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Efforts underway to hold PC polls soon: Dinesh



by Saman Indrajith

Leader of the House, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena says that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms wanted to hold elections for the provincial councils expeditiously.

The PSC appointed to Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws and the Electoral System and to Recommend Necessary Amendments has already made a request to the Attorney General’s Department to obtain their recommendations on the steps to be taken to hold the election at an earliest possible date, said Gunawardena who is also the chairman of the PSC.

The minister said so at a PSC meeting held at the parliamentary complex on Wednesday (22).

MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero who testified on behalf of the ‘Our Power of People Party’ (Ape Janabala Pakshaya) said that it would be appropriate to abolish the existing preferential electoral system completely. He also pointed out the need to have a Member of Parliament responsible for each electoral division.

He urged that the representation of minority parties should be ensured and a culture of ideological politics should be created in the country. He added that criteria should be formulated regarding the control of election expenses and that democratic principles should be introduced to political parties.

Speaking at the committee on behalf of the SJB, the party’s chief executive, former minister Ajith. P. Perera, said that the 20th amendment to the constitution had given power to other parties. He also pointed out that a policy of checks and balances should be implemented between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

Perera stated that there is a code of conduct for Members of Parliament and it should be implemented in practice. He also raised the need to formulate a Code of Conduct for Members of Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.

He also said that in all electoral reforms, the right to vote should be guaranteed as a part of the sovereignty of the people and the principles of democracy should be upheld there.

Perera further said that it was very important that all elections be held freely and fairly. He also emphasized in the Committee that Parliamentary, Provincial Council and Local Government elections should be held under the Proportional Representation System.

New laws should be enacted to regulate the financial expenditure of the election campaign and to ensure the representation of youth and women, he urged; and suggested that dual citizen should be disqualified from contest elections and that a system should be set up for the proper registration of all eligible voters.

The SJB representatives pointed out the need for equal distribution of state and private media airtime between the parties contesting the elections.

MP Kabir Hashim said that there should be an election schedule in the country to ensure the right of the people to vote.

Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Douglas Devananda, Wimal Weerawansa, M.U.M Ali Sabry, MPs Anura Dissanayake, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, M.A Sumanthiran, Rauf Hakeem, Mano Ganesan, Madura Vithanage and Sagara Kariyawasam were also present at the meeting.

Officials from the Delimitation Commission and the Attorney General’s Department also participated in the committee. The next meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee is scheduled to be held on Sept 29, said Secretary to the Select Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera.

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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine



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



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



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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