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No decision by Education Ministry to deploy Air Force personnel as IT and English teachers, says GL

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By Saman Indrajith

Education Minister Prof G.L. Peiris told Parliament yesterday that his Ministry had not made any decision to deploy Air Force personnel as teachers at schools.

The Minister said so responding to a question raised by SJB Matale District MP Rohini Kumari Wijeratne, who said that there were media reports quoting teachers’ unions that Air Force personnel had been deployed to teach English and IT in schools at Kebitigollewa and Vavuniya; the Secretary to the Ministry of Education had accepted a proposal by the Commander of the Air force. The use of military personnel would violate the provisions of the Teacher Service Minute and there would be questions regarding the quality of education, the MP said.

MP Wijeratne said that the teacher-student ratio of the country was 20:1. “So every 20 students have a teacher and that shows there is no such teacher shortage but a problem of the Ministry failing to manage the numbers. During the time of the yahapalana government we introduced a national policy as regards teacher transfers. There are many other persons who have completed teacher training and are awaiting appointments. In such a situation, how could the government deploy Air Force personnel as school teachers.”

Minister Prof. Peiris said that there had been no such decision made by the Ministry of Education, but he would look into the allegation made by the unions.

 Responding to a question raised by SJB Ratnapura District MP Hesha Withanage, the Minister said that the Education Ministry had taken several initiatives to eliminate shortages in rural schools.

“We took action to improve conditions in rural schools. We increased facilities and improved projects such as e-thaksalawa and Gurugedara to rectify disparities. We know that there is more work to be done and have taken action to create equal opportunities for all students. Some of the programmes we implemented have yielded positive and progressive results. For example, there were ten students who scored 200 out of 200 marks at the last Grade Five scholarship examination. All those are from outstations.”



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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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