Defence Ministry budget allocations put to the vote
Parliament unanimously approved budgetary allocations of 35 Ministries for the year 2006.
A vote however had to be taken to approve the allocations for the Ministries of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order after the TNA called for a division.
There were 76 yes votes while the 14 TNA MPs present voted against.
The UNP was not present in the House at the time of voting.
The second day of the Committee Stage will be taken up today, with allocations for a further 28 Ministries and government bodies set to be approved in Parliament.
Private media should be checked
Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva told Parliament yesterday that the time was ripe now for revising the 17th Constitutional Amendment.
He said that though independent commissions such as the Public Service Commission, Police Commission and others were established, they would become defunct if members to those commissions were not appointed by the Constitutional Assembly.
?Today the legislature has no power to remove the members of these independent commissions, even when they are incapable of working due to physical and mental reasons. Therefore, members appointed to the commissions become stubborn in their activities. This situation should be corrected under new changes,? he said.
With regard to the conduct of the private media during the Presidential election period, the Minister said that laws should be made to ensure a code of conduct for the private media during elections.
?We have experience about the manner in which the private media behaved at the last Presidential Election.? he said.
The Minister said that the private media could influence public opinion at an election in the absence of such laws.
He also said that business tycoons such as Soma Edirisinghe and the Maharaja Group would determine the country`s political destiny by spending huge amounts on advertisements.
?We should take over the influential potential of these business and give it back to masses? the Minister said.
Westminster system to be reintroduced
Leader of the House Minsiter Nimal Siripala de Silva told Parliament yesterday that the government was exploring the possibility of introducing the old Westminster electorate system for the Pradeshiya Sabha Election next year.
The Minister said that a committee headed by Local Government Affairs Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon had been appointed to expedite the matter.
The Dinesh Gunawardena Committee submitted an interim report to Parliament two years ago, on reforms to the existing proportional representation system.
The Minister also said the government in keeping with the election pledged in `Mahinda Chintanaya` was looking into how the President could be held answerable to Parliament.
Private hospitals will be controlled
The government would introduce a new bill called `Private Medical Institution Act` in February next year to ensure a standardised and productive service for patients seeking medication at private hospitals.
The Health Minister said that the private hospitals are sometimes not up to standard, and also exploit patients.
He said that the government had made large allocations in the budget to improve the health sector, and private hospitals would also be promoted so that people can afford to obtain services.
Referring to the appointment of doctors to remote areas, he said that appointments would be given to 800 doctors to work in rural areas.
He said that 100 of the doctors had already gone to court against the decision to attach them to rural hospitals.
He also said that even doctors passing out from the Jaffna Medical Faculty demand employment in Colombo. He had sought the intervention of the TNA MPs to stop this trend.
Opposition supporting the budget
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and PA General Secretary D.M. Jayeratne in parliament yesterday claimed that the opposition had accepted the policies of the `Mahinda Chinthanaya` budget.
?This time we are experiencing a phenomenon never seen before. Usually it is the opposition which criticizes government policies. But right now there are only two members of the UNP and one member of the TNA in the House? he said speaking just after the lunch break yesterday.
The Minister said this was because the opposition was supporting the budget. He said this was a great compliment to the new President and the government.
Issue of ID cards to be streamlined
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament yesterday that the absence of proper coordination between the IGP and the Independent Police Commission, was a major deficiency in the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
Prime Minister Wickremanayake said a two-thirds majority is needed to revise the 17th Amendment.
?The IGP is not a member of the Police Commission. Commission members are not aware of the problems in the police. There are clashes between the two parties as a result,? he said.
Referring to the issue of National Identity Cards, he said that the mechanism had been set up to issue Identity Cards, but there was a lack of interest on the part of the people to apply for it.
He said that the computerization of electoral lists was done in the Colombo and Gampaha districts only. The Prime Minister said that a census would be conducted in June next year to identify people with ID cards.
?We will take steps to obtain reports from the Registrar of Births and Deaths and every six months from the Department of Immigration and Emigration.
The Cabinet paper with the Elections Commissioner`s proposals was signed today,? the Prime Minister disclosed.