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Mattala Airport will be made cargo hub – Minister Prasanna

The Mattala International Airport will be developed as a cargo hub while upgrading its luxury facilities, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said in Parliament yesterday.

Minister Ranatunga said that an export processing zone, an aircraft maintenance and turnover yard (MRO) and a duty-free shopping complex will be built at the airport.

Minister Ranatunga was responding to Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Hesha Vithanage regarding the construction of the Mattala International Airport and its future activities, during the Oral Questions Round.

The Minister said that USD 247.7 million was spent on the construction of the Mattala International Airport. He added that China provided USD 190 million under the concessionary loan scheme and the airport and the airline used the remaining funds. The Minister said that the Mattala Airport commenced operations on March 18, 2013 and earned Rs. 445,319,656 up to November 2020. The number of flights operated from the date of opening to November 2020 was 10,206. Twenty three airlines, including SriLankan Airlines, operated flights during that period where 58,651 passengers had arrived. The number of departed passengers is 73,513.

Plans are afoot to resume the operations of its duty free shopping mall and to develop the cargo terminal facilities. Minister Ranatunga said that the previous Government of Good Governance had brought disrepute to this airport by storing paddy in it. Minister Ranatunga said that although the Mattala Airport was planned to be made an active airport after the Government came to power, it was difficult to reach those targets because of the pandemic.

Agreements will be signed with many suppliers of COVID vaccines – Minister Pavithra

The National Drug Regulatory Authority (NDRA) has received applications for supplying the AstraZeneca Vaccine from the Serum Institute, Sputnik Vaccine, Synopharm Vaccine and Covaxin from the Bharath Biotech and will sign agreements with those companies and register for them in the future, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said.

She said her Ministry will sign agreements for seven million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and the stock will be supplied in the next year.

The Minister said that discussions have also commenced for Modernna, Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the American Embassy.

She said that if the talks are successful, then the Government will take steps to buy the vaccine.

The Minister said that the Sinopharm vaccine had been donated to Sri Lanka and that any plans have not been made to buy the vaccine so far.

 Opposition avoiding real issues by clamouring over Ranjan’s Seat – Prof. Bandara

The Opposition is systematically deviating from the subject of focusing on the Presidential Commission’s Report on Easter Sunday attacks, just by making a fuss on Ranjan Ramanayake's seat disregarding that he was imprisoned for making derogatory statements against the judiciary, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Prof. Ranjith Bandara yesterday said.

He was speaking at the adjournment motion on the report of the President’s Commission on the Easter Sunday attacks in Parliament for the fifth day.

He said that the Opposition is complaining of the function of the Presidential Commission, which was appointed under their government. He said that even the Opposition leader admitted that during their tenure they allowed over 300 people to have been killed by the Islam extremists. He said that even relatives of the Opposition MPs, too, faced this tragic incident. He said that the incident had an adverse effect on the economy.

The Opposition has a responsibility to discuss and debate the affected economy. "We saw how the political party, which was in power formerly, was rejected by the people. The United National Party (UNP) could not secure even a single seat in Parliament. However, we have seen this Government has strenthened the defence of the country," he said.

He said that the country affected by the Easter Sunday attacks was jeopardised by the COVID 19 pandemic. “However, it affected the entire world and we, too, are a victim. All must rally round to get rid of the situation,” he said.

 ITAK MP Rasamanickam’s statement should be probed – State Minister Semasinghe

A CID investigation should be carried out on a statement by the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachch (ITAK) MP S.R. Rasamanickam in Parliament in relation to the Easter Sunday attacks, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe yesterday said.

State Minister Semasinghe said that the Government should consider MP Rasamanickam’s statement seriously and carry out an investigation to verify its content. State Minister Semasinghe said that MP Rasamanickam has predicted another terror attack in 2021 with the support of the ruling party during a speech he made in Parliament.

State Minister Semasinghe was speaking, joining the adjournment motion on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that investigated the Easter Sunday attacks.

“While expressing our deep sorrow to all the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, I feel very unfortunate to listen to these very same people who were then in power without preventing this attacks.

 Over 20,000 in Ratnapura District lack lands – State Minister Indika Anuruddha

Over 20,000 families in the Ratnapura District do not have land to build a house, Rural Housing and Construction and Building Material Industries State Minister Indika Anuruddha Herath said.

He was responding to a question by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Hesha Withanage during the Question Round for Oral Responses in Parliament yesterday. “Therefore, the Government is launching a number of housing projects such as Siyapatha Housing, Home for You and Mihindu Homes, and the construction of flats, the establishment of young farming colonies for those working in the estate sector, urban housing development projects are also included in the programme,” he said. MP Chaminda Wijesiri requested the Government to construct such housing projects where every person can get a house with some garden space, and also to identify the problems faced by people who live in flats or apartments in Colombo and take steps to minimise these issues when constructing these flats in the future.

The State Minister said that in designing such housing projects, common facilities such as playgrounds, community halls, proper garbage disposal systems and toilets should be included.

He said that in the implementation of such housing projects, ecosystems will be protected and this will be done under the guidance of the Prime Minister.

 Second dose will be given on time – Health Minister

The timeframe for administering the second dose spans between April 23 and July 6 because the first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was administered from January 29 to April 23. The Health Ministry and relevant institutions will commence administering the second dose of the vaccine for those who received their first dose during the first round on time, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said in Parliament yesterday. She was responding to Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa under Standing Orders 27/2.

She said that under the first stage of vaccinations from January 29 until April 6, they had administered 924,687 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine. The Minister said that it had been scientifically proven that by administering the second dose of the vaccine after 12 weeks of the first dose, an optimal level of immunity could be obtained. The Minister said that the Health Ministry Epidemiology Unit has allocated 356,730 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to administer the second dose.

She said that as the requirement for the administering of the second dose is 924,687 doeses, in addition to the allotted 356,730 doses, another 568,000 doses are required.

 Opposition Leader questions Vaccination Project

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa raised concerns in Parliament yesterday over several areas in the Vaccination Project by the Government to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Opposition Leader Premadasa questioned why the National Medicines Regulatory Authority has not yet given its approval for certain vaccines brought into the vaccination project by the Government.

He raised these concerns under the Standing Order 27 (2).

“Beginning in late 2019, various countries and pharmaceutical companies were quick to discover vaccines to control the pandemic, which had spread rapidly around the world in the past year. By the end of last year, many countries started producing vaccines and distributing them in their countries. The Covax Facility, the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi), had already ensured that the vaccine was distributed fairly across the globe. While many other countries were starting vaccinations, the Sri Lankan Government was promoting various local medicines instead of rushing to import vaccines,” he said.

 ‘Police duties in Jaffna taken by security firm’

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Kins Nelson revealed in Parliament yesterday that the Jaffna Mayor had deployed members of a private security firm to carry our traffic duties, which is the responsibility of the Police.

He said that under the ‘One Law One Country’ concept of the Government, only one Police Department exists. He questioned the action of the Jaffna Mayor to deploy a separate unit to control traffic.

MP Nelson said that this private group was also wearing a uniform similar to that of the LTTE. Therefore, he urged the Minister to address this matter urgently.

“Even on Wednesday, this group had controlled traffic in Jaffna. This is a grave issue and I wonder if the Government is aware of this situation?” he asked.

Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said that the meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Defence Ministry was meeting last evening and invited MP Nelson to attend the meeting and raise his concerns.

Disciplinary inquiry demanded into SJB MP’s statement

Wildlife and Forest Conservation Minister C. B. Rathnayake yesterday demanded a disciplinary inquiry into the defamatory statement on the Speaker by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Thushara Indunil in Parliament yesterday.

The Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena expunged the statement made by MP Indunil from the Hansard on the request of the Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando and many other statements.

Following the statement by MP Indunil, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Shantha Bandara objected that the Opposition Member was defaming the Chair of the august assembly. Minister Prasanna queried if Parliament goes forward with such MPs who did not understand the value of a democratic Speaker.

Minister Johnston Fernando requested to expunge the statement by MP Indunil. He said that even the former Opposition MP Ranjan Ramanayake did the same mistake by addressing the Speaker in an unparliamentary language and Indunil was following the same. He said that after the former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, it was Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena who acted democratically in Parliament. He said that the Speaker is giving more time for the Opposition when the Point of Orders are concerned. He added that democratic values of the Speaker have been misused by the Opposition MPs.

Minister C. B. Rathnayake demanded a disciplinary inquiry into the defamatory statement by Parliamentarian Indunil.