Parliament | Daily News


Athletes will be provided with 100 scholarships in next two years – Minister Namal

The Government will provide 100 scholarships to athletes in the next two years and direct them to foreign sports training pools, Sports and Youth Minister Namal Rajapaksa yesterday said.

Minister Rajapaksa said that a National Sports Plan has been presented by the National Sports Council headed by Mahela Jayawardena. He said that for the first time, the athletes are given an opportunity to sign agreements as professional sportspersons.

Minister Rajapaksa was respondidng to MP Shantha Bandara during the Oral Questions Round.

Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa said that 59 players from various sports will sign agreements in the first phase and another 50 in the second phase.

Minister Rajapaksa said that a special programme has been launched to identify potential athletes at school levels and separately establish sports schools and enroll promising students in sports.

The Minister said that 20 per cent of the money allocated to the Sports Ministry in this year’s budget will be used for the betterment of athletes and coaches. He said that the amount will be increased to 25 per cent next year and to 50 per cent by 2025. The other 50 per cent will be spent on infrastructure and athletes and human resources, Minister Rajapaksa said.

The Minister said that the Education Ministry and the Sports Ministry have jointly organised various activities to uplift school sports and a programme to identify school athletes in each district will be launched next month.


Opposition using Port City issue for political gain – Minister Dr. Bandula

Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said that the Opposition is using the Port City issue for political gain.

He was participating in the debate on five regulations under the Foreign Exchange Act, two regulations under the Excise Ordinance and several regulations under the Imports and Exports Act were taken up for debate in Parliament yesterday.

Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that Sri Lanka has to bear large foreign debts because of the poor financial management of the Yahapalana regime. “The only way to get out of this debt trap, is by attracting large foreign investments, such as the investments made in the Port City, but it does not seem to sit well with the Opposition,” Minister Dr. Gunawardena said.

“The country has to face a foreign exchange crisis due to improper financial management. There is a gap between our savings and investment. We need foreign loans and foreign investment when investing more than savings. It is difficult to carry out development in parallel with our savings. The other issue is the gap between imports and exports. That means our balance of payments is at a crisis. Because of the open economy, the volume of imports increased faster than our exports. During our Government in 2005, we paid only 103 rupees to the dollar. In 2015, because of the fall in oil prices, the amount of money we could retain in the country was USD 1.9 billion. However, the previous government did not use these benefits properly. Therefore, imports increased significantly. They started importing not only essential items but also coloured pencils and kites. But foreign investment did not rise as expected,” the Minister said.

“From 2015 to 2019, the previous government tried to defend the Rupee by utilising large amounts of foreign reserves. Due to the financial irregularities and very poor financial controls that took place during the last government, we have to pay huge loan installments by 2029. If we want to get out of this grave situation, we must stop taking foreign loans. Steps should be taken to attract as much foreign investments as possible. The Port City is now the largest foreign investment in our country. From the day it started, the Opposition brought various obstacles and stopped its activities. But about a year and a half after coming to power, they set up the legal framework by concluding the necessary tripartite agreements for the Port City. The Port City Project has been the turning point in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy since independence.

The value of the investments that Sri Lanka is believed to receive from the Port City Project is US $ 15 billion. This is what the Opposition cannot tolerate. They are the ones who introduced the Open Economy and Free Trade Zones. They were the same people who wanted to sign the detrimental MCC Agreement. These very same people are now shouting against the Port City,” the Minister said.


Teacher shortages in remote schools will be addressed soon – Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris

Teachers will be recruited based on the vacancies at the schools in remote areas to address the teacher shortages at such schools, Education Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris said in Parliament yesterday.

He said that such teachers will be selected from the Divisional Secretariats where those schools are and their service will be restricted to those schools.

He was responding to Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala, who said that the Polonnaruwa District needs 350 teachers. He said that the Dimbulagala Education Zone is worse affected. He said that 140 Tamil Medium teachers in the Polonnaruwa District have been transfered to the Eastern Province worsening the issue.

Minister Peiris said that in this year, 4,500 teachers will pass out from Teacher Training Colleges and another 6,000 will pass next year. He said that they will fill those vacancies. He said that such teachers directed to those schools get their transfers somehow. Therefore, finally the objective of such appointments is not fulfilled, he said.

The Minister said that the Government has a plan to facilitate many schools with sports and laboratories to reduce the demand for popular schools.


Railway tracks in Batti will be repaired before year end – Minister Lokuge

The railway tracks in Batticaloa will be repaired before the end of this year, Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge said in Parliament yesterday.

He said that the distance that the Colombo-Polonnaruwa Intercity Express Train runs that set in the former government tenure will be extended up to Batticaloa.

He was responding to Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) Parliamentarian Rajaputhiran Rasamanickam during the Round of Questions for Oral Answers. MP Rasamanickam said that although they made many requests during the previous regime, no measures were taken to extend the trains upto Batticaloa.

The Minister said that the train would past 11 pm when it reached Batticaloa and it would have to commence the journey at 1.45 am from Batticaloa. He said that no commuters could be expected from Batticaloa at that time of the day and said the tour cannot be initiated earlier as the train will not be able to reach the destination early.

The MP then requested the Minister to extend the Intercity Express Train from Colombo to Polonnaruwa up to Batticaloa. The Minister said that the matter will be discussed with the Railway Department.


Steps will be taken to reduce rising rice prices – Minister Dr. Bandula

Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday that all possible steps will be taken to reduce the rising rice prices in the local market.

Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena was responding to Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Hesha Vithanage regarding the amount of rice imported to Sri Lanka from 2015-2019 and the amount of money spent on it. Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that in 2015, although there was no shortage of rice, 2,75,375 MT of rice was imported and the fraud is estimated to have exceeded Rs. 6 billion.

“However, the relevant persons have not been brought to justice yet and it is the responsibility of Parliament to punish the relevant persons irrespective of their rank,” Minister Dr. Gunawardena said.

He said that the easiest solution to the rice shortage is to buy rice from the international market at low prices. “However, the Government will not import rice but prevent a rice shortage in the next season,” he said.

Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that it will be possible to control the rice mafia and control the price of rice by importing rice. “But the people involved in the importation of rice will be defrauding billions of rupees,” he said.

Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that the Bribery and Corruption Commission has received a number of complaints in this regard. The Government managed to keep the price of Nadu rice, Samba rice and Kekulu rice below Rs. 100 per kilo, the Minister said. “The Government could not control only the price of Keeri Samba,” he said. Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that he will work in collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry in this regard in the future.

MP Hesha Vithanage said that if the Government decides not to import rice, the benefit should go to the local farmer, not to big local businessmen.


Good Governance Government’s flaw resulted in Easter Sunday attacks – MP Harin

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Harin Fernando said in Parliament yesterday that the Easter Sunday attacks occurred because of a flaw of the former Good Governance Government.

MP Fernando said that it was a mistake that happened while they were in power.

He said that even after two years, the culprits have not been brought to book. The MP said that they would punish those who conceal the culprits of this crime one day with the assistance of the public.

He was participating in the debate on five regulations under the Foreign Exchange Act, two regulations under the Excise Ordinance and several regulations under the Imports and Exports Act that were taken up for debate in Parliament yesterday.

He said that national security is of paramount importance and it should be placed above economic policies and others. “On a day two years before, the National Security of the country was badly affected,” MP Harin Fernando said. “Very recently the mastermind of the crime was arrested. But the pathetic situation is that the Master Mind Naufer Maulavi was at least produced before the Presidential Commission. The intelligence units, Police and Security forces who are being paid from our tax money have not been able at least to produce him before the Presidential Commission,” the MP said.

The SJB MP said that that some of the evidence given before the Presidential Commission have not been recorded in the report.

He said that Shani Abeysekara was the Head of the CID when the Easter Sunday attacks were made and he was the one who identified the first suspect of these attacks. MP Fernando said that yet Shani Abeysekara was transferred and was jailed.

He said that many other officers who investigated these attacks were transferred later on.


Opposition misleading public regarding Easter Sunday attacks – Minister Johnston

Chief Government Whip and Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition MPs are trying to mislead the Public regarding Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, covered with Parliamentary Privileges.

He said that instead of making statements covering with the Parliamentary Privileges, the Opposition MPs who were in power when the Easter Sunday attacks took place must go before the CID and reveal what they knew about the attacks.

Minister Johnston Fernando challenged SJB Parliamentarians Manusha Nanayakkara and Harin Fernando to make entries before the CID on the Easter Sunday attacks.

Fernando was responing to Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP Manusha Nanayakkara when he said that he had evidence regarding the terror attacks, which has not been included in the report of Presidential Commission on Inquiry (PCoI) into the bombings recently tabled in Parliament.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday attacks in Parliament without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privileges,” Minister Fernando said. “You even quoted some statements, which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such statements? Why didn’t you complain about them to the CID in the first place? As a result of this behaviour inside the Chamber, misinformation regarding the terror attacks will spread in society,” he said.

The Minister said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements.

“When you were in the Government, you never said that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal, too. You should not do that,” Minister Fernando said. “The Former Government is responsible for the terror attacks completely. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us and try not to obstruct the on-going investigations,” he said.


100,000 young entrepreneurs will be created in next two years – Minister Namal

The Government plans to create 100,000 young entrepreneurs in the next two years, Youth and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday.

The Youth and Sports Ministry is working together to equip youth with educational restructuring and vocational skills to prepare them for the rapidly changing international job market in the midst of globalisation, Minister Namal Rajapaksa said.

Minister Rajapaksa said that as Youth and Sports Ministry is not working in isolation, but is following the President’s Vision of Prosperity. The Minister said that Rs. 2.5 million will be provided to young entrepreneurs as a loan to establish a Small and Medium Scale Guarantee Fund in collaboration with fellow government ministers.

The Youth and Sports Ministry will create 25,000 young agro-entrepreneurs and 5,000 young fisheries entrepreneurs in the future and to increase the vocational skills percentage in Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Vocational Training Ministry, Minister Namal Rajapaksa said.

“Cabinet approval has been granted to set up Vocational Skills Centers islandwide with the participation of the private sector to enable the GCE Ordinary Level, Advanced Level students as well as other job-seeking youth to achieve their career goals,” Minister Rajapaksa said.

The Minister informed Parliament that the unemployment rate among the youth had increased from 14 per cent to 20 per cent during the previous government and that the situation could be further complicated with the COVID-19 crisis.

He said that providing vocational skills and employments to over 380,000 Sri Lankan youth who will join the youth movement in the future is a main goal of his Ministry.


New laws will be brought in against toxic food importers – State Minister Cabraal

The Government will bring in new laws soon if the present ones are insufficient to deal with the importers of toxic foods, Finance and Capital Markets and Public Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said in Parliament yesterday.

He was responding to MP ShanthaBandara in Parliament when he suggested that if the laws are insufficient to take action against numerous companies and businessmen who import milk powder, fruits, artificial foods and other food items harmful to health in addition to the controversial coconut oil imports, measures should be taken to revise the laws or bring in new laws to deal with such issues.

Minister Cabraal said that imported food is being inspected by the Standards Institution and several other agencies before being released from the Customs. He said that any food unfit for consumption are not released.

He said that in the event any of these imported food items are found to contain harmful substances, legal action will be initiated in accordance with the Customs Ordinance.

Minister Cabraal said that if required, new laws will be brought in for the purpose.


China has no private companies – State Minister Arundika

There are no private companies in China and all these companies handling the Port City are under the Chinese Government. The Opposition is trying to create undue fear in the minds of the people to cripple the progress being made by the Government regarding the Port City, State Minister Arundika Fernando said.

He was responding to MP Lakshman Kiriella in Parliament yesterday.

The State Minister said that one such company had invested $ 450 million for the reclamation of the Port City land and construction. “This company is most certainly making this investment to make profits. However, the responsibility of finding the investors and bringing them to invest is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government. However, to attract investors, we need to offer them certain facilities and legal cover,” the State Minister said.

The State Minister said that even countries such as Singapore and the UAE, when investors were initially brought in, provide them with all the facilities and legal cover under relaxed terms, even let them to invest black money. “It was through black money that the initial investments were made in these countries. I am not saying we should allow black money to come in, but we need to relax the laws to some extent to attract investors,” he said.


Harin knew about Easter Sunday attacks beforehand - State Minister Lanza

The then Cabinet Minister Harin Fernando had to inform the then Prime Minister and the Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith on the previous day of the Easter Sunday attacks rather than staying home when his father informed him of the attacks beforehand, Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure State Minister Nimal Lanza yesterday said.

He was responding to Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Harin Fernando's statement that he made joining the debate on five regulations under the Foreign Exchange Act, two regulations under the Excise Ordinance and several regulations under the Imports and Exports Act were taken up for debate.

State Minister Lanza said that the Easter Sunday attacks in which three Hundred People died while 500 were injured took place during the Good Governance Government tenure despite 299 tips given by the intelligence units. “Harin Fernando said after the attacks that his father warned him before the attacks not to go to church as it was planned to attack.

The State Minister said that Harin Fernando, who was a Cabinet Minister at that time kept silent and stayed home. "Clearly I say that the Good Governance Government is responsible for the attacks," State Minister Lanza said. "Not only Cabinet Minister Harin but also his relative son and members of the St Joseph College rugby team did not go to the Church that day because of the warning of Harin’s father. Harin Fernando clearly knew about the attacks," the State Minister said.

State Minister Lanza said that Harin Fernando betrayed love and faithfulness in Badulla . "By now Harin Fernando is attempting to cheat the Christians in Gampaha," State Minister Lanza said. "There's solid evidence to prove the then Cabinet Minister Harin Fernando knew of the attack beforehand and allowed those 300 Christians to be killed. He is wearing Black shawls today but he did not attend any of the funerals of those 300," he said.

He said that the Harin Fernando inquired if the mastermind of the Attack was arrested. The State Minister said that it was ridiculous as they allowed the attacks and inquire us now if the mastermind was arrested. He said it is similar to allowing the Central bank scam and helping the mastermind to leave the country and then inquiring us if the mastermind of the Central Bank scam was arrested. He asked why the Good Governance Government remained silent along with CID heads, Police heads and others without arresting the masterminds and culprits with the IP address the Opposition is speaking of now.

He said that Harin had to wear black on the day of attack and not now. But he is betraying the Christians to gain political advantages. Harin is attempting to get the votes of Ramanayake by pretending to stand for him. But within hours they appointed another member to his seat without taking the available legal remedies.