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Schools to reopen this week without teachers

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Other unions threaten to join teachers on strike

By Norman Palihawadane

Principals have informed the Secretary to the Ministry of Education that they would not report to work when schools reopen on Thursday (Oct 21).

Secretary of Ceylon Principals Union (CPU) Piyasiri Fernando In a letter addressed to the Education Ministry Secretary, says that the member of CPU would not report to work as government has not come up with a solution to the issue of teacher-principal salary anomalies.

The letter further says that the principals, deputy principals and assistant principals of national schools and schools coming under the provincial councils would not report to work on Oct 21, as a move related to their ongoing trade union action with teachers.

General Secretary of the JVP-led Ceylon Teachers’ Service Union, Mahinda Jayasinghe said that the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Union Alliance had decided not to report since the issue of teacher-principal salary anomalies could not be resolved before the reopening of schools.

Jayasinghe said that the government should take action to rectify the salary anomalies affecting teachers and principals before reopening schools.

Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that their last week discussion between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions at the Prime Minister’s office ended without a solution.

Stalin said that they had discussed the matter with representatives of the government for over three and a half hours. The government offered to grant a salary increment proposed by the ministerial subcommittee to rectify the salary anomaly in two stages, but only a one-ninth of the total increment was to be given in January 2022, Stalin said.

“We asked for the increment in one go. The government has time till Oct 21 to take a decision. We had a discussion with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday for over three hours. Secretary to the Treasury and the Director General of National Budget Department kept on saying there were no funds,” he said.

President of the All Ceylon United Teachers’ Union Ven. Yalwela Pannasekara Thera said that the teachers and principals had decided to launch a continuous strike if the schools were reopened while the teachers’ and principals’ salary issues remained unresolved.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Trade Union Alliance (SLTUA) has threatened to join school teachers and principals who are currently on strike for 93 days running over unresolved salary anomalies.

Inter-Company Employees’ Union Chairman and former JVP MP Wasantha Samarasinghe said that the SLTDA, after a series of discussions, has agreed to support the teachers’ cause.

“It has been over three months and the government had enough time to solve the teachers’ and principals’ salary anomaly. After several rounds of talks with all unions, we have decided to support the strike until a solution is given,” he said.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the government agreed to increase salaries in two stages as a solution to the struggle by the trade unions to rectify teacher-principal salary anomalies. “The government is sensitive to the problem of teachers and principals and we accept that salary anomalies should be rectified. Yet we have to understand the prevailing situation. This situation does not warrant us to grant teachers’ requests at once as the revenues to Treasury are limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.



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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine

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Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today

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by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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