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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Call to protect hard won peace and national security

President Mahinda Rajapaksa presented a people-friendly and development-oriented Budget in Parliament on Friday providing relief to all including a handsome salary hike for public servants. It was his tenth Budget in his capacity as Finance and Planning Minister that he presented amidst cheering and applause of the Government legislators. He told Parliament that having restored peace and security during the past five years and developed the infrastructure and economy during the past nine years, his Government's next priority will be to double its efforts towards strengthening education, skills and human resources to ensure that the economic progress will be driven by knowledge and skills.

The President in his Budget speech told the House that the prime responsibility of all is to further consolidate the hard-won peace and national security. He said the vote for Budget 2015 would be a vote to drive poverty out of the country and energise the people to go from strength to strength as a truly integrated community free from religious or language differences. We being true representatives of the people cannot let these be compromised and let us make Sri Lanka the emerging Wonder of Asia, the President said.

The tenth Budget presented by the President highlighted a number of people friendly proposals providing relief to everybody. President Rajapaksa categorically said that the Budget has not targeted elections and it contains many proposals to upgrade the living standards of the people. The wage increase ranging from Rs. 3,500 to Rs. 15,000 enabling the lowest rank employee in the public service to receive a minimum monthly income of Rs. 30,000 is the most significant proposals.

The Budget also proposed to increase the minimum basic salary of a public servant to Rs.15,000 and also increase the special allowance university lecturers, non-academics, doctors and judicial officers.

The President proposed to rectify the inherent anomalies affecting pensioners and in accordance with the 2015 new salary structure. He told the House that the Budget from 2015-2017 will lay the foundation to achieve a per capita income of US$ 7,500 by 2020. He said that he hoped to achieve an economic growth of 8.2 percent while reducing the Budget deficit to 4.6 percent of GDP. We have said in Parliament and international fora that there should be no international interference in national security, peace and development. The world must hail the successes achieved while managing diversity in the country within a democratic setting, the President said. He said Tamil political parties and other groups must work with the Parliamentary Select Committee to find a durable solution within the Sri Lankan context.

Following a question raised by UNP parliamentarian Buddhika Pathirana Wildlife Conservation Minister Vijith Viyayamuni Zoysa outlined initiatives had taken to minimise the human-elephant conflict. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa told the House in lighter vein that parliamentarians should distinguish the difference between 'two' and 'four'. The Speaker said so when MP Pathirana attempted to portray that there were two types of elephants- quadrupeds and bipeds in response to certain remarks by Minister Zoysa. There was elephant problem in Hambantota owing to actions on the part of MP Sajith Premadasa, Minister Zoysa interjected.

He told the House that the Government was adopting every possible measure to prevent the human-elephant conflict. He said according to statistics nearly 250 elephants are dying annually due to a locally-made small explosive device called "hakkapatas" usually hidden in animal fodder while some others die by falling into traps. He said some elephants are killed on rail tracks. Steps have been taken to recruit 200 more officers to work on projects to avert the human-elephant conflict. The Speaker drew the Minister's attention to the elephant problem in the Hambantota District as well. Minister Zoysa told the Speaker that the problems in Hambantota are caused by elephants such as MP Premadasa.

On the allegations levelled by certain quarters that there is an invisible hand between the European Union General Court's ruling to lift the ban on the LTTE and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's visit to London, UNP parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa told the House on Tuesday that his party was ready to extend support to the Government to pass a joint resolution demanding the EU to re-list the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

Before the commencement of public duties in Parliament, MP Premadasa raising a Point of Order expressed his party's willingness to support such a resolution and demanded to know whether the Government is ready to move such a resolution. He said that the decision by the EU to lift the LTTE ban is a threat to Sri Lanka's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. He attempted to convince the House that it was the UNP which won independence for Sri Lanka from the colonial powers. He said when the UNP was in power, it had done everything possible to protect the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Premadasa said that the UNP, which had that fought for the country's independence from colonialism had every right to move such a resolution against the EU's decision to lift the LTTE ban.

However, this led to heated exchange of words between MP Premadasa and National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara. The Minister who interrupting the MP's remarks said the UNP had acted as the bootlickers of imperialists. The Minister who spoke in an aggressive manner told MP Premadasa that he should not re-orient the UNP for them. He asked the MP to move a resolution himself without dragging his party into it. MP Premadasa said he wished to know whether the Government was ready to support such a motion if he moved it. He asked, the Minister whether it was his position or that of the Government? The Speaker had said that all parties had contributed to usher in independence, and it is not appropriate to mention only one particular party. Later UNP MP Rosy Senanayake attempted to second the proposal by MP Premadasa.

Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said a resolution cannot be moved and seconded under a Point of Order.

DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake who made a special statement in Parliament on Tuesday said that the Sri Lankan cinema industry has faced a crisis situation. He said although the National Film Corporation was set up 42 years ago, yet the cinema is in a crisis. Dissanayake said the immediate intervention by the authorities is needed to save the industry as most artistes and other stakeholders are planning to give up their profession. The MP said a large number of producers and craftsmen had lost screening rights for their films which had not been digitalised. There had been a long queue of over 50 films to be screened since 2005.

The MP queried as to why the Sri Lankan cinema industry is not going for digital screening while the rest of the world is doing so. Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that 22 privately owned cinema halls had been digitalised and all other cinema halls in the country would be digitalised by March next year.

 

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