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Modern map prepared for oil and gas exploration – Minister Gammanpila

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday said that oil and gas resources worth of USD 267 billion in the Mannar Basin could generate three times the total debt of the country.

The Minister was speaking at the Consultative Committee on Energy in Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said that although investors who invest in these oil and gas drills are given 50 per cent, the rest worth of USD 133.5 billions is under the Government and it is almost three times the total debt value of the country, which is USD 47 billion.

The Minister was briefing the Committee including the Parliamentarians on the Petroleum Resources Bill to be tabled in Parliament for the Second Reading. The Bill was approved by the Committee.

The Minister said that the Bill, which seeks to regulate and manage the exploration of petroleum resources, including the establishment of the Petroleum Development Authority of Sri Lanka, will be presented to Parliament as a matter of priority for the Government.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that the Norochcholai Power Plant could operate for 120 years only from the gas in the Mannar Basin and the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery could operate for 143 years with the oil alone.

“Although our neighbouring country India has been extracting oil and gas from the seas close to Sri Lanka since the 1940, Sri Lanka has missed it due to various reasons,” the Minister said.

After lengthy discussions with experts on the subject, it was identified that there were several reasons which contributed to the issue, the Minister said.

The Minister said that large companies around the world have not come to explore oil resources in Sri Lanka in the recent past due to various reasons. As the regulatory powers such as the issuance of licences were completely concentrated in the hands of the Minister, all activities had been disrupted when there was a change of the Minister. Therefore, we have decided to transfer all the powers of the Minister to the Board of Directors of the Authority. A modern map was prepared to replace the traditional map for oil and gas exploration” the Minister added. The Bill will also introduce a strong legal framework to protect these large investments and appoint a special committee to advise the Minister, as billions of dollars will have to be invested in the industry, the Minister said.

A country would succeed in one when drilling seven wells in search for oil and gas according to world standards. The Norwegian Government had to dig 31 wells for one success story whilst three out of four wells drilled in Sri Lanka were successful, the Minister said.

He also said that he will seek the assistance of Sri Lankan experts in the field from around the world in this regard.

Committee Members State Minister Jayantha Samaraweera, Parliamentarians Chandima Weerakkody, Nalin Bandara, Muditha Prishanthi, Gunathilaka Rajapaksha, B.Y.G Ratnasekera and Secretary to the Ministry K.D.R. Olga were present.

 


MP Dr. Harsha misrepresents country’s economic situation – State Minister Shehan

State Minister Shehan Semasinghe yesterday criticised Opposition MP Dr. Harsha De Silva for giving out opinions to international media that are misrepresentative of the country’s economic situation.

State Minister Semasinghe alleged that such opinions may have caused certain stories of a food crisis in some international media.

The State Minister was speaking in the debate on the regulations imposed under the Financial Bill and Export Import Control Bill.

“It is good to give ideas, but it is not appropriate to give false ideas. He was talking to international media. This must have instigated certain false stories about Sri Lanka, particularly about a food crisis. At a crisis situation like this, he should not have done it,” State Minister Semasinghe said.

State Minister Semasinghe also said that the Opposition is creating false alarms in the country. He said that the Convention on the Terrorism Finance Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have not been removed, so any false alarm on money laundering should be disregarded.

The State Minister also said that the Government has taken measures to keep the manufacturing sector on track despite the pandemic and lockdowns.

State Minister Semasinghe also criticised the Opposition for not having a clear stance on pandemic management and accusing the Government of every move to safe guard the public.

“When we keep the country under restrictions, the Opposition goes around saying that there should be a lockdown. When we impose a lockdown, they go around complaining that the people cannot make a living and ask to lift it. What kind of a stance is that?” State Minister Semasinghe asked.

 


Certain people levelling baseless criticisms at Judiciary – Minister Ali Sabry, PC

Certain people are levelling baseless criticisms that harm the Judiciary on various social media networks and that they are attempting to make baseless allegations on mere rumours regarding certain judgments, Justice Minister Ali Sabri, PC said in Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said that the Government has not allowed any room for the judicial independence to be compromised.

The Minister was responding to Opposition MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake regarding a seminar recently held for Judges.

The Minister said that some organizations, which publish false news about the judges and their families, are trying to undermine the public trust in the independence of the Judiciary.

The Minister said that as a lawyer with 25 years of professional experience, he will never allow the independence of the Judiciary to be compromised and that he was committed to safeguard the independence of the Judiciary.

“Even in the midst of the COVID epidemic, Courts have been kept open for urgent cases and remand prisoners have been given the opportunity to have their cases heard through video technology without being brought to Court,” the Minister said. He added that additional funds have been allocated in this regard.

The Minister said that various seminars and workshops are held to enhance the professionalism of judges. He added that the conference was organised by the Judges’ Commission, which is governed by the Judicial Commission and there was no Government intervention in this matter.

 


Members of Select Committee on Government Business elected

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena informed Parliament yesterday that the Members of Parliament under the Chair of the Prime Minister were elected to serve on the Select Committee of Parliament to consider the government business presented to Parliament by the public institutions that do not come under the purview of the Ministries by the Committee of Selection. The members are Ministers Johnston Fernando, Prof. G. L. Peiris, M .U. M. Ali Sabry, PC, Lakshman Kiriella and Govindan Karunakaram.

 


Finance Bill passed with amendments

The Finance Bill was passed in Parliament with amendments yesterday.

The Bill was passed with 134 votes in favour and 44 against during the Second Reading. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) and National People’s Power (NPP) voted against the Bill.

The Finance Bill was moved to enable persons to voluntarily disclose undisclosed taxable supplies, income and assets required to be disclosed under certain laws and to provide for the imposition of a tax on the taxable supplies, income, and assets so disclosed.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka Bill, which was taken up for debate today, was passed with amendments without a vote. A resolution under the Essential Public Services Act, an Order under the Excise (Special Provisions) Act and three regulations under the Imports and Exports (Control) Act, were also approved by the House.

 


Principals, Teachers will get Rs. 5,000 allowance from this month - Minister Dr. Pathirana

Plantation Minister and Co-Cabinet Spokesperson Dr. Ramesh Pathirana yesterday said that the interim allowance of Rs 5,000 for teachers and principals will be added to their salary from this month.

He expressed confidence that the teachers and principals will resume their duties by accepting the solution provided by the Government to rectify their salary anomalies

Minister Dr. Pathirana said that the Government has already announced a gamut of measures to rectify the salary anomalies.

The Minister said that a salary increment for them in the midst of unprecedented financial constraints have also been mentioned in the solution by the Government.

It is expected to increase the basic salary of those in the Teacher and Principal services at various levels from 17 – 26 per cent and the Education Minister has already announced that increments can be granted in three stages due to the present financial constraints due the pandemic, he said.

 


Change corrupted political culture if you need to solve economic crisis – NPP leader Anura Kumara

National People’s Power (NPP) leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said in Parliament that if the Government genuinely wants to find a solution to the economic crisis in the country, it should change the corrupted political culture in the country.

MP Dissanayake said that although many Government MPs and Ministers repeatedly said that there is no problem in the country and the economy is doing relatively fine in context of the pandemic, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that there is a problem in the country’s economic situation. “He explained the plan to solve those issues as well. But the real issue behind all of those problems is the corrupted political culture in the country. If you truly want to solve the economic crisis, you have to change this corrupted system. Is anyone actually ready to do that?” the NPP MP asked. The NPP leader alleged that the Finance Bill is merely aimed to launder black money.

“There are people who earned their wealth in genuine ways. Without considering them, this Bill provides amnesty to those who evade taxes.

This is to facilitate tax evaders. You are giving relief to the fraudsters through this Bill,” MP Dissanayake said.

 


Funds needed to build more crematoriums in North – TNA MP Sumanthiran

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran urged Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa in Parliament yesterday to approve the funds to construct more crematoriums in the North.

He said that with the rise in COVID-19 deaths, the North has no enough crematoriums to dispose of the bodies within the Government imposed time.

“There is an urgent need for electric gas chambers for crematoriums in several districts in the North and East. We have only one in Jaffna and another in Vavuniya. The other districts such as Batticaloa do not have crematoriums. If several COVID deaths occurred, the people could not cremate the bodies according to the rules in time, and that would cause a lot of problems. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to make funds available to construct at least temporary gas chambers in such areas,” the MP said.

TNA MP Sumanthiran also requested the Finance Minister to look into the matter of jailers who have been sent to the Jaffna Prisons. “They do not speak Tamil. On the other hand, most of the prisoners in Jaffna speak only Tamil,” he said.

“Of the 30 jail guards who were appointed to the Jaffna Prison, 20 speak only Sinhala. Now this is an unsatisfactory situation. If the information I received is wrong, forgive me. But I would urge the Ministers to look into this issue as well,” he added.

He said that it is the first time in the history of this country that a tax amnesty has being declared through a legislation titled Finance Act. Previously, it was quite open but this Bill or inland revenue amendments cover up by the title of the Act,” he said.

The MP said that amnesties must never be given from time to time. “It must be a one off. Because once the country gets used to the fact that after a few years another opportunity will arise for amnesty that encourages people to make money and hide.

“You might bring them into the tax net that in this way is the second justification for the tax amnesty; but the primary problem that we have in this country is that we do not have a proper mechanism to collect our revenue,” he said.

Citing a statement by the Revenue Officers’ Trade Union, he said that they had publicly said that a loss of Rs. 300 billion will be incurred by the country because of this Act and no government official has still considered this fact.

 


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