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    Rights of civil society must be safeguarded

    June 22, 2019

    While taking measures to curb terrorism, measures should also be taken to safeguard the freedom of civil society, Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne said. Speaking on the debate on the regulations under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, he said the previous government did not protect the rights of the civil society. “We must definitely put an end to terrorism, but at the same time we must also protect media freedom. In the case of journalist Kusal Perera, I don’t necessarily agree with his views, but I stand for the fact that his right to express his views should be upheld,” he said.

    Minister Wickramaratne also noted that in dealing with this situation, the rights of everyone should be protected. Referring to the issue pertaining to Kurunegala hospital’s doctor Mohamed Shafi, he said due to the allegations levelled against him, his three children are unable even to attend school. “We must be fair to everyone. The allegations against him by the media should first have been reported to the police and after proper investigations they should have arrived at a conclusion. Investigations are being carried out now. In the event these allegations cannot be proved, then who takes responsibility for the damage done?” he asked.

    Responding to allegations that Samurdhi benefits are being given only to UNP supporters, he said the government does not intend to favour anyone where poverty is concerned. Hence, he said if anyone who falls within the Samurdhi criteria is not included in the beneficiary list, they should apply to be included and the government is more than ready to include them.

    Speaker can rope in Ministers who evade answers - Kiriella

    Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella said the Speaker could take action against Ministers if they neglect to answer questions raised by parliamentarians.

    He made this observation when JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara brought to the notice of the House that few of his questions he raised on misappropriation of public funds sometime back have not yet been answered.

    Minister Kiriella said that Minister Daya Gamage has to answer two questions. He added that he has informed the relevant ministers to answer the questions and asked as to what he could do if the Ministers do not come to House.

    He said so when the Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri was presiding. He added that the Chair could take actions against such Ministers.

    Emergency, Supplementary Estimate debates on June 27,28

    Parliament resolved to hold sittings on June 27 and 28 to debate the extension of the Emergency Regulations and on the supplementary estimate of Rs. 65,000 million.

    Leader of the House and Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella moved the motion during the round of Notice of the Motions at the Commencement of Public Business.

    However Opposition Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardena later requested the Chair to intervene to obtain a report from the Central Bank on the 2019 Budget proposals as the money has been sufficient only for five months.

    Minister Kiriella said that June 28 has been given to debate on the Supplementary Estimate and Opposition members would be able to make queries from the Finance Minister since Minister Mangala Samaraweera is in the House.

    Kiriella said that under the previous governments the Finance Ministers had not been in the House for 20 years to answer members. He said during former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s period and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure, Finance Ministers did not participate in the sittings.

    Muslims must not be pushed into extremism - Bimal

    It is the responsibility of society not to segregate the Muslim community by condemning them all as extremists, which would only serve to distance them from being moderate and push them towards extremism, warned Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Bimal Rathnayake. He also urged the Muslim community to change certain customs such as their child marriages and polygamy.

    Participating the debate on the Extraordinary Gazette Notification issued to ban the National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ) and two other organizations, Rathnayake said, “It was revealed before the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) investigating the Easter Sunday terror attacks that Islamic extremists which carried out the suicide bombings lured more people to their ideology after communal violence in Digana and Ampara in 2018. I am not saying that Islamic extremism in this country was born after the Digana incident. It was there for a long time. For example, the Ceylon Thawheed Jamaath (CTJ) Secretary Abdul Razik who testified before the PSC on June 20 made irrelevant remarks about the Buddha. He even rallied to say that Muslim men have a right to marry child brides. Hence, Islamic extremism was present, but no one noticed it and took any action.”

    However, he noted that every citizen should be vigilant and not push Muslims towards extremism by spreading hatred and racism. “Politicians do that to achieve their own selfish goals. Many politicians have dual citizenship, they can go anywhere in the world. But the common people do not have that privilege. So I request everyone not to fall into the trap of power greedy politicians and act responsibly in a crucial situation like this.”

    Rathnayake said the Muslim community should change their outdated customs such a child marriages and polygamy.

    “No girl child should be thrust into a marriage just because she was born as a Muslim. No woman should be treated lesser than any man just because she was born as a Muslim. I heard one Islamic preacher say that men have certain desires so polygamy is permitted. People do not live for a religion. Religions exists to help people. Centuries ago, Christian and Catholic preachers carried out arbitrary rule. They killed scientists in the name of religion. They restricted people from accessing art and literature. But people rose against them. That was how they won their rights. Muslim people should do the same. Certain forces try to picture the entire Muslim population in the world is evil. If Muslim people do not change those outdated Laws and customs others will surely believe this notion,” he pointed out.

    University entrance, competitive exams delayed - Opposition Leader

    Raising a question under standing orders 27/2 yesterday, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa noted that the Country’s higher education sector in a disarray due to the government’s failure to release the cut off marks for university entrance, delay in commencing academic programmes in universities and conducting competitive examinations enabling the graduates to obtain jobs.

    “In couple of weeks, one year will lapse since the 2018 General Certificate Advanced Level examinations was held. Yet, the authorities have failed to release the cut off marks for those who got through the examinations and qualified to enter university. This delay has resulted in a crisis situation,” he said.

    He said despite the government claiming to be dedicated towards the improvement of higher education, their actions contradict their statement.

    “The government could not commence academic programmes for those who got through the 2017 GCE Advanced Level examination untill January this year. Some degree programmes are also yet to start. Now the children have to waste two years of their lives to enter university. They receive their results when they are around 20 years of age.The university students are frustrated because of the government’s delay in holding competitive examinations designed to absorb graduates to the public service. However, to sit for those examinations, the applicants should be less than 28 years of age. For the past two years competitive examinations for the Sri Lanka Administration Service, Education Administration Service, Foreign Service, Competitive Examination to recruit officers for the Inland Revenue Department, Examination to recruit executive officers for the Central Bank, People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon, Examination to recruit Assistant Superintendents of Police have not been held,” he pointed out.

    Rajapaksa said it is baffling as the government delays the university entrance exams on one hand while on the other they delay the competitive examinations for graduates.

    “We demand the government to take immediate action to rectify these errors without leaving room for frustration of these youths to fester into a more serious disaster. The parents too are frustrated as they spend so much even eventually have to see their children idling at home without entering university,” he said.

    In response, City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education acting Minister Lucky Jayawardena admitted that there was a delay in commencing several degree programmes in some universities following the closure of universities due to the recent crisis in the country. “Those programmes will commence shortly. The cut off marks for university entrance will be released soon. Last year, the cut off marks were released in July and this year too we will release them by then.With regard to the delay in holding competitive examinations in various professions, we will inform the respective institutions to expedite that process,” the Minister said.

    Malnutrition not cause of Tissamaharama child death - Rajitha

    Malnutrition was not the cause of the death of the 11-month-old child in Tissamaharama, Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Rajitha Senaratne in argued in Parliament yesterday in response to a question raised by JVP leader and MP Anura Kumara Dissanayaka. The infant’s death had been due to the child’s family situation and socio-economic factors, the Minister claimed.

    Minister Senaratne added that although the Family Health Officers of the area had taken proper measures, the behaviour of the father of the deceased had contributed to this unfortunate outcome. He made these observations yesterday in response to a statement made by JVP Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake under Standing Order 27/2 on the death of the 11-month-old child due to starvation.

    The Minister claimed that the investigations by the Health Ministry had revealed that the father had refused to accept Samurdhi benefits and also had prevented the child from being treated for diarrhoea when she was affected by it.

    The Minister also rejected the claim in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization report for 2017 that Sri Lanka was the second most malnutrition-affected country in the South Asian Region. This was incorrect, he said. He also said that the documents to correct this impression have already been submitted.

    Senaratne said further that the deceased infant had five other siblings. They are 15, 13, 10, 08, and 04 years of age respectively and the deceased was 11 months old. At birth, the deceased had the proper weight and the Health Ministry staff had provided the proper health services. The parents had not acted to take the child for her standard vaccinations.

     

     

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