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Dr. Godahewa warns govt. over its IMF strategy

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‘Current crisis has given us an opportunity to rectify wrong decisions’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker and one-time prominent Viyathmaga activist Dr. Nalaka Godahewa says the government has not been able to bring talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to a successful conclusion for want of a cohesive action plan to reduce expenditure and increase revenue.The former Minister said so when The Island sought the former mercantile executive’s response to the current status of government negotiations with the IMF.

“The issue at hand is that we haven’t been able to convince the IMF of our plans to address the daunting task. The government cannot sidestep contentious issues as the IMF expects us to come up with a clear action plan to enhance income and reduce expenditure,” the Gampaha District MP said.

Responding to another query, Dr. Godahewa warned the government that finalization of an agreement with the IMF wouldn’t be possible as long as the government delayed presenting a proper plan. The lawmaker questioned the validity of the presentation made by the Finance Ministry to the IMF delegation. Had the government convinced the IMF and as well as other lenders an agreement could have been reached during the recently concluded talks in Colombo.

Participating in a discussion arranged by a group of Kelaniya undergraduates over the weekend, Dr. Godahewa explained the responsibility on the part of the government to reveal how it intended to repay debt.

Instead of repeatedly giving excuses and warnings of further deterioration of the economic status, the government should without further delay address four key issues namely how to increase foreign/domestic income, bring down expenditure in foreign currencies/domestic expenditure.

Dr. Godahewa said that the unprecedented economic crisis had given the incumbent government an opportunity to take appropriate remedial measures to rectify a spate of wrong decisions taken by successive governments over the past several decades. Unfortunately, the government seemed not capable of taking advantage of what the former media minister called a golden opportunity to push for required reforms with the support of all political parties represented in Parliament and other stakeholders, particularly the trade unions.

Dr. Godahewa warned that printing of currency notes continuously to meet budget deficit was nothing but a horrendous blunder.The government should concentrate on expenditure control while being tough on waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement, the new entrant to Parliament said. According to Dr. Godahewa, waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement perpetrated by successive administrations had caused significant loss of revenue over the years and the incumbent government was no exception, the ex-minister said.

Commenting on public sector enterprises, the Gampaha District lawmaker said that though there were 420 such ventures, the Treasury considered only 52 of them important. Of those categorized as important, the CEB (Rs 21.4bn), CPC (Rs.82.2 bn) and SriLankan Airlines (Rs 170.7 bn) suffered a staggering loss of Rs 270 bn in 2021.

Dr. Godahewa said the country could no longer afford to bear such huge losses. Therefore, restricting was nothing but an urgent necessity, the government MP declared, pointing out that the government lacked the wherewithal to sustain utterly incompetent public sector.

Dr. Godahewa gave a breakdown of the public sector. According to the latest available data, there were 1,402,000 in the state sector comprising ministries and departments 792,000, Provincial Councils and Local Government 390,000 and state enterprises 220,000.

In 2021 alone, their salaries and other payments cost the government Rs 845 bn whereas 672,000 pensioners received payments amounting to Rs 270 bn. Therefore, the total expenditure stood at Rs 1,115 bn (Rs 845 b +Rs 270 bn), Dr. Godahewa said, adding that amounted to staggering 80 percent of the total income.

The MP called for the pruning of the public sector declaring it was a very heavy burden. Public Administration Secretary Priyantha Mayadunne recently said that Sri Lanka could manage with about 500,000 public servants though the current strength of the public sector is 1.5 mn.Dr. Godahewa said that all unnecessary posts and positions should be gradually abolished.



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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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