Boost for jewellery industry
The local jewellery industry has received an unprecedented boost under the present Government, parliament was told yesterday. The Government has taken steps to lift the duty tariff on raw material imports such as gold used in jewellery production while providing tax concessions and tools needed in the industry, Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said in Parliament yesterday.
He further said that jewellery industry is carried out in 39 villages of Gampaha, Hambantota, Kandy, Galle, Matara, Matale and Kurunegala districts.
We also provide advice on precious metals and alloys necessary for the jewellery making, he said.
Two gem and jewellery centres have been set up in Ratnapura and Colombo to facilitate the industrialists.
The Gem and Jewellery Authority (GJA) provides information on gems suitable to each country, the required quality of jewellery and prices.
Meanwhile, the GJA has spent over Rs. 11 million to carry out various development projects in the jewellery industry, during the last four years.
It has spent Rs. 3.8 million for enabling the participation of gem and jewellery craftsmen who cannot afford trade stalls at local trade fairs.
We have already commenced an island wide census concerning all the aspects of the jewellery industry including the North and East, he noted.
The Minister said this in response to a question raised by UNP MP Sajith Premadasa.
PM clarifies Senior Ministers roles
Prime Minister D M Jayaratne yesterday stated that the functions and duties of Senior Ministers are clearly defined in the Gazette and money is also allocated through the budget for their functions hence the Opposition Leader has nothing to worry in that respect.
The Prime Minister made this observation in response to a question raised by Opposition members led by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe alleging that neither functions nor duties of Senior Ministers were clearly defined and that money was not allocated to them. The Opposition raised the matter just before the committee stage debate on the Appropriation Bill commenced.
Chief Opposition Whip John Amarathunga raising a point of order stated the debate could not be continued as the allocations were not made for Senior Ministers.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinge stated that allocations are not made for the nine Senior Ministries. He said Government has to assign duties and functions for them and clarify how money is allocated for them as well.
Chief Government Whip and Minister Dinesh Gunawardane said that the duties and functions were clearly defined in the Gazette.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa stated that under the provisions of the 45 clause of the constitution the President can appoint Ministers in consultation with the Prime Minister. According is the provisions, the Ministers have been appointed and allocation made accordingly. UNP MP P Perera inquired how much is allocated for each Ministry.
Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva stated that the duties and functions are clearly noted in the Budget.
He also stated the capital expenditures and the recurrent expenditures mentioned separately in the Financial head no 3.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa stated at this stage that although not noted separately the allocations have been made for those Ministries separately, thus he concluded that the debate could be continued.
Prime Minister D M Jayaratne stated that very experienced and skilful
members have been appointed as Senior Ministers. Their duties and functions are clearly defined in the Gazette. The budget has allocated money for them and their functions. He added that under these grounds the Opposition Leader does not need to worry about that matter.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided yesterday when Parliament met at 9.30 am. After the presentation of papers and oral questions the House took up the Committee Stage debate of the Appropriation Bill 2011.
The committee debated the Financial Heads of the President, Office of the Prime Minister, Judges of the Superior Courts, Office of the Cabinet of Ministers, Parliament, Office of the Leader of the House of Parliament, Office of the Chief Government Whip of Parliament, Office of the Leader of the Opposition of Parliament, Public Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, National Police Commission, Administrative Appeals Tribunal Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Department of Elections, Auditor General, Office of the Parliamentary Commissioners for Administration, Office of the Finance Commission, National Education Commission, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Attorney Generals Department, Department of Legal Draftsman, Ports and Highways, Civil Aviation, Buddhasasana and Religious Affairs, National Heritage and Culture and Arts.
D M Jayaratne (Prime Minister): The role of senior Ministers are criticized in this debate but the Gazette clearly defines the role of those Ministers. Even India has a group of very senior Ministers above the Cabinet Ministers who provide advice and instructions on economic and social matters.
This budget is designed not to attract votes but it is a long-term plan for us to emerge as a developed nation.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that he knew the hard work done by the people at grass roots level who strive to develop this nation. So he promised the people to solve the LTTE menace. The President kept his promise and solved this problem.
He then commenced development projects in Embilipitiya, Moneragala, Hambantota and other areas that were under developed. These areas are now emerging as developed ones.
The number of planes of Mihin Air which is two at the moment will be increased. It is planned to increase the number of planes on the SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Air fleet to 30. Our Government was able to buy back most of the institutions that were sold during the UNP regime.
During the UNP regime all the projects and privileges were enjoyed only by the people in Colombo but today the situation has changed.
The steps taken by the Government in the direction of development were criticized only by the Opposition.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe very recently talked of constructing a harbour in Polonnaruwa. That s not a bad decision but the issue is there is no sea in Polonnaruwa. To build a canal from the sea for Polonnaruwa is also not a simple task to complete. The development of the country s road network will bring great relief to the people living in rural areas.
Under President Mahinda Rajapaksa s rule the benefits of development are evenly distributed throughout the country.
John Amaratunga (UNP): The 17th Amendment to the Constitution is not enacted. As a result the main institutions are politicized and the Commissions have not yet been appointed. The independence of these institutions are not protected as a result priority should be given preserving the environment around Parliament.
I suggest that an Act be passed in this regard. I also suggest that the Air Force Base adjoining the Bandaranaike International Airport should be shifted as there planes landing at the airport.
The appointment of a Cardinal from our country is a great honour. I appreciate the statement by the Prime Minister made with regard to this appointment.
Vinayagamoorthy (TNA): I suggest to the President to appoint the members to various commissions that is vested in the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
This country has an excessive number of Ministers which is a burden to the economy. Another suggestion I made is that if a particular member wants to crossover he or she should resign from the Parliamentary seat.
Ravi Karunanayake (UNP): Our responsibility as Opposition member is to protect the people in this country and not the Government.
The Government has provided incorrect statistics. The fly over bridges constructed under this Government should be discussed. The cost of a square foot for the construction Nugegoda and Dehiwela flyover bridges were Rs 125,000 and Rs 138,000 respectively.
I request that Mihin Lanka be handed over to SriLankan Airlines and that they operate together. Productivity at the Colombo Port is very low. Establish a Corruption and Bribery Investigation Commission in the country. It is non functional at present.
I agree that roads are being constructed in the country. Local exports have decreased. The 17th Amendment has become inactive with the introduction of 18th Amendment.
The question about this budget is whether the ordinary people have obtained any benefit by it. The electricity bill has gone up. This is the best time to create a national economy. Make use of it. We are ready to support in this endeavour Senior Ministers have become supervisors today. This budget is aimed at blue chip companies.
Ven. Ellavala Medananda Thera (JHU)
Today during the Committee Stage of the budget, National Heritages and Culture are also considered. First I would like to say that this budget is a far sighted budget.
Most of the budgets were not presented considering the future. That is why problems like unemployment and economic and social issues have risen.
Most of the time the budget is criticised using short-sighted comments. But rather than short-term gains this budget aims for long-term gains.
It is due to this far-sighting quality of the President that he was able to build a united country defeating separatism and terrorism in this land.
Going back in history Sri Lanka exported clothes, aluminium, gems, rice etc to other countries.
Abandoned paddy lands are now re-cultivated without just protesting saying that there is no water for cultivation. It is better to renovate the existing irrigational systems. In the same way it is better to cultivate coconuts without saying that the prices of coconuts are high.
National Heritage Minister Jagath Balasuriya
First I must say that the country s entire history is a national heritage.
We have high consideration over the national heritage of other ethnicities of the country. It is said that we should not forget the past because it is the bridge that links us with the present. Therefore, we must give high priority to safeguard national heritages in the country.
Today we have almost completed preservation work of the Jaffna Library and Fort. Many projects in the Cultural Triangle are also been carried out. National Heritage is also important for the tourist industry. There are tourists who come to the country due to their interest in archaeological sites.
The President has allocated a significant amount for this Ministry. This shows that this portfolio is given high priority by the President.
The Directors and Professors of the Archives Departments of Asian Countries met yesterday. The National Archives Department comes under this Ministry. During this meeting attention was paid to the challenge of using modern electronic technology to preserve data and books.
Lakshman Kiriella (UNP)
Ven Medananda Thera said that we as the Opposition should support the President in his journey. We also thought that the Government would start a new journey with the defeat of terrorism. But this has proved to be false and the government is following the same policy.
The Elections Department and police are under the President. People favourable to him are appointed to the institutions under him. The Judiciary is not independent.
Coconut Development and State Plantations Development Minister Jagath Pushpakumara: According to Standing Orders Number 78 the independence of the Judiciary cannot be criticized. This statement should be withdrawn.
Lakshman Kiriella continues: These members do not know their privileges what can be exported from Hambantota are those things like curd and honey?
Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera: I have to start from the point where Lakshman Kiriella finished. He said that we applauded when a tax is being imposed even on our salary. Yes, the members in this House should not be different from the ordinary people. This is the difference between the Government and the Opposition. They think that all privileges only should be enjoyed by them.
The hope of MP Kiriella is that this country would be come a country that violates human rights. Today he revealed his wish. He even did not stay until a reply is given by the Government.
Some say that Mathata Thitha has been unsuccessful because the revenue from liquor has gone up. This is misleading. The revenue has gone up because the prices have increased. In reality the number of people who consume liquor has decreased.
We have raised the prices of liquor under Mathata Thitha .
Ports and Highways Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena: Today when the allocations for the President are taken up by the House. There are hardly any Opposition members. The people who expressed their views on behalf of the Opposition are also ignorant. They also misled the House. I have the profit earned by the ports in 2008 and 2009. I table these documents. This shows that the statistics presented by MP Ravi Karunanayake is misleading.
They say that the Hambantota Port is useless. This is what they said even when the Government was conducting the war. They asked what was the use of engaging in a war.
The Mihin Lanka routes are worth USD 50 million. This is a major achievement for the country.
Most of the UNP stalwarts are now with the Government and those remaining in the party are just small fish. Therefore I ask the Opposition and the UNP to reorganize itself. We also need a good Opposition for constructive criticism.
Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera: This is the debate which is usually conducted by the Opposition.
We even get the booklet from the Opposition s Leaders Office. But during the debate we see hardly any members of the Opposition. The Government is compelled to take the responsibility of the Opposition.
Kanaka Herath (UPFA): The economy is growing at a pace. the economic growth rate has been increased significantly recording 7.1 percent.
As young Parliament members, we have big responsibilities to work hard and take this country forward.
The economic policies reflected through this Budget will definitely help to achieve this target. The Ports and Aviation sectors have developed rapidly. Many foreign vessels will dock in the country with the construction of the Hambantota harbour. We will make Sri Lanka as the best naval hub in the world.
Tourist arrivals to the country have increased with the ending of the war. The Government is ready to purchase 30 new aircraft. This move will boost the airline service.
Tissa Attanayake (UNP): The President s Fund was established to provide financial assistance to poor patients and for many development activities. These transactions are not taking place in a transparent manner. Economic activities have collapsed.
The income received from the airline service has been reduced. Necessary action should be taken to improve airline services which is one of the major income earners in the country. What happened to the super luxury train service which commenced due to the IIFA festival. The service has been stopped now due to lack of passengers.
M K D S Gunawardena (Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs Deputy Minister): We aim to create a righteous society adhering to sound moral ethics. Many programs including Punyagrama program, Mathata Thitha, training of Dasasil Matha program and assisting temples in difficult and remote areas are being carried out by the Ministry.
Many religious places were destroyed due to the war. We are in the process of reconstructing those institutions.
Uvais Farook (UPFA): Muslim schools will be upgraded allowing children to improve their education. Discussions are going on to facilitate Muslim pilgrims to travel to Mecca at a low cost. Sufficient funds will be allocated to conduct Muslim cultural affairs in the country.
When sea planes land at the Negombo lagoon the fisheries industry is affected.
Sudharshani Fernandopulle (UPFA): The project has been temporarily halted until it is discussed.
Nirmala Kotalawala (Port and Highways Deputy Minister): Joseph Michael Perera has a good knowledge about the police. We have to recall the history, the university students were assaulted at Ja-Ela during the 1972 election. The Government has developed the Potuvil-Batticaloa road in addition to the large number of roads and bridges constructed in Batticaloa and Trincomalee. Today the people have accepted the fact that the more elections are held the more UNP gets defeated.
Priyankara Jayaratne (Civil Aviation Minister): With the defeat of terrorism statistics show an increase in the number of tourist arriving in Sri Lanka.
An increased number of airlines are flying to Sri Lanka. When we look at the increase in tourist arrival numbers we see a 16 percent increase in tourist arrivals during the first seven months of this year in comparison to last year.
Civil Aviation Services Minister Priyankara Jayaratne: The number of flights have been increased and we have also identified the need of domestic flights due to the rising number of tourists. We have also decided to make arrangements to start direct flights from London to Jaffna.
The discussions are going on for other airport related trades, luxurious hotels are being built near the airport. We have bought one sea plane and we hope to buy another sea plane within the next year. This will be helpful for the fishing industry as well.
We are holding discussions to start flights between Sri Lanka and Moscow and Canada. The Mihin Lanka has now turned into a profitable institution.
The Mattala Airport is nearing completion. This will be the next international airport of the country.
About 60 percent of the food provided by the Sri Lankan air lines are local foods.
Janaka Bandara (UPFA):Even though we separate the topics for debate, all these topics come under culture.
We have a history of about 2,550 years and our civilization is older than that. We have a spiritual determination as a nation with history. No other country has such a national interest.
British rule in the country tried to destroy this civilization, but in vain. Our ancestors had the strength to fight against them to secure our nation. Even though the British left the country, they created a servile generation to the British. That is what happened in 1948. The administration was taken over by a leader who was speaking in English.
It is at this time that SWRD Bandaranaike emerged as a local leader who embraced our local culture. Our President made this country a united nation after the defeat of terrorism. The challenge of rebuilding the country which was fed up with globalization and terrorism was given to the President. People have kept faith on Mahinda Chinthanaya to win these challenges.
I do not have much confidence in Western economic specialists. Our ancient kings have proven that we can do what those Western experts think as impossible.
Our kings did giant creations soon after the wars were fought. Even though we engaged in a critical war nobody died by starving. What the world expects from us is to carry forward the pure Buddhist ideology and the culture related to it.
Ajith P Perera (UNP): Opposing corruption and bribery is one of the main needs of the country. The President also saw the importance of it. However, even though five years have passed after his election, he has not been able to prepare necessary measures for this task. When the Government does not take the right path, it is our duty to correct it and force it to take the right path.
The Constitution was amended in a hurry but as proposed an Independent Commission to deal with corruption and bribery was not formed. In the Mahinda Chinthana policy it is stated that they will present a Bill with necessary measures to prevent corruption and bribery in Government institutions and irregularities in the calling of tenders. I request you to fulfil this promise taking into consideration its importance.
National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara: The meaning of first in Sinhala is not necessarily the number one. It is used to indicate a high priority. We have not forgotten about our promise and we still see it as a priority. Let us discuss this matter if this was not done within the next few months.
R Yogarajan takes the chair Ajith Perera continues: Some countries had presented a Bill to their Parliaments to get easy access to data and information in State institutions. Some times we also face difficulties when obtaining necessary information from those institutions.
Therefore a similar Bill is needed for our country as well.
National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara: Even though there is no legislation in this regard in our country, if you ask for those information during Consultative Committees in Parliament you will be provided with the necessary information.
A H M Azwar (UPFA) :Sri Lanka is among a few nations which achieved economic growth in recent years. We are gradually achieving economic prosperity and the political stability. We are in the process of converting Sri Lanka as a famous tourist destination. War is now over.
We have to develop the use of latest technology which will help achieve our future goals. The entire country is free from the terrorism. We all must get together to rebuild the country.
Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage: The Opposition always criticizes the budget. They never see positive aspects of it. As you criticize the budget, you make heavy criticism over the President. The Opposition tried to topple the Government at the beginning.
Finally, the President won the previous election by obtaining over 1.8 million of votes. You cannot defeat the President because he is a powerful personality we must protect him. Since he eliminated terrorism he will drive this country towards success and prosperity.
Vijayahala Maheswaran (UNP): A number of Temples and Kovils have been destroyed due to the war. It has been unable to conduct daily pujas. No action has been taken so far to rebuild those religious places. Hindu schools are not provided with facilities. The Government should allocate funds to upgrade schools.
Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera (UPFA): It is the duty of the Government to take measures to uphold religious harmony. It is necessary to provide facilities to Dhamma schools. It is happy that the Government has allocated Rs 14 million to improve the religious activities.
S Yogeshwaran (TNA): During the regimes of Sinhala kings, they supported Hinduism. Hindu kings supported Buddhism. But today, the situation has changed.
The military forces are constructing Buddhist temples in those areas where Hindu temples were constructed. Most of the Hindu temples were taken over by the Archaeological Department. There are no Tamil officials in those departments.
Water Supply and Drainage Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa: According to my knowledge, there are Tamil officials in those department.
Ven Ellawala Medhananda Thera (UPFA): The member talked earlier distorted the reality. I walk in those areas frequently. Buddhist temples are not constructed where Hindu kovils were located.
Reality is at Kanchanaviale, Berugal, Kalladi etc there were attempts to construct Hindu kovils replacing Buddhist temples. But the Archaeological Department has prevented them.
Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva: The people in North and the South are living without fear since President Mahinda Rajapaksa united the nation by defeating terrorism.
The President has taken measures to uplift all religious places without discrimination. The speech made by the Opposition member before me attempts to kindle flames of racism.
He was distorting the situation of the country. Opposition members said the salaries of the public sector are not increased. The Opposition leader cracked only a few jokes. There are about 200,000 teachers in the country. Grade two teachers get a salary increment of Rs 1,561. Doctors, university teachers, Grama Seva officers and others in the public sector have salary increment.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake (DNA): Many new institutions have been taken under the Defence Ministry. Eighty three institutions have come under the purview of the President. That is an excessive number of institutions.
Traditional Industries and Small Enterprises Development Deputy Minister Weerakumara Dissanayake: One Opposition member alleged that Hindu temples are being destroyed. It is incorrect.
Prime Minister D M Jayaratne: If someone says the Government has discriminated any religion one who states so is a liar.
Traditional Industries and Small Enterprises Development Deputy Minister Weerakumara Dissanayake: The people enjoy the benefits of development.
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair.
Culture and Aesthetic Affairs Minister T B Ekanayake: The UNP claimed that China gives us only loans not donations. The Performance Art Centre and many other institutions are donations made by the Chinese government. That centre costs Rs 3,081 million and it will be opened in next March. It is designed in the shape of Nelum Pokuna in Polonnaruwa.
The President suggested banks and other financial institutions to commence at least small stage drama projects like in the Tower Hall era. Initiatives have been taken to produce five dramas, including Vidura, Sirisangabo, Vessantara and Padmawathi stories by January.
The Government has proposed to establish a cultural square linking Kurunegala, Dambadeniya and Yapahuwa. Cultural and Aesthetic Affairs Minister T B Ekanayake:
The town hall is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Plans are under way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the town hall, Colombo.
R. Yogarajan (UNP):
We are discussing 5,6 ministries today. We saw that the Ministers are unable to discuss their facts within this limited time. The Indian External Affairs Minister was in Sri Lanka recently. He stressed the need of a political solution. The TNA has taken a decision to abstain from voting. This move alone will not help them toe get a permanent solution.
We know that the Religious Affairs Minister is keen on protecting temples, kovils, mosques and churches. But his Ministry has not been allocated sufficient money for this task.
We are just two months after the 18th amendment and awaiting the appointment of Independent commissions.
The SriLankan Airlines are exploiting the people with unfair charges.
Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena:
We are proud that our President could ensure safety of the country by defeating terrorism. The opposition could not praise this effort even by a word. The President also took the responsibility of the country when the country was under a severe economic crisis. Some countries imposed economic barriers saying not to give aid and loans to us.
The present leadership could surpass all these barriers. We have started a new journey. The opposition leader tried to halt the aid and funds given to the country by complaining before the European Union that there are human rights violations in the country.
The commercial sector has developed into new era that we could not foresee. Opposition members are not present in the chamber. They have run away. They could not prove any fact that they presented.
Representatives of plantation workers should not disregard their people and live in Colombo. They should support the proposals that will benefit plantation workers.
This budget includes allocations for the resettlement work. This is the world s largest resettlement program. Some asked why we cannot resettle people immediately.
They were blind to the conditions. We had to demine the whole area and we completed this within a short period than we expected. We thrive to strengthen the gains of the people. Democracy is not equal in all countries. We have to think it in new terms to take the country in a new direction.
Chandrakumar Murugesu (UPFA):
The allocated money should be used in a people-friendly manner. The people in the North must be made aware of the resettlement program.
Free legal advice should be provided for the victims of the war in the North.
The financial heads were passed with amendments.