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Implementation of National policy on prevention of child abuse 21 years late– COPE

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TNA MP Shanakiya Rasamanickam questioning officials of the National Child Protection Authority during last Friday’s COPE investigation

Chairman of the  parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), Prof. Charitha Herath had instructed the relevant authorities of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) coming under the Ministry of Education to expedite the implementation of a national policy which was one of the primary responsibilities of the Authority, parliament sources said.

Prof Herath issued the instructions at the COPE committee meeting held on Friday, Feb 12.

The COPE committee disclosed that the NCPA had been established in 1998 to formulate a national policy on the prevention of child abuse and the protection of children.

However, the ommittee pointed out that the implementation of a national policy had not been carried out accordingly paving the way for a delay of 21 years. The Committee emphasised the importance of expediting the implementation of the national policy which had been already approved.

MPs Jagath Pushpakumara, Eran Wickramaratne, Premnath C. Dolawaththa, Shanakiya Rasamanickam and officials representing the NCPA were present on the occasion.

It was also brought to the Committees’ attention that annual reports of the Authority for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 had not been submitted to Parliament so far. Expressing displeasure at the delay, the COPE Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Education and the Secretary to the Ministry of State to immediately look into the matter and submit the relevant annual reports to Parliament within two months.

It was revealed that Rs. 9 million had been spent on creating a database for the authority in 2016, 2017 and a grant of Rs. 1.2 million had also been provided by the Department of Computer Studies, the University of Colombo to develop a software. The COPE committee emphasised that although it was important to prepare such a database, there should be a proper methodology as regards the utilisation of state funds. Thus, the Committee instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to immediately conduct an internal investigation and submit a report thereon urgently.

Although a legal framework had been introduced to regulate the transportation of school children as a measure to prevent child abuse, the COPE committee pointed out that it had not yet been implemented. The Chairman of the The Committee instructed to expedite the implementation of the regulations by employing the newly appointed graduates.

The Committee also raised concerns over the difficulties faced by the victims due to delays in hearing child abuse cases. Emphasis was placed on the importance of developing a system to set a timeframe for finishing such cases.

It was revealed that although 3,165 child protection committees had been set up in schools to prevent child abuse, only 2,392 of them were active. The Committee recommended that action be taken to ensure that all of them were active.

It was also revealed that the Authority had received 89,405 complaints between 2011 and 2020 and as at 31.01.2021, the number of unresolved complaints brought forward was 40,668. The Committee stated that it was unfortunate to have only one person working in the Law Enforcement Division to handle complaints. The Committee also directed that the Law Enforcement Division be strengthened to expedite the process of handling complaints accordingly.

The need to investigate and regulate all orphanages in Sri Lanka was also discussed at length. The Chairman recommended that the Authority prepare a new programme for the purpose and take immediate action to obtain all the basic data.

The Committee directed that steps be taken to develop a comprehensive database.

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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query

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SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign

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The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.

 

 

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