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MPs complain of rip-off in supplying meals in parliament

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By Saman Indrajith

Issues related to the costs and prices of heavily subsidised meals provided to the MPs in the Parliament canteen were raised afresh yesterday by SJB Colombo District MP SM Marikkar.

Raising a point of order MP Marikkar said that there were newspaper reports that a meal of an MP cost Rs 3,000. “People ask whether we eat gold here. The fish served this morning in the parliamentary canteen was not fresh. That is the quality of food served to the MPs here; we eat better at home, but in the meantime there are reports that the cost of meal of an MP is Rs 3,000. Someone has to correct this situation and tell the truth. This was mentioned at the orientation programme for MPs at the Parliamentary complex on Tuesday. The correct figures must be given.  I am speaking on behalf of all 225 MPs. The impression the reports created is wrong. I hope the speaker would correct this.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: Were you there at the last session of the Tuesday’s workshop. There I gave the correct figures while making a statement on this matter. 

MP Marikkar: The newspapers have not reported what you said. Hope if you correct it here so that it would be telecast live.

During the workshop on Tuesday Director (Finance) of Parliament A.S. Upananda stated that a meal that costs Rs 3,000 is given to an MP at a rate of Rs 200. He made that statement while speaking on the functions of food and catering and housekeeping departments of parliament. He stated that an MP was charged Rs 100 for breakfast, Rs 200 for lunch and snacks and tea at Rs 50.

Following the statement, young MPs protested.

 State Minister Dr. Seetha Arambepola: We had those meals during the past couple of days. But I am sure that a single meal would not cost that much. The food given is not worth that much.

MPs shouted that the matter should be corrected and it was a shame to state that they eat at Rs 200 what was worth Rs 3,000.

 Colombo District MP Premanath C. Dolawatte: I do not think that this meal costs Rs 3,000. We do not need your food. We could bring food from home.

 State Minister Dr. Arambepola: I looked for where we would have access to Rs 3,000 buffet meal. There is no such thing. Do not publicise wrong facts. That is why people hate MPs.

Deputy Secretary General Neil Iddawela: What we meant here is the cost of a meal.

MPs shouted that the figures of the cost of a meal was wrong and volunteered to calculate the figure by themselves.

Deputy Secretary General Iddawela: In a day around 2,000 persons receive food from parliament and during budget debates the number of persons who took food is around 3,000.

An MP: Is everyone in Parliament given food?

Deputy Secretary General Iddawela: Yes. All working at Police, banks, post office, CEB are given food.

MPs said that it would be better if they brought food from home because there would be no blame on them.

Deputy Secretary General Iddawela: That we could decide in the future. I have just received correct figures from the Audit Branch. A meal with fish costs Rs 950 while a vegetable meal is Rs 629 for an MP.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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