Parliament | Daily News

Parliament

Sandasen Marasinghe, Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawarachchi
Sandasen Marasinghe, Camelia Nathaniel and Amali Mallawarachchi

‘Commission Report suggests rift in Former Government jeopardised National Security’

Members of the former government that did nothing to find the culprits of the Easter Sunday attacks are alleging today that the government used it in their favour to come to power, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Parliamentarian Susil Premajayantha said in Parliament yesterday. He said so during the Adjournment Motion on the report of the President's Commission on the Easter Sunday attacks.

Refuting Opposition allegations, the MP said that as the report of the President's Commission on the Easter Sunday attacks pointed out that the conflict within the Good Governance Government weakened national security, paving the way for the attacks.

He said the public had understood that the economy, development, and the security of the country had collapsed under the Good Governance Government long before the Easter Sunday attacks and expressed their confidence on the victory of the SLPP. Premajayantha added that at the time of the attacks, there was no intention to hold elections in the country under the previous regime.

He said that the Presidential Commission was appointed seven months after the attacks. Even at the Parliament, the affiliated members were appointed to a committee and engaged in discussions, rather than taking the necessary measures to bring the culprits to book.

The MP said that delays in investigating and prosecuting would affect a case against culprits even in an ordinary crime as evidence could be concealed, witnesses could die, or related persons might hide or go abroad.

Premajayantha added that the same lackadaisical nature exhibited by Good Governance Government with the setting up of the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) through gazettes to arrest and file cases was not exhibited in taking action against the Easter Sunday suspects. He assured that the current government is taking the necessary measures in that regard. He asked as to how those members could make allegations against the government.

The MP said that the Presidential Commission is not a body that could go after suspects, but to hear the evidence brought before it. He added the evidence and the report of the Commission should be directed to the Attorney-General, police, and other institutions to take action following detailed investigations.

He added that in this endeavour, everyone should get together as the attack affected the faith between the communities, the economy, and the tourism industry.

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Easter Sunday attacks: Sabry says all culprits directly or indirectly involved should face justice

Justice Minister Ali Sabry PC, joining the debate on the Report on the Easter Sunday attacks in Parliament yesterday, said it is clear that the attacks could have been prevented, but the previous regime had failed to take the necessary measures.

He said the tragedy has led to disharmony between communities, adding that certain persons are also using minor incidents of disagreement and exaggerating them to incite racial tension among the public.

“To my best knowledge, the Muslim community have condemned the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. While we condemn the acts of these terrorists, I firmly believe that all those directly and indirectly involved in this heinous attack should be brought to book,” he said, expressing his sympathy to all those who were affected by the attack.

Sabry also condemned social media attacks labelling the Muslim community as extremists, adding that all Muslims are not extremists. He said that the Sainthamaruthu incident was a clear indication of that fact. Sabry said it was the Muslim residents of that area that had initially informed the authorities regarding the extremist activities taking place there.

Hence, he said that while it’s about 50 years overdue where all Sri Lankans should have cast aside all religious and racial differences and lived in harmony as citizens of one country, it is never too late to do so, even now.

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‘2,360 families to be evacuated from Kelani Valley Railway construction site’

Two thousand three hundred and sixty families residing near one of the Kelani Valley Railway construction sites are scheduled to be evacuated, Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge said in Parliament yesterday.

He was responding to a question raised by Samagi Jana Balawegaya Parliamentarian Buddhika Pathirana.

The minister said that the Government has decided to grant housing units to all of them at different housing schemes. He added that they are to be settled at the Laksirisevana Housing Scheme in Maligawatta, Siyapathsevana Housing Scheme in Dematagoda, the Kolambage Mawatha Housing Scheme, and Kalinga Mawatha Housing Scheme.

Furthermore, Lokuge said that another housing scheme is to be constructed on a land in Malapalla owned by the Railway Department.

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UNP launches ‘Green Declaration’ for Environmental Protection

The United National Party (UNP) yesterday launched a ‘Green Declaration’ for the protection of the environment. The ceremony was held at the UNP Headquarters, with the participation of UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena. He said the declaration was based on a consensus obtained from all relevant stakeholders.

“The UNP will undertake efforts to safeguard Sri Lanka’s environment and natural resources, thereby ensuring a sustainable future for our citizens. Our priority is the protection of the Sinharaja Rainforest, which is facing a threat from the unchecked actions of the Government,” the declaration said.

“The existing laws in the country must be enforced, and through them further deforestation and destruction to the environment will be halted. The campaign should not end here. We must go on to build a consensus on a new framework to give effect to the Paris Climate Agreement. These should include protecting the Carbon Sink,” the UNP added. The existing Forest Ordinance in the country would be strengthened under this declaration, the UNP said.

“It is proposed that stronger laws be introduced to safeguard and increase forest cover, as well as tree cover. This can be accomplished by amending the Forest Ordinance, based on the Forest Law Act of 1991 (Switzerland), the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act of 1976 (India), the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation Regulation) Act of England, and the Tree protection laws adopted by the State Parliaments of Australia. A programme to promote mini-forests (1/2 acre to 25 acres) will also be supported by the necessary legislation as well as financed by the Government,” the declaration added.

“There will be a limit on non-agricultural practices and a prohibition of the commercial fragmentation of agricultural land. A national policy will be introduced to protect the rivers and streams around the country, with an emphasis on those in the hill country and the Sinharaja Rainforest,” statement read.

“The National Environment Act will be updated and the Central Environment Authority will be in charge of implementing Climate Change legislation. A consultative body will be established consisting of representatives from the environmental and conservation organisations, which will enable a dialogue between the Government, Provincial Council and the relevant stakeholders. We call all interested parties to commence a dialogue on the necessary laws to be implemented to ensure a green economy,” it added.

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‘Steps underway to make all State institutions present annual reports on time’

Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando said that the government would take measures to make all its institutions present their annual reports on time. He said so in Parliament yesterday when SJB Parliamentarian Buiddhika Patrhirana said that the Sri Lanka Standard Institute (SLSI) had failed to present its annual reports since 2016. Fernando said that most public institutions have not submitted their annual reports since 2015. He added that it was the duty of the government to get those institutions to present their annual reports in the Parliament, which the former government failed to accomplish.

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PMB bought no rice from local farmers in 2018/19 - Aluthgamage

The Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) had not bought a single grain of rice from local paddy farmers in 2018 and 2019, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said in Parliament yesterday. He added that the certified rice price, which was Rs.30 under the former government, has been increased to Rs.50 by the current government.

The PMB was established to ensure that paddy is bought at a proper certified price to enhance the living of the farmers, see to consumer needs, and maintain a secure flow of paddy stock to the market, the minister said. He added that the PMB, at a competitive rate, buys the harvests of paddy farmers who get fertiliser at the concessionary rate from the government.

Aluthgamage said that ‘samba’ rice could be bought at PMB centres at a rate of Rs.56.50. He added that the Good Governance Government let private mill owners control paddy prices.

"The Paddy Marketing Board had not bought a single grain of rice in 2018 and 2019 during the Good Governance Government’s rule. Paddy stores had been handed over to two former ministers to set up garment factories. Moreover, the former Minister P. Harison sold quality rice as cattle food and incurred a loss of Rs.20 billion in 2015.