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Govt. has given first priority to roads and bridges at a time of economic crisis – Kiriella

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BUDGET DEBATE

by Saman Indrajith

People hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to an economic crisis, did not expect the government to consider roads and bridges as its first priority in the budget proposals. What the masses looked forward to were relief measures to regain their livelihoods, Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP, Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament.

Speaking during the second reading stage debate on budget 2021 proposals, MP Kiriella said: People in all strata of life have common expectations from any budget – that’s relief and pay hikes. They do not wait till the budget comes to see how many roads or bridges the government is planning to build. Their hope is to see what the government would do to help them solve their day-to-day problems.

The government cannot say that it is not possible to give relief to the people. Soon after it came to power, it granted Rs. 600 billion in tax concessions to its friendly businessmen. By doing so, such a colossal amount was lost as government revenue. Now, what are those companies saying in return? They have taken up the position that due to the pandemic crisis this year, they will not be able to pay taxes next year as well. If the government could help the rich in that manner, why can’t it help the poor to survive?, he asked.

Kiriella said that if the government did not give Rs 600 billion relief to the big companies, they could have used the money to help the people. What do you intend to tell the people when you go to villages? Around 200,000 persons have lost their jobs during the past several months. Every public institution has lost around 40 percent of their revenue.

“Just like every government in the world talking about the indigenous economy when they have lost everything, this government too now talks of promoting the indigenous economy.

We remember that the United Front Government also talked about the indigenous economy during 1970-77. The government starts talking of indigenous medicine when it does not have foreign exchange”, he said.

“The government lost a huge sum of money by helping its friends. Now it does not have money to do business with the international community. The day would not be far when we see long queues lining up in front of shops because there is bound to be shortage of goods. Cooperatives are already empty. I heard that the Bokkawela cooperative shop in Kandy was closed because there were no goods. This is the reality in the country”, he further said.

“The government should not forget that people have been hard hit by the pandemic and they deserve relief. Since the first budget after we came to power, we offered immense relief to the people. We brought down the prices of sugar, milk powder, Sustagen, bread, sprats, canned fish, Maldive fish, rice and chillies. We increased Samurdhi payments. We increased the Mahapola bursary. We gave a seven perch plot of land to estate workers. We increased the salaries of public servants. We reduced the price of gas. There is nothing of that sort in this budget,” MP Kiriella said.

“We increased the salaries of each public servant by Rs. 10,000. What are you going to give? You are proposing them to do another job after their regular work. From 9 am to 4 pm they work in their offices and could people have the energy to do another job? Who would be at home then? When will these people have time to rest? We call on the government not to play with the lives of people”, the Kandy district parliamentarian added.



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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