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Port City will open new economic doors – Minister Dinesh

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena joining the debate on the Port City Bill in Parliament yesterday said that the proposed Colombo Port City Economic Commission will open new doors to the country’s economy.

The project was initiated on the vision of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 17, 2014 and Chinese President Xi Jinping who visited the country on the invitation of the President laid the foundation stone for the mega project, he said. He said that this opened a massive path leading the country to economic strength and Sri Lanka joined China’s development process. “At a time when the country’s future was being strengthened by this Bill, the previous regime tried on various occasions to sabotage it, and we went back several years as a result. As a Colombo MP, I am pleased to say that the Colombo Port City has not only brought victories to the Colombo City, but also to Sri Lanka’s map,” the Minister said.

He said that the Colombo Port City is a new gateway for the country where various foreign currencies would be circulated and the country gets paid a fee. “We will pass a Bill that will give approval to establish a set of laws for that. Those regulations would be brought to Parliament,” he said.

He questioned those who claim otherwise on what grounds they base their theories. Minister Gunawardena urged the Opposition to stop making fictitious statements regarding Parliament not having authority over the Port City and urged the Opposition members to assist in building this important financial hub.

He urged the Opposition not to cling onto minor phrases in the Port City Bill. He said that the world is changing fast and the Port City is a financial hub which could gain international repute. “International trust is key to attracting international investors,” he said.

He said that many are afraid of China, but Sri Lanka deals with China as a friendly nation. “We have entered into contracts with China as friendly nation. Those who viewed our friendship suspiciously have condemned China from the start. Eventually, they refused to even accept diplomatic relations,” the Minister said. Minister Gunawardena urged the Opposition not to view this situation in the same old traditional ways at a difficult time when the country is facing a pandemic and invited them join the Government in this national endeavour.


Concessions need to be given to attract investors – Minister Ali Sabri, PC

Justice Minister Ali Sabri, PC, joining the second day of the debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill in Parliament yesterday said that this is not the first time that such a Bill was brought to Parliament and that certain concessions need to be given if the country needs to attract investors.

He said that there are many economic zones in the world and by 2019 there were 5,387 economic zones while some are successful and others have failed. “We are competing with these zones and with countries such as South Korea, India, UAE and Malaysia. What the Opposition is trying to do is to create unwarranted fear, providing an unnecessary advantage to our competitors. I ask the Opposition if they even read the Supreme Court determination. If they had read it, they would not even be asking many of the questions they raise. In fact, the Supreme Court has stated that the country’s laws are not infringed in any manner as they claim. If they had even an iota of knowledge about the law, they would not be harping on the word obnoxious.

He said in formulating legislation it is a known fact that the Attorney General is asked to make a law according to the specific needs and after receiving it, the Attorney General determines whether it is in line with the situation. “Thereafter, it is gazetted and then the people have access to the document. Following that, in the event there are clauses that are unacceptable, a Supreme Court determination could be sought.

Going to the Supreme Court does not mean it is against it, but due to ignorance regarding the laws. The Supreme Court plays an advisory role,” he said.


Youth should be equipped with knowledge, skills to have Port City jobs – Minister Namal

The youth should be imparted with knowledge and skills at least to engage in 80 per cent of the jobs that will be created in the Colombo Port City, Youth and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday.

He was participating in the Second Reading Debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill presented by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament on Wednesday (19). The debate continued for the second day. He said that the Port City cannot be tallied with the BOI. He added that there were criticisms against the BOI as well. But we have to agree that it served the youth to get jobst and the next generation should get further knowledge and better jobs, and the Port City would be a great opportunity. He added that the youth should be equipped with the knowledge to grab those opportunities and it is done by vocational training.

He said that during the Mahinda Rajapaksa tenure, the unemployment rate dropped to 12 per cent from 20 per cent. It was due to the development projects that were initiated during his tenure in parallel to the combat the terrorism, Minister Namal Rajapaksa said.


Port City Zone will affect sovereignty of people – MP Anura Kumara

The Port City Commission Bill is to set up a zone where different sets of rules are applicable that affect the sovereignty of the people, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake said in Parliament yesterday.

He was participating in the Second Reading the Debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, which was presented by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament on Wednesday. The debate continued for a second day.

He said that seven Financial Acts that are applicable within the country are applicable there. In addition, another 14 laws would come under the Commission. Therefore, the laws passed by Parliament would not apply there. The complete power of finance does not come under Parliament in this area.

The Port City cannot be brought before the COPA or COPE. The other matter is that there are residents in this Special Economic Zone of Port City. They are not Sri Lankans but non Sri Lankans, may be Chinese. Those Sri Lankans living there are not entitled to vote for a Pradeshiya Sabha, Municipal Council or a local government elections. Therefore, it is a separate zone from Sri Lanka. It could affect our sovereignty,” he said.

“The four of the seven members in the Commission are Sri Lankans while others are foreigners. This is not a healthy situation,” he said.

 


Port City Commission will be under Sri Lanka’s judicial power - Minister

Project a Public Corporation with Auditor General having auditing powers:

Sandasen Marasinghe and Camelia Nathaniel

The fact that none of the democratic institutions in the country nor the power of the Parliament nor the Constitution is affected by the establishment of the Port City Commission will be clear when the Bill and the 62 page Supreme Court order are studied, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told Parliament yesterday.

He said that this Colombo Port City comes within the jurisdiction of the Sri Lankan Judiciary. People can get writs from the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka against matters in the Colombo Port City while people can file Fundamental Rights application before the Supreme Court.

He said further that the responsibility of implementation of Money Laundering Act and other financial acts falls within the ambit of the Financial Investigations Unit of the Central Bank preventing the cleaning black money there in the Colombo Port City.

He added that the Auditor General is responsible and has power to audit the financial activities in the Colombo Port City.

He made these observations joining the second reading debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill which was presented by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament on Wednesday (19). The debate continued for a second day.

Commencing his speech he said that all agree that the country needs foreign exchange without increasing the debt burden. As we are living in a competitive world we need to encourage the investors in novel ways and Colombo Port City is one of that kind.

Some criticise that this Commission affects the country’s sovereignty, democracy. But it is not true as the financial power of the country still remains with the Parliament.The power of the Parliament on lands is also not affected through this Commission.

He also said that the facts such as the tax reliefs and when to be granted are decided by Parliament. They should come by way of regulations and if they are not approved by Parliament those grants are impossible.

He said further that the Commission only could make a recommendation to the President for a tax relief where the latter would have to consult the Finance Minister. Thereafter the same should be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers where the latter has the right to refuse it.

He went on to say that if the Cabinet approved it, there is a long process, the first being a gazette should be printed in that regard within a fortnight and during the next 30 days any citizen could go before Court against it. Hence the people have redress if the tax relief is not agreeable. Then only it could be presented to Parliament.

Minister Peiris said that this project is a Public Corporation. Hence the Auditor General has the power and the responsibility to audit those accounts.

Hence the powers of the Auditor General is not curtailed even a bit through this Commission. So we can see the Opposition’s fears are baseless. The Regulatory authorities are part of the administration structure, which are many and none of them are affected through this Commission.

He said that the Bill should be well read before criticising. He added that even the 62 page Supreme Court order too should be read by the Opposition before they make allegations.

Another allegation is that the Colombo Port City would clean the Black Money which is baseless. Since we need foreign funds only seven Acts are not applicable within the Port City as notified in the third annex but all the other Acts are applied there in the Port City. Even the Money laundering Act is not in this third annex and it is applicable in the Colombo Port City.

The Monetary law, Financial Transactions Reporting Act and the Terrorist Financing Act are applicable in the Colombo Port City.

He said that the responsibility of implementation of all these Acts falls within the ambit of the Financial Investigations Unit of the Central Bank. “So how could one clean the black money there?” Minister Peiris queried.

The Minister also said that the law in Sri Lanka is applicable there which means the Colombo Port City is within the jurisdiction of Sri Lanka’s judiciary. “People can get a writ against any actions and a Fundamental Rights application can be filed before the Supreme Court,” he said.

The proposal on this matter was brought before Parliament first not by our government but by former Minister Vajira Abeywardena of the Good Governance Government to add this 269 hectares to Sri Lanka and was passed.

He said that late President R.Premadasa brought a Bill to disable all the provisions to sue the BOI but such things are not happening here.

He said as the SLPP Chairman he too went before Court against this Bill and proposed amendments. He added that the Cabinet on Wednesday decided unanimously to make all the Amendments suggested by Court and hence the two third majority or a referendum is not required to pass this Bill.

 


Examine environment rather than technicalities – Minister Keheliya

Sandasen Marasinghe and Camelia Nathaniel

In terms of the Port City, what is required is to examine the environment where it is being implemented rather than its technicalities, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said. He said that the Government has plenty of experience on passing Bills in Parliament.

“Parliament is considered a supreme establishment as that is where the country’s laws passed. Technical issues have been discussed a plenty in this House. If everyone taps their hearts and inquires if this project could take the country forward and bring in financial stability, all would agree. But it is ironic that political hypocrisy is preventing them from accepting the fact,” he said.

He pointed to previous claims that millions of cubes of stone were being used to fill the Port City and people were petrified that most of the mountains would disappear. Minister Rambukwella said that he had visited the Port City and discovered that not a single cube of stone was being used and the entire reclaimed land was filled with sand.

He said that 21 petitions were filed in Court and all of them were taken up.

Minister Rambukwella urged the Opposition to stop all political bigotry and help the Government take this country forward.

 


SJB opposes Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill

Sandaden Marasinghe and Camelia Nathaniel

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said in Parliament that though it was sure that the country could make a commendable development in the economy with the Colombo Port City, the Sanagu Jana Balawegaya (SJB) opposed the Bill.

He was participating in the Second Reading Debate on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill presented by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament on Wednesday. The debate continued for the second day. He asked whether it was correct to hold the debate at a time when the number of Corona patients is alarmingly increasing even in the Parliamentary Complex.

He said that this is done for mere greed for power. He said that there are no adequate facilities for the patients in the hospitals and there ae no adequate beds at the ICUs. He added that the students do not have laptops. They are not given online lessons.