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Condolence votes on ex-MPs: House condoles late colleagues

Parliament yesterday took up the Votes of Condolence of ex-MPs late S Alavi Mowlana, K Velayudan, Suranimala Rajapaksa and U B Wijekoon.

The Condolence Motions were moved by Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaking on the Condolence Motion of Alevi Mowlana, admired the leadership he gave the Trade Union Movement.

Mowlana was a former CMC Councillor, MP, Minister and Western Province Governor. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the different political allegiances between Mowlana and him never turned into an issue to work together.

Former President Rajapaksa observed that there had been no TU movement at the Lipton roundabout or Hyde Park without Mowlana.

The PM speaking on the Condolence Motion of former Minister Suranimala Rajapaksa, said that he was a colleague who had been with him through thick and thin. “We entered politics together and he was with me right from the start to his death.

Wickremesinghe recalled that he worked closely with ex-MP K Velayudan in solving the estate workers’ problems. “He was not limited to Tamil politics, but represented all people in Badulla and a proud Sri Lankan,” he said.

Speaking on the Condolence Motion on former Minister U B Wijekoon, the Premier said he worked tirelessly for the development of his electorate Dambadeniya. “The two of us entered Parliament together and when I became the Kelaniya Organizer, he became the Dambadeniya Organizer. He supported the project of setting up of 200 garment factories and setting up of an Export Zone in Dambadeniya,” he recalled.

A large number of MPs from both sides of the House joined in the Votes of Condolence on the four ex-MPs.

Alleged mixing of sugar in tea: Manufacturer to be probed:Naveen

Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake, said that the alleged mixing of sugar with tea during the tea manufacturing process was being probed.

The Minister said this in response to a questioned raised by JVP MP Sunil Handunetti in Parliament yesterday.

Minister Dissanayake said that such illegal practises could have a severe impact on the image of “Ceylon Tea,” which had built a name for itself in the world market.

“ A policy decision has to be taken on this matter and that he would take stern measures to stop such illegal practices,” he said.

He said that around 80 factories were raided and tested whether sugar was mixed with tea, while the samples were sent to the Tea Research Institute (TRI), in Sri Lanka as well. He said that there was an issue whether there was natural sugar in the tea or it was being added by the factories. MP Hadunnetti said the manner in which factories were inspected was not up to standard, while the owners were very much disappointed about it.

MP Hadunnetti added that the Minister should look into the inspection process and emphasised that a proper system should be introduced to conduct an inspection on this matter, while Minister Dissanayake added that private tea factory owners had met him to discuss the above matter.

The Minister also agreed that there was an issue in the inspection process and added that he would not let the factory owners face any unfair treatment.

Minister Dissanayake said he will not implement the 2016 Budgetary proposal on lifting the restrictions on importation of tea for blending.

The Minister made the above observation in response to MP Bandula Gunawardena’s question on measures to be taken by the Ministry on the above Budget proposal.

The Minister further said that no final decision had been taken on the above Budget proposal.

“In terms of policy, the Ministry and the Tea Board had not so far agreed on this proposal,” he said.

MP Gunawardena requested the Minister to submit a list which includes the amount of tea imported to Sri Lanka in the year 2016, according to the 2017 Budget proposal and the names of the ten main importers who import tea to Sri Lanka in each year during the period from the year 1977 up to 2016.

Minister Dissanayake in response, said that the Sri Lanka Tea Board, in the 1980s allowed the importation of tea to Sri Lanka.

Reports on Delimitation of Electorates in PCs: Special committee to be set up to sort out issues - Speaker

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that a special Committee will be appointed to sort out the issues pertaining to the Report ​on the Delimitation of Electorates in Provincial Councils.

MP Alahapperuma said that the Minister of Provincial Councils and Local government Faiszer Mustapha, presented the Delimitation Committee Report for the Delimitation of Electorates in Provincial Councils on March 06.

He made this statement in response to question raised by MP Dullas Alahapperuma about the delimitation report on Provincial Councils.​​ The Speaker said that the final decision on the report would be taken at a Party Leaders’ meeting.​

“According to the Act, within two weeks after the relevant subject Minister submits the report to Parliament, Parliament should hold a debate and get a two third majority approval. Failing to approve the report within a period of one month, the Speaker under the leadership of the Prime Minister, has to appoint a five member committee,” he said.

Minister Lakshman Kiriella questioned MP Alahapperuma whether they would give a two third support? MP Alahapperuma refrained from answering the question. MP Dullas Alahapperuma said postponing the debate on this matter was a violation of law, while the debate was supposed to be held on March 22, but was cancelled following a request by the government.

MP Alapperuma further said that the committee could not be appointed by ignoring the views of the MPs on the matter.

“ According to the Constitution, Party leaders have no authority to take a decision on this matter and that it was clearly mentioned in the Act,” he said.

To increase age limit of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years: Govt. presents two Bills to amend Penal Code of Criminal Procedure

The Government yesterday in Parliament, presented two Bills to amend the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to increase the age limit of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years.

The Bills were presented for the first reading by Chief Government Whip and Minister Gayantha Karunathilake.

According to the Penal Code Amendment Bill, the age limit of 8 years under which no act of a child is considered an offence has been increased to 12 years.

“Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under 12 years of age. Nothing is an offence which is done by a child above twelve years of age and under fourteen, if the judge is of the opinion that he has not attained sufficient maturity to understand the nature and consequences of his act,” the Bill stated.

If a child, who committed the offence, is between 12 and 14 years of age, law enforcement authorities must consult the discretion of a Magistrate to determine whether the child had the required degree of maturity to commit an offence.

In order to facilitate this revision of law, the Government last Friday, also Gazetted an Amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure to inserts a new section to enable the officer in charge of a Police station to direct a child between 12 and 14, alleged to have committed an offence, be examined by a Government Medical Officer or other experts in the relevant field in order to assist the Magistrate to form his opinion on the maturity of understanding of such child. It must be done with the consent of the parent or guardian of the child.

The move to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility was taken up after considering the opinion of Psychologists and other experts on the subject. Government authorities said the expert view of Psychologists and other specialists is that the current minimum age of 8 years is too young to be subjected to criminal responsibility.

Excess staff of ministers, severe loss to Govt. coffers

MP Bimal Ratnayake said though the number of ministers have been decreased, the government would suffer the same expenditure due to ministers maintaining several private staff.

He further said that the President and the Prime Minister are deliberately violating the Constitution in this regard.

“A Minister could hold more than one portfolio, but that does not mean that they need two or three private staff members. Though the number of ministers had been decreased in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, each minister has been provided with several portfolios. Those ministers keep several private staff members, while there is no decrease in government expenditure in maintaining ministers,” he said.

He noted that the circular issued by the President in this regard, clearly states that the number of staff members in the private office of a minister could not exceed 15 persons.

“Even though the government claims that there are only 93 ministers. When we look at the matter in terms of state finance, public funds are spent on more than 100 to 150 ministers considering the amount of private staff members each minister has,” he said.

He questioned Minister Mahinda Amaraweera who is at present the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and State Minister of Mahaweli Development to inform Parliament about his private staff and whether he has two separate staff members for his ministries.

Minister Amaraweera responded by saying that there are 21 persons working as his private staff at the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development and added that there is a separate staff at the Ministry of Mahaweli Development as well.

He further said that he had not violated the circular issued by the President on the number of staff in the private office of a minister.

SLMC MPs receiving Rs. 250 million to vote against PM’s NCM: Deputy Minister Cassim requests Speaker to probe fabricated website story

Deputy Minister Faizal Cassim yesterday raising a privilege matter in Parliament, asked the Speaker to inquire in to the fabricated story of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) MPs receiving Rs 250 million to vote against the No-Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister.

He said this fabricated story appeared on a news website operated by former Minister Dr Wijayadasa Rajapakshe’s son Rakitha Rajapakshe.

He denied this allegation as totally untrue. He asked the Speaker to inquire into the matter and take action against the persons responsible for the spread of this fabricated story, which was done on purpose to tarnish the good name of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as the SLMC.

(Daily NEws)

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