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Parliament shouldn’t depend on foreign funding – Gevindu

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By Saman Indrajith

 

SLPP National List MP Gevindu Kumaratunga yesterday (28) told Parliament that the dignity of parliament and its MPs had been compromised by certain actions of the former Speaker who allowed the USAID to creep in with its own agendas to manipulate the process of parliament.

Raising a privilege issue in Parliament yesterday, MP Kumaratunga said: The orientation workshop held on 25 and 26 in the Parliamentary complex was very fruitful for the newly elected MPs. On behalf of newly elected MPs, I thank those who had organised and conducted the event. However, I would like to mention three incidents that took place during the workshop.  At the commencement of the workshop each participant was given a bag containing the Constitution, books and documents including the Standing Orders, photographs of the old and new Parliament, and a notebook carrying the logo of the USAID. On June 2, 2019, The Sunday Times reported that the US had been campaigning to get certain agreements including the ACSA detrimental to the national interests of Sri Lanka signed. The US ambassador in Sri Lanka was involved in that campaign. It was also reported that the then Foreign Secretary who had facilitated the process, later after his retirement joined this parliament as a foreign affairs consultant of the former Speaker.

“The same newspaper on June 09, 2019 reported that his salary had been paid by the USAID. The matter was raised in this House by the then opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardena and the then opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, condemned that appointment as something that was inimical to the dignity of this House.  The then Speaker thereafter instead of doing away with that post took actions to terminate the USAID paying the salary and thereafter the salaries for the foreign affairs advisor to the Speaker was paid from public funds. That was exposed by The Sunday Times of July 14, 2019. At the orientation workshop the matter was raised, and MP Channa Jayasumana asked whether it was not detrimental to the country’s interests to obtain USAID gifts. Responding to that question, the Secretary General of Parliament said that the USAID had spent an enormous sum of money on developing the communications division of parliament.

“It is our standpoint that this august assembly considered to be the supreme body of public representatives should be maintained without depending on funds from foreign forces. The same was reported by The Island senior journalist Shamindra Ferdinando on Aug 20, 2020, and questioned the propriety of using foreign funds to train parliamentary correspondents. I also like to bring to your notice that one of the staff members of Parliament staring at the same workshop that a single meal meant for an NP costs more than Rs 3,000 too would attract public displeasure. I ask the Speaker whether he was aware of the fact that parliament has obtained gifts from an international institution which worked against this country. Have those institutions obtained the permission of the Speaker for that purpose. At the same time, I would like to know whether the Speaker would take actions to remedy the situations that are antithetical to national interests caused by his predecessor.”

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that he would not let any force undermine the independence of Parliament or its members.



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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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