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His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees yesterday. Picture courtesy Prime Minister’s Media Division
 

His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday commended the Government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for the measures taken to resolve the issues of the families affected by the Easter Sunday attack and to provide relief to them.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith also said the Government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would have the strength, courage and the blessings not to allow any repetition of such a tragic attack.

The Cardinal made these comments at a meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees yesterday morning to discuss  the further renovation programmes of the churches damaged in the Easter Sunday attacks.

During the meeting the Premier instructed the State Engineering Corporation to recommence and expedite the construction work on 24 houses that are being built at Katuwapitiya area for the affected families. Another five houses are to be constructed for five affected families who have land of their own at Katuwapitiya by the Urban Development Authority.

The Premier also instructed the officers to allocate 33 houses from proposed housing apartments for 33 families living around Colombo in rented out houses. In addition it was decided during the meeting to provide housing facilities to affected 11 families from Kandy and Badulla in their respective areas. The Prime Minister also instructed the Health Services Director General to expand and extend the health facilities provided to the affected persons at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital.

 
 

The Prime Minister further instructed to recommence the construction of the Katuwapitiya Dhamma School with Rs 60 million out of the funds of the Finance Ministry. During the meeting it was revealed that although the previous Good Governance Government promised to construct the Kochchikade Church that was damaged in the series of Easter Sunday attacks in a different design, it was not done. The Premier instructed to provide funds to the Sri Lanka Navy as it had been earlier planned before 2015 and complete the renovation of the Kochchikade Church.

“The previous Good Governance Government was only good at making pledges,” Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa said. “But we are good at doing what is needed and correct.” The Premier also instructed the Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle to discuss with the private banks as to what facilities that they could provide to their debtors who are unable to settle the loans as a result of being victims of Easter Sunday attack.

Cardinal Ranjith appreciated the Government for taking measures to resolve the issues of those affected by the Easter Sunday attacks. He extended thanks to the Minister as as well as the State Ministers involved in these efforts to provide relief to the affected.

Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella being presented the commemorative stamp and First Day Cover to mark the 95th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) yesterday. Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information Jagath P. Wijeweera, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Chairman Jagath Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Director General Chandrapala Liyanage and a number of other distinguished guests were present. 

Challenging the challenges amidst the current crisis, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) is gearing up for an exercise to uplift the nation, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a congratulatory message on the 95th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

SLBC Director General Chandrapala Liyanage read out the Prime Minister’s congratulatory message at the event held yesterday (16) under the theme :95 Years of the Nation’s Communicator”.

“The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation earned the title of Nation’s Communicator through a long-term national mission. The people of this country will never forget the invaluable service rendered by the SLBC for the betterment of the nation for over 95 years.

The SLBC continued to serve the nation without bowing down to commercial forces.

The religious service of the SLBC began with a sermon by Vajiraramadhipathi Ven.Pelene Sri Vajiragnana Thera and also fulfilled the religious requirements of the Christians, Hindus and Muslims alike which can never be forgotten.

The National Radio has played an invaluable role in transforming communities of all walks of life from childhood to adulthood into a community of righteous, high-minded people with knowledge that blesses their nation.

National Radio, which stands for the Nation and Prosperity of the country, is gearing up for an exercise that will uplift the nation by challenging the challenges of the current crisis by mobilizing the urban masses as well. Hence, I hope that the SLBC would be able to formulate programmes that would uplift the people of this country to stand up as a righteous society,” the Prime Minister said in his congratulatory message.

Minister of Mass Media and Information Keheliya Rambukwella, Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information Jagath P. Wijeweera, SLBC Chairman Jagath Wickramasinghe, SLBC Director General Chandrapala Liyanage and many other distinguished guests were present.

The SLBC Officially commenced broadcasting as the first radio station in Asia on 16.12.1925 and has formed a close bond with the people of this country. Having passed a golden era in broadcasting it serves the people amidst numerous commercial challenges.

 
 

The SLBC aims to become the leading communications company in the country by successfully managing production and technology by changing the competitive structural conditions to be faced in the communications space after 2021.

Addressing the gathering, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said, “Having come this far, over 95 years old is not an easy journey. I would like to thank all those who have taken up this challenge and taken the company forward during the 95 years evolving with the new equipment used for radio technology.

I witnessed many emotional speeches being made with a sense of pride about the history of this institution. Of course you can speak so proudly because there is much to be proud of. We understand the difference between boasting and what is said from the heart. There may be setbacks at times, but the theme of moving forward without giving up has come to the fore in these 95 years. When I was a child I participated in the “Handa Maama” program with my sister. And I came here in the late 70s for a movie promotion. I had a little challenge at the time. I wanted Bandara K. Wijetunga to dub. At that time the Head of State had banned Bandara K. Wijetunga from entering the radio premises. But as a young man I wanted to break through that barrier and go inside. I said if you bring a recording you can put it on and the voice is not banned.

I was told at that time “young man you should not clash with the Government and state leaders, it is not a good thing”. But I did not give up. From that I learned one thing. When challenges are accepted, challenges can be overcome. If we shirk challenges, we will not be able to reach our goals.

Now you have a similar challenge. In 1922, scientist Guglielmo Marconi said that one could control the world from one place. How should the situation change in 2020? But what a powerful media institution it must be to carry forward that programme without change. Everything in the world changes, but these tasks do not change. This is the second time I have taken over the ministry of mass media. Once we accept responsibility, we must fulfill it. Whatever subject we are given, we have a responsibility to take it to a higher level, both commercially and academically. Although such institutions have commercial value, it is important not to forget the enormous background and pride. They cannot be valued in money. We cannot be of the view that if profits are not made these institutions should be closed.

Communication systems that have value beyond money alone need to be identified. Everyone thought that when television came, the film industry would collapse. But that did not happen. The same goes for the audio medium.

We must change with the times. Let us put aside our minor differences for a moment and move this institution forward. If we go ahead like that, we can correct our shortcomings. So let’s all join hands and move forward together. Let us all be stakeholders in this proud history.”

A commemorative stamp was also issued to mark the 95th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

The Ministry of Education, together with the Central Provincial Council, held a cornerstone ceremony for a new girls’ school that is to be set up in the Digana-Rajawella area in Kandy, recently. It is to be constructed under the ‘Green Smart School’ concept and would be provided with modern facilities.

The project’s concept is the brainchild of Central Province Governor Attorney-at-Law Lalith U. Gamage. The Governor, together with Ministers Keheliya Rambukwella, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, and Wasantha Yapa Bandara, took part in the ceremony and laid the foundation stones for the school.

The school is being set up with the objective of reducing the competition for entering students to city schools. The school will be a trilingual one, with state-of-the-art facilities that include a hostel, playground, auditorium, swimming pool, library, and a laboratory.

The school is scheduled to open for Grades 6 to 11 in the first phase of the project, and classes up to G.C.E. (A/L) during the second phase of the project. A separate aptitude test will be conducted for students who pass their Grade 5 Scholarship Examination.

Furthermore, students, in general, will be selected through an open competitive examination system. The school will be open to students from all education zones in the province.

 
 

It is expected to maintain this model school with a new aspect to adapt to a competitive educational environment.

It is also planned to run this school in accordance with the model of Ranabima Royal Boys’ College in Gannoruwa, Kandy. Governor Gamage has instructed the implementation of this type of school in the other two districts of the Central Province for the future as well.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa examined the possibility of rapidly adding renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and natural gas to the power grid.

Many countries in the world today are turning to renewable energy sources for power generation.

As per “Saubhagyaye Dekma” Policy Statement, by 2030 the Government expects to meet 70% of the total electricity demand from renewable energy sources.

During a discussion on power generation held at the Presidential Secretariat today (15) President Rajapaksa stated that the generation of renewable energy should be carried out expeditiously in a systematic manner with short-term objectives.

Government aims to meet the increasing demand for energy from renewable energy sources when implementing development projects in the future. Under its first phase the wind power project installed in the island of Mannar has added 30 megawatts to the main power grid.

By the end of the year 2021, this capacity will be increased to 100 megawatts.  Wind farms are also being built centring Chunnakkam and Poonarin areas. It is also planned to gradually increase the power share generated using solar power and natural gas.

The President emphasized that the government should intervene to remove all obstacles faced by private entrepreneurs when implementing projects while providing all incentives needed in this regard. The Ministry of Power and Energy is responsible for obtaining prior approval from other institutions and awarding it to investors.

President Rajapaksa also said that the Board of Investments and the Ministry of Power and Energy should jointly take steps to explore investment opportunities and implement projects expeditiously.

Solar power generation is to be done under several schemes. One of the projects will be implemented to identify 100,000 Samurdhi families and to build solar panels on the roofs of their houses and provide them with an additional income. The President further stated that the Government should bear the cost of Rs. 800,000 per house for this project.

Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, State Minister Duminda Dissanayake, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy, Wasantha Perera and Chairmen of relevant institutions were also present at the discussion.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has appointed five members to the Advisory Board of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) Muslim Service on the recommendation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Former Muslim Service Director Ahmed Munawwar, President Counsel Razik Zarook, Kollupitiya Jumma Mosque Vice President Muslim Salahudeen, Kandy District Jamiyathul Ulama Vice President Ash Sheik Fazlul Rahuman and Kandy Line Jumma Mosque Trustee Afzal Marikkar received their appointment letters from Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella at the Ministry recently. SLBC Chairman Jagath Wickramasinghe and Ministry officials were also present. Picture by Ruzaik Farook

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited the Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya to wish the chief incumbent Ven. Bellanwila Dhammarathana Thera on his 83rd birthday which fell yesterday. Transport Minister Gamini Lokuge accompanied the President. Picture by S.Kahatapitiya.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday urged the newly appointed members of the National Election Commission (NEC) to explore the possibility of holding the Provincial Council elections at the earliest and look into the legal action required for that.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa made these remarks when he met the NEC members at his official residence in Wijerama, Colombo this morning, the Prime Minister’s Media Division said.

The Prime Minister asked the members of the Election Commission to look into the possibility of holding the PC elections at the earliest either under the old or new system. NEC members said legal provisions should be made at the ministerial level to change the manner in which elections are held.

Therefore, they pointed out that it would be easier to hold the Provincial Council elections this time under the old system and in the future after introducing the necessary legislation to hold the elections under the new system.

They said that amendments were needed to the existing election laws and pointed out the need for a Parliamentary Select Committee for this purpose.

 
 

The Prime Minister replied that he had already made a request to the Speaker in this regard.

NEC Chairman Senior Counsel Nimal G.S. Punchihewa, members of the commission and Additional Secretary to the Prime Minister Chaminda Kularatne were also present.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday instructed officials to act immediately to resolve shortcomings in prisons and provide the prisoners with necessary facilities while adopting a more humane approach towards them.

Observing that over 12,000 drug-addicted persons were in jail, the President stressed the importance of implementing a drug rehabilitation programme with special attention to them.

The President was addressing a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday to look into the prevailing problems in prisons and recommend solutions to them.

The President instructed officials to look into the possibility of constructing prisons in the locations already identified using pre-fabricated material.

The President pointed out the need to study models in prisons of foreign countries and provide such facilities to prisons in the country.

 
 

Many persons are languishing in prisons due to delays on the part of the Government Analyst’s Department, Attorney General’s Department and the Police Department.

The President noted that a Presidential Task Force comprising of the Customs, Police, Prisons Department and other relevant agencies must be formed to resolve the prevailing issues in prisons.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry, Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, Secretary to the President Dr. P. B. Jayasundera and Ministry officials attended the meeting.

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.

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