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Furniture importers request govt. to allow importation of quality merchandise



… say their imported goods are ‘no threat’ to local industries

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Nawaal Qasim, Chairman of Office Chairs and Furniture Importers Association while congratulating the government on containing the Covid-19 epidemic, urged it to lift the import restrictions that affected the furniture importers.

Qasim said in a brief interview with The Island: “The association has 16 companies which have employed 5,000 people direct and a larger work force depends on it indirectly. If the current import suspension continues, they will lose their livelihoods as we can’t afford to keep them in our employ. At the same time, the business owners will also suffer when the sustainability of their operations are at stake.

“The import restrictions on our quality merchandise also adversely affect a broad spectrum of allied industries such as architectural companies and construction companies that absolutely require these supplies.

“This type of office seating cannot be manufactured locally due to limited technology, unavailability of required inputs and components within the country. Our products are office chairs and office furniture and there is little or no wood/timber in them, therefore, it poses no threat to local industries. And I would be seriously remiss if I don’t mention that the merchandise customers buy from us are no longer considered a luxury. It’s a must-have for any business or any formal setting,” Nawaal emphasised.

“It does not make sense for any investor to invest in setting up manufacturing plants to produce the merchandise here in Sri Lanka because the domestic market is really small. On the other hand, even if we do make them here, we can’t capture a market share in the global market as mass-scale manufacturers in Malaysia, China, Indonesia, etc., already supply these goods in bulk to the European, American and the UK markets at very competitive prices. So an export market in this sector is not viable”.

“Furthermore, the value of imports of office chairs and furniture to Sri Lanka in 2019-2020 compared to the overall value of imports to the country during the period was negligible. So it has a minimal effect on the outflow of foreign exchange and a more positive impact on the construction industry and allied sectors. We, therefore, request the authorities to consider the above facts and ease the import restriction on office chairs and furniture. If this is done, we can resume our businesses as usual and continue to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country,” Nawaal said.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder



State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Sirikotha to pick electoral organisers



The UNP will commence interviews tomorrow (01) at the party headquarters to pick electoral organisers.

The interview board will be chaired by UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene and General Secretary of the party Palitha Range Bandara.

Former MP Bandara said that the interview board would consist of Deputy Leader Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Chairman Wajira Abeywardena, MP, National Organiser Sagala Ratnayake, Naveen Dissanayake and Daya Gamage. Those picked would be placed in charge of electorates for a period of one year, he said.

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SJB threatens to walk out of Chamber over MP Edirimanne reading AG’s report implicating Sajith



By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday threatened to leave the Chamber if what it called derogatory remarks on Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made by SLPP backbenchers, were not expunged from Hansard.

Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella threatened to boycott the third reading debate on Budget 2023 if the Chair failed to conduct House proceedings, as per the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Kiriella said that as per Standing Orders, an MP could not abuse parliamentary privileges to level personal attacks on an Opposition Leader, or an MP, during their absence in the House. “If there are any charges, or accusations, against a particular MP, then that should have been raised through a substantive motion.”

Kiriella said so when SLPP backbencher from the Kalutara District Sanjeewa Edirimanne had alleged that Opposition Leader Premadasa was involved in financial misappropriation are regards the Central Cultural Fund.

Presiding member, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Angajan Ramanathan, said that the point of order raised by the Chief Opposition Whip had been noted and permitted MP Edirimanne to proceed.

As Edirimanne continued to speak of the CCF affair, Kiriella asked the Chair to stop Edirimanne.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that MP Edirimanne was making his speech on the basis of an Auditor General’s report and therefore it should be permitted.

Kandy District SLPP MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, stood Edirimanne.

Kiriella said it amounted to character assassination and the MPs who have only three years of parliamentary experience should study the Standing Orders. “The CCF matter has been investigated by several institutions. The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has ruled that there was no evidence to prove the allegations against the Opposition leader in the CCF affairs.

It is now before the parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE. How could that matter, under investigation, be abused to level allegations against the Opposition Leader?”

Kiriella asked the Chair to stop the violation of Standing Orders and give a ruling on the matter immediately or otherwise they would walk out of the Chamber.

Deputy Chairman of Committees Ramanathan told MP Edirimanne to refrain from levelling personal attacks on MPs who were not present in the Chamber.

MP Aluthgamage: It is not possible to assassinate a character of a person if that person has no such character. There is no character assassination in this instance.

Kiriella: We will walk out. As per the Standing Orders on character and conduct of an MP could not be debated in this manner.

As Kiriella led SJB MPs to walk out the Chamber, the Deputy Chairman of Committees promised to refer the matter to the Speaker for a ruling.

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