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Marikkar accused of misleading parliament

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By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, yesterday, accused Colombo District SJB MP S. M. Marikkar of misleading Parliament and asked him behave without wasting the time of the House.

MP Marikkar during the question time got up raising a point of order and said that 28 Sri Lankans who had arrived at the Bandaranaike Airport, Katunayake were stranded because officials had asked them to pay for quarantine at luxury hotels. “Authorities are not releasing them until they make the payments,” MP Marikkar said.

Speaker Abeywardena stopped the MP from speaking further warning him not to abuse the privilege of raising point of order and to raise any questions the MP had separately following due process.

Later, when he was given the microphone, the MP said the government should give orders to its officials not to exploit the people coming home after serving abroad to nurture the local economy. “They are to be sent back to Oman. This is very unfair.”

The Chair prevented the MP proceeding and asked him to use the microphone for the given purpose.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando:

I need time to make a clarification because MP Marikkar is misleading the House. Either he is telling lies deliberately or someone is feeding him with lies and he repeats them here. This amounts to misleading the House. After his allegation I made inquiries. There is no such incident at the Katunayake International Airport. What actually happened was that Oman Airline had brought down 28 Sri Lankans and the Airline had not paid for PCR tests for 22 passengers. As per the guidelines in place, it is the responsibility of the Airline to pay for the PCR tests of the passengers. The delay has been caused by that. Now, the government has decided to pay for the tests and submit the results to the airline. You should not mislead the House.

MP Marikkar:

Yes. There are only 22 passengers because others have been permitted to leave the airport. The airline is not paying for the PCR tests.

Minister Fernando:

You knowingly misled the House. I do not say you are lying. But either you are telling lies or someone else is feeding you with lies.

Speaker Abeywardena:

MP Marikkar should have raised the question in an appropriate manner without wasting the time of the House.



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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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