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Cabraal to get cabinet-status and privileges, pension in limbo

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BY SANATH NANAYAKKARE

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would soon elevate the ranking of the Central Bank Governor to be on par with a cabinet minister, Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said at the ‘Salakuna’ talk show telecast by Hiru TV recently.

When presenter Chamuditha Samarawickrame asked if this has not been done yet, Cabraal replied, “No, It will be done soon.”

“The issue here is: where really is the Central Bank Governor positioned in terms of precedence? In the near future it will be equated to that of a cabinet minister together with privileges attached and I would be given that rank,” he said.

When the program presenters pointed out that the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, MP Sagara Kariyawasam had stressed that cabinet rank/ status would not be given to the Central Bank Governor, Cabraal responded: “He said so before I insisted on that. Not after.”

“The post of Central Bank Governor has to be in some order of precedence. At one time the Governor was on par with a cabinet minister. It was later changed for some reason and the president would act to re-establish its previous status,” he said.

However, he said that the elevated Governor’s position would not entail the powers of a cabinet minister and would only be placed on an equally important level.

“Given the current internal and external economic volatility and pressures, President Rajapaksa insisted on my assuming that responsibility. I was functioning as a state minister and performing my duties with great satisfaction; but if the country needs my services again as CB Governor, I would fulfill those duties with equal enthusiasm.

“The President would have thought that with my past experience and performance at the Central Bank, I would be able to help bring economic and price stability and enable growth through proper policy advocacy,” he said.

In response to a question which has become a political hot potato, the Governor said that he was not getting a pension as he is working at the Central Bank again.

“When I first assumed the post at the Central Bank in 2006, I didn’t think of a pension. Nor did I worry about my salary. I didn’t get a duty-free vehicle either because I had those things. I worked for a salary of Rs. 70,000 per month. Can you imagine a chartered accountant with a 33-year experience in top management roles in leading organizations working for a mere Rs. 70,000?,” he asked.

“In fact, I applied for pension four years after I left the office of Governor in January 2015. Any other person would have done so the following day. Former Governor Coomaraswamy informed me that the request would be taken up with the then President’s Secretary and after some time I got a letter of rejection.

“I just left the matter there without making any noise about it. Last Governor Prof. W.D. Lakshman would have acted on a pension scheme and I saw in the newspapers that a pension would be paid. If the President’s Secretary has approved a pension, I can take it. I thought I should get what I am entitled to.

“Governor Lakshman worked at the Central Bank for two years and when he gets a pension, others also should get it. I worked at the Bank for nine years. He can’t be paid without my being paid,” he said.

During Prof. W.D. Lakshman’s tenure as Governor from November 2019 to September 2021, the Monetary Board approved pensions with arrears for several former governors including Cabraal irrespective of the lengths of their tenure.

Under the new scheme, all Governors will be eligible for pensions regardless of their service periods, despite other public sector employees requiring at least 10 years of service to qualify for a pension. The only exceptions are Members of Parliament who get a pension after five years.

According to media reports at the time, the Monetary Board’s decision followed requests from the then State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

However, Cabraal told Hiru TV that he had asked for it just once.

When asked if former governor Arjuna Mahendran would also be entitled to a pension, he said “If there is a disciplinary inquiry against someone and if there is suspicion, there is room for his pension not to be paid.”



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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