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Govt. has provided 21,305 undergrads loans to purchase laptops:Minister Grero

Nearly 21,305 undergraduates have been granted the Rs 75,000 loan facility to buy laptops and the Government has so far spent Rs 112 million to settle their interests to the People’s Bank and the Bank of Ceylon, Higher Education State Minister Mohan Lal Grero said.

He was responding to a question by Joint Opposition MP Bandula Gunawardena in Parliament yesterday.

The MP queried as to the the progress on the 2016 Budgetary proposals with regard to providing WIFI facility to state universities and provisions of laptop computers for students studying in them.

The State Minister said the Budgetary proposals were being implemented under several phases, adding that the Sri Lanka Bikshu University, Buddhist and Pali University, Colombo University Indigenous Medicine Faculty, Vavuniya Campus of the Eastern University, Sri Pali Campus, Kilinochchi Engineering Faculty of the Jaffna University and Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute, etc., have already been provided with the WIFI facility.

COPE Chairman submits National Audit Bill draft to Parliament

JVP MP and COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti yesterday in Parliament, submitted the draft National Audit Bill as a private Member’s Bill.

Deputy Secretary General Neil Iddawela accepted the Draft Bill on behalf of the Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dassanayake at the Parliamentary Complex.

MP Handunnetti told the media that the Draft Bill had been prepared in all three languages and that he hoped it would soon be included in the Order Book of Parliament.

“The National Audit Bill is a pre-election pledge of the Government that was even included in the 100-day work programme. However, the Government’s waiting game had delayed the Bill for two and half years. This is a vital piece of legislation to curb public sector corruption. As the Government is dragging its feet, we in the JVP have decided to come forward and present it to the House,” Handunnetti said.

The first draft of the National Audit Bill was formulated in 2004 and ha been revised 22 times. The National Audit Commission which had been set up following the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, has been inactive for two long years due to absence of legal provisions.

Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe, convening a special press conference last month, urged the Government to gazette the drafted National Audit Bill, while observing that the inordinate delay in passing legislation had hampered the work of his Department.

The AG observed that several CAOs (Ministry Secretaries) and Ministers had reportedly objected to the surcharge provision of the Bill. The powers for surcharge means ‘a recovery of an amount overpaid to a public servant, or a recoupment of any loss caused to the Government for which he was held responsible.’

Govt. presents Note on supplementary allocations totalling Rs. 25.2 billion

To cover various additional expenses in August

The Government yesterday in Parliament, presented a Note on the Supplementary Allocations totaling to Rs 25.2 billion made to cover various additional expenses in August, which included Rs 1 billion to meet the expenditure on flood and drought relief.

It also included another Rs 3.5 billion to meet the expenditure on rehabilitation work due to disasters in May 2017 in Hambantota, Matara, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Kegalle and Galle districts.

In addition, it has also made an additional allocation of Rs 967.2 million to meet the expenditure on constructing 806 houses for flood victims in the Kalutara District as per a Cabinet decision. Another Rs 500 million had been provided to the Disaster Management Ministry to meet the expenditure of drought relief to the people who are suffering from severe drought conditions.

The Health Ministry had been provided with Rs 300 million to meet the expenditure of the National Dengue Control Programme.

It has made an additional allocation of Rs 90 million to meet the operational expenditure of the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital as per a Cabinet decision.

Lands and Parliamentary Reforms Ministry has been provided an additional allocation of Rs 36.2 million to meet the transport expenditure of MPs appointed to monitor development projects of the Government. An additional allocation of Rs 90 million had been provided for the Information Department to meet the expenditure of media publicity on the Government's development projects.

The Note of Supplementary Allocation presented to the House by the Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake, also included Rs 364 million additional allocations for the Port City Development Project.

It also shows that Rs 17 million has been sought to meet a shortfall of provisions for foreign travelling of the Ministry of Law and Order and Southern Development and a sum of Rs 100 million to cover the shortfall of provision for foreign travelling expenses of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Note of supplementary allocations was referred to the Public Finance Committee.

MEP Leader demands special sitting to take up NCM

MEP Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday in Parliament, demanded for a special sitting before November 9 to take up the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told the House that he had already informed the Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella to provide an early date for the NCM submitted by the Joint Opposition which had already been included in the Order Book. MP Gunawardena, observing that the Leader of the House was dragging his feet to fix a date for the NCM at the Party Leaders’ meetings, requested the intervention of the Speaker in this regard.

Chief Opposition Whip and JVP Leader Anura Dissanayake pointed out that the argument of Kiriella at the Party Leaders’ meeting was that the NCM could not be taken up as it had mentioned a file number of a court case. “The Speaker consulted the Attorney General and the motion was amended according to his advice. The amended motion had been pasted on the Order Book as per the instructions of the Speaker. Therefore Kiriella’s argument did not hold water. As the Budget and Constitutional Assembly sittings are approaching, the NCM could be delayed till January.

"We need the Speaker’s intervention to get priority for the NCM,” he said.

MP Dissanayake raising a question under Standing Order 23 (2), brought the attention of the House to the drawn-out SAITM issue, adding that 8,000 medical students have been boycotting classes for a period of nine months at present.

Higher Education State Minister Mohan Lal Grero, replying to the question, said the Government expects a final and durable solution to the problem when the Supreme Court announces its verdict on the appeal relating to the SAITM issue.

The State Minister pointed out that asking to close down the SAITM as the ultimate solution was an unfair demand.

False rumours spread, protests held to mislead people: Minister Amaraweera

Hambantota protest:

There are false statements being spread regarding the incident that took place in Hambantota recently.

Protests are being held misleading the people, while there was a political agenda behind these protests, said Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Mahaweli State Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.

He made this statement in Parliament yesterday, in response to allegations levelled by Joint Opposition MP Prasanna Ranaweera who was present in Parliament despite being further remanded in connection with the Hambantota issue.

“There are false allegations spread regarding the Hambantota incident. We have so far not taken any agreement to sell the Mattala Airport.

The revenue generated by this airport is insufficient to even pay the the wages of the workers.

The Cabinet has been notified regarding the need to find an investor who would turn this airport to good use.

Under such a scenario, the Joint Opposition is trying to hoodwink the people by spreading lies and protesting.

There is a political agenda behind these protests and the effigies they burn are of me. Yet I am not the Aviation Minister nor am I the Defence Minister. There are powerful ministers who are joining us and the people are attracted towards the SLFP.

Hence they have made up this story claiming that Mattala is to be sold.

They created a situation and tried to get a person killed. I don’t have such degraded politics.

The people of Hambantota are confident that Mattala would not be sold.

The people are not so gullible to believe such lies. We need to bring in investment and create more industries. We need to bring in foreign investment.

There is no benefit to anyone by revengeful acts. What we need is to engage in a mechanism that would develop this country and usher in prosperity,” Minister Amaraweera said.

countries develop To day based on digital progress:Minister Ranawaka

We have lost out on three periods of industrial revolutions. Hence, we should join the fourth industrial revolution. This is the only way to progress from a mid-income country to a high income country. Countries develop based on digital progress, said Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka.

Minister Ranawaka said so in Parliament yesterday, joining the Second Reading debate on the Electronic Transactions Bill.

He said, "today the world is witnessing the fourth industrial revolution, while a vital component is digital governance. This Act is a pivotal step in that direction. People have brought about technical differences. During the past, they created an environmentally friendly development system. The first industrial revolution was known as an era that human labour was multiplied. It was America that set the stepping stone for the second industrial revolution.

“With the introduction of computers, satellite technology too developed. The era of information technology commenced. Then the fourth industrial revolution began.

The dawn of the brave world dawned. Facebook lacks editors.

This is the end of the intellectual era. Now we are seeing an era that acts on emotions and not on facts and debate. Therefore states are facing a grave dilemma.

Further today, with the development of robotic technology, there would be a great revolution in the future.

The fourth industrial revolution would be one that far exceeds our comprehension. Hence, old trades and professions would be lost and new professions would arise. Hence, we need to bring governance to a new digital platform, “the Minister said, initiating the debate.

''some political parties using students for their disruptive political motives'

State Higher Education Minister Mohan Lal Grero, expressed sadness over the boycotting of lectures by a few students who had become victims of several political parties who were using them for their disruptive political motives over the SAITM issue.

Grero made this statement in response to a question raised by Chief Opposition whip MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake under Standing Orders 23 (2) on the SAITM issue in Parliament yesterday.

SAITM Institute commenced in 2009 as an institution that directed students to pursue Russian degrees. Then in 2011, the University Grants Commission had given them approval to register local students.

Around 850 students were thus enrolled to pursue their education at this institute. This institution that commenced during the tenure of the previous regime and no request had been made for its close down during that time.

The government had presented many solutions to resolve the medical students’ issues during their protests. Some of the proposals are currently being implemented. The government had identified the student protests staged for over nine months as a grave issue. The government has also invested heavily towards the establishment of new medical faculties within the next three years. Hence, it is sad that under these circumstances when the government has taken so many positive steps, these students are engaged in boycotting classes based on the misguidance of these political parties who are using them for their political agendas.

While a considerable investment had been made towards education, those instigating these students towards such destructive behaviour and these students who have become pawns of these political parties, are to blame for this current predicament. The government however is not going to do anything that would aggravate this situation, while every possible measure would be taken to resolve this issue and bring about a solution that would be favourable to all parties involved in this issue.

Therefore, the government has made several proposals in this respect. He pointed out that demands by some parties to close down SAITM claiming that it is the only solution to resolve this issue, was nothing but a one sided solution and would not resolve the problem.

Sri Lanka heading towards knowledge based economy: Minister Harin Fernando

Is Sri Lanka heading towards a knowledge based economy by 2025 and if so, it is essential that a digital economy be implemented. Through the Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Act it paves the way to sign a foreign agreement electronically, said Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando.

He said so in Parliament yesterday, joining the debate on the Second Reading of the Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Act. The Electronic Transactions (Amendment) Act gives legal recognition for electronic signatures and facilitates the use of electronic records and electronic signatures in government institutions and statutory bodies.

“We should be proud as Sri Lanka has been commended for introducing laws that have brought us to 74th place among 174 countries with the E-government concept. Among the countries that provides internet services, Sri Lanka is in the 37th place. At present, people need not run to the bank for all their transactions. Now online marketing is also in use on par with the rest of the world.

There are more mobile phones than the population. Further, over 6.2 million people use Facebook.

It is through electronic transactions that the fourth industrial revolution has emerged. By January or February, all Advanced Level students would receive a Tab, while all school children would receive computers to be used at school.

We need to progress and make things easier. We are heading towards a digital economy and we need to ensure digitalisation in our import and export sector. This Act would enable the signing of international agreements electronically. Electronic signatures would be established. We intend to provide tabs to about 7,000 Grama Sevaka officers and also equip family health workers with tabs to store their data for easy access.

Hence, we need to pave the way for a digital economy if we are to make the country a knowledge hub by 2025. This Act would be instrumental in making Sri Lanka a country with a strong economy,” added Minister Harin Perera.

Govt. decides to take away private ownership of SAITM

The government has decided to take away private ownership of the Malabe Private Medical Faculty or SAITM, while it would be transformed into a non profit institution and a multi ownership institution, said State Higher Education Minister Mohan Lal Grero.

No increase in fuel prices: Dy Minister Anoma Gamage

The Government has no intention of increasing fuel prices, said Deputy Minister of Petroleum Resources Development Anoma Gamage in Parliament yesterday.

She said, “Although Lanka IOC had notified the Government of their intention to increase fuel prices, I don’t think they too would increase the prices fuel.”

Minister Gamage was responding to a question posed by MP Lucky Jayawardena in Parliament yesterday.

She further added that currently, there were around 1,252 fuel stations across the country, while 212 have been privately owned.

She further added that of the number of fuel stations, 204 of them are currently non-operational.

(Daily News)

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