Parliament | Daily News


 Rs. 1,630 bn spent on importing clothing from 2015 to 2019 – State Minister Cabraal

Rs. 1,630 billion had been spent on importing textiles and clothing to Sri Lanka from 2015 to 2019, State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said in Parliament yesterday.

Minister Cabral also said that the Government will provide maximum assistance as a mediator and facilitator to develop the apparel industry.

The State Minister said that the role of the Customs will be further strengthened in this regard.

Minister Cabral was responding to MP M.A. Muzammil during the Oral Questions Round.

MP Premanath C. Dolawatta told the State Minister that the restrictions on car imports had led to an unnatural increase in motor vehicle prices and auto parts. MP Dolawatta questioned if it is possible to allow Sri Lankan migrant workers to import cars to the country in one year.

State Minister Cabral said that the proposal by MP Dolawatta is interesting, and he will give it special attention.

Speaker expresses disappointment over MP Rohini’s statement

Responding to a statement made in Parliament yesterday by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Wijeratna, alleging that the Speaker had remained silent when a female MP was being verbally abused by male MPs during the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) debate on Minister Udaya Gammanpila, the Speaker’s Office claimed that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had not been present at the time.

The Speaker’s Office stated that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had no involvement in the incident and that the MP should have first referred the Hansard and recorded proceedings prior to making such derogatory allegations tarnishing the reputation of the Speaker.

The statement issued by the Speaker’s Office said that MP Wijeratne through her irresponsible and misleading allegations had caused the Speaker and Parliament much harm.

The Speaker, therefore, had expressed his disappointment regarding her irresponsible action, which could mislead the public.

Salary increments will be reviewed in forthcoming Budget – Minister Ali Sabry, PC

All salary increments will be reviewed in the forthcoming Budget, Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC said in Parliament yesterday.

He was responding to Parliamentarian Chaminda Wijesiri during the Oral Question Round.

The Minister said that the matter was brought to the notice of the Cabinet at its meeting on Monday.

The Prisons Department has 2,305 vacancies, Minister Ali Sabry, PC said.

The number of approved officers in the Prisons Department is 7,872 and 5,567 officers are now in service, the Minister said.

He said that a special programme is being implemented to prevent irregularities in Prisons and the Prison Intelligence Unit has been restructured, he said.

He said that detainees who pose a security threat have been sent to the Boossa High Security Prison. He added that the Special Task Force (STF) has been deployed at the Boossa, Angunakolapelessa and Colombo Prisons.

The Minister said that telephone jammers have also been installed at the Colombo and the Boossa Prisons.

He said that a Special Rapid Response Team will be set up for emergencies and 500 Ex-Military persons will be recruited in this regard.

‘Country expects 5 per cent economic growth rate this year’

The country expected to maintain an economic growth rate of 5 per cent this year, according to the fiscal policy maintained by the Government, Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said in Parliament yesterday.

He added that even the Tourism Industry, too, could be resumed before the end of this year making a constructive change on the country's and peoples' economy.

He was participating in the Adjournment Motion by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake on the economic situation of the country.

He added that the Opposition's suggestion for these issues is to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and find solutions, but there are alternative answers for them and this Government is practising them. The State Minister said that some people only speak of the diseases. He added, however much they exaggerate it, no change happens and they cannot find a cure.

He said that a fiscal analysis is given by the Central Bank once a fortnight and it is clear. However, the member who moved the motion spoke of loans. He added that some members excitedly expected that the Government would not be able to settle the loans in 2020. But they could not realise it. Then they dreamt they could be happy in 2021 and it too seems only a dream. He added that by now, they are dreaming in 2022, or 2023, they could realise it.

"But we would not allow them to realise their dream then, too," State Minister Cabraal said.

He said that the same crowd rumoured that the Government will not be able to afford the COVID 19 vaccine. But the Government has been able to commission it, too. He added that the Government has been able to do that due to the proper fiscal management practised by the leaders.

The State Minister said that those who moved the Adjournment Motion cannot understand the fact that the indebtedness in 2005 when Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the Government was 91 per cent and it was reduced to 71 per cent when he handed over it to the Good Governance Government. He added that the indebtedness of USD 24 billion was increased to USD 35 billion during the Good Governance Government. He said that the Adjournment Motion mover was part and partial of that achievement.

Public Security Minister denies allegations

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Rtd) Dr. Sarath Weerasekara making a statement in Parliament yesterday in response to allegations by MP Manusha Nanayakkara on a previous date that a massive fraud is taking place in the Public Security Ministry on the pretext of revamping the traffic control operations, denied allegations that he had called for a report from a committee appointed by him.

“It is wrong. I have not called for any report. The task of this committee is to present a project proposal to reach the required goals regarding traffic control and modernization of the Police Force, identifying the real needs to present to the Cabinet. It is with the intention of carrying out this task in a transparent and clean manner that I proposed the Committee and obtained Cabinet approval. That is why I made the decision to appoint professionals in this trade,” the Minister said

The Minister said that the members of this committee comprises Additional Secretary – Ministry of Public Security; CEO- Information, Communication and Technology Institutee; Chief Technical Officer - Information, Communication and Technology Institute; CEO - Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Response Team; Additional Director General – National Planning Department; Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) – Director Legal Division; Senior DIG – Director Legal Division; SDIG – Police Promotion Division; SSP - Director, Traffic Control and Road Safety; Assistant Superintendent of Police - Director Information and Communication Division, and ASP - Information Technology Division.

He said that it is very clear that the decisions are not made by just one person but it is a collective decision by the panel of experts.

“If there is any fraud taking place, then they should all get together and do it. Every report that is published has to be signed by all the members of the Committee,” he said. “The MP also alleged that the project proposal would be tabled. This too is a blatant lie, as the Committee has still not presented any project proposal. He also alleges that it had been decided to import all the equipment outlined in the project proposal from ‘Sekuratech’. We have not decided to import any equipment from any company and neither have we imported any equipment through any company. This is a blatant lie. This is just a presentation forwarded by Sekuratech. Similar presentations have been made by other companies. Even university students have come forward,” the Minister said.

The Minister also denied allegations that a person named Kevin Aravinda, who is a Director at Sekuratech, is on this Committee. “This too is a blatant lie and no such person is on this Committee,” he Minister said.

“The next allegation is that Aruna Amarasekera, a consultant appointed by me, has acted as a director of this company. The equipment shown by MP Manusha Nanayakkara is imported by a company called Sekuratech Lanka (Pvt.) Limited. Amarasekera has never worked for that company. But he has been working for a company called 'Sekuratech Solutions' and has resigned after a project. However, this cannot be a reason why that company cannot make a presentation. He was a former TRC Director General and has over 25 years of experience in the telecommunication technology field. That is why he was appointed,” the Minister said.

‘Government employees experienced no pay cuts’

The Government has not done any pay cuts from the Government employees despite the decrease of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena said in Parliament yesterday.

He was participating in the debate on the annual report of the Central Bank.

He said that the country was in lockdown for almost one and half years but the Government workers have received their full salary.

Minister Abeygunawardena said that they agree with the argument that salary anomalies should be rectified. However, this is not the moment to take that up, the Minister said. The Government has to take care of many necessities that have arisen due to the pandemic, he added.

“Proper financial management is of utmost importance. We have spent more than Rs 260 BN to manage the pandemic. It is about one fourth of our Government revenue. We still need to bring in more vaccines as it is the only way out. So there are priorities the Government needs to choose between for the betterment of the people,” the Minister said.

Employing children should be completely banned – MP Gamage

The Government is planning on introducing laws completely banning the employment of children under 18, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Diana Gamage said yesterday in Parliament.

“Based on the recommendations of the President, we will revise the laws and implement new laws to prevent children from employment. I also appeal to the IGP to complete the investigations and punish those responsible for the death of the girl at MP Bathiudeen’s residence,” she said.

She said that the parents of this girl cannot escape responsibility they had sent her to be employed as a domestic aide, knowing the child’s age. “When the parents were sending a child to be employed as a servant, they too knew that the child was underage. There are many children employed as servants at many homes in Colombo. This does not happen only to females, but even to male children. These children are our future and all 225 MPs need to take full responsibility and formulate laws to ensure that our children are never again subjected to such harassment,” she said.

She said that a pedophile list needs to be initiated in Sri Lanka like in many countries, all names of offenders should be included into that list, and the perpetrators need to be named.

Referring to the incident at the residence of MP Rishad Bathiudeen, she said that he has no moral right to represent the people of the country. “When such incidents are taking place at his own residence, what moral right has he got to speak for the rights of the people? He does not deserve to be allowed to represent the public in Parliament,” she said.

MP Gamage also proposed to estabilish a Social Services Department where all details pertaining to insecure children are fed into a system and monitored.

While 2021 has been named the year for the eradication of child labour, it is ironic that so many children have been subjected to cruelty where some have lost their lives in Sri Lanka, MP Gamage said.

She said that the country’s economy experienced a decline not after the Corona pandemic, but after the Easter Sunday attacks. MP Diana Gamage joining the debate on the 2020 Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, expressed disbelief regarding the statements by Opposition MPs blaming the Government for the economic state of the country.

“I don’t know if these MPs have risen from the dead, when I hear them blaming the Government for the state of the economy. In fact the economy did not suffer decline solely because of the COVID crisis. Its decline began after the Easter attacks under the previous regime. The Tourism Industry collapsed with the Easter attacks and with the COVID pandemic, it took a turn for the worse,” the MP said.

She said that the situation is not as drastic as the Opposition portrays. She added that the whole world is suffering financially due to the COVID pandemic. She said that the country has also been deprived of a large block of foreign remittances as the migrant workers had to be brought back to the country due to the pandemic.

Opposition Leader questions management of COVID pandemic

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa questioned the Government on its management of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Opposition Leader raised the issue under the Standing Order 27 (2) in Parliament yesterday.

“Does the Government acknowledge that another wave of COVID-19 pandemic is emerging in the country? Does the Government know that the number of infections, critical illnesses and deaths have risen sharply increasing in the past week? Will the Government present to this House the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the last 10 days, deaths, PCR tests and patients at Emergency Wards and General Wards of hospitals?” the Opposition Leaders asked.

“Is it appropriate to relax the regulations that were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus in an environment where another COVID-19 wave is being created? By ordering Government officials to continue to report for duty from this week, would not the lives of officers with chronic illnesses, pregnant women and young children, who are considered high-risk groups for COVID-19 virus, be at risk?” he asked.

Opposition Leader Premadasa asked that if the Government was satisfied with the ICU beds, oxygen supply, test capacity and the number of the health personnel available to the health sector and is that amount enough to control the situation that may arise in the future. “Does the Government care about what the experts say in this regard? The number of children infected with COVID-19 is also increasing. Reportedly, children have contracted COVID-19 virus and died. Do you provide statistics in this regard? Since children have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19, what measures will the Government take to control the situation?” the Opposition Leader asked.

Certain Ministers, MPs verbally abused MP Thalatha – SJB MP Rohini Wijeratne

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Rohini Wijeratne raised the issue where a female Parliamentarian faced verbal sexual abuse within the House recently and said even the Speaker had failed to prevent it.

She said that while only 12 female MPs are in Parliament, it is regretful that certain Ministers and MPs had acted in such a manner.

The MP said that the incident had taken place during the No-Confidence Vote on Minister Udaya Gammanpila.

“This Parliament is here not to discuss about the wives of MPs or their illicit affairs, but to discuss and resolve matters pertinent to the public. However, I am disappointed that as the Speaker you too have a wife and daughter, but you remained silent and smiled while verbal sexual abuse was being levelled at MP Thalatha Athukorala,” she told the Speaker. She said that by this incident the privileges of the female MPs in Parliament had been violated.

TNA MP lauds Government vaccination programme

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Batticaloa District MP Chanakya Rasamanikkam yesterday commended the Government's successful vaccination programme to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

MP Rasamanikkam said that vaccination is a Government duty. He was participating in the debate on the Annual Report of the Central Bank in Parliament.

MP Rasamanikkam said that the Government Ministers are holding protests over the death of a 16-year-old girl at MP Rishad Bathiudeen’s house. He requested the Government to enforce the law if any wrongdoing has been committed.

He said that the Government should not influence in anyway to create a rift between the Tamil and Muslim communities in the plantation areas.

The MP said that he is not speaking against the Government to overthrow it but to keep it on the right track. 

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