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Budget 2021 was passed with a two thirds majority in Parliament yesterday (10). The budget received 151 votes in favour and 54 votes against. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya, Jathika Jana Balawegaya and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress voted against the budget. Ilangai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) MPs were not present in the Chamber at the voting.

The Finance Minister and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa presented the Budget for 2021 in Parliament on November 17. This is the 75th budget of the country and the inaugural Budget of the present government.

The Government would have spent Rs.90 billion on anti-Coronavirus efforts by December end, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the debate for the Third Reading of the Budget, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said no one expected the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, but the country had to face this pandemic. “Under the current situation we have spent Rs. 70 billion for the anti-COVID drive and by the time the Budget was presented it had increased to Rs. 80 billion and we expect it to increase further to Rs. 90 billion by end December.”

The Prime Minister said that despite the pandemic, the Government managed to maintain the Rupee at a steady level, which is a clear indication that the Government has successfully steered the country through this global pandemic. He said that it is a victory of the Government to be able to maintain exports while reducing the imports, which helped to boost our foreign reserves. This, he said is the best way for the country to move forward.

The Premier praised the health services and Security Forces for handling the situation effectively. Commenting on the relief measures provided to the people during the pandemic, he said, “we decided to provide food packs worth Rs.10, 000 to those under Quarantine and Rs.5000 to those affected by the pandemic and had lost their livelihoods”.

“These are the serious challenges that we have had to face. This is an opportune moment for us to realise how tied up we are with the world. What is happening globally even affects this House as countries that depend on other countries becomes quite helpless,” the Prime Minister pointed out.

He said that had the country’s economy been made strong domestically, then we would have been in a better position to face this current crisis. “This is the lesson that the pandemic taught us. That is why we thought of building up our domestic agriculture sector through our ‘Vistas of Prosperity’ policy statement. This budget was formed on the focus lines of our policy statement and that is why it is different from other budgets. In previous budgets the main focus was on bridging the budget deficit. However, this budget was formulated with the aim of uplifting the local farmers and local industrialists with the aim of building a strong local economy. Hence, we have given special consideration to the agriculture sector as this is the best way to strengthen the country,” he noted.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that thus far, farmers were paid only Rs. 32 per kilo of paddy, but this Government had increased it to Rs. 50 and also provided the farmers fertilizer for free, which enabled the farmers to double their profits.

He said that there were allegations against the Government that nothing was offered to the public in this budget. However, he said that the Government did not formulate this budget targeting the next election. “The people have accepted our economic drive. We don’t intend to hoodwink the people. We have allocated Rs. 350 million for road development through this budget. After Governor Edward Barnes, it is our Government that has embarked on the greatest road development revolution.”

 
 

The Prime Minister noted that between 2005 and 2010 his Government had built the most number of roads, but they had been criticised for it. However, he said today the people are benefiting. “Are only the ministers or the wealthy using these roads today? It is the ordinary citizens who are making use of these roads. Most of the rural produce is being brought to the cities to be traded via these roads. However, those who could not even build a few kilometres cannot understand this. They only waste time criticising us but have done nothing.”

He said that the Rs.350 billion from this budget is what the government intends on putting into the people’s pockets. “We have allocated Rs.135 billion for drinking water projects. We have allocated that to provide drinking water for everyone by the year 2024. In addition to these initiatives, another Rs.2000 billion worth of projects are being implemented in this manner including the 600 MW power projects. The Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport expansion and the port expansion would also be covered under these projects.”

He said that all of this is being done for the benefit of the people, adding that it was his Government that had carried out major reforms in this country that benefited the people.

The Prime Minister also said that most of the country’s laws and regulations are outdated and these are currently being reviewed. He said that a circular has been compiled with clear monetary regulations and it is expected to be issued by the end of the first quarter of 2021. Further, he said that 20 new judges were appointed in order to clear the huge backlog of cases. He noted that if justice is not served at the right time, it will be harmful to the people. Hence, the Prime Minister said that measures are being taken to uplift the judicial network and upgrade it to greater efficiency using modern technology. The dilapidated court houses would also be renovated as these belong to the people.

Commenting on the efforts taken by the government to enhance the country’s export capacity, he noted that by September the exports stood at over US$ 1,000 million and in comparison to September 2019 it is a 4.8% rise.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urged the education authorities not to let the COVID – 19 to hinder implementation of plans for the advancement of education from pre-school to university level.

The prime objective of the Government is the development of the human resource. The future generation of the country must be equipped with knowledge, skills and competencies to make them productive citizens. President emphasized that the initiatives launched by the Government in this regard should not be hindered due to the prevailing situation.

This was stated by President Rajapaksa at a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat today (9) to review the steps taken by the Ministry of Education and all the State Ministries under its purview to meet the expected objectives.

The National Policy Framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” prioritizes the expeditious formulation of a national education policy.  Another objective is to develop our education structure up to a level where children can learn from pre-school to undergraduate level under a single syllabus with a specific objective in line with international standards.

The strategies presented by the Ministry of Education and other related Ministries such as   State Ministry of Education Reforms, Promotion of Open Universities and Distance Learning, State Ministry of Dhamma Schools, Bhikku Education, Pirivenas and Buddhist Universities , State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-School & Primary Education, School Infrastructure & Education Services and State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research & Innovation were separately reviewed  by the President to achieve this set target .

Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris , State Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Piyal Nishantha, Vijitha Berugoda, Seetha Arambepola, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera and the relevant Secretaries of the Ministries were present at the discussion.

President Gotabhya Rajapakse says that corruption is the biggest obstacle to development of the country. He pointed out that corruption in any sector hampered development. He has mentioned this in a Twitter message issued in connection with the anti-corruption day which falls today. The president has said that weaknesses in monitoring mechanisms lead to corruption. A country can fight corruption when people want to eliminate corruption. The best method to end corruption is that people not tolerating it. The president has said that the vistas of prosperity manifesto paid attention to empower the citizens in the fight against corruption due to those reasons. He has further said that government considers eliminating corruption and fraud as a priority. The president has pointed out that citizens can do their duty by reporting such incidents to law enforcement officials.

The Cabinet has approved a proposal by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Finance Minister to implement a project to manufacture semi-steel and total steel radial tyres for the export market.

Co-cabinet Spokesman Mass Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the weekly Cabinet media briefing held online yesterday, that Shandong Haohua Tire Co. Limited of China has submitted a project proposal to the Board of Investment with the investment of US 300 million for the establishment of a project within the premises of Hambantota international harbour

to manufacture semi-steel and total steel radial tyres for the export market.

The Board of Investment has given its consent for this project as a strategy development project under the Strategic Development Act (Amended No.14 of 2008).

 
 

Cabinet approval has been granted to award tax relief as per the provisions under the Strategic Development Act subject to inauguration of the project within a period of 36 months and export at least 80 percent of the total production.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa commissioning the Mannar wind power project yesterday. Power Minister Dullas Alahapperuma was present.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the process of making the nearest school the best school has not become a reality in society.

He said parents are under pressure to enrol their children in popular schools and as a remedy, it has become imperative to build schools with all facilities outside the city.

The minister was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a girls’ school in the Kandy Digana - Rajawella area under the Green and Smart School Concept. The Central Provincial Education Ministry will spend Rs.500 million for this under the first phase. The school is scheduled to open in 2022.

The Minister said education has been given priority in the President’s ‘Vision of Prosperity’ manifesto and the construction of such schools will make the programme a reality. There are about 10,156 schools in the country, of which 370 are national schools, he said, adding that plans are on to increase the number of national schools to 1,000.

 
 

He said that out of the total number of schools, there are 3,000 schools with less than 100 students and 700 schools with less than 50 students.

The Ministry of Environment on the instructions of Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has introduced a Special Container to recycle carbon pens after use.

This is the first time such a programme has been launched in Sri Lanka, the Ministry said in a media communique.

The first container was handed over to the President on Thursday by Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera. Later he also handed over the containers to the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Leader of the House, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Minister Amaraweera also presented a recycling drop box for disposable pens and toothbrushes to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. This initiative was launched based on the shared theme of “Discipline, Not Law” to promote recycling and find economic-based sustainable waste solutions in Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Rajapaksa appreciated this initiative, which helps tackle the recycling issue and works towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly Sri Lanka.

The container can hold up to 3,000 carbon pens and 500 toothbrushes, and once the container is full, Atlas, one of the island's leading carbon pen manufacturers, and INSEE Cement will have to pay for them.

Arrangements have been made to provide this Special Container free of charge to all schools and ministries. Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that not even a single cent of government money was spent for this and that this programme was initiated with the assistance of the private sector.

 
 

The Minister said that disposable carbon pens used by schools, offices and various individuals in the island pose a serious environmental problem. At present, it is reported that the amount of carbon pens used and discarded in the school system of our country alone is between 75-80 Kg per day.

Scientific research has shown that it takes about 100 years for carbon pens to decompose when they are released into the environment.

The carbon pens that are added to the soil decompose, the micro plastics become micro plastic molecules and pollute the soil for about 500 years.

The Speaker and the Leader of the House thanked the Minister of Environment for the steps taken by the Ministry of Environment to prevent the environmental damage caused by carbon pens.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is in Anuradhapura visited the historic Anuradhapura Sacred Area and performed religious rites in front of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi this morning (5).

President called on the Chief Incumbent of Atamasthana Ven. Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa Theroa and received his blessings.

Later visiting Ruwanwali Maha Saya President had a cordial conversation with the Chief Incumbent of the Ruwanwai Raja Maha Viharaya, Ven. Pallegama Hemarathana Thero.

President engaged in religious observances at the Ruwanwali Maha Seya and inspected the Anuradhapura Sacred Area Development Master Plan.

The cost of the sacred area development project is Rs. 450 million. It will be implemented as 28 project sunder 3 phases. Construction work is scheduled to be completed before December 2024.

Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development Mrs. Anjali Devaraj, Chairman of the Urban Development Authority Harshan Silva, Director General Prasad Ranaweera were also present during the discussion.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the 20th Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit yesterday, said that there are 289 large scale projects worth over Rs. 5 Trillion being implemented by Government Ministries and Departments.

“It is also very important that they be completed on time and also in conformity with the budgeted values which have been allocated,” the Prime Minister said.

“There are over 1.8 million employees working in 400 Government departments engaged in economic activities. We will treat it as an absolute priority to get the maximum returns efficiently from both the human and physical resources in a people’s friendly manner,” the Prime Minister said.

“While expressing satisfaction with the progress already made, we must continue to further develop the economy and strengthen the lives of the people,” he said.

We must ensure that we get on to a higher growth trajectory very soon and very fast and the entire country should be transformed into a work place. We see that is also one of the core objectives of your Summit and we also see it as a priority that you should also exchange information with the public sector departments as well in the formulation of these strategies. As a result of these developments, we are happy that the foreign remittances and the export revenues that we are getting now are higher than even prior to the outbreak of the COVID 19. The restrictions on the imports that we have implemented and the external sector has shown a satisfactory position and the trade balance has also shown better results.

However, Foreign Direct Investments which have been received are not yet in a satisfactory position and we wish to remind the private sector also about it. Therefore, it is up to the private sector to increase the FDI’s into this country and we are pleased to remind them about it.

The Prime Minister observed that the Chamber Summit had deliberated on the strategies which were needed to be adopted locally and globally on the first day. You had also deliberated on the role of the private sector in the development process of the country as well.

 
 

“You had also discussed the economic development of the country, using the nationally available resources. You have also deliberated on the use of the technology and all this goes to show that you are all keen to ensure accelerated development,” he said.

While appreciating that the state institutions were performing a responsible service, the Prime Minister also said that it was important to make all state institutions people- centric.

He also expressed pleasure that the Chamber Summit was also deliberating on Food Security. While mentioning that it was the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the food security prevailed, it also needed the cooperation of the citizenry,” he said.

He also said that one of the big time lessons that COVID-19 taught us was to be self-sufficient in food, though some people were blissfully conscious of the fact that any kind of food could be imported. Now, we could see the dangers of that theory, if we went along with that belief,” the Prime Minister added.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Poultry sectors will be exempted from income tax for the next five years, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.

He was virtually joining in the inaugural session of the Sri Lanka Economic Summit yesterday.

Addressing the event, the President said tax concessions will be granted for strategic investments larger than ten million US dollars in value for agricultural product processing, IT, dairy, fabric, tourism and export industries.

“Exports are being strongly encouraged through the removal of import taxes on required raw materials, machinery, and equipment used by direct and indirect exporters. The private sector must introduce new technologies that enable farmers to produce more, and to target lucrative new export markets,” he remarked.

Addressing the event, the President also said the Government was in the process of bringing in new laws to protect investments. He emphasised the need to attract more Foreign Direct Investment and encourage more local investment for economic growth.

“Our overreliance on loans must come to an end. That is why the focus of the Government is on fostering investments.

We are also committed to enhancing the ease of doing business in Sri Lanka so that returns on investment can be generated faster,” he added.

He noted that the Government was keen on addressing the problems which had delayed and stalled various projects including some funded by foreign Governments.

 
 

He also highlighted that the Government strongly encourages new investment into digital infrastructure.

“In some ways, the new normal conditions have forced the adoption of many new work practices. Working from home has been normalised for most knowledge workers. Offices where the physical presence of staff remains necessary are devising means to improve efficiency so that work can be carried out even by a skeletal staff. Innovative technology driven solutions have been adopted to solve logistical problems. Consumers have become more familiar with using online platforms for day-to-day activities, whether in accessing financial services or for shopping.

“Such changes can potentially transform how economies operate even after this pandemic is a thing of the past.

If our institutions are agile and adapt quickly, we will see gains in productivity resulting from these changes,” he added.

“By converging four prominent technologies - social, mobile, analytics, and cloud-we have the potential to transform the way governance works. The recent introduction of the Staysafe.gov.lk website to ease COVID-19 contact tracing is a case in point.

  • 06 new Judges appointed to Supreme Court
  • New President for the Court of Appeal
  • 14 new Judges to Court of Appeal

 

President pledges to support independence of the judiciary and ensures its functioning is free of politicization and other forms of interference

Marking a new milestone in the judicial system of the country 21 new Judges to superior courts were sworn in before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Six new Judges to the Supreme Court and 14 new Judges to the Court of Appeal took oaths before President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat today (1).

Judges appointed to the Supreme Court

  1. Hon. Justice A. H. M. Dilip Nawaz
  2. Hon. Justice Kumudini Wickremasinghe
  3. Hon. Justice Anthony Lalith Shiran Gooneratne
  4. Hon. Justice Janak de Silva
  5. Hon. Justice Arachchige Achala Uthpalavarna Wengappuli
  6. Hon. Justice Mahinda Abeysinghe Samayawardhena

Justice Arjuna Obeysekara was sworn in as the President of the Court of Appeal.

 Judges appointed to the Court of Appeal

  1. Ms Menaka Wijesundera
  2. Mr  D. N. Samarakoon
  3. Mr M Prasantha de Silva
  4. Mr M. T. M. Laffar
  5. Mr C. Pradeep Keerthisinghe
  6. Mr Sampath B Abayakoon
  7. Mr M. S. K. B. Wijeratne
  8. Mr S. U. B. Karalliyadde
  9. Mr R. Gurusinghe
  10. Mr G. A. D. Ganepola
  11. Mrs K. K. A. V. Swarnadhipathi
  12. Mr Mayadunne Corea
  13. Mr Prabaharan Kumararatnam
  14. Mr W. N. N. P. Iddawala

 President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing the gathering pledged to support independence of the judiciary and ensured its functioning is free of politicization and other forms of interference.

“The judicial cadre of both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal has remained static since 1978. Although the necessity of increasing the number of judges in the superior courts has been mooted several times in the past, the number of judges in both courts has remained the same for over forty years. There have been many advancements in the law and litigation has increased exponentially in this time. However, there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of judges”.

The efficient administration of justice is not only important in terms of upholding the rule of law, it is also vital to the economic development of this nation President said adding that  reliable, efficient and effective dispute resolution through the justice system will foster the nation’s progress.

Chief Justice Jayantha C Jayasooriya, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga were also present.

 Full text of the speech at the swearing in of Judges

 

  • Honourable Chief Justice of Sri Lanka
  • Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court
  • Honourable President of the Court of Appeal
  • Honourable Justices of the Court of Appeal
  • Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to address Your Lordships on the occasion of your elevation to the superior courts of our country.  First of all, let me wish your Lordships a very successful tenure. In my view, this is the first time in judicial history that a mass swearing in of this magnitude has taken place. I consider it a signal honour to administer oaths to such a galaxy of men and women so learned in the law.

The judicial cadre of both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal has remained static since 1978. Although the necessity of increasing the number of judges in the superior courts has been mooted several times in the past, the number of judges in both courts has remained the same for over forty years. There have been many advancements in the law and litigation has increased exponentially in this time. However, there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of judges.

It is therefore a matter of pride that our Government has redressed this long felt need through the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Amongst the many reasons that prompted this change is the perennial problem of the law’s delays.

There is a popular saying that “Justice delayed is Justice denied”. Unfortunately, it is clear that while more and more cases were being instituted in the superior courts, there was insufficient judicial manpower to hear them fast and dispense justice. This was not a situation conducive to public confidence, nor to the proper functioning of the republic.

The efficient administration of justice is not only important in terms of upholding the rule of law, it is also vital to the economic development of this nation. Reliable, efficient and effective dispute resolution through the justice system will foster the nation’s progress.

At present, it takes a long time to enforce a contract in Sri Lanka. We have been ranked 161st out of 189 countries for the enforcement of contracts, and the Sri Lankan legal system is ranked 5th out of 8 in South Asia. These indicators must improve.

The Government understands the importance of a strong, efficient and independent justice system, and it is deeply aware of the need to enhance its capacity. Today’s solemn swearing in ceremony took place against this backdrop, and as a key step taken by the Government to redress this issue.

Access to justice today is a fundamental right. It is the sacred duty and obligation of the state to provide an enabling environment to make that right real and not imaginary. Access to justice must be transparent if the people are to have confidence and faith in the judicial system.

Whether we perform our role within the Executive, the Legislature or the Judiciary, we are all custodians of that faith. We hold our office in trust for the people. As judges, the people look to you to uphold the immense dignities of your high office, to discharge your duties with integrity and independence, and to ensure that justice is dispensed equitably to all.

In this context, it is a matter of some concern that there has been an onslaught on the dignity and independence of legal systems. I am deeply committed to supporting the independence of the judiciary and ensuring that its functioning is free of politicization and other forms of interference. The judiciary must also rise and use its powers to fight this menace. Freedom of speech is not a license to defame and malign anyone, least of all judges.

We as a Government stand prepared to support you in every way necessary to achieve the objective of administering an efficient, equitable and independent judicial system. This commitment applies to the uplifting of the dilapidated courtrooms throughout the country, assistance in digitising laborious manual processes to enhance efficiency, and providing greater funding for training of personnel in the judicial system, together with other identified requirements.

Through this, and through your efficient and judicious discharging of your grave responsibilities, I am confident that we will be able to achieve a lasting beneficial transformation of the judicial system in Sri Lanka.

Page 5 of 57

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