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Japan to support demining activities in North

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The Government of Japan has provided a total sum of US$ 636,262 (approx. Rs. 115 million) to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for humanitarian demining activities in Northern Sri Lanka. The grant contract was signed on Dec 23 at the Ambassador’s Residence in Colombo, between Japanese Ambassador in Sri Lanka Sugiyiama Akira and Emilie Mbaye, Interim Country Director of MAG.

The project will contribute to the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in ensuring that mine-contaminated areas are safe, enabling the resettlement of displaced people and enhancing directly or indirectly more than 8,000 people’s livelihoods in the Mannar and Vavuniya Districts.

MAG commenced operations in Sri Lanka in 2002 with approximately 20% of its clearance activities accomplished through Japanese assistance. Since 2009 when precise data was made available, MAG has released the total of 93km2 of suspected contaminated land in the country.

Japanese Ambassador Sugiyiama Akira with Interim Country Director of MAG Emilie Mbaye

Japan has been a major donor in the area of mine clearance in Sri Lanka since 2002 and is the only donor in the country which assists all four demining NGOs currently operating in the island. More than US$ 38.2 million worth of assistance was rendered towards this cause through the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP).

The Government of Sri Lanka aims to achieve “a mine impact free Sri Lanka” within a few years and to become the next mine impact free country in the world. Through this project the Government of Japan endeavors to ensure that Sri Lanka is safe for all.

Commenting on the provision of this grant, Emilie Mbaye said: “MAG is honored to accept this grant from the Government of Japan, an esteemed donor for Humanitarian Mine Action projects both within Sri Lanka and around the world. In the last six years alone, the partnership between MAG Sri Lanka and the Government of Japan has enabled the removal and destruction of over 13,000 landmines. It has helped many people resettle and rebuild their lives and livelihoods in Mannar, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya districts through its clearance operations. The funding from the People of Japan will not only contribute to saving lives but also building safer futures for the mine-affected and poorest communities in the country. With this continued Japanese support, MAG is looking forward to continuing clearance activities during the final stage of landmine release in country in support of the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to being mine impact free.”



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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months

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Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands

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Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB

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By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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