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Parliament

Gov’t will reclaim Trincomalee oil tanks – Minister Gammanpila

The Government is taking steps to reclaim the Trincomalee oil tanks, which are under the Indian Oil Company, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said.

He was responding to a question by Ratnapura District Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Hesha Withanage.

The Minister said that the talks are underway among the Government, Indian Government and the Indian Oil Company to acquire some tanks underutilised by the LIOC.

However, he refrained from divulging further details and expressed concern that revealing all details of the discussions would jeopardise the Government’s efforts to acquire the oil farm of 99 oil tanks.

Sri Lanka acquired the oil tank farm at China Bay during the Bandaranaike rule paying 250,000 sterling pounds, the Minister said.

It had 101 tanks and of them, only 99 are usable. The UNP Government had leased these tanks to LIOC in 2003 for 35 years holding on to 25 per cent ownership rights with the Lankan Government.

“The complex was leased out to LIOC but even after 18 years, they use only 15 tanks. We hope to get back the remaining tanks,” the Minister said. The storage capacity of the Trincomalee Complex is one million tonnes. The oil tank farm is adjacent to the Trincomalee Harbour, which is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world. It was developed by the British during the World War II.

 


Parliamentarians should adhere to health guidelines – Speaker

Members of Parliament should strictly adhere to the health regulations to curtail the recent outbreak of COVID-19, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena informed the House yesterday. The Speaker requested that all MPs should adhere to the health regulations inside and outside of Parliament.

The Speaker announced that no visitors should be brought inside the Parliamentary premises. Only the government officials whose entry is essential should be allowed in, the Speaker said.

“Persons who are allowed inside the Parliament premises including the Parliament staff, security units, suppliers and journalists should strictly follow the health regulations by the health authorities to prevent the outbreak,” the Speaker said.

 


NCPA received 6,063 complaints about child abuses this year – Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) has received 6,063 complaints in the first nine months of this year about child abuse. Of the complaints, only 3,900 have been investigated, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said in Parliament yesterday.

Professor Peiris said that of the investigated cases, only 303 were prosecuted.

“I am not at all satisfied with the number of cases that have been fully investigated. We will take steps to increase the efficiency of the investigations.” the Minister said.

The Minister was replying to a question by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) National List MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya during the oral question round. Minister Prof. Peiris said that of such child-victims, the number of those who are continually engaged in their studies (formal and/or informal) as before as a percentage is as low as 9 per cent. “This is absolutely unsatisfactory. We will take immediate steps to rectify this matter,” Prof. Peiris said.

Professor Peiris said that steps have been taken to establish nine units in each Province to derive video evidence of child abuse cases. “Special training will be provided to police officers to handle child abuse cases. Preliminary reports of every child abuse case will be sent to the NCP within 24 hours. Nine magistrate courts will be set up in the nine Provinces to hear child abuse cases,” the Minister said.

Of the abused child victims, 5,667 children are living with their family members. About 396 such victims have been taken by their families and placed either with their trusted relatives or child development centers.

Professor Peiris said that 774 of the victims are receiving psychosocial assistance by properly trained personnel.

The Minister said that the Government will open nine centres to accept infants abandoned by their parents for various difficulties.

Dr. Amarasuriya asked if the Government is genuinely interested in solving these child abuse cases as even a separate ministry was not set up for child affairs. Minister Prof. Peiris said, “For a long time, there were several ministries overlooking this section. No solutions have been given. The Government will take swift measures to address the issues.”

 


Coconut, rubber will be grown on oil palm lands – Minister Ramesh Pathirana

The Government will halt cultivating oil palm and use 10,579 hectares of oil palm cultivation to grow coconut and rubber, Plantation Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said in Parliament yesterday.

The Plantations Minister was responding to a question by Kandy District Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Velu Kumar.

The Minister said that few cases are pending before courts over the palm oil industry, hindering the Government to stop palm oil cultivation, which have been identified as a threat to the environment.

“The Government has made a policy decision to stop cultivating palm oil trees. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his policy statement delivered in Parliament said that palm oil cultivation will be stopped,” he said.

The Minister said that nine regional plantation companies are cultivating palm oil. The Watawala Plantations Company has 3,392 hectares of palm oil, Boganwanthalawa has 202 hectares, Kotagala 525 hectares, Elpitiya 1,747 hectares, Agalawatte 1,333 hectares, Malwatta Valley 18 hectares, Horana 294, Kegalle 199 and the Namunukula Plantations Company has 2,493 hectares.

The Bogawanthalawa Plantations Company has given sub contracts to Lalan Rubber (Pvt.) Limited to cultivate palm oil in 13 plantations of 39 hectares. Altogether 10,579 hectares are used to cultivate palm oil, the Minister said.

He said that the Government will promote coconut and rubber cultivations in the lands being used for oil palm.

He said that as several court cases are pending, the Government had notified the plantation companies to continue with their cultivations, and once the court cases are resolved, the Government will make a policy decision on banning palm oil cultivations.

 


Urban park will be set up over Meethotamulla garbage dump area – State Minister

Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Public Sanitation State Minister Nalaka Godahewa said in Parliament yesterday that the Government is moving ahead with the development of the Meethotamulla Garbage Dump area into an urban park. The area includes about 140 houses built without permission, State Minister Godahewa said.

The State Minister was responding to an oral question by Parliamentarian S.M. Marikkar.

“There are various opinions regarding the development of areas where there were garbage dumps. The methodology of converting such places into urban parks seems to be the ideal approach,” State Minister Godahewa said.

 


UNP led opposition attempted to stop private banks from granting credit facilities during war - Cabraal

During the war time, the Opposition led by the United National Party (UNP) attempted to stop private banks from granting credit facilities to the Government Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said in Parliament yesterday.

He made this observation when Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa questioned the Government claiming that the country is in a severe financial crisis.

Premadasa making a special statement to the House said, “Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded Sri Lanka’’s sovereign credit rating by two notches, stating that our country would be hard-pressed to secure funding to service its huge foreign debt. On September 28, Moody’s downgraded Sri Lanka from “B2” (high credit risk) to “CAA1” (very high credit risk). Now we are in the company of countries such as Angola, Mali, Barbados, Gabon and Iraq. This down grading would have a severe blow for the economy which needs to borrow around four billion US dollars during the period from 2020 to 2025. As at August, our foreign reserves were at 7.4 million US dollars. In that context, the Government repaid a billion US dollar international sovereign bond (ISB). That is not a move favourable for the country’s economy,” he said.

State Minister Cabraal said, “When this issue was raised, my mind went back to 2007. We were trying to raise funds by issuing bonds. The then Opposition Leader and his supporters did their utmost to prevent us raising funds. They surrounded HSBC and threatened not to buy the bonds which they would not honour under a future government of them. Later, when I engaged on a world tour to bring foreign investors, I saw each of them had a copy of a document sent from here telling them not to give funds to us. That was the time we were in a critical situation as the war was being fought. We somehow managed to win both the economy and the war. It seems that the opposition is enjoying some sinister fun seeing that we are confronting challenges. They may be dreaming to have the last laugh seeing that we are failing to manage the economy. Trust me we will not give that chance to the opposition. We will find solutions to these problems and we will prevail,” the Minister said.

State Minister Cabraal said, “We hope to win every challenge before us. The CBSL and Finance Ministry issued a statement in response to Moody’s report within five minutes of its issuance. It looks like the Opposition Leader has missed our statement. I would like to Hansard our response. No one has challenged the response we have presented. We have reestablished political and economic stability. Within 2 months we have a V shaped recovery concerning exports. We have successfully dealt with the trade deficit. The CBSL has predicted progress in our economic development indicators in the coming months. Ports services have increased their revenue.Direct foreign investments are coming in. When laws are introduced concerning Port City will get more investments. Stock market costs have gradually increased. The Colombo stock market has performed as the best growing stock market in the world. We have been able to obtain money from the Forex market and add to CBSL reserves. It seems that the Opposition cannot handle our progress.”