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Crisis did not come about due to COVID-19 pandemic, but because of ill-advised policies of Govt. says Champika 

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB, on Thursday, raised questions over the government‘s use of funds for the period between April and August this year without the authorisation of Parliament.

 Participating in the debate on Vote on Account, SJB Colombo District MP Champika Ranawaka said: “The Treasury Secretary issued a circular dated March 10, 2020, that the President had authorised the utilisation of funds under Article 150 (3) of the Constitution, only Parliament has the power to approve a Vote on Account.” But the SJB’s stance was that Article 150 (3) only gave powers to the President to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund for public expenses for three months from that date to the inauguration of a new Parliament.

“It does not grant him powers to draw funds or approve a VoA from the date of dissolving Parliament. The Prime Minister must clarify this in his capacity as the Finance Minister. We hope he will provide Parliament with a detailed account on State revenue during the past eight months of this year, how revenue from various taxes came to the government and the government’s recurrent expenditure before the end of the debate.”

 Ranawaka said 2020 would go down as a significant year in the country’s history as there was no budget.

“A similar situation arose in 2015. This was just after a presidential election and with a general election also coming. However, the then government discussed with all parties concerned and still managed to present a Budget. This government, however, though it came to power in November last year could not present a budget this year. It relied on a Vote on Account passed by the previous government which approved funds up to April 30 this year. We now have another Vote on Account for funds from September 1 to December 31,” he said.

Opening the debate on the Vote on Account for the Opposition, the SJB MP said that the country’s present fiscal crisis had not come about due to the COVID-19 pandemic but because of the ill-advised economic and tax policies of the government.

 He said the government’s tax policies implemented from December 1, 2019 had had a disastrous impact on the state revenue. Due to those policies, annual state revenue, which had been near Rs 2,000 billion during the previous government, had plummeted to about Rs 1,000 billion since last December, he said.

“The state revenue this year will be about Rs 1,100 billion, whereas the interest on loans alone is about Rs 1 trillion (Rs 1000 billion). As such, this is the first time that the country’s revenue is only enough to pay off the interest on the country’s loans,” he said.

Ranawaka pointed out that before the pandemic forced the country into lockdown, the economic growth rate during the first three months of 2020, had been –1.6%. “That was the government’s report card before COVID-19. According to the Asian Development Bank’s forecast, the economy is due to contract by 0.6% this year. The government can’t hide behind COVID-19 and claim all problems are due to it. The fact remains that the economy was in severe distress long before the pandemic came around.”

MP Ranawaka also alleged that the USD 7.2 billion foreign reserves which the previous government’s Central Bank Governor managed to build up were now being used to pay off foreign loans. He also lambasted the protectionist economic policy of the government and said that issuing a blanket ban on imports was only going to further worsen an already difficult situation. “You can’t develop local industries in this manner,” he said.

 

 

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Udaya questions why CPC prevented from entering LPG market

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Minister Gammanpila at the abandoned Sapugaskanda facility

…reveals Rs 37 mn loss suffered during Asantha’s tenure as Chairman

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila recently alleged that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had suffered Rs 37 mn loss due to an abortive bid made by the state enterprise to enter the LPG (liquid petroleum gas) in 2008.

Lawmaker Gammanpila, who is also the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, said that the CPC had made the attempt in violation of an agreement with Shell and Laugfs Gas to supply its entire output of LPG from the Sapugaskanda refinery to the above mentioned companies.

The Minister said so after inspecting an abandoned gas filling facility at the CPC facility at Sapugaskanda. The visit took place, on Thursday (24), after a three-member committee headed by the Energy Ministry’s head of Internal Audit D. P. S. J. Kumara inquired into the failed operation.

The CPC undertook the project during former national cricketer Ashantha de Mel’s tenure as the CPC Chairman. A. H. M. Fowzie had been the minister in charge of the subject.

The Minister called for a report when the media revealed that the facility had been abandoned a decade back.

Gammanpila vowed to reveal the person who had caused losses to the CPC, having misled its Board of Directors as regards the viability of the project.

The PHU leader requested state enterprise Litro Gas to explore the possibility of accommodating the facility in its current production setup. The minister described the facility installed at Sapugaskanda as technologically outdated even at the time 2008 administration acquired it.

When the CPC made an attempt to enter the LPG market, Laugfs successfully moved the Supreme Court against it. The CPC abandoned the facility following the Supreme Court directive.

The Energy Minister questioned how the CPC had been prevented from entering the gas market. Underscoring the importance of market competition, the lawmaker said that the Energy Ministry intended to inquire into how the CPC reached an understanding with competitors that prevented the state enterprise from entering the LPG market. The minister said that he would examine the obstacles placed before the CPC in entering the market without undermining Litro.

Declaring that Sri Lanka had substantial natural gas deposits in the Mannar basin, the Energy Minister said that the government intended to enter the gas market. Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that a new enterprise would be established under the CPC to provide healthy competition.

Addressing the post-Cabinet media briefing on Sept. 10, co-Cabinet spokesperson Gammanpila said that Surath Ovitigama had been named the Director-General of the Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat and Saliya Wickramasuriya had been appointed advisor.

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Saumya Liyanage removed from posts of Dean and Professor 

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From M.A. Kaleel, Kalmunai Corr. 

Professor Saumya Liyanage of the University of Visual and Performing Arts has been summarily removed from the posts of Professor and Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies he was holding at the university. 

 The decision was taken by the University Council chaired by the Competent Authority of the University Professor Abayaratne Bandara. 

 According to the Council, the decision for his removal is that he had not obtained a postgraduate degree by research (Master or PhD) within the probationary period of eight years. When a lecturer is appointed on probationary basis, he is given eight years to complete postgraduate degree––a master’s or a PhD.  

Liyanage holds a PhD from La Trobe University, Australia and he claims he submitted his PhD thesis within the stipulated period of 8 years, and the university has recommended him for the award of PhD with minor corrections. The effective date of PhD could be the date of submission of corrected thesis or the date of annual convocation. It differs from university to university. 

Liyanage, who joined the university in 2007, was supposed to obtain his PhD before 2015, but the university has taken 5 years to detect that he has not completed his PhD within the probationary period. He was promoted as a Professor and the Dean of Graduate Studies.  

 Professor Abayaratne Bandara also served as the Director General of National Institute of Education.  When Bandula Gunawardena became the Education Minister, he removed Dr. Upali S. Sedera from the post of DG only a few months after his appointment and appointed Professor Abayaratne Bandara to the post.

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SF under delusion that he is still Army Chief – SLPP MP

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‘Even Vasu is capable of flooring him’

By Saman Indrajith

Badulla District SLPP MP Chamara Sampath Dassanayake told Parliament, yesterday, that the SJB Gampaha District MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was under the delusion that he was still commanding the army.

“He should realise that he is in Parliament. Yesterday, he threatened to take on the entire front row of government ranks single-handedly. We do not need an entire row of members to match him. We could send a single person that is our minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

MP Fonseka thinks all those here have passed only Grade Eight. What is wrong with a person with that kind of educational qualification becoming an MP? What about the late Mr. D. S. Senanayake? He was the first prime minister of the country.  He had passed only the fifth standard. We have had leaders who had not studied beyond Grade Eight. Didn’t they govern this country well? On the contrary, where is UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was considered educated and intelligent? What has he done? He is not even in this Parliament today. Was he able to govern this country successfully?”

“We know a lot about him and his ways of conduct. When he was the commander of the Army he sent a helicopter to Colombo to fetch two loaves of bread, while denying so many wounded soldiers the chance to be flown to Colombo. He also brought water from the Iyakkachi well in Vettailaikerni to Colombo because that was his favourite drinking water. We know all this”.

MP Dassanayake said that they had come to Parliament with great trust in it. Yet, he said that there were no thugs in the parliament and no room would be spared to turn the Ninth parliament into the same situation as the Eighth parliament.

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