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Govt. suspended Sectoral Oversight committees to prevent discussion on 20A – Opposition Leader

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa accused the government of suspending the functioning of Sectoral Oversight committees to avoid the 20th Amendment being discussed.

Raising a point of Order on Thursday in Parliament, soon after government members moved a motion to suspend the functioning of Sectoral Oversight Committees, the Opposition Leader demanded to know the objective and rationale behind the motion.

“This is a gross violation of democratic process. You are trying to bypass the process,” he protested.

Leader of the House, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena presented the motion to suspend the committees until establishing Parliamentary Consultative Committees under the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Leader of the Opposition Premadasa and JVP lead NPP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake objected to the motion.

Premadasa said that the Sectoral Oversight Committees had the power to inspect the bills presented to parliament before they are considered in the House.

The committees are there to analyze, appraise, and evaluate the bills and have the powers to indicate the conditions and circumstances in necessity or desirability of enacting new legislations. Now when the committees are suspended the government does not need to worry of the changes being suggested at the committee for the 20th Amendment, he said.

He said that the Government tried to avoid the 20th Amendment to the Constitution being discussed at the Sectoral Oversight Committee.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that the issue came up earlier and as a result SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake was assigned to study the matter and to present a report regarding it.

Opposition Leader Premadasa then queried as to why the committees are going to be suspended before receiving the said report.

Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena said that the opposition leader had not read the motion properly. The motion was presented to suspend Sectoral Oversight Committees until the appointment of Members to them, the Minister said.

JVP leader Dissanayake said that the committees should not be suspended until the said report is presented. The motion says that the suspension is till new members are appointed to them. That is the tricky point. There are concerns about the sectoral oversight committees and we are awaiting a report. The report could propose some changes, or to continue the committee in their present form or to abolish them.

“Those are the possible recommendations of the report. We could suspend the committees till the report is ready. But the government is suspending them till new members are appointed. The prime minister knows the trick. That was the same method he employed while he was the president to prevent the functioning of independent commissions under the 17th amendment to the constitution. The law was passed to set up commissions but they could not function for nearly five years because the members were not appointed to them. So the same trick is being played once again. There would be no appointments to the sectoral oversight committees so that they would not function if we pass the motion,” the MP said, asking the speaker to give a ruling on the matter.

Speaker Abeywardena: There is no need for me to give a ruling, put it to the House and make a decision.

Leader of the House Minister Gunawardena asked whether the House agreed and the government MPs shouted ‘aye’. The motion was passed.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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