June 26, 2019
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    EPF funds will be invested responsibly Featured

    May 25, 2019

    Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella told JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake that the government was responsible for the EFP funds and that they would invest these funds responsibly. He asked him not to worry about the EPF as there was a government guarantee on it.

    Raising a question under standing orders 27/1 JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said a complicated issue had arisen among the working class with regard to EPF funds being invested in the risky stock market.

    “The last hope of around 2.7 million private and state sector is their EPF. Throughout history many caretakers of this fund have tried to swindle this fund. By the end of December, 2018 from the around Rs 2,500 billion in this fund it annually earns around Rs. 300 billion through investments. The EPF is under the Central Bank who have invested the funds mainly on sovereign bonds and Treasury Bills. Another 4.5% has been invested in the stock market while another 2.5% is invested in fixed deposits. The Prime Minister recently told Parliament that measures would be taken to invest EPF funds in the Stock Market. Despite protests by unions the government has decided to invest these funds in the risky stock market. However, no politician has the right to take decisions about the EPF. But, these EPF funds have been misused by successive politicians.”

    He noted that the governments during the 2006 to 2016 period had invested EPF funds in the stock market and it resulted in heavy losses. “Today even if the entire investments of the EPF is sold off it would result in a Rs. 16 billion loss. The value of the stocks have dropped drastically from its initial value. Today these stocks cannot be sold for even the price it was purchased. This shows the clear failure of these government to invest these funds in the stock market profitably. Currently around Rs. 10 billion has been invested in unlisted companies. The loss to the EPF due to the Treasury Bond scam is around Rs. 20 billion and those involved in this scam are roaming free. The losers are those who have slogged their entire life to collect these funds. An investigation needs to be carried out and those responsible should be punished. Yet, today too it’s the same thing that is happening again. Our stock market is now considered one of the most unsuccessful stock markets in the world.”

    He charged that at a time when no one is investing in the stock exchange, the government is trying to invest in unsuccessful companies for the benefit of their close associates and pile on more unsuccessful companies on the EPF in addition to the burdens already upon the EPF.

    Therefore, Anura Kumara asked who would take the responsibility for investing the EPF funds in the stock exchange. Can the government create a secure mechanism where state loan requirements could not be met with these funds, what are the listed companies that EPF funds are intended to be invested and will a report on the companies’ history over the past ten years be submitted? How much is the entire profit made from investing EPF funds from the start? Has the government taken measures to estimate the losses made due to bad investments and how does the government intend to recover these losses and how much?

    Minister Kiriella said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will respond to the questions raised by Dissanayake in two weeks.

     

    Provide relief package for tourism sector small timers - Opposition Leader

    Over the past month over 300 flights had been cancelled and the tourism industry is in shambles, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

    Raising questions under standing orders 27/2 he noted that the Easter Sunday suicide attacks not only snatched away many lives and left hundreds more wounded, it was a death blow to the economy.

    “The small time businessmen, Samurdhi recipients and those engaged in self-employment are all in dire financial turmoil and are unable to even pay their loan instalments. Due to the accumulation of penalties, their situation is aggravated even further and they are facing a financial crisis. Many of those engaged in the export crop trade are also in jeopardy as they have no way of marketing their produce,” he noted.

    The Opposition Leader noted that at such a point, the government must intervene to grant some solace to these persons, adding that the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry cannot escape from their responsibility. Rajapaksa said the government should come up with a relief package to assist those aggrieved by the Easter Sunday attacks until the situation stabilises.

    Therefore, he asked the Prime Minister who is in charge of National Policies and Economic Affairs what measures have been taken to address this situation.

    He said these issues cannot be resolved by the government keeping their eyes and ears closed and merely blaming it all on the Opposition.

    Responding to allegations levelled against him that the road leading to his residence is kept closed, Rajapaksa said, “I never asked for the road to be closed. I am not the only one living on that road. There are several residences of Ministers and also the Palestine Embassy on that road. At a time when the country’s economy is collapsing, instead of taking steps to rectify the situation and establish normalcy, if the government is instead trying to ridicule us and defame us, I don’t think it is the right thing to do.”

    Responding on behalf of the Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the Prime Minister will respond to the issues raised by the Opposition Leader at length in due course.

    However, volunteering to give a brief response he said the export market is functioning without any issue and export orders are flowing in as usual. He said the government had given a large relief package to the tourism industry and other businesses as well.

     

    Parliamentary Select Committee to probe Easter Sunday attacks: Speaker agrees to appoint equal number from both sides

    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday stated that he would consider the request by the opposition to appoint equal number of members from both government and opposition sides to the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiring to the Easter Sunday attacks.

    He made this observation when MPs again took up the matter of the Parliamentary Select Committee and the No Confidence Motion against Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

    JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the matter that is being discussed before the PSC are on the terrorists and suicide attacks and on those whose negligence paved way for these attacks. He added that hence it is against the government itself and there should be more members from the Opposition side in the PSC or at least an equal number.

    Opposition member Dayasiri Jayasekara said the appointment of the PSC was appreciable, but if the government attempts to safeguard Minister Bathiudeen under the cover of the PSC, that was unacceptable.

    MP Dissanayake said the PSC should investigate to find out the extent of the negligence by the political leadership and the security forces. The No Confidence Motion against Minister Bathiudeen is a separate matter.

    At this stage Minister Kiriella said that the government changed the terms of reference and included MP or a Governor or any other person could be summoned before this PSC. He asked to submit the evidence before the PSC.

    Opposition MP Nimal Lansa said that they signed to set up a PSC to ensure justice to the victims in the suicide attacks at the churches and hotels. However he said the government side had amended to include other matters without their knowledge. “But with the consent of the Parliament, it was amended,” the Speaker said.

    MP Dissanayake said that they would participate the PSC but not to prepare a interim report before the No Confidence Motion is taken up on June 18. He also added that they agree with the amendments. He said that even the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister and other ministers, members and officers should be able to be summoned before it, if they are responsible.

    UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri said the President had not accepted the resignation of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen to which MP Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said that one can’t criticise the conduct of the President.

    UNP MP Professor Arshu Marasinghe said that the Law and Order Minister and the member who granted copper to the suicide attackers should be summoned before the Parliament Select Committee.

    UNP MP Harshana Rajakaruna said this investigation should be handed over to the Police and security forces as MPs have had no expert knowledge in this connection.

    Minister Kiriella said that terms of the references of the PSC was amended in the House and the Opposition members were in the Well of the House creating pandemonium and not taking part in the business of Parliament.

    Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Non Cabinet Minister Ajith Perera said the PSC is wide enough to summon anybody before it. It did not need to be amended as well, he said.

     

    Chandima queries on Mauritius vote

    Opposition MP Chandima Weerakkody yesterday demanded the government to make a statement in Parliament as to why Sri Lanka did not vote with other South Asian Countries against de-colonisation at the UN Assembly on March 22.

    He stated that not voting with other South Asian countries against a section of Mauritius Island was not healthy for the future of the country.

    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya responding said that the matter should be raised with the Foreign Affairs Minister.

     

    Public representations to PSC allowed upto June 7

    Parliament has appointed a Select Committee (PSC) to look into and report to parliament on the terrorist attacks that took place at different locations in the country on April 21.

    The Committee commenced its proceedings yesterday at the parliament complex and decided to entertain written representations from the public on the following.

    ·Whether law enforcement authorities had received intelligence reports relating to such attacks, prior thereto;

    · Whether the relevant authorities took adequate measures to prevent and or mitigate such attacks;

    ·Whether there were deficiencies in the state machinery that led to the inability to prevent or mitigate the effects of such attacks;

    · Any other factors which contributed to such attacks;

    · Whether any allegations levelled against any member of parliament, Governor or any other persons are true or not; What action should be taken to prevent such attacks in future; and

    · Any other matters connected or incidental thereto.

    Paper advertisements in all three languages is published in the newspapers and written representations can be sent to the Secretary to the Committee on or before June 7, 2019.

    Further information on the above committee is accessible via www.parliament.lk

     

    Samurdhi benefits for 450,000 families

    The poor UNPers in the villages were deprived of the Samurdhi benefit for more than two decades, Leader of the House and Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella said.

    He also said that during those 20 years, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and United People’s Freedom Alliance supporters in the villages were the only ones who benefitted from the Samurdhi scheme.

    He also said that justice had to be meted to those UNPers who were discriminated against. Hence there is a programme to grant them Samurdhi benefits. He questioned as to why the opposition objected to this move. “It was we who elected President Maithripala Sirisena,” Minister Kiriella said.

    The Minister made these observations yesterday in response to a query made by opposition member Mahinda Amaraweera.

    He said the government is attempting to grant Samurdhi to 450,000 families in the country.

    He added that it is reported that Rs.180 million is to be spent for the ceremony to grant these benefits.

     

    Flak over paper report on sterilisation

    The newspaper report that alleged sterilisation of Sinhalese women by a particular Muslim gynaecologist lacks credible evidence and the article is misleading, UNP MP S.M. Marikkar said. Initiating the debate on the extension of the Emergency Law, he said although the newspaper article had stated that an investigation was under way, when he had inquired from the police, they had notified him that no such investigation was initiated.

    Expressing his views on the alleged sterilisation by a gynaecologist during caesarean operations on women he said, as this issue has caused great concern, he had spoken to a high ranking CID official and inquired if as per the newspaper report an investigation was underway regarding this said doctor and the allegations against him.

    “When I asked the high ranking police official he said no such investigation was ongoing and the police had not received any complaint. However, he said that an investigation had now been launched and the said reporter and the editor would be summoned by the CID and information regarding this report would be obtained from them. This report is a blatant attempt to spread racial disharmony and spread hatred. I have also been a journalist and this said media institution has been engaged in such irresponsible reporting for the past ten years. But it is because our government is spineless and has failed to take action against such establishments that we have to face such issues today.”

    He said over 500 persons had been arrested for possession of large sums of money and charged under terrorism laws and not money laundering laws. “But our government is spineless to act against such media institutions that spread hatred and create divisions and disharmony among the racial communities in this country.”

     

    Sri Lankan Muslims need to blend into society more - Ranawaka

    Muslims with a Sri Lankan identity should be empowered and a five pronged strategy should be formulated and implemented to eradicate extremism in the country, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said.

    He said that despite political party disagreements, all should get together and enact laws without delay to establish peace and harmony in the country.

    Joining the debate to extend Emergency Laws for another month Minister Ranawaka further said that the Thawheed extremists operate across the world to make all to believe in one God.

    “Their aim is to kill all other non-believers. They are not an organised group but would most of the times operate in isolation. Sometimes they could use different methods to kill others like stabbing ,shooting or mowing down using vehicles.

    He added however that there could be about 100 to 200 terrorists of this type and another 1,000 to 2,000 sympathisers. Another category is around 20,000 to 30,000 Muslims who think that the non-believers should be killed yet have no involvement in violent activities while the fourth category consists of Arabicised Muslims. The fifth category is the Sri Lankan Muslims who live peacefully accepting that others too have their own gods.

    Minister Ranawaka said that there should be five pronged strategy to empower Sri Lankan Muslims and to bring all the others to the last category. He added that the laws should be drafted and passed without delay.

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