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Wiggy says he never asked Sinhalese, Muslims not to come back to Jaffna

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By Saman Indrajith

The Tamil People’s National Alliance or the Thamizh Makkal Tesiya Kootani (TMTK) MP C.V. Wingeswaran, on Friday, said that Sri Lankans irrespective of their racial differences were fortunate that Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had obtained a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Participating in the debate on vote on account, MP Wigneswaran said Prime Minister Rajapaksa had been given a golden opportunity to usher in a peaceful and prosperous country. “By granting what I call eksathism as opposed to ekiyaism this country could be transformed into a veritable heaven on earth despite its ten trillion international debt. A form of unionism which in fact is federalism is the panacea for our national question – unity in diversity.

“It would be stupid to run away from problems by saying such problems do not exist akin to the Ostrich which lowers its head in sand hoping to find a safe haven. Let us face the national question together. Let us not hand it over to the next generation. To win a war is easy. But to bring about Peace is extremely difficult. But it is peace that could usher in permanent victory. It is this realization that made King Asoka embrace Buddhism.”

“I hate none. But I love the truth. I have come to conclusions about our past after studying certain historical facts. If my conclusions are wrong others must point out the shortcomings in my conclusions instead of getting upset and abusing me. They can invite me to public debate. If need be, let a Commission be appointed consisting of top Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and international historians well versed in South East Asian history to report on our heritage and history. The historians must be internationally recognized.”

He said that he had been wrongly accused by a fellow MP of discriminating against Sinhalese and Muslims. “He said that I had forbidden Sinhalese and Muslims from entering the North when I was the Chief Minister. Truly, I must be a demon to have said so when my children have both married Sinhalese. I do not indulge in such vituperative, racial exercises.

“He asked if I had given blood to patients and went on to say only the military members give blood to blood banks in Jaffna. He asked if the Vellala community would accept blood from other castes. That MP should realise the people of the North had given blood to blood banks prior to the army coming to the North as well as afterwards. They are aware that all blood fall within four categories. They do not believe as some do that some are born with blue blood!

“As a representative of the Tamils I find nothing significant to comment about on this mid-term vote on account. No government has so far rendered any significant help to pull out our war affected people from their penury stricken indigent circumstances. They are also not interested in granting economic powers to the periphery to enable them to look after themselves. You would remember the Chief Minister’s Fund was refused to our Province during the time of both Governments. Hence I deem it necessary to stress on this occasion the urgent need to solve the political question of the Tamils first which is basic to the amelioration of the conditions of our affected People.”

“I like to ask a question – why did we fight for independence from the British? We were peaceful and prosperous. In fact Lee Kwan Yew swore that he would make Singapore another Ceylon. Such was the peace and prosperity of our Country under the British. But we still wanted Independence. Why? It was our desire to resurrect our identity by language; heritage and culture that made us want ourselves to be freed from the domination by the British.”



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PMB declines to release Rs 1.2 bn FD for paddy purchasing

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Treasury forced to bear responsibility for Rs 2 bn in loans

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said that the State Banks weren’t in a position to release funds to the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) as the enterprise owed them a staggering sum, running to over Rs 20 bn.

Due to the failure on the part of the state enterprise to settle previous loans, the Treasury has been compelled to accept the responsibility for repaying them, the State Minister said.

The Kegalle District lawmaker said so on the live political programme, Salakuna, telecast on Hiru on Monday night. The State Minister was responding to interviewer Chamuditha Samarawickrema’s query regarding the inordinate delay on the part of the government to implement the paddy purchasing scheme.

Referring to Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera’s abortive efforts to obtain the required funding, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the Treasury was helpless.

State Minister Siyambalapitiya said the PMB couldn’t be faulted for the crisis as successive governments had directed the state enterprise to purchase paddy at a higher price, then ordered it to sell at a much lower price, thereby causing staggering losses.

The State Minister also acknowledged management level shortcomings and political interventions caused the ruination of the PMB.

The PMB owed the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank Rs 1,600 mn and Rs 690 mn, respectively.

The State Minister acknowledged that the issue couldn’t be resolved in spite of interventions made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Premier Dinesh Gunawardena. Referring to a subsequent discussion he had with the Secretary to the Treasury Mahinda Siriwardana, lawmaker Siyambalapitiya said that the BOC has asked for Rs 1.2 bn fixed deposit as security though the PMB declined to do so. According to the State Minister the PMB asserted that it couldn’t forgo the fixed deposit as the

interest received was utilized for day to day running of its operations.

The State Minister said that the banks could release the required funding on the basis of a guarantee given by the Treasury. The lawmaker explained the inability on the part of the Treasury to give such a guarantee as further deterioration of public finance could have a devastating impact on the banking sector. Such an eventuality couldn’t be allowed, the SLFPer said.

The Minister acknowledged that the failure on the part of the government to launch a paddy purchasing scheme would dishearten the farmer community.

Chamuditha Samarawickrema pointed out that the private sector had managed their ‘operations’ in a much better way.

The State Minister said that the situation was so bad that of the recent Rs 93 mn public sector salary bill, the government could meet Rs 82 mn. The government had no option but to ask those state enterprises to pay salaries from their funds, pending repayment, the MP said, reiterating the Treasury couldn’t help the PMD at the moment.

Responding to further questions, the State Minister said that the government would definitely give priority to the PMD issue once they finalized public sector salary payments. The Minister urged the media not to pursue an agenda detrimental to the government’s recovery efforts. Asked to explain, the State Minister said that there had been accusations the government didn’t purchase paddy to clear the field for the private sector. The Hiru team pointed out that the banks had released substantial amounts to the private sector to purchase paddy. The Minister explained the banks tried their best to help but circumstances were such the government couldn’t help at the moment.

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PSC proposes amendment to Children and Young Persons Ordinance

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A meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure gender equality in progress. Among those present were lawmakers Rohini Kaviratne, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Dr. Seetha Arambepola and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Kushani Rohanadeera (pic courtesy Parliament)

The Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure gender equality has decided to propose amendments to the Children and Young Persons Ordinance to consider all those below 18 years as children.

The PSC presided by its Chairperson Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle that met in the Parliamentary Complex last week also decided to replace the reference ‘young persons’ in the Ordinance and to rename it as the Children’s Ordinance.

As per the amendments every reference to “Children and Young Persons Ordinance”, “children and young persons”, “child or young person” and “age of sixteen years” in any regulation or rule made under the principal enactment or notice, notification, contract, communication or other document issued under the principal enactment shall be read and construed as a reference respectively, to “Children’s Ordinance”, “children”, “child” and “age of eighteen years.

Section 71 of the Ordinance will be amended, by the repeal of subsection (6) of that section establishing that “nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the right of any parent, teacher or legal guardian to punish a child or youth”.

The purpose of the Children and Young Persons Ordinance Clause 23 is to make orders for the establishment of Juvenile Courts for the supervision of juvenile offenders for the protection of children and young persons.

State Minister Dr. Seetha Arambepola, Members of Parliament Thalatha Atukorala, Rohini Kaviratne, Eran Wickramaratne, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Manjula Dissanayake, Secretary to the Committee and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Kushani Rohanadeera and senior officials representing the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms were present at the PSC meeting.

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80 houses destroyed in fire at Thotalanga

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The scene of the fire(pic by Jude Denzil Pathiraja)

At least 80 houses were destroyed due to a fire that broke out in a highly congested area in Colombo on Tuesday (27) night. Around 220 people had been displaced, the police said.

The fire broke out at Kajeemawatte in Thotalanga at around 8 pm on Tuesday and it took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. Twelve fire engines were deployed, but many of the dwellings had been burnt out as approach roads were not wide enough for the vehicles to reach the fire.

Those who are affected are now housed in community centres and places of worship.

No casualties were reported in the incident. The police are yet to determine the cause of fire and the total damage to property has not been estimated still.

Meanwhile, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is on an official visit to Japan, has instructed Presidential Secretary Saman Ekanayake to take steps to provide immediate relief to all victims of the fire.

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