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New Securities Exchange Bill IN HOUSE: Heavy Fines For Insider Dealing

The Government presented the new Securities Exchange Bill with comprehensive reforms for capital market regulation in Parliament yesterday.

Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake presented the Bill on behalf of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Bill is to establish the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka and to regulate market institutions, public offers of securities and market intermediaries. It deals with market misconduct and meets the challenges encountered by securities markets in an effective and efficient manner. It will repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No. 36 of 1987.

The new bill has proposed wide-ranging powers to the Securities and Exchange Commission to create and maintain a fair, efficient and transparent securities market.It hopes to protect the interests of investors both local and foreign and mitigate systemic risks in the financial system.

The Bill has stringently prohibited false trading and market rigging transactions, stock market manipulations, false or misleading statements, fraudulently inducing persons to deal in securities, and use of manipulative and deceptive devices.

A fine not less than Rs 10 million or/and imprisonment not exceeding 10 years can be imposed as the penalty for above offenses.

The Bill has provided special protection for whistle-blowers and proposed a reward to a whistle-blower that provides information which leads to a successful enforcement action. The Bill includes provisions for sound regulation of market intermediaries.

The new Bill has made special provisions against leaking of inside information. The Bill has proposed a fine not less than Rs 10 million or/and an imprisonment not exceeding 10 years as the penalty for leaking inside information.

The ten-member Securities and Exchange Commission will consist six persons from the private sector possessing professional expertise and standing in respect of matters relating to the securities market, special knowledge or wide experience and proven competency in law, finance, accounting, economics, banking or business to be appointed by the Minister. The Registrar General of Companies will be an ex-officio member.

The Commission will also include a Deputy Treasury Secretary nominated by the Treasury Secretary, a Central Bank Deputy Governor nominated by the Monetary Board and a fellow member nominated by the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.

The new Act applies to listed public companies and listed foreign entities.


February 10 presumed date for holding LG elections : Vajira

February 10 has been implied as the date of which the long overdue Local Government Elections would be held during Parliamentary debates yesterday.

This was indicated during a response by Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena to Joint Opposition MP Prasanna Ranatunga.

MP Ranatunga criticized appointments made to the Divisional Development Coordination Committees, stating that some of those committees were headed by rogues. He called on the Government to appoint responsible public representatives to take decisions pertaining to regional development.

Minister Abeywardena in response to this comment, said the problem would cease to continue after February 10 midnight.

JVP MP Vijitha Herath during the course of his speech called on the Government to revoke the circular to appoint a representative of the President or the Prime Minister to the District and Divisional Development Coordination Committees. “This circular cancelled the 1997 circular. Now electoral organizers are appointed to head these committees. Some of them were defeated candidates, while some even had criminal charges against them. Public officials face problems when coordinating work with them,” he said.


‘All issues faced by 332 DS divisions will be resolved in year 2020’

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeygunawardena said measures would be taken to resolve all issues faced by the 332 Divisional Secretariat Divisions by 2020.

He said so in Parliament yesterday, joining the Committee Stage debate of Budget 2018 under expenditure heads of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Public Administration and Management Ministry and Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry.

“We needed more funds than what was allocated in 2017 and the sum required was Rs. 28.53 billion. The entire administrative mechanism includes Divisional Secretariats, District Secretariats, 14,022 Grama Niladhari officers, 17,000 Development officers and 332 Regional offices,” he said.

Noting that the government had to face several disaster situations, the Minister said the state mechanism had to be mobilised in order to face these calamities, adding that 5,000 Grama Niladhari divisions had been hit by the recent drought as well. “Recently, another 27,000 houses in 130 divisional secretariats were also damaged due to inclement weather, while 14 lives had been also lost. However, we deployed our officers and handled the situation well, fulfilling our goals for 2017. We allocated Rs. 1.5 billion to amalgamate all 14,022 Grama Niladhari offices into one project ‘Nila Sevana’ so that all offices could be brought under one central mechanism by 2020.”

The Minister said issues at village level were resolved through the President’s Nila Mehewara programme. This programme was launched to minimise village issues and he said accordingly, 18,000 Identity cards were issued in Galle under this project. According to Abeywardana, measures are underway to resolve the burning issues faced by the people in the Kurunegala district, while issues in Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi are also in the process of being addressed and resolved. He said in 2018, eighteen divisions will be targeted in the Jaffna district and the issues facing them would be systematically resolved. In the Kurunegala district, the minister said it had been discovered that around 80,000 persons are without identity cards.


Uma Oya project victims will be compensated soon:Anuradha

Mahaweli Development Deputy Minister Anuradha Jayaratne said measures would be taken to expedite compensation payments to all the victims of the Uma Oya project who had not received compensation so far.

He said this in response to a question posed by JVP-MP Vijitha Herath during the oral question and answer session in Parliament yesterday.

Dy Minister Jayaratne explaining the reasons for the delay said, “Taking into consideration the past situation, over 1,400 litres of water had leaked per second. Although we conducted evaluations within a few weeks to a month, the situation changed dramatically. Later, we had to re-assess the situation. However, we have now succeeded in containing the leak to 280 litres per second and adequate officers have been deployed to conduct the assessments.”

However, Herath while disagreeing, noted that he was on the sectorial oversight committee and he himself had summoned these officers on three occasions and these officers themselves have admitted that they were short-staffed and lacked sufficient assessment officers. He accused the government of not being committed to resolve the issue.In response, Jayaratne said a committee had been appointed to look into the problems, adding that so far compensation had been paid to 1,687 victims. He said a total sum of Rs. 521 million had been paid as compensation so far and assured that measures would be taken to minimise the water leak at the Uma Oya project.


‘Sewage released to sea sans purification, could be rectified under LG Ministry’

The sewage system in Colombo that was released to the sea without purification, could be rectified under the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, said Minister Faiszer Musthapha in Parliament yesterday.

He said that for the past 100 of years or so, it had been released to the sea without purification, creating an environmental hazard. He added that it was a success for his Ministry to correct it under this government.

He made these observations during the Committee Stage debate on Budget proposals for the financial year 2018 under the financial heads of Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry and Public Administration and Management Ministry.

He also said that the local government elections were delayed not because of his fault, but due to the delay of solving the delimitation issue.

He further said that his Ministry could implement projects worth of Rs 40,500 million out of the Rs 45,000 million that was allocated to his Ministry for year 2017. He added that his Ministry could render a great service by developing many libraries under the Library Development Project. He also said that steps were taken to provide water to 8,405 hectare in the North from the Iranamadu Tank.

He also said that the Ministry is studying the powers of Local Governments that had been taken over by the Central Government in order to take them back.

He also said that although Sri Lanka could boast of the world's first woman President, female representation in politics had dropped. He added that however with amendments, the government had been able to increase women representation in Local Government Institutions to 25 percent. He expressed hope that female representation in Parliament would increase as well.


Pradeshiya Sabha issue would be resolved in a fair manner : Faiszer Musthapha

The issue concerning the separate Pradeshiya Sabha in Sainthamaruthu in Kalmunai, would be resolved in a fair manner for both the Tamils and Muslims, Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faiszer Musthapha pledged.

He said the matter is now being extensively discussed with the TNA and Muslim political parties. He made this observation in Parliament yesterday, when JVP MP Vijitha Herath called on the Government to attend to the matter before it was too late.

However, MP Herath commented that the faith on Minister Musthapha’s promises had lost due to the continuous delay of LG polls and that it led to the submission of two No Confidence Motions against him.

“The minister who went to the area on October 21 last year, promised for a separate Pradeshiya Sabha for them. As you have ignited the problem, resolve it before it was too late,” the MP said.

UNP back bencher Chaminda Wijesiri, who spoke after MP Herath, also joined in the criticism against Minister Musthapha over the delay in holding LG polls. “You have already been dubbed ‘Balagiri’ and the people in our villages would soon start pasting your photograph instead of mentioning ‘Balagiri doshaya ada nevei heta.’ Please resolve the matter and pave the way for elections soon,” he commented.


Secretarial Service needed for LG institutions : Dayasiri

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said a Local Government Secretaries Service should be initiated for Local Government institutions.

The Minister made this suggestion during the Committee Stage debate of the Budget 2018 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Public Administration and Management Ministry and Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, in Parliament yesterday.

He suggested that the Local Government Ministry should be able to work at rural level. Commenting on the numerous allegations the government is facing over the delay in LG elections, he said, “The government has to pay Provincial Ministers around Rs. 60 million per month and a large sum of money is spent on Provincial Councils annually. A total of 8,356 members will be appointed through the election, but so far, no one has spoken on reducing the number of members and we will have to fork out a colossal Rs. 125,340,000 monthly. If we fail to stabilise power, then nothing would be done. If someone files a case, the blame would be dumped on us, but no one is highlighting the flaws in this system and the resultant crisis that it would create.”


Public Service strengthened by more than 15,000 members

The present government has recruited more than 15,000 to the public service during the last two and a half years, although the Opposition charge that the government was attempting to shrink the public service, Public Administration and Management Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said in Parliament yesterday.

He also said that the previous government had increased the salaries of public servants by Rs. 2,500 only, while the good governance government had increased the salaries by Rs 10,000 during this short period.

He made these observations during the Committee Stage debate on the Budget proposals for financial year 2018, under the financial heads of Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry and Public Administration and Management Ministry.

He said the present government had recruited 570 to the Administrative Service, while 6,193 were recruited to the Government Management Supplementary Service. "Altogether 15,000 had been recruited under this government," Minister Bandara said. "There was a shortage of 500 Accountants and it was filled. As there is a shortage of translators, applicants are less due to low salaries and we have decided to make their payments attractive."


Jayaratne, Musthapha lock horns over LG election date

Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Priyankara Jayaratne and Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faizer Musthapha yesterday, locked horns in Parliament, over functions they shared, while MP Jayaratne was the latter's deputy.

The argument cropped up when Priyankara Jayaratne queried as to when the Local Government election would be held, stating that the Minister was not competent to fulfill his duty.

They were embroiled in this argument during the Committee Stage debate on the Budget proposals for the financial year 2018, under the financial heads of Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry and Public Administration and Management Ministry.

"You were my deputy when you were sitting with the government," Minister Musthapa said. "If the Ministry was not run efficiently, you are responsible for it." "Since I could not work with you I left the government side," MP Jayaratne said. "But making a statement on your resignation, you said that you were vested with ample powers by the Minister," Minister Musthapa said. "You said that you were given powers of a Cabinet Minister and it is immoral and unacceptable to say otherwise now."

However, the presiding member Sriyani Wijewickrama attempted to settle their disagreement but it lasted until the presiding member announced that the allotted time for MP Jayaratne had lapsed.


Translators will be placed on attractive salary scale : Ranjith

Translators would be placed on an attractive salary scale to address the dearth of translators in the country, Public Administration and Management Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said.

The minister made this comment when JVP MP Vijitha Herath pointed out that a shortage of translators existed in many public institutions including ministries. The MP also highlighted the lack of a proper mechanism to recruit graduates who have studied translation as a subject, directly to the cadre of translators in the Government.

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena proposed waiving the minimum qualification of Ordinary Level when recruiting Tamil translators as a solution to the dearth of Tamil speaking translators. However, MP Herath pointed out that graduates with translation as a subject, are passing out from universities every year, but there is no system to recruit them directly to Government service.

Minister Mudduma Bandara said translators would be placed on an attractive salary scale shortly after obtaining Cabinet approval.


Jayampathie on PCs under Central Government

Subjects of Provincial Councils that are under the Central Government unconstitutionally must be granted back, said UNP Parliamentarian Jayampathie Wickramaratne in Parliament yesterday.

He said all central governments have kept several subjects that come under provincial councils since its initiation and it was the responsibility of the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry to work to gain them back to the Provincial Councils.

He made these observations during the Committee Stage debate on the Budget proposals for the financial year 2018, under financial heads of Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry and Public Administration and Management Ministry.

He said Provincial Councils have the power to run the Omni Bus Transport but the National Transport Commission Act has contradictory laws preventing Provincial Councils from operating them.

He added that all subjects that come under the Agrarian Services Act should also come under the Provincial Councils.

The Ministry has to take those subjects from the Central Government on behalf of the Provincial Councils.


‘SLAS retirement age should be increased’

The retirement age for Sri Lanka’s Administrative Service should be increased to 62 years to acquire their operational and management skills, said UNP Parliamentarian M H M Salman in Parliament yesterday.

He also said that there were more than 60 such SLAS officers to go on retirement this year, which would create a lacunar in highly seasoned officials fighting for the upliftment of the country.

He made these observations during the Committee Stage debate on budget proposals for the financial year 2018, under financial heads of Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry and Public Administration and Management Ministry.

He further said that there were 13 all island services where nearly 30,000 employed in these services and out of which 2,900 were SLAS officials. He added that although the retirement age of these SLAS officials was 60 years, the required retirement age has been amended. He also added that this situation had created an issue to the equilibrium state of the government service and suggested that the retirement age of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service be increased to 62 years.


 

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