Parliament

The government does not promote or encourage in any way to carry out alcohol promotional activities through sponsorships at any school functions, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said in Parliament yesterday..

He was responding to a request made by UPFA MP Wimalaweera Dissanayake urging the Government not to allow liquor manufacturing companies to sponsor annual school big matches.

Dissanayake said alcohol manufacturing companies come forward to sponsor these events to promote their alcohol beverages such as beer amongst students.

He questioned what steps the Government had taken to stop these social ills.

Minister Akila Viraj said these are businessmen and they can sponsor any event. “We cannot stop them, but as the Education Ministry, we do not encourage or endorse it,” the Minister said.

MP Dissanayake said the Minister made it clear that the Government was not concerned about discouraging the consumption of liquor.

Minister Kariyawasam said the Government had shown that it was concerned about liquor by increasing prices of liquor with the budget and launching a massive drive to arrest illegal liquor operations.

The rabies prevention programme was taken under the Health Ministry to eradicate the disease in the country by 2025, Health Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said.

The Health Minister was responding to a question by JVP-MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake under standing orders 27/2 in Parliament yesterday.

He said the number of rabies cases had been reducing until 2017, but by 2018, it had risen to 57.26 per cent. The anti-rabies drive had been under the Department of Animal Husbandry and Health, and as they could not implement the anti-rabies drive effectively, the programme was taken over by the Health Ministry.

The Minister said the Department of Animal Husbandry and Health could not implement the anti-rabies programme effectively since they lack resources and doctors. “In 2017, the number of deaths reported due to rabies stood at 23, which had risen to 25 by 2018. Last year, six deaths were reported from Hambantota and Sabaragamuwa,” the Minister said.

Minister Senaratne said the government had allocated Rs. 600 million for the anti-rabies programme. In 2017, 24,200 dogs were vaccinated against rabies and in 2018, around 26,000 dogs had been given the vaccination.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa met a group of Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) members at the Opposition Leader’s Conference Room in Parliament yesterday and discussed the budget proposals.

The GMOA President had told the Opposition Leader and his team about the imported milk powder, flour and fruits.

They also discussed the discrepancies pertaining to the wages of the medical officers and the issues of the medical profession. They had appealed to the Opposition Leader to focus on a national trade policy best suited for the country and charged that the government had failed to address this matter.

They had highlighted that bakery products made of rice flour is healthier than the ones made of imported wheat flour and using rice flour to produce bakery food items would help farmers sell their paddy harvest as well.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa had assured the GMOA representatives that he would discuss the matter with the rest of his party members and look into suitable measures.

MPs Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dullas Alahapperuma, Bandula Gunawardena, Keheliya Rambukwella, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle were present.

The government has created an environment conducive to providing an efficient service while protecting the professional honour of the Grama Niladhari Officers, Minister Vajira Abeywardena said.

He was responding on behalf of the Public Administration and Disaster Management Minister for a question raised by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa under standing orders 27/2 in Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said the protest launched on the Parliament road on March 5 is a tragedy for the Grama Niladhari profession. Of 14,000 Grama Niladharies in the country, only 2,000 had participated in the protest. He said the Grama Niladhari officers were used for various projects to collect funds and others during the previous regime. He said this could be stopped through a circular.

“We held discussions with nine Grama Niladhari associations on March 5. Eight associations handed over their demands in writing. However, one group had staged this protest. Only 2,651 of them had applied for leave on that day,” he said.

“Since 1994, the Grama Seva constitution was inactive for 25 years. The collection of funds which commenced during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure can be stopped even today.

We increased the salaries of the Grama Seva Officers from 13,990 to 28,940 after we were elected on January 8, 2015. We have allocated Rs. 4 billion to construct Government Agent offices in Ratnapura, Batticaloa, Matale and Polonnaruwa and the work is underway now.

We have completed 180 of the proposed 332 Divisional Secretariat offices and we will construct 365 Divisional Secretariat offices. We have completed 3,000 of the proposed 14,022 official Grama Niladhari offices,” he said.

The Minister said that by constructing one office to house four government officers in the villages, Grama Sevaka, Govi Niladhari, Samurdhi Niladhari and Development officer, they would be connected with other relevant government institutions online.

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