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Ranil plays role of one man Opposition raising pertinent questions

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(L-R) Ranil Wickremesinghe, Shehan Semasinghe

By Saman Indrajith

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday (07) asked the government to reveal to Parliament why the Finance Minister visited India during the budget debate.
Raising a privilege issue in Parliament, Wickremesinghe said that the government had promised to present details on the foreign currency reserves to the House the week before, but had not done so.

“However, the government has failed to do so until now. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa is on an official visit to India at the moment. They presented to India the information we have asked for. Why can’t the Finance Minister reveal this information to this House,” the UNP leader queried.

Wickremesinghe said that the Central Bank Governor had, at an online forum, said that Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserve was about USD 1.5 billion now. “Why do you hesitate to reveal this to us? This is actually a violation of our privileges. The Finance Minister should be in the House during the budget debate. This is the first time in which a budget debate is being held without the presence of a Finance Minister.”

The UNP leader asked the government if it was following the ‘Cabraal Way’ or the ‘Rajapaksa Way’.

Smurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment and Business Development State Minister Shehan Semasinghe said that the government only followed the President’s Policy Statement, and added that there was only one leader in the government.

Semasinghe said that a detailed answer to the questions raised by Wickremesinghe and other MPs regarding the economic situation in the country, including the foreign currency reserves, was being prepared and it would be presented to the House very soon.

Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena said the Finance Minister attended the debate from time to time.

“When there are special meetings and events, he has to attend them. I know about the conduct of past Finance Ministers. I also was a Finance Minister back then,” Minister Gunawardena said.

UNP leader Wickremesinghe said that no Finance Minister had visited foreign countries during budget debates. “Can you tell us why? Did he go to India on a pilgrimage?” he queried.

State Minister Semasinghe: “The Finance Minister has done his duties properly. He attended several sittings. The problem is Wickremesinghe does not attend the sittings regularly.”

UNP leader Wickremesinghe: “The CBSL Governor said that the government would not kneel before other nations. Then why did the Finance Minister go to India?”
State minister Semasinghe said the UNP leader was single-handedly performing the job of an entire Opposition. “I thank him for that. The Opposition Leader and the SJB never ask questions like this. The SJB fled Parliament because they cannot face the people now,” the Minister said.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Solving vexed problems: Ranil calls for fresh approach

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‘What we are witnessing is end of politics’

By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to the present-day problems, and the MPs should adopt a novel approach to them, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: “We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of Parliament. We in Parliament must think afresh. We must discuss how to bring about long-term policies which would help us find solutions to the problems affecting the public. Thereafter, we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why can’t we do it here? If we can arrive at a consensus, we will be able to usher in a new era.

“The President has commenced this new session while the country is facing the worst economic crisis in 34 years. In his statement, he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far worse. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the economy is shrinking. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to ensure our collective survival,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. But that will not help us solve problems.”

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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SLPP MP and former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the SLFP for making the party a junior partner of the SLPP former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, Kumaratunga alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would be the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post in retaliation.

“Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Kumaratunga was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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