All highways initiated by previous Govt. to be completed

Thursday, 6 February 2020

All highways initiated by the previous government including the Colombo-Kandy Highway and other stalled highway constructions will be completed expeditiously. The government would also take measures to develop all roads in the country, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday. The Prime Minister said this in response to a question raised by UNP-MP Lakshman Kiriella who also urged the current government to complete the balance section of the Colombo-Kandy Expressway.

“The construction of the 40 km section from Meerigama to Kurunegala is 90% complete and there is only 10% left to be done. Therefore, I urge the Prime Minister to expedite the completion of the remaining 10% of the Colombo-Kandy Expressway. If that is done, the public could use the Katunayake Expressway to get to Meerigama and proceed to Kandy through Kurunegala. Further, they could also get to Kandy via Pasyala, Meerigama, Kurunegala. The time taken to travel to Kandy could be slashed by two hours,” Kiriella said. In response, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said the government during the period 2010-2014 planned the Galewela road from Pothuhera to Galagedara. “The previous government which came to power in 2015 completed the contract.

This expressway was scheduled to be completed in three stages and after the new government came to power, measures were taken to pay the loans and the construction slowed down. The Central Expressway was planned to be completed under four stages in June 2019. However, the construction had not been completed due to the lack of a clear mechanism and lack of funds. However, our government will make every effort to complete the various stages. We are also taking steps to complete the stretch from Potuhera-Galagedara. Our government will also take measures to develop all roads in the country,” the Prime Minister said. Meanwhile, Chief Government Whip Minister Johnston Fernando responding to a question raised by JVP-MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said, “We must see who had pocketed one billion rupees. “Therefore, we must investigate who pocketed the money.

The proposed six lanes of this expressway had been reduced to four. We must expedite the completion of the Meerigama-Kurunegala expressway and we expect to do this. The previous government was so bent on taking political revenge that as a result all development programmes were stalled.” COPA, COPE members appointed Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday (5) announced the names of the MPs who have been appointed to the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). Accordingly, the Speaker said that the appointment of the Chairmen for these two Committees is yet to be decided at the meeting of the Committees. The Committee of Selection on January 24, 2020 appointed 16 members to the COPA as per Standing Order 119 (1) of Parliament. Ministers Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi, Douglas Devananda, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Duminda Dissanayake, Rohitha Abeygunawardana, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Shehan Semasinghe, Chandima Weerakkody and MPs Udaya Prabhath Gammanpila, Palitha Range Bandara, Niroshan Perera, Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana, Buddhika Pathirana, S. Shritharan, (Dr.) Nalinda Jayathissa and Wijepala Hettiarachchi are the members of the COPA.

The Committee of Selection appointed 16 members to COPE on the same day. They are; Ministers Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Susil Premajayantha, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Jayantha Samaraweera and Mohan Priyadarshana De Silva and MPs Rauff Hakeem, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Harsha De Silva, Ajith P. Perera, Sriyani Wijewickrama, Ranjan Ramanayake, Ashok Abeysinghe, Sunil Handunnetti, Mavai S. Senathirajah and D. V. Chanaka. The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) and the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) will meet tomorrow. The appointments of the chairpersons of these two committees will be made on this day. The Committee on Public Enterprises will meet at 2:00 p.m., while the Committee on Public Accounts is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. ‘Estate workers to be paid Rs.1,000 from March 1’ Responding to a question posed by JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake on whether the estate workers would be paid Rs.1,000 from March 1 as declared by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the plantation companies had agreed to pay the increased wage.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture Minister Ramesh Pathirana, however, made statements in Parliament yesterday on whether the owners of Plantation Companies had agreed to pay a daily wage of Rs.1,000 for estate sector workers from March 1. “Estate sector workers will get Rs.1,000 from March 1. The companies have agreed and they will pay,” the Prime Minister said. Dissanayake said that plantation companies had insisted that they can’t afford the hike. “That’s what we heard but you are saying they have agreed?” he asked the Prime Minister. Minister Pathirana then responded that they had held three discussions with plantation companies and that a final agreement on the salary had not been made.

“They also raised many issues. But this is a government policy and we expect to reach a final decision soon,” Pathirana said. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, stepped in and insisted that the companies had agreed to pay Rs. 1000 from March 1. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed the plantation companies to increase the daily wage of estate workers to Rs. 1,000 in January. All measures to prevent spread of Coronavirus – Pavithra All necessary steps have been taken to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading throughout the country, said Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Pavithra Wanniarachchi in Parliament yesterday. The Minister urged people not to panic about it. The Minister was responding to a question raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa under Standing Order 27(2). Premadasa queried as to whether the Government has taken precautions to face any possible economic crisis which could arise due to the coronavirus epidemic, whether the Government would provide face masks for the public and appoint a Presidential Task Force to prevent the virus from spreading. Wannirchchi said that it is not practical to quarantine all passengers who come from China as they arrive in the country having passed through several other countries. “We check the body temperature of all passengers and note down the contact details of them. After that they are frequently monitored by the Health Officials. The students who arrived from Wuhan Province in China are in good health as of now. The Department of Immigration and Emigration has informed Chinese workers in Sri Lanka to stay at their workstations. They have been informed to wear face masks. However, it is not necessary for all the citizens to wear face masks at this point,” she added. “Moreover, the Health Minister noted that it is not necessary to restrict commercial goods imported from China as the virus cannot be transmitted through such them. However, it is true that the tourism industry would be affected to a certain extent due to the Coronavirus epidemic. But we are taking measured to attract tourists based on the instructions given by the President,” she said.

Govt. ready to debate NFH takeover issue – Minister Health Minister Pavithra Wanniaarachchi said the government is ready for a debate in Parliament concerning the procedure followed by the previous government when taking over the Dr. Neville Fernando Hospital (NFH) in Malabe. The Health Minister made this observation when JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake raised concerns on government’s move to present a supplementary allocation for the NFH. Rathnayake questioned how the government is presenting a supplementary allocation to a private institution. In reply, Health Minister Wanniaarachchi said that the procedure followed by the previous government when taking over the NFH is unclear. “We have requested for this supplementary allocation since we don’t want to close down this institution. NFH is a well-equipped hospital. It provides services both privately and publicly.

We took over the government while the process of taking over the NFH was incomplete. So I appointed a committee to provide me recommendations as to what we should do right now, until we properly inquire into this matter. The Committee I appointed recommended us a supplementary allocation.” Minister Wanniaarachchi said. MP Rathnayake pointed out that whatever the legal or any other matter concerning the NFH, the government is not permitted to allocate money to a private institution. When the Opposition continued to question the move, Minister Wanniaarachchi pointed out that the move for the supplementary allocation is a temporary one and that the government cannot just close down the hospital. “We need this allocation to pay salaries of the hospital staff. If you want a debate on this, we are ready. There is no corruption on the government’s part. Our hands are clean.

This is a matter regarding this hospital, not us,” she furthered. UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella raising a point of order on the same subject observed that NFH has not yet being taken over by the government. In reply, Minister Wanniaarachchi quipped off-mike, “Were you all sleeping for the last five years?”. Former Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, contradicting Kiriella’s view, said the NFH was taken over by the government. “I agree with our Health Minister. NFH was taken over by the government and operates as both a private and public entity. Not only we got a Cabinet decision on this, we also had the Salaries and Cadre Commission approve the salaries that should be paid to its staff. The General Treasury allotted money for that directly.Until now, the NFH has provided services free to 166,000 citizens in this country. How can a private hospital make such a move?” Senaratne asked. Minister Wimal Weerawansa said that there have been serious irregularities in the procedure followed by the previous government when taking over the NFH. “Former President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a Presidential Commission to inquire into Yahapalana government’s corruptions.

According to the findings of this Commission, there have been serious irregularities concerning this process. It suggests that the process of taking over have not been legally completed. So are we to believe what the Commission says or the former Minister who is responsible to this issue says?” Weerawansa questioned. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the matter can be further addressed at the Party Leaders’ meeting. Amaraweera proposes fully fledged public transportation system A fully fledged public transportation system is the only sustainable solution to the traffic congestion in Colombo and the suburbs, Minister of Transport Service Management Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday said. The government has an extensive plan to attract the general public to the public transportation service instead of private transportation methods, Minister Amaraweera also said. Accordingly, the government is planning to encourage the luxury bus service and introduce a more efficient train service, the Minister also said. Minister Amaraweera made these observations opening the debate on the regulations under the Motor Traffic Act relating to Signs, Signals, Symbols and Road Markings and published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2128/9 of 2019, June. Minister Amaraweera further said, “We will strengthen our public transportation system step by step with short, medium and long term plans.

The only way to reduce the wastage of funds and time due to traffic congestion is to make the public transportation service attractive. For that, we need to improve its service. We also need to provide good facilities to drivers and conductors. Their lodging facilities are worse than prisons. Thus, the government will take swift measures to provide the necessary facilities to both private and SLTB bus employees.” Minister Amaraweera said that the government is looking into the possibility of establishing a common schedule for both private and SLTB buses. Minister Amaraweera also said the government is planning to introduce an E-Ticketing system for rail transport.

He said that they are looking forward to introducing the same system for buses as well. “Such a move will enable us to eliminate all sorts of corruption related to the issuing of tickets. It would become a win-win situation for the passengers as well as the bus owners,” the Minister furthered. The government is also planning to use the rail service for transportation of goods. “Many vehicles that operate transport goods. If we can use the train service, we will burn less fuel and waste no money for transportation purposes.” Rathnapriya, sworn as MP Saman Rathnapriya Silva was sworn in as a Member of Parliament by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had informed the Elections Commission to appoint Rathnapriya for the vacant seat following the resignation of the UNP MP Jayampathi Wickramaratne. A special gazette notification was issued to appoint him on January 27, 2020 by the Election Commission. Ratnapriya Silva is a trade unionist, holds a Nursing Diploma and is a past pupil of Revatha Central College, Balapitiya.