 6,000, but now the prices have dropped. “I would like to know if the Government has calculated the country’s turmeric requirement and whether the 2020 crop, which is scheduled to be harvested around January next year, is sufficient to meet the domestic demand and the export requirement.

If not, have you identified the land required to expand the cultivation of turmeric and what steps have you taken in this regard?” the MP asked.

State Minister Wakkumbura said that so far less than 1000 hectares have been cultivate turmeric. “However, 3,500 hectares of turmeric has been planted now. We expect a yield of around 68,000 metric tonnes. Sri Lanka’s consumption requirement is around 6,500-7,500 metric tonnes of turmeric powder. But we produce over 9,000 metric tonnes and we expect to export this excess quantity,” the State Minister said.

The State Minister also said that measures are being taken to buy 20,000 metric tonnes of turmeric from farmers and market it through the government outlets at a controlled price of Rs. 2,000 per kilo to maintain prices at a stable level.

Bathiudeen being mistreated in Prison – MP Kiriella

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella raised the issue of imprisoned MP Rishad Bathiudeen in Parliament yesterday, urging the Speaker to look into the welfare of MPs.

He said that MP Rishad Bathiudeen’s cell was locked at 5.00 pm and he only has a bottle inside his cell to urinate. He also said that while Muslims need water for their prayers during the night, Bathiudeen had been deprived of these facilities as well. He also said that while other prisoners are receiving food from home, Bathiudeen does not have this privilege.

Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando said that these allegations were untrue. He added that if Bathiudeen had made a request to receive food from home, he would be allowed to do so.

“However, due to the suspension of visitors as a result of the COVID pandemic, this facility has been temporarily stopped until October 15. Therefore, I kindly ask you to refrain from misleading this House. When I was imprisoned, I sent a message to MP Rauff Hakeem, who was the Minister at the time, and he helped me. I won’t forget the assistance rendered to me. Therefore, I urge MP Kiriella not to use Bathiudeen to gain political mileage. Don’t try to mislead Parliament and other institutions. We don’t engage in political revenge. What you do is use MPs to sling mud at the Government. If Bathiudeen is deprived of any facilities, then his lawyers could complain to Court,” he added.

Committees to investigate Pandora Papers will hoodwink people – MP Marikkar

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian S.M. Marikkar raising the names of two Sri Lankans named in the Pandora Papers, said that appointing committees to investigate the revelations made regarding former minister Nirupama Rajapaksa and her husband Thirukumar Nadesan was an effort to cover up the matter and hoodwink the people.

He said that even during the previous regime such committees were appointed to hoodwink the public and safeguard the bond scam perpetrators.

“Thirukumar Nadesan was an employee of a private company until 1995 and his wife became a minister in 1994. When the Good Governance regime came to power in 2015, Thirukumar Nadesan was arrested over investigations of a mansion in Malwane. During the period from 2010 to 2014 he had received $2,413,880 through an HSBC Account in Hong Kong to his Nations Trust Bank Account, Cinnamon Gardens Branch. From January 2014 to November 2015, he had received $ 1,329,543 into another account. When how he had received these funds was revealed, it was found that he had received that from two Chinese companies. This was during the time his wife served as a minister,” he added.The MP also challenged the Government to hold the Provincial Council Election.

He said that the people’s opinion regarding the Government can be witnessed at future elections.

He also accused the present administration of creating many issues including queues to buy goods, decimating the economy, disrupting education, shortage of fertiliser and essential items including powdered milk and sugar.

He charged the Government of assisting its associates including those involved in the Rapid Antigen Test and pharmaceutical mafia by blaming the foreign exchange crisis.

MP Marikkar warned the present administration that it will be overthrown because of the prevailing situation.


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