No new restrictions during festive season
By Rathindra Kuruwita
The government was not planning to impose more restrictions during the festive season, Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardana. said yesterday.
Dr. Gunawardena said that the existing COVID-19 guidelines would be extended till the end of the month with little amendments.
“We are not planning to impose more restrictions during the coming weeks. We urge people to get vaccinated from the closest vaccination centre. We are also carrying out special programmes, targeting government institutions and factories,” he said.
Dr. Gunawardana noted that there was still some hesitancy among the people in getting the third jab. It was unexpected because the government was using Pfizer vaccine clamoured for by many, he said.
“We have managed to control the spread of the virus because of the successful vaccination drive. If we want to keep the country open, people must get the booster. Those already double jabbed can get the booster shot. Christmas and New Year celebrations are coming up and people are getting ready to celebrate. We expect people to go shopping and gather in numbers. So get the booster and ensure that you are safe,” he said.
Overtime gravy train for public sector back
Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy
By Shamindra Ferdinando
UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.
The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.
Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.
Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.
Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.
Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.
One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.
Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee
Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.
Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.
Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.
Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.
The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)
Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.
The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.
They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.
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