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Alcohol is not promoted at school functions – Akila

The government does not promote or encourage in any way to carry out alcohol promotional activities through sponsorships at any school functions, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said in Parliament yesterday..

He was responding to a request made by UPFA MP Wimalaweera Dissanayake urging the Government not to allow liquor manufacturing companies to sponsor annual school big matches.

Dissanayake said alcohol manufacturing companies come forward to sponsor these events to promote their alcohol beverages such as beer amongst students.

He questioned what steps the Government had taken to stop these social ills.

Minister Akila Viraj said these are businessmen and they can sponsor any event. “We cannot stop them, but as the Education Ministry, we do not encourage or endorse it,” the Minister said.

MP Dissanayake said the Minister made it clear that the Government was not concerned about discouraging the consumption of liquor.

Minister Kariyawasam said the Government had shown that it was concerned about liquor by increasing prices of liquor with the budget and launching a massive drive to arrest illegal liquor operations.

 


Rabies prevention now under Health Ministry – Rajitha

The rabies prevention programme was taken under the Health Ministry to eradicate the disease in the country by 2025, Health Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.

The Health Minister was responding to a question by JVP-MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake under standing orders 27/2 in Parliament yesterday.

He said the number of rabies cases had been reducing until 2017, but by 2018, it had risen to 57.26 per cent. The anti-rabies drive had been under the Department of Animal Husbandry and Health, and as they could not implement the anti-rabies drive effectively, the programme was taken over by the Health Ministry.

The Minister said the Department of Animal Husbandry and Health could not implement the anti-rabies programme effectively since they lack resources and doctors. “In 2017, the number of deaths reported due to rabies stood at 23, which had risen to 25 by 2018. Last year, six deaths were reported from Hambantota and Sabaragamuwa,” the Minister said.

Minister Senaratne said the government had allocated Rs. 600 million for the anti-rabies programme. In 2017, 24,200 dogs were vaccinated against rabies and in 2018, around 26,000 dogs had been given the vaccination.


GMOA members meet Opposition Leader

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa met a group of Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) members at the Opposition Leader’s Conference Room in Parliament yesterday and discussed the budget proposals.

The GMOA President had told the Opposition Leader and his team about the imported milk powder, flour and fruits.

They also discussed the discrepancies pertaining to the wages of the medical officers and the issues of the medical profession. They had appealed to the Opposition Leader to focus on a national trade policy best suited for the country and charged that the government had failed to address this matter.

They had highlighted that bakery products made of rice flour is healthier than the ones made of imported wheat flour and using rice flour to produce bakery food items would help farmers sell their paddy harvest as well.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa had assured the GMOA representatives that he would discuss the matter with the rest of his party members and look into suitable measures.

MPs Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dullas Alahapperuma, Bandula Gunawardena, Keheliya Rambukwella, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle were present.

 


Government protects Grama Niladharis’ dignity - Vajira

The government has created an environment conducive to providing an efficient service while protecting the professional honour of the Grama Niladhari Officers, Minister Vajira Abeywardena said.

He was responding on behalf of the Public Administration and Disaster Management Minister for a question raised by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa under standing orders 27/2 in Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said the protest launched on the Parliament road on March 5 is a tragedy for the Grama Niladhari profession. Of 14,000 Grama Niladharies in the country, only 2,000 had participated in the protest. He said the Grama Niladhari officers were used for various projects to collect funds and others during the previous regime. He said this could be stopped through a circular.

“We held discussions with nine Grama Niladhari associations on March 5. Eight associations handed over their demands in writing. However, one group had staged this protest. Only 2,651 of them had applied for leave on that day,” he said.

“Since 1994, the Grama Seva constitution was inactive for 25 years. The collection of funds which commenced during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure can be stopped even today.

We increased the salaries of the Grama Seva Officers from 13,990 to 28,940 after we were elected on January 8, 2015. We have allocated Rs. 4 billion to construct Government Agent offices in Ratnapura, Batticaloa, Matale and Polonnaruwa and the work is underway now.

We have completed 180 of the proposed 332 Divisional Secretariat offices and we will construct 365 Divisional Secretariat offices. We have completed 3,000 of the proposed 14,022 official Grama Niladhari offices,” he said.

The Minister said that by constructing one office to house four government officers in the villages, Grama Sevaka, Govi Niladhari, Samurdhi Niladhari and Development officer, they would be connected with other relevant government institutions online.

 


‘Mangala at PFC to detail cost of some budget proposals’

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has been invited to the Public Finance Committee (PFC) today to get details on the cost involved in some of the budget proposals he made, Committee Chairman and TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran said.

Joining the Budget debate yesterday in Parliament, the MP said the cost of some budgetary proposals was not indicated by the Minister in the Budget speech.

Sumanthiran revealed that an examination of last five years has shown that foreign interest payments had been underestimated by 52.8 percent.

“There is underestimation of interest payments, and we do not know how this happens.

The ministry must have a schedule of payments that are due.

The answer the officials gave us is that there is currency fluctuation because these loans are due in USD and these figures are in Rupees.

If the interest payment figures are false, then the entire Budget figures are wrong because you underestimate the expenditure and heavily overestimate revenue. We have given several examples where revenue collection is heavily overestimated. This is a pattern that has been gone on for several decades,” he revealed.

The MP also feared that the implementation of budgetary proposals would not reach at least 20 percent. “It is not good to lay grandeur plans and announce various relief and so on, when only very little of that can be realised,” he said.

The MP also stressed the need to limit the amount of expenditure borne outside the budgetary allocations to not more than two percent. “The Budgetary process has to be transparent. We cannot go on like this and achieve the development indices we are aiming at,” he said.

Referring to the report of the Public Finance Committee presented in February with regard to the 2018 Budget presented in November 2017, the MP said there were startling variances of the budgetary figures.

“For three years, we have tried to work with the Finance Ministry officials and we have not had much corporation. After we went public with this complaint they seemed to be cooperating a little. There are very serious issues in the budgetary formats. The Budget estimates have no relevance to the figures the Finance Minister gives when making the Budget speech. It is in two different formats. The minister gives in it economic format while the Budget estimates are in accounting format and you cannot compare the two easily.

Eventually what is adopted is something totally different and what is implemented invariable has nothing to do with either the Budget estimates or what the Finance Minister presents as Budget proposals or the finalised figures. This has to change for more responsible budgetary process. One particular format must be followed. We have given the officials a format to give us information and on Thursday we got some information,” he said.

 


‘Mattala Airport will handle migrant workers’ air travel’

The air travel of Sri Lankan migrant workers will be handled by the Mattala International Airport, Transport and Civil Aviation State Minister Ashok Abeysinghe said.

He was participating in the Budget debate in Parliament yesterday.

The State Minister said discussions had been made with the Foreign Employment Ministry to send migrant workers abroad via the Mattala Airport.

UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa asked on the present status of the discussions with India on the Mattala Airport and the State Minister reiterated that it would be developed as a joint venture with India and that discussions were progressing in this regard. State Minister Abeysinghe said a special programme would be in place from August this year to provide a chance for public servants to obtain air tickets for internal flights by using three railway warrants.

“When the public servants produce three unused railway warrants, they will be given an air ticket for a domestic flight. Domestic flights will be in operation from Palali, Batticaloa, Sigiriya, Mattala, Trincomalee and Colombo,” he said.

 

 


MR urges government to resolve Grama Niladharis’ issues

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday asked in Parliament what steps the government has taken so far to resolve issues faced by Grama Niladhari Officers.

Rajapaksa said a Grama Niladhari officers’ trade union protested on February 5 blocking the main entrance of Parliament and demanded the government to rectify their salary anomalies and to formulate a service minute for them.

“Other than these main problems, they want to get back the allowance for preparing National Identity Cards. They also want their uniform allowance and telecommunication allowance,’ the Opposition Leader said.

“Grama Niladhari officers provide a great service to villages because they are the closest government officer to the rural people. Their contribution to eradicate illegal drugs, moonshine and crimes in villages should be appreciated. We should make steps to get more contribution from them to develop villages by resolving their problems,” Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

The Grama Niladhari officers allege that the government try to recruit new officers improperly saying that they were politically victimised. They demand to hold their exams on time and secure their work rights. The government should hold discussions with them and provide a report to the House on the progress of the discussions, Rajapaksa said.

 

 

 


 

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