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JVP: What happened to proposal to use SLBFE deposits totalling Rs. 14 bn to repatriate workers?

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By Saman Indrajith

Thousands of Lankan migrant workers were stranded in West Asian countries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic after losing their jobs while the government continues to make statements promising to bring them all home, says the JVP-led Progressive Women’s Collective (PWC).

Addressing the media at the JVP headquarters in Pelawatte yesterday MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya said the situation of the stranded migrant workers was deteriorating day by day while the government kept postponing bringing them home.

She said that some workers who had lost their jobs were staying at places provided to them by their employers while others received help from fellow Sri Lankan workers. “But with the gradual increase in the number of coronavirus infections, more people faced difficulties. Nobody has an exact figure of the Lankan workers killed by the pandemic abroad so far. Their situation is worsening. The government should not forget the fact that they were the ones who contributed to the national economy to run this country.

“We have raised this issue many times. We also staged a demonstration opposite the Foreign Employment Bureau. There has been no response from the government. The family members of the stranded worker have no way of contacting them. There are no officials in embassies and high commissions to answer queries about the workers. Our party leader raised this issue in Parliament several times and the government kept on saying it was planning to bring them back. The government so far has helped only those who could spend around 400,000 to 500,000 out of their pockets to fund their passage home.”

PWC member and JVP member of the Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia Municipal Council Samanmalee Gunasinghe said the government kept telling lies to the people about the issue of bringing the migrant workers home. “There were reports that the Prime Minister and ministers had discussed the use of Rs 14 billion in bank deposits of the Foreign Employment Bureau to bring the stranded Lankans home. Yet, no action has been taken so far. In the meantime, corpses of workers form West Asian countries are delivered to Chilaw, Rajanganaya, Anuradhapura and Hambantota. The Labour Minister pledged in Parliament that the Lankan workers would be brought home free of charge. He said that any migrant worker unable to obtain air tickets to Sri Lanka should immediately report to the Sri Lankan Embassy in that country or call the toll free number 800119119, but anyone who dial that number can understand that there is no response. Why do they cheat people in this manner?” she queried.

PWC Member Saroja Savithri Paul Raj said those who wanted to return also had to pay for PCR testing. “Many of those stranded workers do not have money.”



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Nightlife is essential without hindrance to other tourists, residents and businesses – Diana Gamage

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Minister of State for Tourism  Diana Gamage acknowledged that events that emanated noise should be conducted within a soundproof environment without causing any inconvenience or disturbance to other tourists who are here to relax, residents of the area and other businesses inasmuch its necessity to boost the economy by generating revenue.

She made this comment speaking at a press conference themed ‘Collective path to a stable country’ at the Presidential Media Centre today (22),

As debates continue regarding the regulation of nightlife, she urged stakeholders to consider the broader economic implications and the vital role that nightlife plays in driving economic activity and sustaining national finances. She further emphasized the importance of providing entertainment options to tourists, particularly in beach areas, which are major attractions for visitors. According to her, nightlife plays a crucial role in catering to the needs of tourists, not only in beach areas but also in urban centres like Colombo. The Minister noted that current regulations often restrict entertainment options, citing examples such as early last orders in hotels and restaurants, which may not align with the preferences of international tourists.

Drawing attention to the diverse origins of tourists, including those from the UK, France, and Germany, the State Minister Diana Gamage emphasized the need for flexibility in entertainment hours to accommodate varying cultural norms and preferences.

As discussions on tourism regulations continue, stakeholders are encouraged to consider the perspectives of tourists and the potential economic benefits of promoting a vibrant nightlife scene. The Minister’s remarks underscore the importance of striking a balance between regulation and the provision of entertainment options to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for visitors to Sri Lanka.

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All vocational training institutes in Sri Lanka should be consolidated into a single vocational college – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe during an observation tour at the Ratmalana Lalith Athulathmudali Vocational Training Centre, this morning (22) , outlined plans to consolidate all vocational training institutes in Sri Lanka into a single vocational college, offering contemporary subject-related courses.

He said that the restructuring of vocational education was  essential to align with the demands of the modern world, ensuring that the youth of the country are equipped to excel in the competitive global job market.

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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB

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Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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