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COPE wants National Environmental Act amended to meet today’s requirements



Chairman of the COPE, Prof. Charitha Herath MP has instructed Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Dr. Anil Jasinghe to amend the National Environmental Act to meet the needs of the time.

The COPE Chairman said that there had been attempts to amend the National Environmental Act for two decades.

Prof. Herath said that there had been lengthy discussions about the weaknesses and loopholes of the Act, however nothing had been done to address those issues. Some institutions were opposed to amending the Act and instructed the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) to hold discussions and iron out the issues, he said.

The National Environmental Act was also discussed when the COPE took into consideration an environmental audit on the import, use and post use management of plastics. Between 2012 and 2018, Sri Lanka had imported 3.35 billion kilos of plastic spending Rs. 184.3 billion.

It was also revealed that there had been a drastic, year on year, increase in plastic imports between 2012 and 2017. Since Sri Lanka did not have an optimal waste management system, the plastic imports were causing great environmental damage, the COPE Chairman said.

The COPE was of the view that the Ministry of Provincial Councils as well as local authorities themselves should play a bigger role in collecting and disposing of plastic waste. Laws regulating the use of plastic should also be strengthened, he said.

The COPE also noted that there were neither quality standards nor price controls set for biodegradable food containers and that those had to be addressed soon. Although the manufacturers claimed that those items were biodegradable; there had been no study on how they degrade when they interact with the soil, water, marine environment or at garbage disposal sites.

The CEA was also instructed to discourage the import of plastic, offer environmental friendly solutions to consumers and promote them. The Secretary of the Ministry of Environment was used to inform COPE on the progress of the National Initiative to manage Post Use Plastic Waste.

The Cabinet of Ministers had approved the National Policy on Waste management on October 10, 2019; however it had not been implemented, COPE commented.

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Overtime gravy train for public sector back



Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.

The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.

Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.

Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.

Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.

Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.

One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.

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Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee



Prof G L Peris

Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.

Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.

Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.

Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.

The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)

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Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.

The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.

They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.

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