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Dinesh lashes out at opposition; accusing it of attempting to destabilise the country

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“..did everything to create an economic crisis in the country” 

by Saman Indrajith

The Opposition attempted to destabilize the country economically and politically during the COVID-19 pandemic without cooperating with the President and the Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said yesterday.

Speaking during the second day of the debate on the Vote on Account, Minister Gunawardena said that despite Opposition’s obstructions President Gotabaya Rajapaksa successfully overcame the challenges that emanated from the pandemic situation.

“Sri Lanka was brought back to the world map. Once again Sri Lanka appeared as one of the most successful countries that controlled the COVID-19 pandemic for which, we have to accept, we needed money, funding, so the expenditure had to be incurred by the President’s orders under the Constitution. And we have come today before the House to get the Vote on Account approved for the next few months. The budget shall be presented in November by the Prime Minister,” Minister Gunawardena said.  

Minister Gunawardena pointed out that “While Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has presented the Vote on Account for the coming four months, I would like to clarify as to how the Opposition attempted several times to create a financial crisis in the country over the last few months. On February 20, 2020 we as the government requested from the House necessary financial provisions immediately following the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Initially the Opposition said that it will support us, however, we had to withdraw the proposal as at the last moment the Opposition opposed it,” he said.

 “Now, the Opposition’s main argument is that there is a legal concern in relation to utilizing funds during the period April to August. The Prime Minister explained that there are billions of unsettled payments due for constructions, development projects, health projects and public needs which were abandoned by the previous government. In February our attempt was to obtain the necessary funding to meet these needs so that the country shall not be dragged into an economic crisis. So the Opposition was taking every opportunity to destabilize the country economically, politically and socially,” Minister Gunawardena said.

Minister Gunawardena said: “Now the Opposition MPs are coming up with all kinds of arguments concerning the period of time that the President could use funds without the approval of the House. President quite correctly dissolved the Parliament so that the election could be held at an appropriate time. However our country as well as the whole world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Entire countries, economies, airports were closed down due to the pandemic. The world was shocked by the pandemic. Thus the Election Commission took a decision to postpone the poll. If the election was not postponed, we would have been able to elect a new House by the end of April this year. Even to hold the election, the Election Commission requested a larger financial provision to hold it. So the President was challenged to allocate large sums of money to hold the general election and to secure the citizens from the pandemic. President most successfully overcame all these challenges. The public was secured against the pandemic and the economic difficulties. It is important to remember that all the benefits were distributed equally among every community without any discrimination.”

 Minister Gunawardena said that the Opposition which should have cooperated with the government during the pandemic did everything to create an economic crisis in the country. “They did not support the President and the Prime Minister during the time of need. The Opposition’s actions and political behavior are unacceptable. The Opposition when in power did not present a budget during their rule, and to quote their own words, they did not expect a defeat in the election. The public of course gave them the answer in the general election.”

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Govt. suspended Sectoral Oversight committees to prevent discussion on 20A – Opposition Leader

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa accused the government of suspending the functioning of Sectoral Oversight committees to avoid the 20th Amendment being discussed.

Raising a point of Order on Thursday in Parliament, soon after government members moved a motion to suspend the functioning of Sectoral Oversight Committees, the Opposition Leader demanded to know the objective and rationale behind the motion.

“This is a gross violation of democratic process. You are trying to bypass the process,” he protested.

Leader of the House, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena presented the motion to suspend the committees until establishing Parliamentary Consultative Committees under the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Leader of the Opposition Premadasa and JVP lead NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake objected to the motion.

Premadasa said that the Sectoral Oversight Committees had the power to inspect the bills presented to parliament before they are considered in the House.

The committees are there to analyze, appraise, and evaluate the bills and have the powers to indicate the conditions and circumstances in necessity or desirability of enacting new legislations. Now when the committees are suspended the government does not need to worry of the changes being suggested at the committee for the 20th Amendment, he said.

He said that the Government tried to avoid the 20th Amendment to the Constitution being discussed at the Sectoral Oversight Committee.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that the issue came up earlier and as a result SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake was assigned to study the matter and to present a report regarding it.

Opposition Leader Premadasa then queried as to why the committees are going to be suspended before receiving the said report.

Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena said that the opposition leader had not read the motion properly. The motion was presented to suspend Sectoral Oversight Committees until the appointment of Members to them, the Minister said.

JVP leader Dissanayake said that the committees should not be suspended until the said report is presented. The motion says that the suspension is till new members are appointed to them. That is the tricky point. There are concerns about the sectoral oversight committees and we are awaiting a report. The report could propose some changes, or to continue the committee in their present form or to abolish them.

“Those are the possible recommendations of the report. We could suspend the committees till the report is ready. But the government is suspending them till new members are appointed. The prime minister knows the trick. That was the same method he employed while he was the president to prevent the functioning of independent commissions under the 17th amendment to the constitution. The law was passed to set up commissions but they could not function for nearly five years because the members were not appointed to them. So the same trick is being played once again. There would be no appointments to the sectoral oversight committees so that they would not function if we pass the motion,” the MP said, asking the speaker to give a ruling on the matter.

Speaker Abeywardena: There is no need for me to give a ruling, put it to the House and make a decision.

Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena asked whether the House agreed and the government MPs shouted ‘aye’. The motion was passed.

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Yahapalana govt. made use of CID and police to frame their political opponents – MP Jayasekara

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By Saman Indrajith

Murder convict, Ratnapura district SLPP MP Premalal Jayasekara told Parliament on Thursday that the way the yahapalana government made use of the CID and police to frame their political opponents was now unfolding in the media.

Participating in an adjournment debate on the Finance Commission, the MP said: “I think there would be some more terrifying stories on how the yahapalana political leaders got certain officials such as Shani Abeysekera to tamper with evidence while also fabricating evidence to achieve their political objectives by bending the law according to their whims and fancies.

When these stories come out, people who voted for the SLPP to send the yahapalana government home, will be proud of their choice. They understand that they did a yeoman service to the entire nation by voting to change that regime. People can be happy that they voted for the SLPP to end such a tyrannical government.”

The MP said that Shani Abeysekera and several others now under investigation for ‘making’ and ‘breaking’ cases by forcing witnesses to give evidence had played a role in investigations against him. “There will dawn a day when the truth will come out,” the MP said.

He further said that not all the police officers were corrupt and politically motivated such as Shani and others under investigation. “There are many gentlemen in uniform. Amongst them there are highly corrupt officers such as Shani,” he said.

“Similarly there are many untold stories about prison officers. We saw in the media recently some reports of corrupt officers. Just like in the case of the police, not all prison officers are corrupt. There are some bad eggs. One of the reasons might be the poor salary and facilities they get. Since I am now in prison, I see these things”, the MP noted.

He added: “I happened to read a letter from a jailor describing how hard their lives are. I table that letter. It shows the hard life they live while they are on duty. We know that the salaries of police officers were increased by 40 percent recently. But prison officers did not get a raise. I propose that their salaries be increased because that would at least ease their burden,” MP Jayasekera said.

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US donates locally procured Personal Protective Equipment to support SL’s COVID-19 Response 

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COLOMBO, September 24 – 

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Alaina B. Teplitz donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Pavithra Wanniarachchi as part of the United States’ ongoing assistance to Sri Lanka in its response to COVID-19.  

The donation includes 23,000 masks, 24,000 nitrile gloves, 600 isolation gowns with hoods, 60 infrared thermometers, 50 portable oxygen concentrators with a large supply of expendable equipment to support their operation, and disinfectants.  The total value of donation was $191,000. 

 The donation was funded by the US Department of Defense.  All items were procured locally in keeping with US efforts to support Sri Lanka’s local businesses and industry as they recover from COVID-19’s economic impact.  As part of its private sector engagement with the apparel industry and the Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board, the United States has funded capacity building trainings that have aided new exporters in accessing the US market. 

 “These donations from the American people accomplish two shared goals: protecting the health and safety of Sri Lankans and supporting Sri Lankan jobs,” said Ambassador Teplitz.  “Providing sustainable assistance that enables Sri Lanka’s economic recovery is a hallmark of the U.S.-Sri Lanka partnership.”  

In Sri Lanka alone, the United States has provided more than $26 million in health assistance over the last 20 years and this latest donation, builds on more than $6 million in COVID-19 assistance in 2020.  On behalf of the American people, the Ambassador recently presented 200 brand-new, high-quality ventilators that enable Sri Lanka’s health providers to deliver quality care that could save lives.

Meanwhile, the American people are also helping Sri Lankan children resume their schooling via support for a national media campaign that encourages children and parents to follow seven important lessons to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

The United States continues to be one of the world’s largest providers of bilateral assistance in health. Since 2009, the American people have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally.  

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