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Parliament

Steps underway to uplift small, medium-scale enterprises: PM

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday that the government has taken steps to uplift small and medium-scale enterprises.

He was responding to a question raised by Parliamentarian Kokila Gunawardena during the oral questions round. Responding on behalf of the Prime Minister, State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that the government has introduced an economic stimulus package to uplift such enterprises.

He said that the government has taken steps to uplift the country’s economy and reach for an economic growth rate of 5.5%.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa also said that the government has launched a programme to provide housing to needy families in all Grama Niladhari divisions.

 

State Minister Indika Anuruddha said 5,000 families have already been resettled under the programme, and that another housing project titled ‘Siyapatha’ has been launched to solve the housing problems of 1.5 million public servants.

Government does not oppose debates on incidents of political revenge: Dinesh

The government has no objections for a Parliamentary debate on the report of the Presidential Commission investigating incidents of political revenge, even though the Opposition attempts to project it as such, Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said yesterday. Minister Gunawardena stated so following the request of the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa for a debate on the Commission report in the House.

Minister Gunawardena said, “We, as the ruling party, have already promised to give a debate on the Commission report during the Party Leaders’ meeting held the day before yesterday. The ruling party will not interfere with the Speaker in the submission of this Commission report or any other report to the House. This is an attempt to recanvas the same thing that happened the day before in the meeting, and the minutes of the meeting can verify it. Therefore, I would like to emphasise that the government does not oppose this debate in any way.”

“I remember when I asked for a debate on the Commission report of the Central Bank Bond Scam, the then ruling party raised a Point of Order saying that there was no Tamil translation of the report. As a result, the Chair gave an order stating that it should be submitted; and that until then, we should not take it up for debate. That is what happened a few years ago; that is how your government operated. You should keep that in mind,” he added.

Speaking on the matter concerning allowing MP Ranjan Ramanayake to attend Parliament sessions, the Leader of the House said the matter was already before the Speaker, and that the House should wait until he gives a ruling.

“The Speaker could have immediately given a ruling. However, he requested 21 days to listen to the opinions of those involved in the matter. Therefore, there is no point in arguing about it. We should wait until he gives a ruling,” Gunawardena said.

Speaking on the issues related to the removal of MP M.A. Sumanthiran’s security detail, he stated that the government would not jeopardise the safety of any MP, unlike the previous government. He drew the attention of the House as to how during the previous government’s rule, a decision was taken to remove the security detail of then MP Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Gunawardena said, “Prime Minister Rajapaksa was the leader who led the country to victory in the war. Now you talk about the assessment of security. We will not violate the privileges of any Parliamentarian. The Speaker is able to discuss this matter; he can summon the responsible officers to inquire about their decision to remove MP Sumanthiran’s security detail.”

Systematic solutions to solve issues in overseas missions: Nimal

A systematic and transparent programme would be prepared to resolve the issues that have arisen during the recruitment of officers for overseas missions, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva stated in Parliament yesterday.

The minister added that 32 officers attached to the Labour and Welfare Division have been appointed to official duties of Missions representing Sri Lanka by January 31. He also informed the House that the salaries, Foreign Service allowance, hospitality allowance, and travel expenses of these officers vary from country to country, with the maximum being US$ 600.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 119 officers served in these missions; and letters were issued to conclude the missions of 84 of them, taking into account the need for service and the financial difficulties of the Bureau, de Silva said.

Sixty such officers have arrived in the country and 32 of them have been deployed to continue the work, he added.

Programme to promote rugby in rural areas on the cards: Namal

The government has launched a new programme to promote rugby in rural areas, Minister of Youth and Sports Namal Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday.

Replying to a question raised by SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana during the oral questions round, Minister Rajapaksa pointed out that special attention is being paid to the participation of other sportspersons in rugby according to their fitness. He also said that it was wrong to restrict children to only one sport.

MP Pathirana inquired from the minister about the steps that would be taken to uplift cricket at the school level. In reply, Minister Rajapaksa said that a programme to promote cricket is in progress.

MP Pathirana also inquired from the minister regarding the non-recovery of Rs.160 million owed to Sri Lanka Cricket, even though two months have passed since the LPL tournament was held. Minister Rajapaksa said the recovery is done in accordance with a plan. This year’s LPL tournament will be held in August, he said.

The minister added that a system to regulate all sports tournaments in the country is also to be introduced soon.

He pointed out that a number of sports tournaments, including ‘kabaddi’, rugby, and volleyball, will be held in the future as well.

As solution to A/L old, new syllabi issue

Steps underway to increase university student intake by 540: GL

Minister of Education Professor G.L. Peiris informed the House yesterday that steps have been taken to increase the number of students admitted to universities by 540 as a solution to the problem that has arisen due to the old and new syllabi of the G.C.E. Advanced Level Examinations.

He was responding to a question raised by National People’s Power Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake under Standing Order 27/2.

Accordingly, 110 more students have been admitted to medical faculties, 30 students to the Faculty of Dentistry (University of Sri Jayewardenepura), 100 students to engineering faculties, 150 students to science faculties, and 150 to management faculties, he added.

Prof. Peiris stated that last year, only 30,000 students were admitted to universities. However, this year, the number has risen to 41,000.

He said the university system has obtained approval from the Treasury to implement these measures, and that financial allocations have been obtained to create 500 new posts for academic staff.

Special attention drawn to resolve microfinance crisis: Semasinghe

The President and the Prime Minister are paying special attention to the microfinance crisis that has victimised a large number of low-income families, State Minister of Microfinance and Self-Employment Shehan Semasinghe said in Parliament yesterday.

The state minister stated that around 93% of the people caught in these debt traps are females. He pointed out that there is no efficient Act to regulate microfinance companies.

Therefore, amendments to the Microfinance Act have been forwarded to the Attorney-General, Semasinghe added.

The state minister said that with the collapse of the economy, people turned to such institutions. He added that these institutes target people in poverty.

Awareness programmes are being conducted in collaboration with the Central Bank in ‘Samurdhi’ Bank Zones, Semasinghe said. He added that the programme has already covered the Anuradhapura District.

All state and ‘Samurdhi’ banks have been instructed to prevent people from falling victim to these institutions, State Minister Semasinghe said.

Animal feed expenses rose by Rs.29 billion in 2015/19: Bandula

Animal feed expenses rose by Rs.29 billion between 2015 and 2019 during the previous government’s rule, Trade Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said in Parliament yesterday. This was in reply to a question raised by MP Mohammed Muzzammil during the oral questions round.

Dr. Gunawardena said, “The total amount of animal feed imported from 2011 to 2014 was 58 kilotonnes, which cost around Rs.11.6 billion. The previous government imported 203 kilotonnes of animal food between 2015 and 2019, which cost around Rs.35.2 billion. The expenditure increased by Rs.29 billion. However, the industry did not see an increase in production. Due to such poor decision-making, the importation of animal food products affected local production.”

The Trade Minister added that local production of animal feed would be encouraged in the future. “The Ministry of Agriculture has increased the local production of corn as it is a staple for animal feed. In the future, agricultural productions will be increased due to our policy on limiting imports. We will have sufficient products to increase our local animal feed production,” he said.

‘SL to be self-sufficient in liquid milk within four years’

Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage said in Parliament yesterday that the government aims to make the country self-sufficient in liquid milk within the next four years.

He added that the government has already implemented several programmes in this regard.

Responding on behalf of the Prime Minister to a question raised by Opposition MP Buddhika Pathirana during the question round for oral answers, Aluthgamage said the government would not intervene in the importation of dairy cows, and that lands would be given to private entrepreneurs for raising dairy cows.

Action would be taken to import dairy cows through private entrepreneurs, he added.