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Book on ganja in Parliament causes stir; Speaker promises probe

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday promised to conduct an investigation to ascertain how a book titled Triloka Vijaya promoting the use of ganja had been distributed among the staff of Parliament and who was responsible.

 The speaker promised a probe after the matter had been brought to his notice by Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana at the time of commencement of the sittings. 

MP Pathirana:

I spoke of a plan to propagate the use of ganja on Tuesday. Shortly afterwards, I came to know that a book titled, Triloka Vijaya, had been distributed among parliament staff members. (He showed a copy of the book to the House.) Visitors are not allowed. Who brought this into the parliamentary premises? How could it be distributed among parliament staff members? Copies of a book dedicated to the Speaker could be distributed among parliament staff members, and there is nothing wrong with it. The dedication of the book says that it is for the purpose of delight (aanandaya labanna). What does it mean? Isn’t it to promote the smoking of ganja? I queried this from Ministers Bandula Gunawardena and S.B. Dissanayake but could not get an answer.

 The Speaker: I will look into the matter.

 Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena: Since my colleague mentioned my name I have to clarify that I had nothing to do with distributing this book. We too are engaged in writing and publishing books. So, the wrong impression could be created when our names are mentioned in connection with a book. I did not bring such a book or distribute anything of the sort.

 MP Pathirana: Since the word, anandaya, is mentioned, I asked both Minister Gunawardena and S.B. Dissanayake of the meaning of the word. We have heard of aanandayen pragnawata (from delight to wisdom). There is a signature on the title page of the book. If the Speaker appoints an investigating body, involving the Secretary General and the Sergeant-at-Arms, I can hand this book to them. We can check the CCTV footage and find out how these books had been brought in and who did it. Does distributing this book among parliament staff mean it is asking them to smoke ganja? What is the next step? Is it asking the MPs to smoke ganja?

The Speaker: We will look into the matter. 



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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