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Economic, spiritual development vital for country’s development - PM

The Department of Archeology, the Central Cultural Fund and the Department of Museums will be restructured to achieve national objectives, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday (24).

Prime Minister Rajapaksa observed, “History, archaeology and national heritage are the identity of a country. Accordingly, the Department of Archeology, the Central Cultural Fund and the Department of National Museums should be restructured to declare that we are fulfilling our responsibility of bequeathing the national identity to future generations.”

The Prime Minister also stated that the present Government believes that economic development as well as spiritual development is necessary for a country to have real development.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa made these observations while participating in the Committee Stage Debate on the 2022 Budget Debate on the Expenditure Head of the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

“According to the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the Government to protect all religions and allocate sufficient funds to develop places of worship,” the Prime Minister also noted.

“The preservation of the Buddha Sasana, which nurtured Sri Lankan culture and civilization through religious knowledge and discipline, should be considered a national responsibility,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister also said that a number of projects are planned to be implemented through this Budget to protect Buddhism from distortions, to protect the Sangha Sasana, develop Buddhist places of worship and to create a society full of values.

While pointing out that the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs is responsible for the dignity and discipline of individuals, the Prime Minister noted that activities which hinder this task, such as substance abuse, will be dealt with.

“A programme to identify, rehabilitate and reintegrate drug addicts is being implemented in 2022,” he further said.

The Prime Minister also said that the Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Film Corporation and the Public Performance Board have focused on creating the necessary environment for the creation of high quality works of art. Funds have also been allocated for the welfare of artistes in the industry,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa pointed out.

 


Tense situation in Parliament over AITC MP’s statement

Several MPs call to expunge statement from Hanzard:

A tense situation arose in Parliament yesterday when Ahila Ilankai Thamil Congress (AITC) MP Selvarajah Kajendren declared that LTTE Leader Velupilla Prabhakaran was a national leader. He said this in response to a statement made on Tuesday by Fisheries Minister and Leader of EPDP Douglas Devananda in Parliament on Tuesday that Prabhakaran had also smuggled drugs.

However, raising a Point of Order, MP Seetha Arambepola objected to MP Kajenthen referring to Prabhakaran as a national leader and requested the presiding MP at the time, SJB-MP Velu Kumar to have it taken off the Hanzard.

But, the presiding MP said that he would notify the Speaker regarding her request but said that Kajendren has the right to express his views and he (the Presiding MP) had no right to stop him. “I can’t obstruct him as it’s his right. I will notify the Speaker regarding your request. That’s all I have the authority to do. I can’t go beyond my boundaries,” the Presiding MP said.

At this point, the House got heated up with several MPs raising their voice against the issue.

SLPP-MP Mohammed Musammil said, “The LTTE organization is a banned organization in the country. Also, he (Prabhakaran) is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Hence, he cannot speak of a terrorist leader in this House portraying him as a hero.

This is not an expression of his views, but it is an attempt to spread hatred among the people of this country. Hence, such actions cannot be allowed within this House. Therefore, kindly have his statement removed from the Hansard.”

The Presiding MP said again that he would inform the Speaker regarding their request to have it removed from the Hanzard.

Then, AITC-MP Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam said that Parliament is a place where many views are expressed. “However, those views may not be acceptable to quite a few. But, we represent various constituencies and when a member stands up and speak on behalf of his constituency, that voice must be heard. Just because a majority of the Members here might not particularly like a particular opinion being voiced, that does not permit anybody to silence that voice,” he said, requesting that the Speaker also be made to understand that perspective because the Speaker himself on several occasions had not understood that perspective.

However, MP Pramitha Tennakoon noted that the MPs should not misuse their privileges. “In what Parliament would anyone be allowed to refer to a terrorist leader as a state leader? So please don’t allow this to happen.

They are trying to compare Prabhakaran to Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. Please don’t allow them to do this. Prabhakaran is a murderer, terrorist and a culprit, so please don’t allow this to happen in this House,” he appealed to the Presiding Member.

The Presiding Member repeatedly said he would notify the Speaker about the request to have it removed from the Hansard.

However, despite all the opposition, MP Kajendren was allowed to continue his speech.

 


Govt’s COVID-19 mitigation programme commendable - Wasudeva

Water Supply Minister Wasudeva Nanayakkara yesterday urged the Opposition to see what caused the Government not to keep the pledges in the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor National Policy Framework and other ordinary matters in the global context rather than speak irresponsibly.

He added that it was the COVID-19 pandemic which spread no sooner did this Government was elected to office, that prevented all these matters and urged the Opposition to appreciate the Government’s COVID-19 mitigation programme, like in other countries.

The Minister added that the Government’s programme against COVID-19 was commendable.

Minister Nanyakkara made these observations joining the Committee Stage Debate on the Budget proposal on financial heads of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Ministry, National Heritage, Performing Arts and Rural Arts Promotion State Ministry, Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry and Provincial Councils and Local Government State Ministry.

Minister Wasudeva Nanayakkara in response to MP Vijitha Herath said no other Government had protected the dignity of the graduates as this Government. He added that 50,000 graduates were recruited to the public service and were given a one year training. Then they are to be absorbed into the permanent cadre with all the rights enjoyed by the Public Service.

He further said that the Government has solved another serious issue which is the teachers’ and the principals’ salary anomaly. He added that Rs.30,000 million has been allocated for it.

He added that they were the Government’s pledges and the Opposition members have to appreciate them too. He added that in his Ministry, there were 60 graduates under the labourer category. The Opposition pointed it out, yet they were not graduates when they were recruited and later became graduates through external degree programmes. However, they have been promoted to development assistant level.

Minister Nanayakkara said that the valuable plot of land in front of BMICH where the Sinhala Cultural Centre is located is not a mere plot of land as it had been used for several generations.

He added once it was attempted to be used to construct a building for the Foreign Ministry and then for an Embassy.

 


Budget proposal formulated to reduce deficit - State Minister

The Budget proposal for the financial year 2022 has been formulated to achieve the future target of bringing the Budget deficit to zero by 2027, said Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday.

He made this observation joining the Committee Stage Debate on the budget proposal for financial year 2022.

He said that within the 10 months of this year the Ministry could provide allocations for 280 Local Government bodies with the assistance of Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon.

He said that MP Eran Wickramaratne was of the opinion that this Government was pressurizing the public servants which is totally baseless and incorrect. He stated that public servants were given a raw deal during the former Good Governance Government’s tenure. He added that senior and reputed Government servants like Lalith Weerathunga, Anusha Pelpita, Dr. Nihal Jayathilake, R.A.K.K.Ranawaka etc. were produced before the Court based on baseless allegations.

He added that they were the worst cases of pressure exerted on public servants. He added that the respective UNP Governments had always exerted undue pressure on public servants. When public servants demanded a Rs. 10 salary increment in 1980, the then UNP Government dismissed them from service.

He said further during the Good Governance Government’s tenure, four District Secretaries were transferred to serve in the Polonnaruwa District.

He added that the Opposition is speaking of a statement that Public Servants are a burden. He added that as a responsible Government, the burden has fallen on the Government. He added that one fourth of the Government expenditure is for paying the salaries of public servants. However, 90 percent of Public Servants render a commendable service whereas a few act negligently as the opposition points out.

He said that the FCID which was illegally set up by the UNP Good Governance Government was closed by the incumbent Government.

He added unlike the UNP Governments, it was the Rajapaksa Governments that treated the graduates well. He added that even this Government has recruited 53,000 graduates to the Public Service who would be absorbed into the permanent category at a salary point of Rs.41,000.

He said further it is a commendable decision that was taken for the first time to grant Rs 4 million to each Local Government body which would benefit any party that is in power in those bodies.

Hence, without any discrimination 768 UNP Local Government bodies would get this amount while 188 and 01 SLFP and JVP Local Government bodies would be benefitted by this.

He added that 663 TNA and SLMC Local Government Bodies would enjoy these benefits as well. It is for the benefit of the public not for the benefit of the political party that is in power of the central government.

He added that the Ministry is working hard to set up a Garbage Management Authority, Fire Department as well.

He added that the Opposition made many proposals but implementing them brought the economic development rate from 7.6% in 2015 to 2.3% in 2019 during the Good Governance Government tenure. He added that the Government reduced the tax burden from 100 percent to grant relief to the public.

 


Graduates must be provided employment - Herath

National People’s Power MP Vijitha Herath said in Parliament yesterday (24) that it is the responsibility of the Government to offer employment opportunities to graduates who are the future leaders of the country. MP Herath stressed the importance of graduates having respectable jobs in accordance with their qualifications.

“When absorbing the graduate trainees to the permanent cadre, measures should be taken to do the necessary allocations from the Budget to carry out their payments,” Herath added.

“There was confusion among the general public following the Government’s decision to increase the retirement age of the Public Servants to 65 years.

“Many state sector employees who were on the verge of retirement and many who are supposed to retire next month have raised questions,” the MP said.

“In the meantime, there are some media reports which state that the Government is considering lowering the retirement age of public servants from 65 to 63. What is the exact situation with regard to this,” the MP Herath queried.

 


Opposition has no moral right to speak about Public Servants rights - Kumarasiri

Opposition members who never strengthened or protected the rights of Public Servants have no moral right to speak of their issues, said Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Parliamentarian K P. S. Kumarasiri yesterday.

He made this observation joining the Committee Stage Debate on the Budget proposal for financial year 2022.

He further said that the members of Samagi Jana Balawehaya who were in the former UNP Governments and the JVP Parliamentarians suddenly feel sympathetic and are shedding crocodile tears on behalf of the public servants at a time when the Government has recruited 53,000 graduates to the Public Service and have solved the salary anomaly issues of teachers and principles which have been unsolved for 25 years.

He said everybody can remember how the former Good Governance Government treated Public Servants and graduates during their tenure of four and half years.

He added that the Good Governance Government and the UNP Governments beat, tear gassed and assaulted the graduates when they protested.

Kumarasiri said further as to how the JVP treated the Public Servants of the country. He added that the JVP drove the youth to protests and deprived them of pursuing their educational activities in 1971 and 88/89 period.

He said that Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa presented the Budget proposal amidst an economic crisis.

He added that the Opposition is attempting to put the blame of the crisis on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa viciously.

 


Country had a dignified Civil Service - MP Eran

The Government which states that they recruited the highest number of employees to the Government Service also says that the Public Service is a burden, said Samagi Jana Balawegaya Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne yesterday.

He made this observation joining the Budget 2022 Committee Stage Debate for the financial year 2022.

He further said that representatives of this Government promise to recruit many to the Public Service. But later during the Budget season, they think the Public Service is a burden.

He said further that during the election rallies, Government members promised fertilizer for free but later during the Budget season they think it is a burden.

MP Wickramaratne said this country had a dignified Civil Service in the past, but the politicians destroyed it by making political appointments to the Public Service. He added that the employees join to serve the country but are later compelled to serve the politicians. He said further that in relation to the Nano Liquid Fertilizer issue, the State Minister said that he had no involvement and passed the buck on the officials.

He queried as to who had instructed the officials to act in such a manner.

Wickramaratne added that the moves by the Government are silent attempts to silence the democratic nature and independence of the Public Service.

 


Govt trying to stifle public servants’ freedom of expression

The SJB General Secretary, a former Minister of Public Administration and Management, MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara alleged that the government is trying to stifle public servants by depriving them of their freedom of expression.

Speaking in parliament during the debate on the Appropriation Bill 2022, MP Madduma Bandara said that the Home Affairs Ministry, which is under the purview of a former military person, has issued a circular stating that any government servant who criticizes the government on social media will be punished.

What sort of a rule is the government is striding towards? This is a breach of human rights.Public servants, who are educated, should be allowed to express their point of views on the government.

This government has a bleak history on subjugating social media activists.

It takes journalists into custody. According to this circular, the government can now arrest public servants also. Is it that the government is trying to find a way to stop the government servants from pointing out the inefficiency displayed by the government in ruling the country? Is this a fair approach? I earnestly request the government to cancel this Circular. Is this how you are going to rule people?” MP Madduma Bandara questioned.

 


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