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    Parliament receives copies of petitions filed in SC Featured

    September 04, 2019

    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya informed the House yesterday that Parliament received copies of two petitions filed in the Supreme Court under Article 121(1) of the Constitution in respect of the Ruhunu Economic Development Corporation of Sri Lanka Bill.The Bill received from the Legal Draftsman, prepared on the lines of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission will support the establishment of export-oriented special economic zones attracting foreign investors and creating employment for youth in Southern Sri Lanka.

    The Government moved the Ruhunu Economic Development Corporation of Sri Lanka Bill in Parliament on August 21, setting a national policy on the Ruhunu Economic Development to encourage rapid economic development specifically trade, exports, technology, tourism and modern agriculture employment opportunities to secure sustainable economic development.The Bill provides for the establishment of the Ruhunu Economic Development Corporation of Sri Lanka for the purpose of identifying, formulating and coordinating the implementation of Economic Development Projects, Plans, Programmes or Schemes within the Ruhunu Development Area and for matters connected.
    The Government has earmarked Ruhuna and Hambantota to establish an investment zone to compete with those in the Western Province. Export Processing Zones are expected to be established in Galle and Matara with several large tourism zones to the extent of 500 acres also to be set up by the Government.
    Measures to protect archaeological sites - Sajith
    Measures have been taken under the provisions of the Archaeology Ordinance for the protection of archaeological sites, said Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister Sajith Premadasa.He said this in response to questions posed under Standing Orders 27(2) in Parliament yesterday.He said firm measures have already been taken by deploying Provincial Assistant Directors, Zonal Officers, Archaeology Assistants and Archaeology workers for the protection of archaeological sites.
    In addition, he said that measures had been taken to also provide security to these archaeological sites through community policing in addition to the security provided by the Police Archaeology Protection Division and the Civil Security Division.The government has also established a Hotline 1915 to lodge complaints regarding damge caused to archaeology sites. The Minister also added that the penalty for damaging archaeological sites has also been increased. Responsing to a question raised regarding the cinema industry in the country, Minister Premadasa said that his ministry intends to seek allocations from next year’s budget for the purchase of 116 projectors with new technology.
    He also said that Cabinet approval had already been obtained to provide loan facilities to cinema hall owners for the infrastructure development of their cinema halls under the Enterprise Sri Lanka Initiative.Minister Premadasa said that currently there is no international issue regarding the import and distribution of films. He noted that the Film Corporation has taken measures to prepare a Cabinet Paper to facilitate the distribution of films through the Film Corporation under a streamlined process.
    Swift measures to digitize court system - Ajith
    The government will take swift measures to digitize the court system in the country in keeping with the integrated national digitization endevour, Non-Cabinet Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Ajith P. Perera yesterday said. Minister Perera made these observations joining the debate on regulations proposed under the Judicature Act, made by the Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms, as published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2116/28 on March 26, 2019.
    Minister Perera observed that only Rs. 3 billion is allotted for the digitation process of the court system. “This is not a large sum. This amount is similar to the construction cost of a 1 KM in the expressway.” Perera noted.
    Minister Perera pointed out that the government is now in possession of hardware facilities to digitize the entire government system. Accordingly, the government has now successfully developed the Lanka Government Network and the Lanka Government Cloud,” he added.“The government is now in need of a software facility for this digitizing process. Accordingly, we are working on a National Data Interoperability and Identity Platform that will facilitate exchange of critical data and digital information among government organizations.
    A digital cyber system is cruicial for a country for convenient accessibility to accurate information. On top of that, such digitization will become a preventive measure against bribery, corruption and tax evasion,” Minister Perera further said.Minister Perera also said that there are many laws and regulations in the country which are is outdated, specially the laws pertaining to asset declaration. Accordingly, an updated and integrated law will be proposed in three months’ time,” he said.
    Meanwhile, Minister Perera also pointed out that the Right for Information Act has a positive effect on reducing corruption in the country. “Most government officers and institutes are now reluctant to support corruption. The reason is that any information relating to such corruption are accessible via the RTI. The judiciary system is now in operation without any political influence or partialities as well. The general public has now developed confidence in the judiciary system. All in all, this government has taken admirable steps to improve the country’s judiciary system,” he added.
    Minister Perera also denied the allegation made by Opposition MP W.D.J.Seneviratne that the government is only taking up cases at the Special High Courts, which are related to Opposition MPs. Seneviratne also alleged that eight cases filed against persons who have connections to the government have not been taken up yet.In reply Minister Perera said, “We are to take up the Bond issue at the High Court.
    It is an issue relating to our time of ruling. So it is not fair to allege that we are only taking up cases relating to the Opposition MPs. It is also incorrect to appreciate the High Court’s decisions when they are favourable to you, and then criticize the same when the decisions are not favourable,” he pointed out.
    House condoles on Prof. Carlo Fonseka’s death
    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya expressed his condolences in Parliament yesterday on the demise of Prof. Carlo Fonseka.With the commencement of Parliament yesterday, Chief Opposition Organizer MP Mahinda Amaraweera making a statement said that Prof. Carlo Fonseka was an intellectual with a far sighted vision who had rendered a great service to the nation.
    In response, Speaker Jayasuriya offered his condolences to the bereaved family members of the late Prof.Fonseka.
    Opposition Leader requests Speaker: Assign new date for People’s Bank (Amendment) Bill debate
    Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa requested Speaker Karu Jayasuriya not to conduct a vote on the People’s Bank Amendment Bill in Parliament this week and to reconsider the proposed changes, and to delay the Parliamentary debate scheduled to be moved today.Rajapaksa in a letter addressed to the Speaker stated that the People’s Bank (Amendment) Bill is widely discussed among the banking sector and the employees concerned about the stability of the People’s Bank. Therefore, he requested the Speaker to consult the party Leaders and assign a new date for the People’s Bank (Amendment) Bill debate with the agreement of all party leaders.
    The government moved the People’s Bank (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on August 22 seeking House approval to allow the bank to increase the authorised capital and to raise any sums by issuing debentures.The government justified their move by stating that unless stability is increased none of the state banks along with the People’s Bank will continue to hold its current market share of 45% due to increased competition in the banking sector in the future years.
    Moving the Bill, State Finance Minister Eran Wickramaratne assured that the Bill is not an attempt to privatise the People’s Bank, which has assets worth Rs.1.75 trillion, 7,900 employees in 737 branches serving over 10 million customers enabling the Government to collect Rs.140 million as dividends during the last 10 years.
    “Capital is necessary for a bank to grow and to be stable. According to BASEL regulations, the are international capital requirements. The bank met the minimum requirements regardless of the Government in power. But meeting the minimum requirement is not enough for the development of a bank. Prior to 1978, there were a few foreign banks in Sri Lanka. Mostly they were the foreign banks established during the British colonial era in Sri Lanka. These banks had a large market share. Today, many are using banks and the local banks have lost their market share. If this trend continues, the local banks will continue to lose the market share and end-up in the 35% - 25% range in another 10 years,” he said.
    Minister Wickramaratne said that ownership alone will not help the banks against the market share, adding that the Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank are in the forefront in terms of service and technology. However, he warned that unless the capital of the state banks are increased, the private sector local banks will invariably exceed the state banks.
    The government claims that the Bill will provide some autonomy and independent decision-making ability to the People’s Bank. “In Sri Lanka, our savings are less when compared to other countries in the region. It stands at around 6% - 7% of the GDP. But to increase capital, we could borrow money as a loan or issue debentures. We propose to allow the authorised capital of the bank to be increased from Rs.1 billion to Rs.50 billion in order to increase the financial stability of the People’s Bank.
    The BoC has Rs.50 billion. The People’s Bank can issue debentures without the requirement of Government guarantee and to suite the market. This enables them to take independent decisions. Already, the BoC and the NSB have the authority to issue debentures,” Minister Wickramaratne said.

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