Acknowledging that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Disaster Management was to undertake an overseas tour later this month, its head, Mahinda Samarasinghe, UNP MP, said that it wouldn?t be what he termed as all-paid vacation.
Responding to our Monday?s front-page story `NGOs fund MPs overseas vacation`, the Chief Opposition Whip said, `It is not an overseas jaunt. It would give us access to existing foreign disaster management systems at no cost to our taxpayer. This would enhance our knowledge and prepare us for any eventuality.`
The four-nation tour during the approaching April vacation would be funded by the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM), he said.
The former Labour Minister insisted that the IOM wasn?t a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO). `It consists of 109 member-states and there are also 24 observer countries,` he said, adding that Sri Lanka joined the organisation that had been in existence since 1951.
Referring to the proposed establishment of a PSC to investigate NGOs operating in Sri Lanka, he said that there wouldn?t be a conflict of interests as the IOM wasn?t considered a NGO.
The IOM is listed as a UN agency operating in Sri Lanka and comes under the purview of the UN Resident Co-ordinator based in Colombo.
The IOM funds would take six MPs to Japan and South Korea and another six MPs to Turkey and Germany.
Six more MPs including two who are not on the PSC, Jayatissa Ranaweera (ruling party) and Lakshman Seneviratne (UNP) had been accommodated in another delegation of the PSC that would be visiting Australia. Answering questions, Samarasinghe said that the tour down under would be funded by the Australian government. Ranaweera and Seneviratne had been accommodated as PSC members Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera wouldn?t be available due to their busy schedule.
Answering questions, he claimed that this would be a less expensive way to access what he termed as foreign expertise. According to him, his committee had done a tremendous amount of work here before undertaking the overseas visit. `This is not a waste of funds,` he asserted, expressing the belief that the all-party report on disaster management would be adopted by any future government.