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North remains least developed part of SL despite promises of prosperity – MP Wigneswaran

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BUDGET DEBATE

By Saman Indrajith

Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK) Jaffna District MP CV Wigneswaran told Parliament on Thursday that the North remains the least developed part of the country despite all the promises of prosperity by the rulers.

Participating in the second reading debate on Budget 2021 proposal MP Wigneawaran said: “Even 11 years after the end of the war, the Northern and Eastern Provinces remain the regions with the highest poverty headcount ratio. While the country’s poverty headcount ratio that is the proportion of the population living below the poverty line (4.1 percent in 2016), the Northern and Eastern Provinces had poverty headcount ratios of 7.7 percent and 7.3 percent respectively. According to data from the Department of Census and Statistics, all four districts with double-digit poverty headcount ratios are in Northern and Eastern Provinces.

“The unemployment rate in Northern and Eastern Provinces remains high, indicating the lack of job creation during the post-conflict era. Almost a decade since the end of the war, most of the Northern districts have the highest unemployment rates in the country. According to the Labour Force Survey conducted by the Department of Statistics in Sri Lanka, the unemployment rate in Jaffna remains higher than elsewhere.

“Sri Lanka’s budget deficit in 2021 is expected to be nine percent of the GDP. Government revenue is expected to reach Rs.1.9 Trillion in 2021 and State expenditure will see a new high of Rs.3.52 Trillion. The Budget deficit of Rs. 1.56 Trillion will be financed via 37-40 percent of foreign finance while the remainder will be financed domestically.

“A systematic review of Sri Lanka’s post-war defense budget reveals that the country spends too much on defense and the defense budget is spent inefficiently. I wonder if the Auditor General has supervisory control over the spending.

“During 1983 – 87, our average defense budget was 421 Million US Dollars. In 2009, it was Rs. 214 billion. In 2019, it was Rs. 306 billion. In 2020 it was Rs. 312 billion and for the next year, it is Rs. 355 billion. The allocation for defense next year compared to 2019 is an increase of 16 % which is 49 billion”.

MP Wigneswaran urged the government to admit that the Northern people have been systematically marginalized, and make genuine efforts to amend the wrongs inflicted on them. “Acknowledge you have committed wrongs to the Tamil community and try to mend your differences with us. All we want is the right to look after ourselves in our traditional areas and govern it the way we want. That is not separation. That is devolution. That gives meaning to the theory of subsidiarity”.

“According to this theory political decisions must be taken at a local level rather than by a Central authority. We do not want outsiders to expropriate our assets and resources. We do not want our lands to be grabbed away anymore by outsiders. We want to govern our areas in accordance with our traditions and conventions.

“We want to do our fishing by ourselves in our traditional areas. We contributed up to 43 percent of the fish requirements of the country in 1983. Now our fishermen are constricted and curtailed from going out into sea by the Navy as well as fishermen from elsewhere. The government must therefore focus more on the North and East which lag behind the other provinces in terms of development due to the war that lasted for nearly 30 years,” MP Wigneswaran said.



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Keheliya, seven others further remanded till 28th June

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The Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court today [14] ordered that former Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella and seven others be further remanded until June 28 by over the import of substandard human Immunoglobulin vials.

 

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President launches Public Learning and Education Platform for Sri Lankan Youth

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe officially launched www.publiclearn.lk a new education platform aimed at transforming Sri Lanka’s learning landscape at the Chamber Hall of the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday [13]

Public Learn is a platform that guides users to free courses from the world’s top universities. .

Emphasizing the importance of adapting to a knowledge-intensive society, the President highlighted Sri Lanka’s strong educational results despite various systemic flaws. He noted that the new platform would enhance the education system’s effectiveness and stressed that Sri Lanka must swiftly advance in digitization to drive the new economic transformation.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted that the Public Learn platform serves as a crucial tool for enabling many Sri Lankans to advance personally and transform their nation. He reflected on Sri Lanka’s historical learning journey in three phases: first, during the era of Arahath Mahinda and the Pirivena system; second, with the introduction of the British public school system; and now, with the advent of digital education platforms like Public Learn, marking the third phase. He emphasized the importance of leveraging digital technology and knowledge to propel Sri Lanka forward in the digital economy, underscoring the need for continuous adaptation and innovation.

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Easter Sunday carnage: ‘Another probe nothing but an exercise in futility’

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Rev. Father Cyril Gamini

‘Implement PCoI recommendations at least now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Catholic Church yesterday (14) reiterated its longstanding demand that the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into 2019 Easter Sunday attacks be implemented.

Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando said so when The Island sought the Catholic Church’s reaction to the appointment by President Ranil Wickremesinghe a new committee of inquiry to investigate the actions and responses of the country’s intelligence and security authorities following the intelligence warning received from India.

The committee is headed by retired Judge Ms. A. N. J. de Alwis. Rev. Fernando said that the government should implement the recommendations made by the PCoI headed by Supreme Court judge Janak de Silva. He said another inquiry would be nothing but an exercise in futility as the PCoI conducted an in-depth investigation into the Easter attacks, including the failure on the part of the intelligence apparatus to act on foreign intelligence as well neutralise the growing threat posed by extremist elements.

Rev. Fr. Fernando questioned the rationale behind re-examining the conduct of State Intelligence Service (SIS) and Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) as the Supreme Court in January last year ordered Senior DIG Nilantha Jayewardena and retired DIG Sisira Mendis, who headed the SIS and functioned as CNI, respectively, to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 75 mn and Rs 10 mn.

“What is there to investigate again?” Rev Fernando asked, urging the government to go through the PCoI recommendations in respect of politicians and security officials.

In addition to the PCoI report, the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee and a Special Investigation Committee of three members appointed by the then President Maithriapla Sirisena probed the Easter carnage, Rev Fernando said, adding that if those in parliament were still interested in justice and fair play should look into that matter.

Rev. Fernando urged the government to examine how successive leaders had responded to PCoI findings. When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a committee consisting of six MPs to look into the PCoI report and its findings soon after justice Janak de Silva handed over his report on Feb 1, 2021 it became clear that the powers that be would resort to old tactics. Nearly two years after President Rajapaksa’s ouster, the situation remained the same, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the Church wouldn’t give up its fight for justice.

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