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[Parliament– (20-11-2017)]

[Parliament– (20-11-2017)]

Previous regime took some detrimental decisions on national security- Ruwan

Some of the decisions taken by the previous government caused a serious threat to national security, Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said in Parliament on Saturday.

He said one such decision to to house the Army,Navy and Air Force head quarters at a location in Battaramulla, taken by former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is not commendable.

“The land belonging to the Military Headquarters was sold to Shangril-la Hotel,” Minister Wijewardene said.

“We too will have to leave our current location soon.”

He said that the release of 11,000 hard core LTTE cadres, including those that attacked the Katunayake airport and camp even without hearing the cases, by former Mahinda President Rajapaksa is also not commendable.

Minister Ruwan Wijewardene also said that those decisions are a threat to the national security. The Minister was speaking this observation participating in the Committee Stage debate on the budget proposal 2018 under the expenditure head of the Defence Ministry.

Minister Wijewardene said the military ship that is planned to be purchased from Russia has not yet been decided.

“However the matter is before the Cabinet of Ministers and they have to take the decision soon and be conveyed to Russia before December 31.It is then only that they would commence building the ship,”Minister Wijewardene said. “It'll take three long years to construct the same. It is going to be a new one.”

He said that MP Kanchana Wijesekara charged that the first ship was rejected by the government. “True, but it was an Off Shore Petrol Vessel which we already have a few,” Minister Wijewardene said. “We wanted a frigate to protect the deep seas owned by us which extends to the limits of the Australian sea.”

He stated that the US is also to donate us another Cutter to Sri Lanka. He added that India, China and Japan too have granted us military ships for the protection of our vast ocean area.

“Due to President Maithripala Sirisena's and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's guidance, we have been able to send 200 personnel from our forces to join the Peace Keeping Forces,” Minister Wijewardene said. “We have the opportunity send another 600 next year.”

In response to MP Wimal Weerawansa, Minister Wijewardene said the Iranamadu Camp has not been closed. He added that a Bungalow has been handed over to the Irrigation Department after renovation.

Sri Lankans in Australian detention camps to be repatriated - Marapana

Currently 197 Sri Lankans who went to Australia illegally by boat are in Australian detention camps, Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana told Parliament on Saturday.

He said these Sri Lankans would be brought back to the country with the coordination of Australian authorities.

He said as of the latest figures, 94 Sri Lankans are staying in Nauru camp, 70 in central Australia, 21 in Papua New Guinea and 12 in the Christmas Island. They have been provided with basic amenities by the Australian government till the repatriation to Sri Lanka.

“The Government will bear the cost of air tickets to bring them down. If they do not possess a valid passport, the Government will intervene to make temporary travel documents for them,” the minister adding that many of them had purposefully destroyed their passports and IDs so that their citizenship cannot be proved.

Bring those responsible for January 8, 2015 attempted coup to book - Minister Fonseka

Regional Development Minister and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka blamed the Government for failing to implement the law against the attempted military coup on the election night of January 8, 2015.

Opening the Committee Stage debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament on Saturday when the Expenditure Heads of Defence Ministry were taken up, the minister told the House that the then Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff together with several others attempted a military coup on the election night but it failed as the Inspector General of Police stood against it. “About 2,000 Army personnel were positioned in Colombo violating the election laws. The Elections Commissioner did not approve this act. Can you deny these claims?” he questioned from the Joint Opposition.

Fonseka pointed out that the Army is always bound to protect democracy. “If not for the then IGP, the country’s democracy would have been completely destroyed,” he added.“However, our Government did not have the backbone to take proper action at that time. Even today it does not have the backbone to implement the law against those who attempted it,” he complained.

Russian frigate to arrive in country after 2019 - Dayasiri

The much talked-of Russian war ship Sri Lanka intends to purchase has not been built yet and it will arrive in the country only after 2019, Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara said.

The minister participating in the Committee Stage debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament clarified that the purchase of Gepard 5.1 class frigate is on a USD 300 million Credit Line signed between Sri Lankan and Russian Governments in 2010.

“It was signed when Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was the Navy Commander. We have a USD 130 million balance in this credit line that must be used before it expires by December 31. We had to decide whether to take it or return. As per the Sri Lanka Navy Maritime Strategy that stretches to 2025 we need more ships. As at now, the Navy has six ships named ‘Sayurala, Sagara, Sayura, Samudura, Nandimitra and Suranimala’. Two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) have been provided by India, but they are marine observation vessels that do not carry any armaments. By March or April next year, another ship will arrive from China. It is a 12-year old ship given as a grant. We are manufacturing another two ships locally with the Japanese aids. These will also take another two years,” he explained. “Some web-based media had criticized President Maithripala Sirisena over the purchase of this Russian ship stating it was a 10-year old ship and that it was a corrupt deal. All these allegations are untrue. This is a newly constructed naval craft and its ammunition will be arranged to our preference. There are no local agents behind this and it is a direct Government to Government Credit Line,” he added.

Replying to Joint Opposition MP Kanchana Wijesekara, Minister Jayasekara also refuted the claims that the purchase of Gepard 5.1 class frigate has been rejected by three committees. “It has not been rejected by any committee. I verified it from the Navy Commander. Still discussions are on over the items the ship should carry,” he replied.

(Daily News)

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