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Compensation for those injured in Easter attacks on medical recommendations – Minister Ali Sabry

Compensation has been determined for those who were injured in the Easter Sunday terror attacks on medical recommendation confirming their inability to make a living. Those with over 70 per cent of debilitating injuries or temporary disability of six months or more have been considered as permanent disabilities and the full compensation of Rs. 500,000 have been paid to them, Justice Minister Ali Sabry PC said.

The Minister was responding to Opposition MP Hesha Withanage during the Questions for Oral Answers in Parliament yesterday.

Minister Sabry said that in other instances, the extent of the injuries would be determined on the medical report. As per Cabinet decision, compensation for injuries has been paid to the injured persons up to Rs. 500,000.

He tabled a detailed report of the victims’ names and those injured and the payment of compensation.

The Minister said that a need assessment has been carried out on those who require psychosocial support and measures would be taken to assist them on their requirement.

MP Hesha Withanage asked the Speaker and the Minister to look into those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks, directly or indirectly, and bring them to book. He referred to former President Maithripala Sirisena who was in the House and asked that justice be served to those victims of the Easter attacks.

Minister Ali Sabry said that unlike the previous regime, this Government will not take the law into their hands and use it to take revenge on their opponents. He said that the legal mechanism was in motion and on evidence and facts, those responsible would be punished irrespective of who they are. “Investigations should be conducted independently and those involved should be punished and those who are found to be innocent should be released. Unlike in the 1983 riots where it is very evident who were behind it, - the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Nawa Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) and the Communist Party (CP). Somehow the JVP laid low and after 7-8 years, a huge problem arose. This was the result of failing to find solutions to the problem at hand,” he said.

The Minister said that therefore, no one should be targeted and made scapegoats and neither should this matter be politicised. “If that happens, it could result in a huge problem.”

He said that the President is steadfast in his view that no innocent party should be blamed for this incident and it should not be used for political vengeance. The Minister said that he believes that the Easter attacks investigations would be conducted independently and the Attorney General will release his stance once he is handed the Presidential Commission report.

No political role in appointing Foreign Service Officers – Minister Dinesh

No officer is appointed to the Sri Lanka Foreign Service on political affiliation, Foreign Affairs Minister, Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday.

“The Foreign Service has many ranks. Officers are appointed to the Foreign Service through an examination. There has not been any alteration of the examination.” Minister Gunawardena said.

Minister Gunawardena was responding to Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Chaminda Wijesiri during the Oral Questions Round. MP Wijesiri said that officers are appointed to the Sri Lanka Foreign Service via political influence.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said that appointments are done as per the examination results. Any other appointment, such as an Ambassador or High Commissioner, made by the President as power vested upon him, will be brought before a Parliamentary Committee presided over by the Speaker and approved.

MP Wijesiri then asked why a certain officer attached to the Foreign Service uses Temple Trees as his residential address. The same question was repeated by several Opposition MPs.

The Speaker requested the Opposition MPs not to raise questions that misled the House. Minister Gunawardena said that during the Yahapalana government, there was a person who had been appointed to Foreign Service as an ambassador in the US. When persons in such high posts conclude service, they will not join again in a lower rank. But this person has done it. So, when the Opposition MPs speak, they should think about what they are going to say,” the Minister said.

Government will manage estate hospitals – Health Minister

The Government has held discussions and agreed to take charge of estate hospitals, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said.

She was responding to MP Vadivel Suresh during the Questions Round for Oral Answers in Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said that it was difficult to assign two MBBS doctors per estate hospital as requested by the MP. She said that it takes around five years to produce an MBBS doctor and there was an acute shortage of doctors in the country now. “It is not enough to increase the number of doctors to estate hospitals, the number of nurses and other staff must be increased as well,” she said. Therefore, everything possible would be done to develop estate hospitals,” Minister Wanniarachchi said.

MP Suresh said that only one MBBS doctor is assigned to estate hospitals and as the workers generally work during the day and so does the doctor, when the estate workers go to a hospital after work, the doctor is not avaiable as he works only until around five. The MP requested the Health Minister to assign at least two MBBS doctors on shift basis so that the estate workers, especially pregnant mothers, could have medical facilities. He said that the people of remote estate areas cannot get an ambulances in an emergency.

Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said that overall there is a shortage of ambulances. “In almost all the districts, there is a shortage of ambulances to transport patients to hospitals. However, all possible steps would be taken to address the estate people’s issues,” she said.

The Minister added that discussions are also underway with several countries to resolve the ambulance issue.

The Minister said that she will look into recruiting Tamil speaking midwives for the estate sector considering the MP’s proposal.

Development projects will be started only after compensating for lands – Minister Chamal

Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday that the development projects that acquire lands will be started only after compensating those who lose their lands for the projects.

Minister Rajapaksa was responding to MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne during the Oral Questions Round.

Minister Rajapaksa said that compensation had been paid to the freehold landowners whose lands were acquired for the Wayamba Ela Project. He said that the compensation for the occupants of the lands owned by the temples had been paid in full.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne suggested that at least 75 per cent of the assessed value of the land should be paid to the party who loses the land when acquiring land for projects. She said that the people of Laggala are suffering due to certain development projects and that the distribution of dry rations to the people in that area is inadequate.

She said that the canned fish that were distributed last week was rotten and those who ate it fell sick. She said that the case should be investigated.

Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said that the issued will be looked into.

Those stranded abroad will be repatriated safely – State Minister Arundika

The President has taken all steps to repatriate migrant workers and Sri Lankans who were stranded abroad safely, but certain individuals are attempting to exploit the situation and make quick profits, State Minister Arundika Fernando said.

The President, however, realised their attempts and has now issued instructions to handle the situation fairly and assist those who are repatriated. He said that the airfares are high because airlines that used to carry 300-400 passengers can now carry only around 50, resulting in high prices due to the overheads costs.

The President, therefore, has advised the authorities to pay special attention to the low-income migrant workers who want to return from the Middle Eastern countries and to facilitate them, he said.

State Minister Arundika Fernando highlighted the plight of those returning from Italy and other European countries and said that the cost of the airfare is not their issue. “Some approach them seeking bribes to include them on the priority lists and when they come to airports, they are told that they could be taken, only if they agree to undergo quarantine at hotels. We have notified the President about this situation and to implement a mechanism in this regard,” he said.

Rs, 181 billion spent on rubber imports between 2015 and 2019

The Government had spent Rs. 181 billion on importing rubber to the country between 2015 and 2019, it was revealed in Parliament yesterday.

MP Mohammed Musammil said that rubber lands have been divided and sold and it had an impact on the rubber. He asked if the Government had taken measures to stop selling rubber lands and increase the rubber production in line with the Government’s plans to revive the rubber based industry and set up a tyre factory.

Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that the Government will set up a mechanism to prevent selling the rubber lands.

“We will open a tyre factory and another one in Hambantota. Therefore, to meet the demand for rubber, we may have to import rubber further. The price of rubber may rise as the demand increases. We will have to address this issue and increase the rubber production,” Cabraal said.


Intellectual Property Amendment Bill taken up for Second, Third Reading

The Intellectual Property Amendment Bill aimed to facilitate access to published works for blind persons, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled (those who are unable to use the print media due to any physical disability) was passed in Parliament yesterday.

Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena presented the Bill in Parliament on November 26, 2020. The amendment to the Bill was taken up for the Second and Third reading in Parliament yesterday.

As per the amendments to the Bill, an audio recording of any book can be issued for the blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled.

It was pointed out that software is used for this purpose and that such audio recordings can be used for the convenience of the persons with special needs without paying royalty. However, regulations will be added for the future so that no one can misuse it for commercial purposes, Minister Gunawardena said. Minister Gunawardena said that he will introduce further amendments to this Bill in the future to facilitate the differently abled community in the country.

“Some of the Opposition MPs used incorrect data on the debt services that we have to do in the future, especially regarding foreign debts.

The Yahapalana government has taken Rs. 06 trillion in five years. The Good governance government has put us in a big problem in relation to foreign debt. Rs. 1.4 billion was taken from selling the Hambantota Port. Politically we can blame each other. But as a country, we have to face all these debts. We have no easy way around until 2029. Nearly every year, we have to pay Rs. 4 billion or more as foreign debts. As the dollar appreciates, we will face greater challenges.

Therefore, I urge the Opposition to participate in the debates more responsibly as people’s representatives. We must be responsible when talking about national issues,” Dr. Gunawardena said in his reply speech.