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Ranatunga promises to examine parliamentary watchdog reports 

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SLFP sets up Covid-19 fund 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (23) said that he would inquire into parliamentary reports pertaining to shortcomings in revenue collection.

The Gampaha District SLPP heavyweight said that he was aware of the disclosures made by parliamentary watchdogs, COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance).

Lawmaker Ranatunga said so when The Island sought an explanation regarding the failure on the part of successive governments, including the incumbent SLPP administration to streamline the revenue collection process. The Island raised the issue in the wake of Minister Ranatunga requesting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to explore the possibility of imposing salary cuts during the lockdown. According to a letter dated Aug 20 addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister Ranatunga has proposed 75 percent salary cut for lawmakers, 50 and 30 percent respectively for public and private sector workers.

In his letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, copied to PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, Senior Presidential Advisor Lalith Weeratunga and Presidential Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Minister Ranatunga said that those directly engaged in tackling the spread of Covid-19 shouldn’t be asked to contribute to the scheme.

Minister Ranatunga acknowledged that there was an urgent need to look into serious and longstanding shortcomings in revenue collection against the backdrop of sharp drop in income due to the disruption caused by raging Covid-19 epidemic.

Minister Ranatunga alleged that the previous government that perpetrated Central Bank bond scams in 2015 and 2016 handed over an empty treasury to the new government. One-time Chief Minister of the Western Province said that the incumbent government lacked the wherewithal to fight Covid-19 for want of required finances.

Ranatunga said that contrary to what he called well calculated Opposition strategy meant to influence the public and the clergy, the Covid-19 couldn’t be neutralized by lockdowns.

Alleging that the Opposition triggered the latest spike in cases by a series of protests in Colombo and other parts of the country, Minister Ranatunga questioned the rationale in the same lot demanding an immediate lockdown.

Minister Ranatunga said that the bankrupt Opposition was trying to exploit the epidemic to its advantage at a time the entire world was struggling to cope up with the crisis. The Gampaha District MP challenged the Opposition to place before the public the much propagated action plan meant to neutralize the threat.

Minister Ranatunga said that tourism suffered in the wake of 2019 Easter carnage. The current crisis should be examined against the backdrop of the disruption caused to the tourism sector as a result of resurgence of the terrorist threat, Minister Ranatunga said.

He pointed out that those struggling to make ends meet suffered during lockdown whereas those who advocated such measures received monthly salary.

SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera, MP, said that the government was compelled to reduce the amount granted to the needy from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2,000 due to the financial situation. The SLFP recently announced plans to set up a special fund today (24) with contributions from its 14 member parliamentary group, local government members and other contributors to help fight Covid-19. The government granted Rs 5,000 during previous lockdowns though the Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa repeatedly demanded Rs 20,000 grant.

Former President and the leader of the SLFP Maithripala Sirisena is scheduled to attend the launch at the party office at T.B. Jayah Mawatha at 10 am.



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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