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Ding-dong arguments over alleged attempts to protect ‘tie-coat’ thieves of previous regime

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By Saman Indrajith

The decision to have deferred telecasts of the proceedings of parliamentary committees including the COPE and the COPA was not aimed at protecting ‘tie-coat thieves of Colombo 07’, the Chief Government Whip told Parliament yesterday.

 Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said categorizing the thieves of the former government (2015-2019) into two groups––the ‘tie-coat’ and ‘Colombo 07’ was a task for the SJB.

 “We have nothing to do with these thieves. Our objective is to expose those who ruined this country. The SJB needs to highlight only one set of thieves.”

Fernando said so in response to some questions raised by Opposition MPs with regard to a decision to change the live telecast of committee sessions to delayed transmission.

 SJB Colombo District MP S.M. Marikkar said that the government had decided to have deferred telecasts of the committee proceedings. “The COPE and other committees are going to investigate the malpractices of the previous government during the

period of 2015 to 2019. Various corrupt deals will be exposed and their thieves would be identified. We have no problem with that. The government is going for a delayed transmission to edit the content so that it could spare the names of tie-coat thieves from Colombo 07 in the former government. That is not done.”

 Assistant Government Whip Jagath Pushpakumara said MP Marikkar was misleading the House. “The idea of the delayed transmission was discussed at the first COPE meeting. The new chairman asked members to express their opinions.  Some Opposition members are asking for the post of Chairman of COPE and COPA. They say that the COPE chairmanship was given to the Opposition in the past. That is wrong. It was given to Sunil Handunnetti of JVP, which was an appendage of the yahapalana government. The JVP was there to protect the interests of the then government. So, the COPE chairmanship was in fact retained by that government.

 

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella:

The decision to telecast was approved by parliament. I myself as the Leader of the House presented the motion to the effect in this House.

 

Kurunegala District SJB MP Nalin Bandara:

I am a member of the COPE. The government is trying the stop the live telecast. The decision should come from the COPE Chairman. It is not a decision that could be made by others.

 

Chief Government Whip Minister Fernando:

That decision was discussed at the Business Committee where MP Kiriella too was present. MP Bandara was not a member of that committee so he does not know. The decision was made at the party leaders’ meeting. It has to be implemented now.

 

Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa:

The Opposition is putting on a show wasting public funds. This is not an issue at all. The decision has been made at the party leaders’ meeting. After that, the Opposition MPs come here and shout to attract media attention. This is a waste of the House time and public funds.

 

SLPP MP Jayantha Ketagoda:

MP Kiriella says that their government made that decision so that we should continue it. That cannot be. We did not come here to implement your decisions. We are a new government and we do things the way we want.

 Chief Government Whip Minister Fernando said the previous government had introduced the live telecast as party of its political witch-hunt.  The previous government used this live transmission to cast some people in a poor light. “We can also use this live telecast as a political means to an end. But there is something called moral values. What do most TV channels do using these telecasts? They take specific cuts from this telecast and use them for political campaigns. (Referring to MP Marikkar) Yes, channels that represent people like you. We are not letting any public officials lose their self-respect. This government is not putting on media shows. Your government did that. People overwhelmingly rejected what your government did. That is why they gave us a two-thirds majority. We are not doing what your government did.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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