September 17, 2019
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    Economic indicators are stable – Finance Minister Featured

    May 24, 2019

    Even in the midst of terrorist attacks, the country’s basic economic indicators are stable, said Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Parliament yesterday.The Finance Minister said this commencing the debate on the Foreign Exchange Act.“After many years of war, peace, unity and economic stability were established in the country after 2015. The country earned international recognition as a civilised and democratic nation during this short spell. Through that we were able to take the country on a formal developmental track,” the Minister said.

    He, however, said that the country faced two obstacles in its developmental stride. One was a severe drought and massive flood in 2018 and the other was the October 26 constitutional conspiracy. “During the 51-day political conspiracy, the country was destabilised and it was a deathblow to the economy. But our judiciary gave a very neutral verdict. Just when we were recovering from that blow, the April 21 terror attacks destabilised the country further. Just as the April 21 terrorists, the October 26 political terrorists, too, had no concern for the country. They acted with extreme greed, but the people stood up against them and defeated their sinister plans,” the Finance Minister said.

    He, however, said that as the government had established a strong economic foundation for the country, it could withstand such impacts and still stand strong. “Our economy was able to withstand the April 21st terror attacks because of that stability. Our primary economic indicators are strong and foreign reserves are stable, while unemployment is minimal and economic predictions stand unchanged. Many of the indicators don’t show great changes. The head of the IMF stated last week that despite the terror attacks, Sri Lanka’s reserves remain unchanged. The International Monetary Fund completed the fifth review of Sri Lanka’s economic performance under the Extended Fund Facility and approved USD 164.1mn disbursement to Sri Lanka on May 13. Sri Lanka’s three-year extended arrangement of US$1.5bn was approved in mid 2016. Although the country’s economy could withstand the impact of the terror attack, the tourism industry suffered a severe blow,” the Minister said.

    He noted that as a government they had understood the impact the April 21st attack had on the tourism industry and have taken measures to provide many concessions to the tourism industry.

    Opposition member Wimal Weerawansa disrupted the proceedings and was warned by the Speaker. “You disrupted the sittings on Wednesday and threatened to surround Parliament and yesterday at the party leaders meeting threatened to surround Parliament. You cannot have your way by threatening Parliament. Parliament operates on public finances and we are answerable to the people,” said Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

    Finance Minister Samaraweera riled, “There is no point in blaming him as this sort of behaviour is in his genes. It was his brother-in-law who bombed Parliament. This is a family trait.”

    He said the government had brought the situation in the country under control after the terror attacks with the assistance of the security forces. He, however, alleged that there are bankrupt politicians in the country who are attempting to arouse another black July racial conflict. “They are trying to rouse clashes among the Sinhalese and Muslims and to brand all Muslims as terrorists. The security forces were able to successfully apprehend and bring down the terror group because of the information provided by the Muslim people in the country. A majority of Muslims in Sri Lanka are peace-loving and want to live in harmony with the rest of the people. We render our sincere thanks to the whole Muslim community for the support they rendered. However, extremist factions such as Mahason Balakaya are again trying to drag the country into chaos,” the Minister said.

    Samaraweera said the pasta factory burnt down in Minuwangoda had only around three Muslim workers, the rest were all Sinhalese. “Today they are all at home without work. Similarly, many of the large scale establishments employ Sinhala people more than Muslims. The country earns over $ 3 billion annually from businesses owned by Muslims,” the Minister said.

    The Finance Minister said that when the facts are revealed, he is branded as an anti-Buddhist traitor. He said it is during his tenure that the most amount of allocations by the Finance Ministry were made to Buddhist religious institutions. “During the first four months of this year alone, approximately Rs. 2,090 million had been allocated to ulplift Buddhist Viharas through the Gamperaliya initiative for 4,124 projects. For Churches, Rs. 393 million for 768 projects, for 1,076 Hindu Kovil projects, Rs. 1,076 million to uplift and construct 2,095 projects. We allocated Rs. 1,241million to uplift mosques,” the Minister said.

    The Finance Minister said that some clad in robes should be ashamed of themselves for using the Buddhist philosophy as a religion to fulfill their needs. “Buddhism is not a religion; it is a universal philosophy. Because of the Buddhist philosophy, Sri Lanka’s culture was nurtured. However, all other religions have also nurtured our culture. This No Confidence Motion is not brought by the Opposition against just Rishad Bathiudeen; it is against the whole Muslim community. They are trying to create a situation where the Muslims would not want to stay with the government.”

    He, however, noted that as long as they all stand strong together, no one can defeat the government.

    At the end of the debate, one regulation under the Foreign Exchange Act and eight resolutions under the Appropriation Act were passed without amendments, which were moved in Parliament yesterday.


    Speaker calls for reports on two news items

    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday said he called for reports on two news items in a newspaper published yesterday that said a doctor of the Thawheed Jamad Association had carried out surgeries on 4,000 women to sterilize them without their knowledge and on another employee of the Association.

    The Speaker was responding following JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake demanded the Speaker to call for a report on the sterilization.

    He said that when he saw those news items, he called the IGP to find that they had no knowledge of such incidents. He said that he called for the reports on those matters today itself.

    MP Dissanayake said that if the news item was correct or incorrect, it was very serious. He said the news item had it that it was a Muslim doctor and he had performed 7,000 C-sections and of them 4,000 were on Sinhala mothers. He said it also contained that investigations are on to arrest the doctor.

    He said that the doctor’s name, the hospital he works for or from which area he is are not included. He said patients do not consult a Muslim doctor for this reason. Muslims doctors face problems because of this issue, he said. He said it has to be found out if these media institutions had investigated the issue before publishing the news items. He said Parliament should be reported the facts today itself.

    The Speaker said he inquired about the other story that said another employee of the Parliament had connections with the Thawheed Jamad Association and the Police said they received no such information.


    Probe on illegal passport issue: Police, CID will submit report – Gayantha

    Lands and Parliamentary Reforms Minister and Chief Government Whip Gayantha Karunathileka yesterday said that Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana will submit a report to Parliament on the investigations that the Police and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) continue against Dulan Asiri Hettiarachchi, who is allegedly obtained diplomatic passport illegally.

    He was responding to Foreign Affairs Minister for a question raised by JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake during the round of questions for oral answers.

    Minister Karunathileka said that according to the details provided by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, name of Dulan Asiri Hettiarachchi is not in the list of the officers who had been serving at the Sri Lankan Embassy in China and Sri Lankan High Commission in Australia from 2008 up to June 30, 2018 and obtained a diplomatic passports.

    MP Rathnayake tabled the copies of the passport and some documents of the Dulan Hettiarachchi’s appointment, in Parliament.

    MP Rathnayake said the person in question had worked as a Public Relation Officer in the Sri Lankan Embassy in China during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime on a political appointment.

    “Thereafter, he was sent to Sri Lanka on a misconduct. However, he had prepared forged documents and went back to serve in Sri Lankan High Commission in China as a Trade Promotion Officer,” he said.

    MP Rathnayake said that an investigation was commenced in this regard by the Police and the CID. However, this person is working attached to the Anti-tobacco Drive conducted by the President’s House. He said that it is revealed that he is intervening in the investigations.


    Government allowed terrorists’ finances to thrive – Bandula

    UPFA MP Dr. Bandula Gunawardane yesterday held the government responsible for allowing terrorists’ finances to thrive in the country by replacing the previous Exchange Control Act in 2017.

    Gunawardane said Sri Lanka still remains in the grey list for its deficiency in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks as noted by the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Foreign exchange control is compulsory to limit financing terrorism, he said.

    Dr. Gunawardane was participating in the debate on Foreign Exchange Act in Parliament yesterday.

    “Terrorism and finance has a relationship just like fish has with water. Fish will die without water and so will terrorism without financial backing. So, it is fundamental that we have strong foreign exchange control.”

    Dr. Gunawardane said that when the government introduced the new Foreign Exchange Act in 2017, it relaxed a considerable number of limitations on money laundering and foreign exchange control.

    He said billions of ad hoc or illegal racket of exchanging foreign currency is taking place in areas such as Wellawatta.

    “If the government does not monitor and control these ad hoc methods, billions of financing will enter the country for the terrorists to purchase weapons and to spread extremism.

    “Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government took strong steps to control this terrorist finance by establishing the Financial Intelligence Unit at the Central Bank. Unfortunately, the government used it to hunt down Rajapaksa family’s financial activities only,” Gunawardane said.


    Several parties received information prior to Easter Sunday blasts – Bimal

    Several parties have revealed that information has been received that certain internationally backed terror groups are operating in our country jeopardising its sovereignty. said JVP-MP Bimal Rathnayake.

    Moving the adjournment motion in Parliament yesterday, he said Sri Lanka should not enter into agreements with foreign countries which could impact on the country’s sovereignty. “The government should present to Parliament all agreements signed prior to April 21 and thereafter,” he said.

    He blamed the President, Prime Minister, State Defence Minister and the Cabinet for failing to prevent the Easter Sunday attack, while they had ample opportunity to do so. “The government and the security heads should take responsibility for their failure to prevent the attack. The government cannot escape the political sin of allowing this incident to happen which has led to racial disharmony. They cannot escape this political sin no matter how much lies they say to get themselves off the hook. If they had received information that the President’s house or a minister’s house was to be attacked, then their response would have been completely different. Since the terrorists were targeting churches and ordinary people, the government simply did nothing,” Bimal said.

    He said that not only politicians are using this incident to their advantage but also media to increase their ratings. Certain businesses are also using this situation to gain advantage. He said that powerful western countries and certain organisations are also making use of this incident to meddle with the country’s domestic issues.

    The Agreement signed between Sri Lanka and the USA to provide facilities for American operations had ended in 2017, but the government had again renewed this agreement, said JVP-MP Ratnayake.

    The government is trying to sign a new agreement with the USA called Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and discussions are under way in this regard. He said that if this agreement is signed, Sri Lanka would not be able to take any legal action against any American soldiers who commit wrong.

    Last modified on Friday, 24 May 2019 12:34

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