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Had 2003 UNP Govt. continued, Trincomalee’s 99 oil tanks would be functional: PM

Had the 2003 UNP Government continued all 99 oil tanks in Trincomalee would have been fully operational today, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, in reply to the accusations over leasing out oil tanks to the Indian Oil Company.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the Premier said that when the 2003 agreement with India was inked, the oil tanks in Trincomalee were idling as the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation was not in a position to make use of them.

“Then there was a change of Governments and the agreement was postponed. In 2015, we had discussions with India to resume the project as the CPC had no financial capacity to embark on it alone as it was burdened with a huge debt. If we were to develop the Trinco oil tank farm, it would be sufficient to store enough buffer stocks for Sri Lanka and part of India,” he noted.

The Premier said the LIOC had imported another fuel shipment from India to cater to the increased demand and it would arrive in the country by Thursday or Friday.

“Both President Sirisena and I spoke to the Indian High Commissioner in this regard. This fuel shipment was in addition to the shipment ordered by the CPC,” he said, explaining on the urgent measures taken to settle the problem.

While expressing his regrets over the inconvenience caused to the public due to the petrol shortage, the Premier assured that the situation would normalize by the end of this week.

The Premier, replying to the Joint Opposition's complaints in the House on the 2003 agreement with India, questioned back as to why the former regime led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not cancel it and send the IOC away when it held ruling power.

“If you do not want India's involvement, you could have terminated it and developed these tanks during the 10 years you held ruling power,” he added.

Wickremesinghe also pointed out that China had expressed interest in constructing an oil refinery in Hambantota.

“Our plans to renovate the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery with Iranian support was delayed due to sanctions imposed on Iran. Later, when we came up with plans for a second refinery at Hambantota, you were campaigning even against that project together with some Trade Unions.

You try to chase away the investors by petitioning the Supreme Court,” he told the Joint Opposition.


Unparliamentary remarks-Speaker takes Vasu to task

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday took Joint Opposition MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara to task as the latter had accused him of being responsible for the fuel crisis in the country.

MP Nanayakkara, when he was given the opportunity to ask for a clarification from Petroleum Resources Development Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, went on to charge that the current situation was caused by the flaws in the 2003 agreement signed with India and that the Speaker should take the blame for it as the then Petroleum Minister.

The seemingly miffed Speaker, demanded the MP to withdraw the comment, stating that it was a collective decision of the then Cabinet of Ministers. “You cannot point the finger at an individual minister for a Cabinet decision. You are a senior Parliamentarian. You stooped to such a attitude today to accuse the Speaker blatantly disregarding Parliamentary traditions,” the Speaker told the MP.


Four Bills passed in Parliament with amendments

The Judicature (Amendment) Bill, Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses (Amendment) Bill, Prevention of Crimes (Amendment) Bill and Local Authorities (Special Provisions) Bill were passed yesterday in Parliament with amendments.

Power and Renewable Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P Perera said in Parliament, that the number of High Court Judges would be increased by 45 percent in order to hasten the hearing of criminal cases with the implementation of these Amendment bills, while making the witnesses in a criminal case enable to provide evidence while remaining overseas. He made this observation moving the second reading debate on the four motions.

He said there was a need to set up a Special Court to take up Corruption and Fraud Cases. He also said that to implement the policy, the number of judges had to be increased. "In order to meet the needed number of judges, this measure was taken," the Deputy Minister said. "The criminal cases should be heard continuously. However, there are reasons for the delay of those hearings." "The number of High Court Judges would be increased by 45 percent," Deputy Minister Perera said. "Hence the number of High Court Judges would be increased from 75 to 110."

Commencing the debate, the Deputy Minister said that motions were very necessary for the reformation of the Judiciary. He said the country had already passed an Act to protect victims of crimes and witnesses of the same case. He added that the country had made it available to enable witnesses of a case before Commercial High Court to give evidence, while remaining overseas. "But this is impossible in relation to a criminal case," Deputy Minister Perera said. "These measures would make it possible and it is a responsibility of a responsible society."


Speaker says he too was affected by fuel crisis

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told Parliament yesterday, that he too had been affected by the fuel crisis and his vehicles too had run out of petrol.

He made this observation when Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena and Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake raised the fuel crisis in Parliament making special statements under Standing Orders 23(2).

MP Gunawardena queried as to how could the severity of the issue be faced by the common people, as the Speaker too had been affected by the issue with no petrol for his vehicles. He added that Parliament should understand the severity of the problem.

“The entire country is suffering from this crisis. Normal life and the economy are affected because of this problem prevailing for the past several days. It is the duty of the government and the minister responsible to inform the nation when they would solve the problem," said MP Gunawardena. "Who is responsible for the maintenance of stocks of petrol? Now we do not have the ownership of the oil tanks in Trincomalee. There is a crisis in the refinery. Who is taking the responsibility for this crisis?”

He also said that Sri Lanka had lost the opportunity of constructing and maintaining the Hambantota refinery.

Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that there was a procedure of importing petrol. "But five ship loads of petrol had been unloaded recently against the procedure," MP Dissanayake said. "There is a massive loss caused by that action. The estimated loss is around 40 million US dollars. The Trincomalee oil tanks have been given over to the Indian Oil Company. Now you could see what the results are. The minister had stated that there was pressure from politicians to permit unloading of substandard petrol, but he acted against it. Will the minister inform the House who exerted pressure on him?"

MP Dissanayake also said the problem would be a long term one if the LIOC was allowed to involve themselves in fuel supplying in Sri Lanka.


To recognise high performances of state institutes-COPA organises National Awards ceremony

The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has organized a National Awards Ceremony to recognize 81 State Institutions that had achieved a high level of performance.

The ceremony will be held on November 13 at 12 noon at the Parliamentary Complex with President Maithripala Sirisena as the Chief Guest and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Guest of Honour.

The institutions with high performance levels have been selected by evaluating the data related to all 842 public institutions coming under the Committee’s scope, using a specially designed computer programme. All Ministries, Government Departments, Special Spending Units of the Government, Provincial Councils, District Secretariats and Local Government Authorities come under COPA’s scrutiny. 


 No MP privileges for Geetha

Sandasen Marasinghe and Disna Mudalige

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya instructed Parliamentary authorities to debar Geetha Kumarasinghe from entering parliament premises, using MP privileges, Parliamentary sources revealed yesterday.

The Speaker issued new directives in line with the Supreme Court decision that stated Kumarasinghe will not be entitled to continue to take her seat in Parliament due to her dual citizenship.

The sources also revealed that following the Supreme Court decision being conveyed to Parliament on Monday (6), the Speaker informed the Elections Commission that Kumarasinghe will no longer be considered a Parliamentarian.

The Supreme Court declared that a person holding dual citizenship, at the time of nomination, and taking oaths, could not function as a Member of Parliament, confirming the Court of Appeal decision issued earlier which was later on challenged by Kumarasinghe before the Supreme Court. 


 

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