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VIASL says about 100,000 employees risk losing their jobs due to vehicle imports ban



By Steve A. Morrell

The continuing ban on vehicle imports has jeopardized the jobs of around 100,000 employees directly involved in the industry and its ancillary services, the key association in the trade warned last week.

“In terms of indirect dependents on the industry, 400,000 persons face the risk of losing their livelihoods as the import ban will ultimately sound the death knell to the trade”, says Arosha Rodrigo, Hony. Secretary of the Vehicle Importers’ Association of Sri Lanka (VIASL).

The adverse effects of the ban will also spill over to tourism, health sector, general transport and allied services that function through the regular influx of vehicles, he told a news conference at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo.

“At the time the ban on vehicle imports was imposed in March 2020, we sought an appointment with the president to discuss the predicament we are in and the repercussions the ban has on the industry as a whole”, Rodrigo noted.

However, the president has so far not granted an appointment for a discussion, he said.

“Our efforts to meet the President’s Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, for a discussion were also unsuccessful”, he remarked.

Rodrigo said that buyers who had secured bank loans to open LCs (Letters of Credit) are now in difficulty as they have to service the loans despite not being able to import vehicles. There are 140 imported vehicles lying in the Colombo port as clearing them was disallowed after the ban came into effect.

He said that the Finance Ministry’s solution to the ban is to assemble vehicles locally. This so-called solution cannot be implemented because world-renowned Japanese and European brands are being assembled in India, Taiwan and other South East Asian countries for export.

Even if Sri Lanka assemble vehicles, they would have to be for export in a competitive market and not for use locally, Rodrigo remarked.

Asked by the media whether there are vehicles being assembled in Sri Lanka at present, he said there is a roll out, but not in sufficient numbers to meet the demand in the local market.

He said before the ban was imposed, around 2,000 vehicles were imported per month.

The VIASL sought a meeting with the President to discuss the creation of a survival plan for the industry to meet their financial commitments, salaries of employees and overhead costs.

“We want to help the government’s efforts to control the outflow of foreign exchange, while ensuring that those who lose their jobs continue in employment to support their families”, Rodrigo added.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament



Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.



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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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