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Cabraal sets record straight on the debt burden left behind by Yahapalana regime and JVP claims

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By Saman Indrajith

Sri Lanka’s success story of countering the COVID-19 crisis could have been a more effective and advantageous if not for the debilitation of the economy under the yahapalana regime, Parliament was told on Wednesday.

Winding up the debate at the time of the adjournment of the House, State Minister of Money and Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that the performance of the previous government had weakened the economy as never before.

 “There is a shortage of reserves and that has resulted in limiting our import options. We would have been able to do much better after overcoming the COVID-19 crisis if there had been enough reserves. The previous government also increased the debt burden. Debts stood at 71 percent of total GDP at the time they came to power. They increased it to 91 percent.

 “We managed somehow. But we could have given more relief to the people. We could have made use of some opportunities on the economic front to boost the small and medium scale enterprises if there had been enough reserves.

 “During our time we recorded a 6.5 per cent growth and an increase of GDP from 24 billion US dollars to 79 billion US dollars. Inflation shot up causing suffering to the people due to the collapse of the economy under the previous government.

 “Now, we are planning to get the national economy back on the track by 2021. You can get an idea of the current situation from the Central Bank 2019 annual report before you understand the challenge before us. We have to rebuild the economy and help the public. It is a big challenge but we are not afraid because we are sure that we can turn the tide; we have the expertise to do. We’ll fast-track the development process. We are introducing some tools to attract foreign direct investments”, Cabraal said. 

 The State Minister said that he would not take the predictions of the Opposition Leader seriously as the latter had a record of making wrong predictions. “I remember that he was shouting in 2007 and 2008 that the economy would collapse any time. That did not happen.”

Responding to JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s allegations that the economy had suffered a loss by investing in Greek bonds while he was the Governor of the Central Bank, the Minister said: “That is a topic they keep harping on while the rest of the world has moved ahead. I have explained this in my book ‘The Great Bond Scam’ in detail. There on Page 313 this matter has been dealt with in detail. Then there is a judgment by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court presided by Chief Justice K Sripavan. It has put all these allegation to rest. The MPs who come here to talk should do their homework. I do not know whether they deliberately hide facts to mislead the public. There is one such example, it was stated in this House today that our decision to invest EPF monies was wrong because we suffered a 3,071- million-rupee loss. The Opposition however did not say that while the loss was standing at that amount for some loss making shares, we had earned a Rs 17,577 million profit. In 2011, the capital profit from EPF investment was at Rs. 2,678 million. In 2012 it increased to Rs. 3,016 million in 2013 and Rs. 3,339 million. In 2014, the profit rose to Rs. 5,544 million. I table a copy of my book because it has answers to some questions the MPs raised though they have passed their shelf life. The matter of a forensic audit has been raised. I have explained that on page 149 of this book.”

Referring to the contribution made by the JVP to the national economy, the state minister read out a list of damages and destruction attributed to the Marxist party during its second insurrection in the period of terror from 1989-90. “They destroyed 684 post offices, 13 telecommunications centers, 550 buses, 75 tea factories, 40 estate bungalows, 130 CEB transformers, 12 trains and six railway stations. The total loss by those actions has been estimated at Rs. 55 billion rupees.”

Cabraal said that while he was the Governor of the Central Bank he had heard of the same allegations being made in the House but he could not respond as an official. “Today, I am a member of this House and I can respond to these wild allegations and inform the House the truth. I thank colleague member Prof Ranjith Bandara for moving this motion for debate,” the minister said.

 

 

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Foreign qualified medical students protest

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A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament

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Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court

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By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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