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Parliament lacks wherewithal to ensure fiscal discipline – Head of Public Finance Committee

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Lawmaker Anura Priyadarshanaya Yapa has said that the Parliament lacks the wherewithal to ensure fiscal discipline though the House is entrusted with that task. MP Yapa, who heads the Committee on Public Finance (COPF), emphasised the urgent need for a system overhaul with proper mechanisms put in place in and out of the Parliament for that purpose. He stressed the need for the Treasury and Parliament had units to prepare, examine and re-examines estimates.

The Kurunegala District MP said so when The Island sought his response to former Attorney General Gamini Wijesinghe’s criticism of Parliament recently over its failure to ensure financial discipline. Wijesinghe blamed Parliament for the overall deterioration of the national economy.

Lawmaker Yapa was among a few MPs present when Wijesinghe delivered the keynote address at an event jointly organised by the March 12 Movement and the polls monitoring body, PAFFREL, at the Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF).

Lawmaker Yapa explained how members of Parliament regardless of their position on a particular finance bill would have to go along with the respective parties. The COPF as well as COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) lacked constitutional authority and necessary changes in Standing Orders to address issues at hand, he asserted.

Commenting on Wijesinghe’s proposals meant to restore confidence in the parliamentary system of governance unveiled at the SLF, lawmaker asked whether it would be possible even to think of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary being subjected to normal law of the land. These issues should be discussed in a rationale way taking into consideration the state of the economy at the time decisions were taken as regards development projects, the former minister said.

“There is no point in denying accusations regarding waste, corruption and irregularities in the absence of proper checks and balances. Larger the allocations, bigger the issues,” MP Yapa said. Commenting on COPE and COPA, the former Minister pointed out both watchdog committees dealt with situations inquired into by the Auditor General. Both committees could make recommendations but lacked the authority to ensure required action, the MP pointed out.

COPF Head Yapa also called for a tangible action plan without further delay. The country could not go on living on borrowed money. In spite of quite a number of statements made by various interested parties, there hadn’t been a concentrated effort to address the issues at hand, he said.



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Xi and Putin confirmed for November’s G20 summit in Bali

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Chinese and Russian Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have both confirmed they will attend the G20 summit on the resort island of Bali this November, according to President Joko Widodo.

“Xi Jinping will come. President Putin has also told me he will come,” Widodo told Bloomberg News in an interview, confirming their attendance for the first time.

The November summit will mark the first time that Putin, Xi and United States President Joe Biden will have met in person since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, triggering sanctions from Western countries, as well as G20 members Japan and South Korea. China has avoided condemning the attack, or joining the sanctions, which took place days after Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership.

A longtime adviser to the Indonesian President also confirmed Putin and Xi would attend the summit.

“Jokowi told me that Xi and Putin are both planning to attend in Bali,” Andi Widjajanto, who heads the National Resilience Institute, told Reuters news agency.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Widodo had discussed preparations for the G20 summit in a phone call on Thursday without confirming that the Russian leader would attend. Another official, familiar with the situation, told Bloomberg that Putin plans to attend the meeting in person.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.A trip to Bali would be significant given it would be Xi’s first time outside China since the start of the pandemic, in early 2020.

China has maintained a strict zero-COVID policy that has all but sealed its borders, and Xi is preparing to secure an unprecedented third term as President during the congress of the ruling Communist Party, which is expected to take place in late October or early November.

Chinese officials are also thought to be making plans for a meeting in Southeast Asia between Xi and US President Joe Biden, who will also be in Bali, according to Wall Street Journal, amid rising tension between the two countries.Beijing, this month, held large-scale military drills around self-ruled Taiwan and cut off cooperation with the US over issues, including climate, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island, which Beijing claims as its own.

As head of the G20 this year, Indonesia has faced pressure from Western countries to withdraw its invitation to Putin because of the invasion of Ukraine, which he has called a “special military operation”.

Indonesia has also invited Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the Bali summit.Widodo has sought to position himself as a mediator, and, at the end of June, travelled first to Moscow and then to Kyiv to meet both Presidents and urge an end to the war.This week, he said both countries have accepted Indonesia as a “bridge of peace”.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Aid should come with clear-cut conditions so as to preserve democracy – Cardinal Ranjith

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Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, on Thursday, said that Sri Lanka needed aid but with clear-cut conditions to preserve democracy, the rule of law, honesty and safeguard human rights.The prelate said that Sri Lanka had suffered a serious erosion of democracy, which had been caused by three factors.

“The first one is the gradual deterioration of the rule of law and the interference of political leaders in the judiciary, which has made justice a non-issue for our people. So, we want that to be rectified. Secondly, the corruption levels of our political system are very high, and only a few people — or rather a few families — have been earning endlessly, while many families are in dire poverty. So, this corruption must stop, and an effective means of controlling it must set up. Thirdly, human rights violations are on the rise, and the more people protest, the more oppressive the governments have become. So, there are a lot of unanswered issues,” he said.

Cardinal Ranjith said that they want the international community to pressurize the government to ensure that these errors are corrected and they ask that aid be given to us in a way that corruption doesn’t occur anymore.

The Archbishop of Colombo added that Sri Lanka is suffering because of wrong policies and wrong economic management. Sri Lanka is in a serious financial crisis, and many people are unemployed or underemployed.

“As a result, they have no income for their families. This has affected the general population. Besides that, there are also other questions: industries have all collapsed, we have huge debts to be paid to other countries for useless projects that had been promoted by the previous governments, more for personal enrichment than for the people’s development,” he said.

The Cardinal said that Sri Lanka does not know how to repay its debt and the national income and the production capacity of the country has fallen. Therefore the country can’t ensure the basic needs of the people, like electricity, coal to run the power generators, and diesel and petrol needed by farmers, fishermen and other people to run their businesses, he said.

Speaking to the Vatican Daily about the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, the Cardinal said that the victims and the families still need economic, physical, medical and psychological support.

“So, we continue to take care of these needs as much as we can. After the attacks, there was an outpouring of charity from all over the world. So we created a special fund, and some of that money is still available, and we will continue to look after these people even in the future,” he said.

However, the question of justice still remains and the church is still waiting to know the truth behind these attacks. For the victims, it is a more serious question, he said.

“Because they want to know who and why this happened to them. 269 people died in the blasts and then three policemen were killed in another blast as they went to arrest some people involved, which brings the total to 272. So we need answers to these questions, regarding the entire attack: who was really behind it, and why it was carried out. Until we get clear answers on this, our people will not be satisfied,” he said.

The Cardinal also thanked Pope Francis for – ‘out of his own volition’ – giving 100,000 Euros to support some 400 families who were affected by the Easter Sunday church bombings which claimed 269 lives.

“When I came to Rome and met His Holiness, in February this year, he asked me about the welfare of these people, how they are faring and expressed his concern for their needs. So, on his own initiative, he asked me whether he could help us financially, and I said, okay, we are very grateful to him for that. He asked me how much. I said: “Whatever you give, will be welcome”. Then he told me that he had a donation from somebody amounting to €100,000 Euros and that he would give me €50,000. He asked me for the account number of our diocesan funds which I gave to him and when I went back in April and checked the account, I found that he had credited €100,000 Euros to our account. He had given the full amount. I found that he was extremely helpful to our people and we are very grateful to him for that, for the concern and for the constant attention that he has been paying to the needs of these people,” he said.

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Sri Lanka to woo greater number of Indian tourists

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Sri Lanka’s tourism officials, conscious of the dire need to shore up their country’s economy, plan to woo a greater number of Indian tourists, who constitute the single largest segment of foreign tourists, through new packages such as the Murugan-Shiva Shakthi trails. Their optimism stems from the fact that there is a proposal to resume air passenger services from the Palaly airport, in Jaffna, to destinations in the southern part of India.

As part of the Murugan trail, two important places — Nallur Kandaswamy or Murugan temple in Jaffna of the Northern Province, and Kataragama of the Uva Province in the southeast — have been included.

Referring to the ongoing 25-day-long festival in Nallur (which concludes on August 27), Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, told a group of journalists, from India, recently, in Colombo, that the festival was expected to draw over a million devotees, including 1,00,000 from the diaspora. A “special calendar” of events was being prepared for Hindu devotees.

Promoting the North

To a query whether the Northern Province would be a regular feature in the packages for tourists, Mr. Gajabahu replied in the affirmative and asserted “we have been actively promoting the North on trade FAMs [familiarisation trips].” The East, too, would receive more focus in view of its diverse cultural significance that encompassed Islam. However, he conceded that marketing of the North had not been done “much.”

The question was raised, in the context of coverage of Naguleeswaram in Jaffna and Thiruketheeswaram in Mannar, both coming under five abodes of Lord Shiva in Sri Lanka, in the new Murugan trail. The other three abodes included Thirukoneeswaram temple, Trincomalee, in the Eastern Province, Munneeswaram temple in the north-west and Tondeeshwaram temple, near Matara, in the south. The trail would also include shrines such as Nagapooshani Amman temple and Nagadeepa Purana Vihara, both in Nainativu, off Jaffna.

 

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