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‘Draft Constitution will be ready early next year’

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Ministers Johnston Fernando, Mahindananda Aluthgamge and state ministers Dilum Amunugama and Anuradha Jayaratne at the meeting

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando has said that as pledged by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his presidential election manifesto in 2019, a committee of experts had been tasked with formulating a new draft Constitution and the draft Constitution would be presented to Parliament early next year.

“The making of the Constitution is a complicated process with the change of times and people’s needs. People voted for us to introduce new Constitution among many other things we had promised in our manifesto. During the past one and half years, our topmost priority was saving the lives of the people. Now the constitution making process is back on track,” Minister Fernando told journalists after a progress review meeting held at the Ministry auditorium to appraise the ongoing road development projects in Kandy and its suburbs on 18-10-2021.

Asked to explain the government’s position on holding provincial council elections the minister said: “Elections should be held on time. Elections are a democratic right of people. We are ready to hold elections and we saw recently the opposition leader too is suggesting that the government should be dissolved and an election should be held. We are ready and we are never afraid of elections.

Asked to comment on the ongoing forex crisis, the minister said that it was only a temporary situation which would change in the coming few weeks. “We cannot solve this problem by printing dollars, we either have to earn them or save them. That was why we had to impose limits that caused shortages and price increases. Now the problem is being solved and its subsequent problems too would be solved in time to come. The opposition is all out to make slogans out of this and win political advantage but they would not succeed. For example, the opposition made predictions of deaths and their estimates ranged from 20,000 to 200,000. They said that we would not be able to bring in vaccines. After we brought in vaccines they tried to sabotage it, but now the national vaccination drive is almost completed and we are among the top countries in the world in success charts. Similarly, the rice, sugar, gas and other problems too would last only a couple more days.”

Asked to comment on former minister Patali Champika Ranawaka’s statement that the government had placed the burden on people’s shoulders while it could have given fuel at Rs 121 a litre, the minister said: “Patali could speak of figures but people do not take his maths seriously. That is why he is in the opposition. They try to create a crisis and ride on that for survival. They got trade unionists to speak of a fuel shortage and create panic buying but people did not fall for that. People have trust in the president and our government because they know we have not cheated or robbed banks the way the Yahapalana government did.”



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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