Parliament | Daily News


Mechanism to provide essential commodities  at concessionary rates - Amaraweera

The Government issued a Gazette notification and urged importers of essential commodities such as rice and sugar to declare their stocks, but later realised that such importers were hiding their stocks and that’s when the Government commenced raiding these facilities, said Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera in Parliament yesterday.

He said that a mechanism will be launched to provide sugar at low prices commencing from next week through the Sathosa, cooperatives, supermarkets and rural shops.

“We have also established a mechanism to provide food packs through a delivery system. As a Government we tried to safeguard the traders and the private sector as well. But, we realised that by this we cannot provide essential commodities to the people at concessionary rates. Hence, we have decided to strengthen the state mechanism and strengthen Sathosa to a point of enabling them to import essential commodities directly.

The Government needs to have a mechanism where stocks of essential items could be stored under the Government to be used in times of need. We have discussed this matter on several instances at the Cabinet meetings and have decided that if the government holds such stocks to be used when required, then the private sector cannot manipulate the market to determine prices. We must have stocks of rice, sugar and other essentials. This way the trade mafia will not be able to create such artificial shortages in order to manipulate prices,” he added.

The Minister acknowledged that the country is facing financial difficulties due to the lack of a foreign exchange flow into the country. “Our tourism industry is at a standstill and foreign exchange into the country through expatriate workers has also slowed. It is true we are facing a foreign exchange crisis and despite this we had to also spend a colossal amount to import items required by the health sector. Today, we have become a leading country in terms of vaccinations. We could not reach these targets with nothing. We had to spend in dollars to achieve these targets. That is why we are facing these issues today.”

Amaraweera also noted that while people are struggling due to this pandemic, there are unscrupulous importers who are trying to capitalise on this situation and raking profits by arbitrarily raising the prices of drugs and medical equipment. He said that the drug mafia have capitalised on this situation and are exploiting the sick, referring to the oximeter scam. Hence, he said that the Government needs to intervene in regulating such actions.

Therefore, Minister Amaraweera noted that contrary to what the Opposition claims, the regulations in the Consumer Protection Act is limited and even the fines that could be imposed have limitations. “Hence, new regulations must be brought in and that is why this bill has been presented to Parliament and if we pass this Bill without delay, many such frauds could be curtailed and it would benefit the consumer. The only way to control such fraudulent scams is by meteing out punishments such as fines and jail terms. This is the only way to deal with the trade community of this country who are heartless and opportunistic,” he said, adding that this is the only way to safeguard the innocent public. The minister also said that the gap between the haves and have not’s have increased during these hard times. He also noted that even under the lockdowns it is the daily wage earners who are the hardest hit.

Therefore, he said that if the gap between the wealthy and the poor are to be reduced in any way, these measures must be taken and the decision taken by the President was aimed at reducing the prices of essential commodities in order to provide a relief to the people who are already strained due to the current pandemic situation.


Ample provisions within CPA to deal with  current food situation - SJB General Secretary

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) General Secretary MP Ranjith Maddumabandara said that in the past, Emergency was declared when there was a disturbance, riot or war in the country, but for the first time a Government has imposed Emergency Regulations over their incapability to control the prices of goods in the country.

“When there are ample provisions within the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) to deal with the current food situation, why does the Government need to declare a State of Emergency? They have imposed the State of Emergency not to control the COVID-19 pandemic or the escalating prices of goods, but this is a ploy to control the objections the Government is facing and to suppress the protests staged against it. This is why a State of Emergency has been declared.”

He noted that in the past, eminent persons such as Sir Oliver Gunatillake and Bradman Weerakoon were appointed to head the Consumer Affairs Authority as they were civil servants with a sound knowledge of the country’s laws and regulations. However, he said that under the current regime, military personnel are appointed to these civil positions. “We have nothing against the military, but their role is to engage in security matters and defend the country during times of war. However, this Government has appointed military personnel to all key civil positions. How can a military officer perform the duties of a civil administrator? ”

Madumabandara said that the President claims that the Emergency regulations were enforced in order to control the rising prices of commodities. “How can the Government control the prices of goods by imposing Emergency regulations? The Government is unable to control the prices of even sugar whereas during our regime, we provided the public with a kilo of sugar for Rs. 95 despite a Rs.50 tax imposed on it. All these stocks of sugar was imported at Rs.75 per kilo. What did this Government do? They issued a Gazette notification reducing the price of sugar and reduced the Rs.50 tax to 25 cents. But, did the prices reduce and did the consumer get the benefit? No! This is a scam. Now the sugar we provided at Rs. 95 is Rs.220. At the 25 cents tax they had imported 700,000 kg of sugar. According to Central Bank reports, 266,212 metric tons of sugar had been imported from October to December last year. This year, they have imported 466,000 metric tons of sugar. The Government has lost a revenue of Rs.35 billion due to the reduction of the tax on sugar. With this money they could have provided fertilizer to all the farmers. They could have inoculated everyone over 12 years of age with the Pfizer vaccine which is $5 per jab.”

MP Maddumabandara also accused the Government of favouring a particular importer and granting him the tax concession even for stocks he had imported last September.

The MP charged that considering the stocks of sugar that had been imported into the country, there should be ample stocks without any shortage. However, he said that the intelligence services are not investigating the shortage of sugar stocks as several of the Government’s friends are involved in this racket.

He noted that currently, a ton of sugar sells at $485 in the world market and at this rate sugar could be imported at less than Rs. 100 per kilo but the Government is trying to sell such stocks at Rs.130. He said that while sugar is sold only at Sathosa outlets at Rs. 130, at between Rs.180-200 per kilo at all other places.


Nominated to  Committee on  Parliamentary Business

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Jaffna District MP G.G.Ponnambalam have been nominated to the Committee on Parliamentary Business by the Committee on Selection, Speaker of the House Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced to the House yesterday (06).

The appointments have been made on September 02, 2021 in terms of the provisions of the Standing Order 115 of Parliament and the motion agreed to by Parliament on August 17 2021, the Speaker also announced.


Country facing essential commodity “mafia” - Aluthgamage


What the country is facing at present is not a “shortage in essential food items” but a “mafia” operating within the essential commodity supply process, Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage stated in Parliament yesterday (6).

Minister Aluthgamage emphasized that there is no shortage of rice, vegetables or any other essential food item in the country. Minister Aluthgamage made these observations, opening the debate on Emergency regulations. Aluthgamage said that the President had brought these Emergency regulations to control the said “mafia” and that the President had a responsibility to provide the people all essential food with no shortage.

The Minister also stated that the Government has 3.2 metric tons of rice and that no one in the country should have any fear regarding a rice shortage.

Minister Aluthgamage also said that there is no shortage of paddy and no crisis in supplying essential food to the people. Minister Aluthgamage pointed out that the Opposition which staged 847 protests at a time when there was a severe COVID-19 spread.

“The Opposition brought 166,000 people to the streets during the pandemic,’ Aluthgamage added. It is that kind of an irresponsible Opposition now alleging that the President is oppressing the public by bringing in emergency regulations, he noted.

Aluthgamage said none of the said demonstrations were curtailed by the President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa using police force. He also said that the protestors were not forcibly taken away and imprisoned.

If the President wanted to misuse the emergency regulations he would have used it to stop the protests but he did not, Aluthgamage also pointed out.


Country loses colossal Rs.15 b a day due to lockdown - Minister Weerasekara

If the country is locked down for a single day, the resulting loss is a colossal Rs.15 billion, said Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara.

Joining the debate on the Emergency regulations in Parliament yesterday, he said the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) per day is Rs. 41 billion. “Losing Rs.15 billion of that results in a grave predicament for the country. There is a large community of small scale and medium scale businesses and daily wage earners in this country. These people need to be provided relief during this lockdown and the Government has spent $ 700 billion so far this year to provide relief to them. Last year’s earnings stood at Rs.1,380 billion and we have spent almost half of that to provide COVID relief for the people. The Government however, did not hesitate to provide the required relief for the people.

Weerasekara noted that had the same local food production that prevailed in the 1970’s continued to date, the country would have been self-sufficient in food production and would not have had to rely on imports.

He said that the ill-effects of the open economy was not felt by Sri Lanka due to its fair foreign exchange earnings through migrant workers remittances and the tourism industry. “But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, and total dependence on imports, gradually began to put a strain on the economy. Thousands of migrant workers returned to the country due to the pandemic and the tourism industry collapsed further aggravating the situation.”

He noted that food security is a vital component of national security, adding that despite a 30 year war, not a single citizen of the country died of starvation.

Minister Weerasekara said that while the Government has implemented many measures to protect the local farmers such as limiting the import of fruits and certain other items to encourage local farmers, there are still certain essential items that are imported to the country. However, he said that while these imports are given to some local importers, they have tried to make use of the current situation by heading stocks to create an artificial shortage to raise prices.

“It is due to the actions of such unscrupulous businesses that the country has had to face such an unfortunate situation which forced the Government to take such stern action,” Weerasekara said.

Supplementary Estimate worth Rs 73.2 b for COVID-19 expenses presented

A Supplementary Estimate worth Rs 73.2 billion to be spent for the COVID-19 pandemic and other expenses was presented by the Government to the House yesterday (06).

The Supplementary Estimate was presented to the House by Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando.

Presenting the Supplementary Estimation, the Government has sought the approval of Parliament to spend for COVID-19 pandemic related matters in all 24 districts. The expenses include extra funds for the COVID treatment centres, relief to those who are under quarantine and for fishermen.

The House was also requested to approve Rs. 8.04 billion to settle the bills for the extension of Southern Highway from Matara to Hambantota.

The Government also sought the House’s approval to spend Rs. 8.8 million to improve the building of the State Ministry of Coconut, Kithul, Palmyra and Rubber Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversion.

As per the Supplementary Estimate, Rs. 26 million is to be spent for the Sooriyawewa international cricket stadium.

TNA raises concerns regarding State of Emergency


The TNA raised concerns in Parliament yesterday regarding the insidious way the State of Emergency was brought into operation by the Government, where people were not told that a State of Emergency was being declared.

Joining in the Parliamentary debate on the imposition of the State of Emergency, Tamil National Alliance MP M.A. Sumanthiran said, “Prior to that the President made a statement saying that he was going to declare essential services. We all knew that if you are to declare essential services like that, one of the ways in which you can do that is to bring Emergency into operation.

But, they should have been upfront and told the country that he was declaring a State of Emergency and then made his Emergency regulations under Section Five. We never have a declaration of Emergency talking about Section Five, but this has. So that is what has given rise to this suspicion as to whether there is another sinister motive. I am not saying that the Government’s motive is not about essential services or food supplies. That is a concern we too have. But, whether that warrants the declaration of Emergency, we differ, but that concern remains. The suspicion is whether there is another sinister motive that by bringing the State of Emergency into operation, now you can make Emergency regulations that impinge, restrict the operation of various Fundamental Rights that the citizens of this country have,

mainly freedom of expression, freedom of publication, freedom of association etc.”

He said that his concerns were based on past incidents whenever an Emergency has been in operation. “This country has had its share of Emergency rule. It was not very good. From 1971 onwards, we had Emergency rule until almost the 1977 General Election. Then again in the 1980’s where even MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara was unfairly arrested for something that the UNP did. We all know how the Emergency has been misused. It may have been necessary for you during the war, but, everyone knows how it was abused.






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