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PARLIAMENT

‘More benefits to be provided to small-scale rubber cultivators’

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided yesterday when Parliament met at 1 pm. After the presentation of papers and oral questions, the House took up the order under the Sri Lanka Export Development Act and Regulations under the Tea Small Holdings Development Law.

Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe: When we consider rubber cultivation, around 124,596 hectares are cultivated with rubber. Rubber trees in 95,300 hectares are being tapped.

The annual rubber production is around 152,000 metric tons, out of which 51,590 metric tons are is exported. Around 70 percent of the rubber harvest is locally consumed. We have decided to increase the cess tax on each exporting rubber kilogram from Rs 8 to Rs 12.

By this move, the export of value added products is encouraged. We have decided to introduce a mechanism to provide more benefits to small-scale rubber cultivators.

Under this government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a project will be launched to provide benefits to 10,000 small-scale rubber cultivators.

This government has initiated the cultivation of rubber in 900 hectares and 10,000 hectares in Padiyatalawa and Mahaoya areas. Presently, nurseries have been commenced in those areas to provide rubber plants to the cultivators.

Now we are conducting researches to find out if rubber could be cultivated in Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and other areas in the North and East.

Rubber has a good price, but the government has not ventured to provide rubber fertilizer at concessionary rates.

When we consider the tea sector, we have decided to provide more relief to re-cultivate tea plantations. What I recommend is, to increase tea production. We could be proud that Sri Lanka produces good quality tea and we earn one more dollar for our tea than other nations earn. So to maintain this quality, we have to re-cultivate tea plantations.

Our tea export is slightly affected due to the current situation in the Middle East, Syria and some other countries. But the price of our tea has not dropped. But the government has decided to provide more relief to tea cultivators. The government has allocated Rs 75 billion to provide tea fertilizer at concessionary rates.

We have taken measures to collect Rs 1 billion for the Tea Board, without being a burden to the Treasury to popularize the quality of tea overseas.

There are around 15,000 hectares in large-scale rubber plantations that has not been cultivated. The government granted a period of six months to re-cultivate those areas and that period is over now.

Now the Tea Board and other authorities are collecting details of those lands to provide them to some others who wish to commence a cultivation.

Niroshan Perera (UNP): This Government has not been able to develop this country as they promised.

Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister Sumeda G Jayasena: Now I ask the opposition members to attend Defence Committee meetings and relate all your false stories about grease devils.

Deputy Chairman of Committees Murugesu Chandrakumar takes the Chair;

The Government is providing relief to the cultivators of tea, rubber and coconuts. In the Moneragala District, there is a tendency to cultivate rubber and coconut. The government develops infrastructure in these areas to develop the cultivation.

The Moneragala area is a bit harsh and with the cultivation of rubber in the area, the harshness had commenced to mitigate. The government is providing land to cultivators who do not have lands.

As the government provides more relief to tea, rubber and coconut plantations, the small-scale planters are getting a good income today.

The cess tax introduced today will enable the govt to provide more relief to cultivators and increase the flowing in of foreign exchange.

S Yogeshwaran (TNA): Due to a fear psychosis by the public about the Grease Yaka, even fishermen in the North fear to go fishing. Many women and innocent individuals have become victims of assaults by unidentified persons. Police personnel in Puttalam have been unable to control the situation.

Water Supply and Drainage Minister and Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena: I raise a point of order. MP Yogeshwaran is straying completely from the topic.

Today we are talking about rubber and tea. This should not be allowed.

A H M Azwer takes the Chair.

Ranjith de Soysa (UPFA): We are happy by the progressive initiative taken by Minister Samarasinghe today, for the development of the tea and rubber industries in the country.

Tea smallholding land owners contribute to 68 percent of the total tea production in the country now.

This is a result of the incentives given by the government to strengthen the tea smallholding land owners.

This fact is also seen in the rubber industry.

Opposition members talk of ‘Grease Yakas’ since they are out of slogans today. UNP MPs held protests at the Viharamahadevi Park asking to chase the grease monsters away.

R Yogarajan (UNP): I admire the moves taken by Minister Samarasinghe to increase the concessions given to small scale plantation industries. Plantation companies complain that the productivity in their companies is low. However, I cannot agree to this point. They have cut down the number of workers, but the worker productivity as almost doubled. Plantation companies cannot complain over the wage increment given to the workers as well, considering past statistics. I believe that plantation workers are not getting their due.

Education Deputy Minister Vijitha Vijayamuni Zoysa: I am grateful to President Rajapaksa and Minister Samarasinghe, over the important moves presented to this House today. Strengthening of smallholdings of tea and rubber is an essential fact for the development of these industries. We are happy that the country has got an intellectual leader who can take smart decisions.

There is a traditional clash between forest conservation regional officers and plantation owners, since they clear forests illegally for plantations. Providing relief to the smallholdings will also help to control this issue, since they won’t seek forest land for plantations.

Large scale tea factories in Badulla and Moneragala are collapsing due to various reasons. Therefore, strengthening of tea smallholdings is an important fact to improve the tea industry in these districts.

R Yogarajan takes the Chair.

Palitha Range Bandara (UNP): Deputy Minister Wijithamuni de Zoysa, spoke openly of the great initiatives taken by the then UNP regime, for the development of tea, coconut and rubber as the main economic crops of this country. We are happy over his utterings which are accepted above fact.

However, there is a doubt about peace in plantation areas, where the majority of Tamils work. Law and order has been deteriorating and this has affected the tea and rubber industries as well.

People have taken the law into their hands due to the failure of the police and the government to enforce law and order properly.

Rohana Pushpakumara (UPFA): Today the House has taken up very important orders for debate. But the Opposition is talking of mythical elements such as grease devils to mislead the people. Due to these false stories, two youths who earned a living by doing odd jobs were brutally killed in an estate in my area.

Later it was proved that they were innocent youths. I request the media and the members not to spread false and baseless stories.

The government has provided more concessions to tea plantations and continues still. This move is also taken to provide more relief to the small scale planters.

Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.

Dayasiri Jayasekara (UNP): Our economy is transferring to a service economy, whatever the government says. Although the government says the economic growth is 8 percent, the majority is service sector contribution.

Except for the Micro Car Company, we have not been able so far to establish any other institution to assemble or manufacture any other product.

Health Deputy Minister Lalith Dissanayake: We used to export rubber as a raw material. This move to increase the cess tax on rubber as a raw material is to encourage the export of rubber as a value added product. The government’s attempts to encourage the export of rubber as a value added product has been successful. In 2010, the export of rubber as a raw material has been reduced by 7 percent compared to the previous year. The success is that the export of rubber as a finished product has been increased by 47 percent in 2010, compared to the previous year.

Sri Lanka exported finished rubber products worth US $ 565 million in 2010.

Anoma Gamage (UNP): The local rubber productions in the local market, contribute only 2.1 percent to the income of the country. Rubber exportations have contributed to the national income by about 6.8 percent. This is three folds higher when compared to the local market.

I cannot agree to the imposement of cess on rubber exports. The undermining intention of this move is to take the government’s share as soon as rubber smallholders started to earn good profits. I suggest that the government reduce the amount of this cess tax.

Foreign Employment and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera: The policy of this government, as rightly mentioned by MP Gamage is to take from the haves and distribute among the have nots. The policy of the UNP government was to protect tax frauders. But this government does not intend to cover up tax frauders.

I would also like to tell the House that the government is handling the issue of Rizana very carefully and sensitively in a manner that will not affect the close ties between Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.

The government is now engaged in a proper programme to obtain a general amnesty for Rizana, understanding the complexities of the Sharia Law. This cannot be done by shouting in vain, as some opposition members do.

Tea Smallholders contribute for 68 percent of the tea productions. Due to this initiative of Minister Samarasinghe, tea smallholders will be further strengthened. The fertilizer subsidy is now extended even to plantation crops.

We must be grateful to President Rajapaksa for this move. Due to this fertilizer subsidy, smallholders in the plantation sector will be further encouraged.

Gayantha Karunathilake (UNP): Minister Samarasinghe is a person who is admired even by opposition members. I would also like to point out that it was the UNP who inaugurated the work on the Southern Highway which is also the first highway in Sri Lanka.

Plantation workers are not a burden on our economy. Therefore we should provide them with more relief.

A H M Azwer takes the Chair

Ajith Kumara (DNA): The tea industry accounts for a greater proposition of the National production. In the tea industry, the contribution of smallholders is immense.

Therefore, I think this measure was a long overdue measure. We are grateful to the minister for providing this relief even after some delay.

Wages of the plantation workers are highly insufficient. They cannot fulfil their basic needs from this money. Today the whole country is depending on this sector. However the treatment they receive is not fair.

Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister and Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva: We have been able to find new markets in the international arena for our exports, due to friendly ties that the government maintains with other countries. We have been able to promote our tea in Middle East countries.

New markets have been created in Russia and Iran for Sri Lankan Tea. This has helped us to stand on our own feet without depending fully on loans from foreign countries. Our tea and rubber exports earn considerable foreign exchange. Tea smallholders are strengthened and they have emerged as proud businessmen, as a result of the government incentives.

On the other hand, we have to review carefully before giving permits for plantation estates considering the fact that our forest reserves and water retention areas have faced threats due to extension of plantations.

The illusion of grease monsters is a malicious movement which had been started to make the government uncomfortable.

Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair:

Order under the Sri Lanka Export Development Act and Regulations under the Tea Small Holdings Development Law were approved.

At adjournment

Katunayake protest:

‘Govt not against injured obtaining insurance dues’

Economic Development Deputy Minister Laxman Yapa Abeywardena, stated in Parliament yesterday, that the government is in the process of enabling employees who faced accidents during the protest at Katunayake Industrial Zone on May 30 to get their insurance benefits.

He made this observation in response to an adjournment motion moved by UNP MP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

The minister further stated that there are 43,300 employees in 84 institutions in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone. Out of them, only 1,519 have been enrolled in trade unions.

Their rights have been accepted by all involved parties.

He also stated that so far no complaints have been received by the BOI that the rights of those members of trade unions have been violated.

The minister also refuted allegations made by UNP MP Kariyawasam, that the promotions, and increments of the members of the trade unions have been withheld.

He also stated that the government had no objection against those employees joining trade unions.

Labour and Labour Relations Minister Gamini Lokuge also spoke.

The House was adjourned until 1 pm today.


‘Nearly 13,992 tri force, police personnel serving with UN peacekeeping force’

A total of 13,992 tri forces and police personnel have departed for UN Peace Keeping work from the year 2000-2011, said Water Supply and Drainage Minister and Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena in Parliament yesterday.

Responding to a question raised by UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake, the minster stated that 12,210 army, 600 navy, and 610 Airforce personnel have been deployed at the UN Peace Keeping Force during the aforesaid period.

He further said that 572 police personnel have also been deployed for UN Peace Keeping work.

The minister observed that Sri Lankan security personnel deployed to serve UN Peace Keeping Force, have earned high recognition and reputation as the best group and this fact was even accepted by the UN General Assembly.

The minister said that a soldier serving in the UN Peace Keeping Force is paid US$1,028 and an allowance of USD 73 per month. A police personnel in this force is paid about US$ 120-150.

The minister said that the Sri Lankan forces who have joined the UN Peace Keeping Force have been increasing and they have been serving in countries such as Haiti, Lebanon, Western Sahara and Sudan etc.

The minister was responding on behalf of Prime Minister D M Jayaratne.


President attends Parliament and observes proceedings

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, yesterday attended the sittings in Parliament and remained in the House for about 30 minutes.

The President arrived before the proceedings commenced.

Parliament was presided by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa. The President attentively gave ear to the answers by Ministers in response to questions raised for oral answers that commenced after the presentation of papers.

After about 30 minutes, the President left the House.

The President attended the Consultative Committee on Finance and Planning during the morning and the Consultative Committee on Defence in the evening.


SL-China Parliamentary Friendship Assn. established

The Sri Lanka-China Parliamentary Friendship Association was established at the Parliamentary complex yesterday.

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Minister S B Dissanayake were elected as President and Secretary of the Association respectively. Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Minister Professor Tissa Vitarana and Minister Susantha Punchinilame were elected as Vice Presidents of the Association. S Yogeshwaran and M S Thawfeek were elected as additional secretaries of the association, while Minister Wimal Weerawansa was elected as the Treasurer.

Around 40 members attended the discussion headed by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, to establish the Sri Lanka-China Parliamentary Friendship Association and all were appointed to the executive committee of the association.


‘One thousand IT graduate teachers to be recruited’

Measures have already been taken to recruit 1,000 IT graduate teachers for 1,000 secondary school development programme, said Education Deputy Minister Vijitha Vijayamuni Zoysa in Parliament yesterday.

Responding to a question raised by UNP MP Buddhika Pathirana, the minister said that about 250 IT teachers are being recruited annually from National Colleges of Education to overcome the shortage.

The minister said that teaching appointments were granted during June-July 2011 for 208 teachers who had completed the IT Diploma in national Colleges of Education in 2010.

He further said that another 270 teaching appointments will be granted in 2012, for those who complete the Diploma in 2011.

The minister said that the number of government schools with computer laboratories amounts to 3,300. He observed that ICT centres had been established in provincial level, spending over Rs 50 million per centre.

He noted that 50 E-villages are being established with the help of schools. The ministry has also planned to establish new computer laboratories for schools in 2011 and Rs 323.65 million had been allocated for this work.

 

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