November 23, 2019
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    Govt.plans to reduce prices of 27 types of drugs

    August 22, 2019

    Speaker critical of Parliament Committee members who do not attend meetings

    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya was critical of Parliament Committee members who do not attend the scheduled committee meetings and discussions. Jayasuriya pointed out such Parliamentarians should give up their memberships so that other MPs would have an opportunity to contribute to the Parliament Committees.

    Speaker Jayasuriya made these observations participating in the ceremonial event held in Parliament yesterday (21) to open the proceedings of the Parliament Committee on Public Accounts to media.

    The House recently decided to open the proceedings of the Committees on Public Accounts and Public Enterprise to the general public and the media.

    The Speaker also observed that the efficiency of both COPE and COPA has resulted in lessening the misuse of public money and assets.

    Officers of the Department of Government Printing were summoned to yesterday's COPA inquiry.

     

    Govt.plans to reduce prices of 27 types of drugs - Rajitha

    Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Rajitha Senaratne yesterday said that the government is planning to reduce the prices of 27 types of medicines in the near future.

    He made this observation in Parliament yesterday (21) when the House approved several regulations made under the National Medicines Regulatory Authority Act relating to ceiling on prices and the pricing of Medicines and Medical Devices.

    Opening the debate on the regulations as appearing in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2123/35 of May 15, 2019, Minister Senaratne also said that the government has saved Rs.4.4 billion for people on their medical expenses by the significant price reductions done in the health sector recently.

    Minister Senaratne in reply to several concerns raised by Ratnapura District UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara concerning the quality and the unavailability of medicine said that the government will soon commence an investigation on certain medical practitioners who frighten the general public by spreading false rumours on the quality of free eye lenses provided by the government.

    “We reduced the prices of medicine in 2016 for the first time. The prices of eye lenses were also reduced during the same time. These prices were slightly increased due to the fluctuations in the value of dollars. However, the prices of medicines are comparatively low when compared with the prices during the previous government. Some people warned that quality types of medicines will not be available in the market due to decreasing prices. However, such a thing did not happen.” Senaratne pointed out.

    Minister Senaratne also said that the number of patients who patronise government hospitals have increased as a result of the lowering of medicine prices and of providing free stents for heart diseases. He promised to import new machines for medical tests to lower the congestion in government hospitals.

    Joining the debate, State Minister for Transportation and Civil Aviation Ashoka Abeysinghe said that the present government allocated over Rs.1395 million while the previous government allocated only Rs.531 million for the health sector. He also observed that every 250 families have a physician.

    TNA Vanni district MP Charles Nirmalanathan joining the debate requested the Health Minister to look into the process of giving a CT scanner to the Mannar district hospital. “Money has been allocated to provide a CT scanner machine to the Mannar district hospital. Our people have to go to the Jaffna hospital to get this facility. But the problem is that the Mannar hospital does not have enough facilities or security to keep and maintain such a machine. Thus, I would like to request the Health Minister to look into this matter.”

    Deputy Minister Karunaratne Paranawithana commended the Health Minister for the significant changes he introduced for the benefit of the Health sector. “Whatever the health trade union activists are saying, we know that our health sector has improved under Minister Senaratne’s watch.” he said.

    UPFA MP Dr.Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe speaking at the debate requested the Health Minister to amend the Act on medical education which has not been amended for over 92 years. Rajapakshe also pointed out that 20 persons who did not sit or had failed the Advanced Level examination have obtained medical degrees from foreign countries and have come to Sri Lanka. “Without amending the Act on medical education, we shall not be able to find a solution to such matters,” he added.

    In reply to Rajapakshe, Minister Senaratne said that persons who have successfully completed preliminary courses are allowed to read for a medical degree in foreign countries. Minister Senaratne also said that the Ministry is in the process of amending the Act on medical education.

    Dr.Rajapakshe who said only one among the 20 has followed such a preliminary course, was also critical of the Sri Lanka Medical Council for being inactive in preparing a solid policy on medical education.

     

    Eligibility of Samurdhi applicants to be evaluated - Daya

    Measures have been taken to evaluate the eligibility of those who have applied for the Samurdhi benefits and complete the Samurdhi programme within the next two months, said Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Minister Daya Gamage.

    Responding to a question raised by MP Ishak Rahuman during the round of questions for oral answers, Minister Gamage said that in addition to the 12,281 new Samurdhi recipient families, if there are others who deserve the Samurdhi benefit, they could submit their applications.

    “The Main Samurdhi office has received almost 400,000 applications so far and after evaluation of these applications from the Anuradhapura and other districts and make provisions to complete the process within the next two to three months.”

    Minister Gamage said that there are 439 Samurdhi vacancies and measures would also be taken to fill them in the near future. The Minister also pledged to complete the construction of 30,000 houses and 50,000 toilets for Samurdhi beneficiaries by the end of December.

     

    Reconciliation process should not be hampered - Sritharan

    TNA Jaffna district MP S.Sritharan said Reconciliation, ethnic harmony and unity among communities in post-war Kilinochchi and Vauniya districts are hampered due to the activities of the Security Forces and Civil Security Department members.

    Making a statement in Parliament in this regard yesterday, Sritharan said, “The Army badge has been printed on the school uniforms of kindergarten children in the Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu districts attending pre-schools maintained by the CSD. Even kindergarten children are paraded as Army children while other children wear the standard uniform.”

    He said that the CSD maintained preschools in the Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu districts and paid the salaries of teachers and staff attached to these schools. “A fee is charged from the parents for the uniforms of the students studying in those schools and the badge of the Army is printed on those uniforms. This issue has an impact on matters such as reconciliation, ethnic harmony and unity in post-war times. Why can’t the Education Ministry operate and maintain preschools in those areas similar to other districts?” he asked.

    State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene in response said that such a fee is not charged from the parents and asked the MP whether the latter could produce evidence to the fact that the Army logo is printed on the school uniforms. The MP agreed to produce such evidence and stated that not only the CSD but other Security Forces personnel too maintain similar activities hampering the process of society returning to normalcy. “The Army camp maintains salons in Mulaithivu. While other salons charge Rs. 100 haircut the Army saloons charge only Rs.35. Their salons are open on Sundays and public holidays. How could the salon owners and barbers in the area compete with them under such circumstances? This leads to the eventual bankruptcy of their businesses. So why are these war affected areas still subjected to such interference?” the MP questioned.

    Minister Wijewardene assured that he would look into these allegations and take necessary measures to rectify the situation in the event it is proved so.

     

    Police promotion issues to be resolved soon - Ruwan

    Promotion and other issues faced by the Sri Lanka Police Department officers would be resolved without delay, assured the Non-Cabinet Media and State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene in Parliament yesterday.

    He was responding to a question by MP Hesha Withanage regarding the issues faced by Police personnel during the round of questions for oral answers.

    Expressing his views, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that the Police Commission had been notified by the Constitutional Council regarding this issue.

    Minister Wijewardene noted that this matter would be discussed with the Acting IGP and a solution to the issue would be granted very soon.

    “There are many Sub-Inspectors who have not received their promotions over a long period of time and they are disgruntled. However, based on the recommendations of the Acting IG, although the circular had been presented and Cabinet approval obtained, it was observed that certain issues had arisen during the implementation stage. Therefore, a Stay Order was obtained on June 13, 2018 suspending the implementation of the Cabinet Paper. Thereafter, the Acting IG had prepared a new paper and presented it for the implementation of the promotions for Police officers and presented to the Management Services Department and a discussion in this regard was held on August 17. Accordingly, further action would be taken to implement the recommendations under the supervision of the Management Services Department,” State Minister Wijewardena said.

    Meanwhile, Joint Opposition MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara questioned whether the government is not collectively responsible for decisions taken by government ministers despite them being constantly reshuffled.

    In response, Minister Wijewardene said as the President currently handles the Law and Order Ministry, this issue would have to be discussed with the president prior to taking a decision. “All of the members of our government are not opposing the promotions of these police officers and I am confident that an early response could be given to resolve this matter.”

    However, not satisfied with the response he received, Vasudeva Nanayakkara said, “I did not receive a proper response to my question, however, former Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka had obtained Cabinet approval for the promotions of these Police officers, but later it was suspended and according to you it was suspended due to certain issues. I would like to know what these issues are that obstructed the granting of the promotions to these Police officers?”

    However, State Minister Wijewardene said he was not in the Cabinet at that juncture and said he was not in a position to respond as he is still not a Cabinet Minister.

     

    Kiriella takes Amunugama to task over Expressway

    Having been in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government for around 10 years, MP Sarath Amunugama had not objected to anything decided by his leader and only said ‘yes sir’ to everything Rajapaksa said, chided Minister Lakshman Kiriella in Parliament yesterday.

    Kiriella said this in response to a suggestion made by UPFA-MP Dr. Sarath Amunugama to construct an exit point of the Central Expressway at Pinnawela as many tourists visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.

    “As Amunugama spoke of the Expressway, I would like to remind him that despite being in the Rajapaksa government for over 10 years he did not open his mouth and not an inch of ground had been measured for the Colombo-Kandy Expressway until the 2015 elections. I am saddened by Amunugama’s comments. When he was in the previous government, he never opened his mouth. Now he is talking big.

    From October 2015 when I was the Highways Minister, I surveyed 25,000 plots of land and acquired them. Although Amunugama was in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government he opposed the construction of the Expressway.

    He organised a protest at Galagedara and opposed the construction of the Expressway. There was no issue with Rajapaksa constructing the Galle-Matara Expressway. He even had a highway made right up to his door step in Beliatta. He has no response for these and that is why he is keeping silent,” Kiriella told Amunugama who did not respond and maintained silence.

     

    CoL on the rise - Lokuge

    The Cost of Living (CoL) is on the rise and the state and private sector employees are struggling to make ends meet. Hence, the government should either increase their wages to meet the rising Cost of Living or pay these employees a Cost of Living allowance, said UPFA-MP Gamini Lokuge moving the Adjournment Motion in Parliament yesterday.

    He said the government had increased the bank interest rates on several occasions due to the Treasury Bond scam. “In an attempt to recover the losses incurred by the bond scam, the government has used various direct and indirect taxations to palm the burden onto the general public. This was their policy and strategy to ease the loss caused due to the bond scam. They have also decided to increase the cost of fuel based on a formula and even last week the fuel prices was increased, again burdening the general public.”

    Lokuge therefore, appealed to the government to take this situation into consideration and either raise the wages of the private and state sector employees in accordance with the rising Cost of Living or make provisions to increase the cost of living allowance to meet the rising cost of living.

     

    Sritharan raises privilege issue over alleged harassment

    Raising a privilege issue in Parliament yesterday, TNA Jaffna District MP S.Sritharan said while he was attending Parliament the Army, Police and Terrorist Investigation Division personnel had ransacked his home in search of explosives.

    He said that his house at No 882, Arumugam Road, Vattakachchi in Kilinochchi had been surrounded by more than 100 service personnel and they had cordoned off the area while searching for explosives. “They had been searching the home and digging up the garden in search of buried weapons and explosives. They should have informed me if they wanted to search my house. There is a caretaker named Shanmugathasan who looks after the house. He had been taken by the service personnel and ordered to open the doors and to assist the search operation. This amounts to a breach of my privileges as an MP. I am unable to speak freely in Parliament and in my country because of the constant threats against me by the Security Forces,” the MP said.

    “Last Wednesday’s search was the second time I was harassed this year. On March 18, four soldiers and a policeman arrived at my rented house in Jaffna. They searched that house too. They threw away the books from my son’s bookshelves. Why am I subjected to this type of harassment? While I was coming to Colombo to attend Parliament on July 3, 2011, some gunmen belonging to a paramilitary group allegedly maintained by the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa shot at me. I was fortunate to escape the attempt made on my life. The Army and Police officers searched my party office in Kilinochchi on January 12, 2013. On that day too I was here in Parliament. Again on January 22, 2013 TID personnel raided the same office and they even took away the computers and documents of my telephones. In April the same year, while our party leader Mavai Senathiraja, party spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran, MP Saravanapavan and myself were holding a meeting at my party office with our party men, around 2,000 service personnel surrounded the office and harassed us. I had been called for inquiries at the Fourth Floor of the CID six times. This is a serious issue. I am an MP and how could I serve my people if the security personnel continue to harass me in this manner over and over again. I call on the Speaker to seriously address this matter,” Sritharan said.

    In response, State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene assured him that immediate inquiries would be carried out and measures would be taken to ensure that the MP would not be harassed in this manner.

     

    ‘Resa’ newspaper has helped increase readership of Lake House publications - Eran

    Responding to allegations levelled by opposition MPs regarding the ‘Resa’ newspaper published by Lake House, Minister Eran Wickramaratne said for the first time the readership of Lake House publications has increased after Resa was published.

    “It is not fair to slander the Chairman of Lake House during his absence. He is a professional who has been appointed and our government has not appointed relatives and friends to these positions. Hence, it is not fair to slander them in this manner in their absence on the pretext of moving an Adjournment Motion,” Minister Wickramaratne said.

    He was responding to claims made by UPFA-MP Susantha Punchinilame during the Adjournment Debate in Parliament yesterday that Lake House is a semi government institution which is currently being run by obtaining an overdraft. "However, they have launched a newspaper called ‘Resa’ and all they do is attack Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family members. To publish the Resa newspaper this institution which is running at a loss of Rs.1,500 million, spends Rs.700 million to keep the Resa newspaper operational. Hence, we would like to know from where and how the Resa journalists were recruited," he said.

    “In our view at a time when this institution is running on an overdraft, it is a grave wrong to launch such mudslinging newspapers when the government is not in a position to even pay the workers the Rs. 2,500 increment.

    We feel that these are ideal issues that would eventually have to be investigated by institutions such as the FCID. Hence, we urge the government to look into these issues raised by us and rectify these matters. We have suspicion on whether the government is doing these things to have these semi government institutions closed down or to sell them to foreign entities,” he added.

    Minister Eran Wickramaratne also went on to say that all state sector employees’ salaries will be increased under five stages from January 2016 to January 2020.

    Salaries from the lower rungs to the senior rungs would be increased within a scale of Rs.2500 to Rs. 10,277.

     

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