Parliament | Daily News


Government plans to provide equal educational benefits to all children: GL

The government considers the provision of fair and equal educational benefits to all Sri Lankan children in accordance with social policies referenced in Chapter VI of the Constitution under Article 24, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said.

Responding to a question raised by MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, he said that according to the principle of fair opportunities in education, the government had increased the admissions to universities with 371 to the Medical Faculty and 407 to the Engineering Faculty. This number is higher than the previous years, he added.

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya questioned the Minister regarding the criteria adopted by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in admitting students who sat for the GCE A/L Examination in 2019 under the old and new syllabi.

Prof. Peiris responded by stating that the selection was based on an advertisement published by the UGC on April 8, 2019. He said that there was no requirement to change the system, but added that a group of students who had sat for the examination under the new syllabus had staged a protest claiming they had been unfairly treated.

He said 42 of them had filed six fundamental rights petitions in this regard. However, Prof. Peiris said that the grievances of the aggrieved parties had been heard by the Supreme Court on December 23, and it was decided to dismiss the case. The minister said that a court decision had been given in this regard in 2012, with specifications on how the verdict should be implemented.

According to the Minister of Education, it is a transparent process. Initially, in 2019, the Commissioner General had notified the UGC regarding the recommendations based on the old and new syllabi based on Supreme Court Decision No. 29/2612 on Complaints and Competent Skills.

“On the recommendations of the committee, those who sat for the 2019 A/L Examination under the old and new syllabi were considered as two groups. Accordingly, university admissions from the 2019 A/L students were selected based on district-level skills, taking every district into account,” Prof. Peiris said.

“According to the Supreme Court’s verdict, for the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, the composite average of students who got through the GCE A/L examination were taken into account when calculating the results of those who sat for the old syllabus; the selection criteria under the new syllabus was notified through advertisements and the web,” he added.

However, the Minister of Education said that when selecting students for university admission under the old and new syllabi, the government was compelled to work within the guidelines specified by the court order. However, he assured that the government is determined to ensure that no student is discriminated.


UGC’s university admittance procedures are flawed: Anura Kumara

National People’s Power Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake drew the House’s attention to the issues that post-AL students face when following the University Grant Commission’s (UGC’s) procedures for university admittance. He did so raising a question under Standing Order 27, yesterday.

MP Dissanayake said, “The 2019 Advanced Level Examination was conducted in two parts; examinations for the new syllabus, as well as the old. Separate results have been issued based on the Z-scores obtained. However, the question still remains: on which basis did they admit students to universities when they were divided into two categories?”

He added that it was not a new issue. “It is unfortunate that I brought this same topic last February, and that this House has discussed it even before that as well,” he said.

Dissanayake asked, “Why didn’t the University Grants Commission not consider that a situation similar to the one in 2011, where university entrant numbers surpassed the expected median, would recur? Could it be determined that a student would not qualify for particular courses in different districts?”

“Furthermore, what happens if only one student qualifies from a particular district? How is it determined whether or not they are an old syllabus student? What action will be taken regarding the injustice done to the students who appeared under the Technology stream, where students have not been recruited for nearly five years?” the MP asked.

He asked, “Do you acknowledge that there are issues in the student admittance procedures of the UGC? Will steps be taken to rectify them?”


Prasanna accuses Opposition of creating false alarm regarding tourism pilot project

Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga accused the Opposition of creating a false alarm among the people by misinterpreting a simple error that took place during a pilot project on opening the country to foreign tourists in Parliament, yesterday.

Minister Ranatunga said, “We do agree that there was a mishap. It was a matter of instructions not properly being directed to the lower level of the project organisers. The health guidelines on tourists were issued only a day before these Ukrainian tourists arrived. So, the health guidelines were not properly directed to the persons at the ground level.”

“It was a mistake on our part. However, the group of tourists visited only within the location bubble that was intended for their visit; what happened was that they visited a specific location on a different date from the schedule. No other common health regulations on the pandemic have been violated. The Opposition needs to understand what a pilot project is,” he added.

“Usually, tourist visits are limited to seven days. If we keep them in quarantine for 14 days, tourists will not come and our project will be unsuccessful. Therefore, we need to have different quarantine periods for tourists and other visitors to the country,” he said.

“For example, do you think an investor comes to a country to stay seven or more days? This is why we are concentrating on focusing on the location-bubble; these people will be limited to specific locations. We are now rectifying what happened at Yala. Some people are saying that the person who managed it is a government supporter. It may be so, but the same person worked with the Opposition Leader before as well,” the minister said.


Johnston calls for strict adherence to House schedule

Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando requested all Parliamentarians to strictly adhere to the schedule of the House for proper time management. He said so when the Chief Opposition Whip proposed that the House continues its proceedings without taking a lunch break.

Chief Government Whip Fernando said, “We have no problem to continue without the lunch break. However, we need to think about the Parliament staff. During the previous Party Leaders’ Meeting, a decision was taken to take a lunch break and adhere to the time schedule. We should maintain our discipline.”

“All Parliamentarians need to speak within their allotted time and not make longer speeches. They should also not come up with Points of Order unless they are directly linked to the matters being discussed. This is a matter of discipline on our part. I do agree that we should allow all Parliamentarians to speak,” he added.

“We cannot limit their right. If we are not debating here, where can we do it? I do agree with the fact that we must allow all MPs to talk, but we need to manage our time as well. Let us strictly adhere to the time schedules agreed upon at the Party Leaders’ Meetings. Do not try to imply that the government is limiting Parliamentarians’ right to debate in the House,” Fernando said.

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella stated that he would like the House to extend Parliament proceedings. In reply to his request, Deputy Speaker Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said that the matter should be discussed at the next Party Leaders’ Meeting.


Yadamini raises privileges issue regarding missing section of his speech in Hansard report

Raising a privileges issue yesterday, MP Yadamini Gunawardena requested the House to inquire as to why some parts of his speech delivered on Decemober 1, 2019, in Parliament, were missing in the respective Hansard report. MP Gunawardena said, “I took the opportunity to raise this privileges issue under Standing Orders 13 and 91, on the assumption that the matter I am to raise affects all MPs in general. The speech I made on December 1, 2019, is not fully included in the Hansard report of Parliament.”

“When I went to that section and inquired about this, I got a surprising reply. According to that reply, such omissions are done to reduce the burden of printing and to reduce the pages of Hansard. I would like to request an inquiry into this matter,” he said.

The MP said, “I would also like to request other MPs also to look at the Hansard reports that are available as electronic versions to see if their speeches, questions, and answers are properly recorded as well. This privilege, which we have maintained for 90 years, cannot be lost.”

“Only if some insult or other accusation is levelled can parts of a Hansard be removed. I thank the Hansard section for its service; they have done an excellent contribution, especially during the pandemic time.

“However, we need to hold an inquiry regarding this issue,” Gunawardena added.


Opposition attempting to use pandemic as a means to frighten the public: Dr. Sudarshini

The Opposition is using the coronavirus pandemic as a means to frighten the public. They are trying to instill wrong ideas in people’s minds and create panic, State Minister of Primary Health Care Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said.

“I reiterate that the government is engaged in a great endeavour to control the spread of the coronavirus. As of now, 46,780 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the country; of them, 39,961 have recovered and have been sent to their homes,” the minister said

“However, there have been 222 deaths as well. If you take the deaths as a percentage of the population, Sri Lanka could be considered as one of the countries with the lowest fatality rates,” she said.

“So far, we have conducted 1,343,348 PCR tests; the government has conducted 968,570 of these tests, while the rest has been done by private hospitals. At the start, we only conducted around 100 PCR tests per day, but now, we have increased that to around 14,000,” Dr. Fernandopulle said.

“The more we carry out PCR tests, the more we detect patients. However, the Opposition interprets this as the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing rapidly in the country, and that the government is unable to control the situation,” she added.

The minister urged the public not to panic as the government has the situation under control. She said that the government has allocated an additional Rs.100 million for PCR tests, adding that Rs.60 million is spent on them per day.

“We hospitalise those with symptoms while self-quarantining the primary contacts at their own homes. The government is also taking measures for the vaccination drive,” the minister said.

Hence, she assured that as a government, they are taking every possible measure to protect the public from the coronavirus. She appealed to the public to cooperate with the government in their efforts.


‘COVID-19 victims’ funerals should be carried out according to health guidelines, irrespective of race or religion’

The country should follow the guidelines issued by the Director General of Health regarding the body disposal policy of COVID-19 victims, irrespective of race or religion, Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said in Parliament, yesterday.

Minister Gammanpila said, “The motion of MP Dr. Rajitha Senaratne regarding the situation in our country stated that the government has failed to control the COVID-19 pandemic. However, how can he measure the failure of the government?”

“I will mention two criteria for measuring whether Sri Lanka succeeded or failed in managing the pandemic. If we want to measure where Sri Lanka is compared to other countries, we can consider the number of patients per million of the population. If the numbers in Sri Lanka are higher than in the world, Sri Lanka will fail; if the number of Sri Lankans is less than that, then Sri Lanka has passed,” he said.

“The second criterion is the number of deaths per million. In comparison, what is the number of deaths per million of the population in Sri Lanka and the world? If Sri Lanka is more than that, it can be said that Sri Lanka has failed. If not, we have not failed,” the minister added.

Minister Gammanpila said, “There should be a dialogue in the country at this moment regarding the pandemic; it should be on how to successfully tackle it. However, the Opposition wants to discuss about what should be done after the deaths of COVID-19 victims. We must adhere to the health regulations, irrespective of our differences in ethnicity or religion.”