‘No escape for wrongdoers’
Steps had been taken to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on the Easter Sunday attacks, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, yesterday, addressing the nation on the Independence Day.
Rajapaksa said that he would also take into consideration the recommendations of the previous Parliament’s Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, and action would be taken against all parties involved in the carnage.
“We will not allow those responsible for designing and enabling this tragedy to escape justice. We will never allow extremism to raise its head again in this country,” the President said.
President Rajapaksa also said that he had advised the Attorney General to take necessary action on the Treasury bond scams.
The President said that he had established a Presidential Deregulation Commission to change the outdated laws and regulations that negatively affected the general public as well as the domestic and foreign companies.
For a long time the importance of simplifying outdated laws and regulations had been discussed but nothing to address it. Implementing the recommendations of this Commission would provide significant impetus to the country’s future economic development, he said.
“Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” policy statement articulated the need for educational reforms to foster a knowledgeable and skilled future generation. Accordingly, a separate State Ministry had been created to undertake the reforms needed in the education sector.
Two task forces had been created to obtain specialist assistance for these reforms, and their recommendations were already being implemented, said President Rajapaksa.
“During the course of this year, the number of students gaining admission to universities will increase by 10,000, or 30 percent. Provisions have been made to double the number of students entering the state Technical Colleges from 100,000 to 200,000. Approval has been granted for the creation of a system of city universities catering to every district in order to increase the capacity of universities. We are acting quickly to implement recommendations for educational reforms. As a result, we anticipate that there will be an appreciable qualitative improvement in the education sector within the next few years,” he said.
President Rajapaksa said that he established a dedicated Ministry of Technology and brought it under his purview. Through that Ministry, steps would be taken to develop the policies and legal framework required to improve the technology sector, as well as to simplify the functioning of the state sector and markets through the use of information technology as a tool for broader digital governance. Action had already been taken to create five technology parks with all facilities in five identified districts in order to encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups in the technology sector.
Rajapaksa said that a number of groups supported him when he ran for presidency and that he believed that a vast majority of those people did so not in search of personal benefits but because they expected him to serve the nation diligently.
“I am always prepared to fulfill the genuine expectations of the public that supported me with honest intent. However, I will never take decisions that will damage the country and to please those who seek gains for themselves personally or for their businesses”, the President said.
Given below are excerpts of the speech:
I have always loved and respected the environment. In the past, whilst serving as the Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development, I strove to protect the environment when undertaking such activities as urban beautification, urban development, and the creation of walking paths and urban parks. Today, too, our Government has paid particular attention to preserving the environment for future generations. What the creation of urban forests, designing of green cities, promotion of green businesses, undertaking of nationwide tree planting programmes, reconstruction of irrigation tanks and canals, recultivating of fallow paddy fields, promoting the use of organic fertilizer, and limiting the use of plastics demonstrate is the implementation of this sustainable environmental management policy.
The foundation of our citizen centric economic policy is that the true potential of the economy cannot be unleashed without economic freedom. To achieve the Government’s aims of eliminating poverty, providing equal opportunity for improvement of all citizens, and developing domestic businesses, we require a clean and efficient public service.
The public service is a powerful, nationwide mechanism. This represents an opportunity that many countries in the world do not possess. Therefore, I expect this powerful mechanism to make a significant contribution to the national decision making process. However, I observe that weaknesses currently prevail in decision making at every level. Even on very simple institutional matters, I have observed that officials avoid making decisions and refer them to the Cabinet of Ministers. They expect advice from circulars for every activity. They avoid taking decisions even within the limits of their authority. If we do not change this situation, it will be extremely difficult for us to take this nation forward.
The legal reforms necessary to protect those in the public service who take correct decisions are currently being formulated. I therefore request all those in positions of authority to ease the limitations and practices that obstruct the general public through the state administration.
I personally participate in the ‘Conversation with the Village’ programme because rural development is one of my Government’s priorities. The public administration system at both the District and Divisional level is extremely important to achieving the citizen centric economic development articulated in my vision statement “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. There is a clear responsibility incumbent on everyone involved in this development process, from the Governors, District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and Public Health Officials, to officials such as Grama Niladharis, Samurdhi Officials, Agriculture Research and Production Assistants, Family Health Service Officials and Development Officials at the village level. They have all provided tremendous support in controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus and in providing other essential services. Similarly, I look forward to the unstinted support of all public servants in successfully overcoming the challenges that confront us in terms of our economic development.
The political leadership has a grave responsibility not only on matters at the national level but also in rural development. We have instituted mechanisms to ensure the active participation of Cabinet and State Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Members of Urban and Municipal Councils in the development activities at District and Divisional levels.
Corruption and waste are significant obstacles to a nation’s development. We are setting an example to eradicate corruption and waste in the public administration. We will not be lenient on anyone who is found guilty of corruption or waste. However, one of the difficulties we face in preventing corruption is the indirect support given willingly or unwillingly by the public to such activities. I request the general public not to encourage corruption either directly or indirectly. If anyone is found to be engaging in corrupt practices, please inform the relevant authorities.
I invite everyone to join in a national effort to mobilize public opinion against corruption and waste. Our future generations too must be educated in this regard. I appreciate the support that is being extended by the media for this initiative.”
An alleged bid to replace SLFP leader Sirisena thwarted
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The SLFP parliamentary group has been divided over an abortive bid to replace the Chairman of the party, Maithripala Sirisena, MP, and its General Secretary State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, MP.
Sources said that several lawmakers had been involved in the alleged conspiracy, apparently taking into consideration the fact that the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks was likely to affect the political future of Sirisena.
The SLFP parliamentary group consists of 14 members.
The SLFP is on a collision course with the SLPP over the PCoI report on the Easter Sunday carnage. Sources said that the party had swiftly responded to the threat posed by conspirators by having the Executive Committee re-electing the incumbent Chairman and the General Secretary. However, those seeking to oust Sirisena and Dayasiri were still active, they added.
The SLFP, the second largest party in the ruling coalition, is determined to retain its identity though its offshoot, the SLPP emerged as the leading party with its impressive performance at the 2018 local government election, the 2019 presidential and the 2020 parliamentary polls.
Contacted for comment, one of the SLFP rebels said Sirisena had himself brought about the virtual downfall of the SLFP, whilst being its long serving General Secretary, by joining forces with the UNP to contest the presidential election in January 2015 and reclaiming the party leadership after securing the presidency.
Electricity for all: Rambukwella urges all officials, politicians not to slap roadblocks
BY CYRIL WIMALASURENDRE
KANDY – Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said last Friday (5) at a meeting of the Thumpane Pradeshiya Sabha at Galagedara, that every Sri Lankan household will have electricity come next Sinhala and Tamil New Year,
Minister Rambukwella said that everyone in Galagedara would also have electricity for the Sinahala and Tamil New Year celebrations.
The government hoped that the relevant public sector officials would do their best to supply power connections to every house in the Galagedara Pradeshiya Sabha Division without any delay, the Minister said.
At the meeting held to discuss the implementation of the development plans of the Pradeshiya Sabha for the year, Rambukwella stressed that the people’s representatives and the public servants should not try to prevent implementation of the development plans under the policies of the government.
The people’s representatives and the government servants should work together when development programmes were being implemented. If not, the people would not benefit from the plans for development drawn up by the government.
Chairman of the Galagedara Pradeshiya Sabha S.M.R.B. Sanarakoon also spoke.
Rescue plan will enable US to outcompete rest of the world, especially China – Biden
US President Joe Biden, on Saturday, said he was happy about the Senate passage of his American Rescue Plan (1.9 trillion dollars). He said it would reinvigorate the US economy and put it in a potion to outcompete the rest of the world, especially China. “This plan puts us on the path to beating the virus. This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment. This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive.”
Excerpts of President Biden’s speech:
For over a year, the American people were told they were on their own. They were seeing — we’ve seen how hard that has been on so many Americans. As of last night, 519,064 lives lost to the virus. That many empty chairs this morning — the breakfast table — gone. More than four hundred [thousand] small businesses closed unnecessarily. Millions of people out of work through no fault of their own. I want to emphasize that: through no fault of their own. Food bank lines stretching for miles. Did any of you ever you’d see that in America, in cities all across this country? Families facing the threat of eviction.
This nation has suffered too much for much too long. And everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail, starting with beating this virus and vaccinating the country.
The resources in this plan will be used to expand and speed up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines so we can get every single American vaccinated sooner than later. I believe by — we’ll have enough by the end of — by the middle of May to vaccinate. It’s going to take longer to take longer to get it in their arm, but that’s how much vaccine we’ll have.
Because of all the funding, we’ll be able to hire more vaccinators, set up more vaccination sites to get the country in a place to get back to normal. This plan will get checks out the door, starting this month, to the American people who so desperately need the help, many of whom are lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “Will I lose my job, if I haven’t already? Will I lose my insurance? Will I lose my home?”
Over 85 percent of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person. For a typical middle-class family of four — husband and wife working, making $100,000 a year total, with three kids — they’ll get $5,600 — I mean, with two kids — will get $5,600, and it’ll be on the way soon.
That means the mortgage can get paid. That means the child can stay in community college. That means maintaining the health insurance you have. It’s going to make a big difference in so many of lives in this country.
Unemployment benefits will be extended for 11 million Americans who have lost their jobs and who, last night, again were lying in bed, just thinking, “My lord, I’m going to lose my unemployment insurance in a week or so.” It was about to expire.
Schools are going to have the resources they need to open safely. States and local governments that have lost tens of thousands of essential workers will be — have the resources they need available to them, to those laid-off police officers, firefighters, teachers, and nurses they can rehire. These are essential personnel.
Look, the American Rescue Plan lowers healthcare premiums. Food and nutrition assistance. It’s hard to believe that 24 million adults and 11 million children, as I speak, in the United States suffer from food insecurity. That means, simply, they don’t have enough food to eat. Did you ever imagine in the United States of America, you’d see lines, literally miles long — kids — folks in their automobiles, waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk. I stood in line, handing out food. The people coming up never, ever, ever thought they’d be in that position.
This helps families who are behind on their rent and their mortgage payments so they aren’t thrown out of their homes.
Look, the bottom line is this: This plan puts us on the path to beating the virus. This plan gives those families who are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment. This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive.
And one more thing: This plan is historic. Taken altogether, this plan is going to make it possible to cut child poverty in half. Let me say that again — it’s significant, historic: It will cut child poverty in half.
There’s much more to this bill, but, for now, let me make one final point. When I was elected, I said we were going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people, of making a difference in their lives, giving everyone a chance — a fighting chance, of showing the American people that their government can work for them. And passing the American Rescue Plan will do that.
And, you know, it may sound strange, but a lot of senators and congressmen I want to thank, but I really want to thank the American people for making all of this possible. You say, “Well, how do they make it possible?” Well, quite frankly, without the overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened. Your elected officials heard you. Overwhelming public support — every public opinion poll shows overwhelming support for this plan. And for the last weeks, it’s shown that. Every public opinion poll shows the people want this, they believe it’s needed, and they believe it’s urgent.
And now this bill returns to the House of Representatives, which has done a great job from the beginning, where I hope it will find quick passage so it can be sent to my desk to be signed into law.
By passing the American Rescue Plan, we’ll have heeded the voice of the American people, not ignored their voices. By passing this plan, we will have delivered real, tangible results for the American people and their families, and they’ll be able to see and know and feel the change in their own lives. And by passing this plan, we’ll have proved that this government, this democracy can still work. What has to be done — it’ll improve people’s lives.
And one more thing: The vast majority of economists — left, right, and center — from Wall Street to the — to the private — private economic polling initiatives — the economists — as I’ve said, left, right, and center — say, “In addition to the needs the people have, we need this to grow the economy.” That if we haven’t spent this money and recreated the kind of incentive for people to be able to make a good living, that we’d be in real trouble.
This will create millions of new jobs — it’s estimated over 6 million new jobs by itself; increase the Gross Domestic Product by a trillion dollars; put our nation in a position to out-compete the rest of the world — because the rest of the world is moving, particularly China; and to know that as tough as this moment is, there are brighter days ahead. There really are.
As I’ve said before, it’s never a good bet to bet against America. It’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people. We are America. We’re going to get there. We’re going to remain the leading economy in the world and going to be the most successful economy in the world because of you, the American people.
Thank you, and God bless you all. May God protect our troops.
UNFORGIVING CONSEQUENCES OF DEFORESTATION
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Electricity for all: Rambukwella urges all officials, politicians not to slap roadblocks
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