‘Approval of Bills will provide concessions to economic sectors’
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided when Parliament met at 9.30 a.m.
After presentation of papers and oral questions, the House took up
the six bills, including the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill – Second
Reading, Inland Revenue (Amendment) Bill – Second Reading, Nation
Building Tax (Amendment) Bill, Second Reading, Ports and Airports
Development Levy (Amendment) Bill - Second reading, Economic Service
Charge (Amendment) Bill - Second Reading and Finance Bill – Second
Reading for debate.
International Monetary Co-operation Senior Minister Dr. Sarath
Amunugama: We are submitting these six Bills for the approval of
Parliament today. These amendments will provide several concessions to a
number of key economic sectors in the country. These amendments were
proposed by Budget 2012.
Today the economy is developing at a rate due to the correct economic
policies adopted by the government. Our main objective is increasing the
export earnings. According to the statistics in 2010, the export
earnings have increased by 17.3 percent. This is a significant
achievement. There is a prime need of increasing national productivity.
We have to look for more potentials in the export market for gems and
jewellery products and apperal and garment products. Production of these
items should be increased while promoting tourism, which is one of the
most important revenue earners for Sri Lanka.
We have granted several tax concessions for selected sectors in
keeping with our economic policies. This move would provide more
benefits in the long time. A number of tax concessions have been
introduced with the view of encouraging large scale local and foreign
Already 3,500 investors have pledged their willingness to commence
large scale projects.
Ravi Karunanayake (UNP): A
large number of tax concessions have been granted to large scale
companies through last year’s budget. But both middle and small scale
companies who contribute immesley for the national economy, have not
been granted any relief. You must provide relief to the innocent people
of this country. They face severe hardships today as a result of the
high cost of living.
Today, the government misuses and misappropriates public funds. The
Hambantota Harbour which was constructed at a massive cost from public
funds has been unsuccessful. Only six vessels had arrived at the
Hambantota Harbour for the last 16 months. The ordinary people of the
country have to ultimately bear up all these burdens.
External Affairs Minister G L Peiris:
We must make the public aware of the reality and the true facts with
regard to the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka.
Both the Government and the Opposition have agreed to hold a two-day
long debate with regard to this matter. Accordingly, dates have been
fixed for this Parliamentary debate on April 3 and 4. I would make a
detailed clarification in this regard, during that debate.
UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella has made several statements during the past
days. The Sri Lankan government from the beginning, had been in a clear
and steady position in regard to the resolution that we would not accept
it under any reason. We declined proposals from the US and several other
countries to support the resolution after amending and changing of
words. Sri Lanka maintained the position that we have whatsoever no
connection with the resolution. If we were to have been involved in this
process, it could have posed long-term negative effects upon our
The UNHRC had been established to replace the Human Rights Commission
of the UNO, which had been criticized as politicized. When we consider
the present situation, out of the 47 members of the Council, 11 of them
belonged to the EU.
The decisions of foreign relations of these 11 countries had been
taken up in Brussels and none of these countries could act on their
independent decisions. Some of the representatives of European countries
with whom we had discussions, privately observed that the resolution was
not timely and should not have been presented during that session. They
said that they could not act independently, but had to support a
Uditha Lokubandara takes the Chair.
Prof G L Peiris (continues):
An ambassador of a European country told me that he had to work in
accordance with the orders he receives from the country’s capital, even
though it was against his conscious.
Lakshman Kiriella (UNP): I would like to inquire the government’s
policy on the exports of the country. About 65 percent of our exports
are bought by the US and European countries. However, this government
criticizes the conduct of the US and European countries. The government
itself was making the situation worse. In 2009, we were would have been
able to defeat the resolution, but in 2012, we were unable to do so. The
members who supported Sri Lanka, expressed their hope that the
government would implement the LLRC recommendations in the future. We
are dealing with Western countries in the wrong manner. The closing down
of the Embassies is not the answer to this.
Culture and Arts Minister T B
Ekanayake: We regret that the UNP did not take the amendments
to the Value Added Tax in the right spirit. There are so many positive
and useful proposals in these amendments. Recently, Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe during a visit to Jaffna, had stated that no
development had taken place in the region.
It seems that he had also forgotten the road he took to reach Jaffna.
Those roads are now carpeted. The government has been injecting a large
sum of money for development activities in the North and East. A large
number of roads and bridges are now being reconstructed.
There is rapid development in the tourism industry and all the rooms
in hotels and guest houses have been full up.
The government and the President are constantly monitoring the
development process of the country.
The UNP has its own internal problems to deal with. They have been
unable to come to a conclusion concerning the party’s May Day rally. How
can they provide leadership to the country?
Dayasiri Jayasekera (UNP):
There are internal clashes even within the government. Our party crises
may symbolize that we are going to win. Minister Ekanayake said that the
Opposition Leader went to Jaffna and commented that no progressive work
had been done. Had all this taken place because of his statement?
If so, one may say that the entire international community is with
the Opposition Leader. The statements made by government ministers are
contradictory to each other. Those are confusing and we are unable to
figure out what the government’s stance is.
Ports and Highways Deputy Minister
Rohitha Abeygunawardena: MP Dayasiri Jayasekera has forgotten
that he had been a coordinating secretary to Minister Prof G L Peiris in
the past. He has no gratitude. That is why they are treating the party
leadership in this manner.
The government had held elections time and again, over the past years
and on every occasion, the public had given a clear franchise to the
government. They had reiterated their support for the present regime.
Dr Harsha de Silva (UNP):
There is no real purpose in introducing these amendments now. This is a
wrong step taken by the government. These laws will not be for the
betterment of the economy. The income of the country had actually been
reduced. Then how can we say that the living standard of the people have
Now the share market is in a crisis
Sunil Handunnetti (DNA):
Today, the share market is in a crisis. Financial institutions have
collapsed. The entire economy had been ruined due to the financial
mismanagement of the government. If you want to streamline the
operations of the share market, you must take measures to increase the
Social Services Minister Felix Perera: We spend a large sums of money
to export many items which are not produced in Sri Lanka. Massive funds
of around US $ 400 million spent per year for the import of drugs. We
must find possibilities for producing these items within the country.
Then only can we save a huge amount of foreign exchange flowing out from
We have already taken measures with the aim of converting Sri Lanka
to an independent country.
A number of key economic sectors in Sri Lanka have shown a
significant growth during the past five years. The country’s poverty
line had decreased to 3.6 percent from 16.2 percent.
Achala Jagoda (UPFA): The
UNP members have not learnt lessons from their past experiences. Some
members who are working according to the agenda of Western influences,
are trying to grab power by making the government to resort to
criticisms against the West.
The government is involved in a massive economic drive in the
country. The policies of the present regime had ushered prosperity to
Harin Fernando (UNP): The
government is attempting to sell patriotism to the villages. Behind the
curtain, it also opens doors for foreign companies by passing these
The government says that Sri Lanka lost the resolution in Geneva with
only one vote. If calculated according to the government’s theory, even
President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not win the election, since the number
of voters who voted for the Opposition and who abstained from voting was
more than the votes obtained by President Rajapaksa.
Human Resources Senior Minister DEW
Gunasekera: The amendments presented to the House today, had
been proposed by the Budget 2011. We have approved them from the Budget
and have debated extensively during the Budget debate. These amendments
are presented with the aim of bringing economic prosperity to the
country. Provisioning of these amendments would help for a better
The government revenue should be improved. The decrease in government
revenue directly affects ordinary people. It is from the government
revenue, the welfare activities and subsidies are being continued.
This is a matter which we should look into. According to a report of
the Central Bank, the government’s revenue should represent 20 percent
in the GDP when considering the economic growth rate in Sri Lanka. The
economic growth rate in Sri Lanka had not resulted in the increase of
government revenue. There is a problem somewhere.
The gap between the poor and the rich had widened. This should be
understood and rectified.
A Vinayagamoorthy (TNA):
We have to take measures to prevent more strict resolution than this
being presented to the UNHRC. A government member has observed that the
government could not implement all the recommendations in the LLRC. The
resolution wanted the implementation of the resolution. If the
government does not do so, it would have to face more serious resolution
in the future.
We are still telling the government, that we are still ready and
prepared for negotiations, to come to a conclusion with regard to these
Shantha Bandara (UPFA):
These Bills are presented to the House today to provide necessary
encouragement and concessions to the needy sectors as proposed in the
Budget 2011, by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
However, Opposition members misguiding the public, said that these
amendments put more burden on the people. I doubt whether they are aware
of the contents in these Bills?
Certain goods are exempted from the value added tax under the
amendments presented today. It will be a huge relief for the people.
A H M Azwer takes the Chair.
Kabir Hashim (UNP): There
had been several wonders in Sri Lanka during the past few years. In
2010, the Colombo share market achieved the second best place among
other share markets in the world. However, within just one year, it
became the second worst share market in the world. It is a wonder in
Then the National Museum in Colombo was robbed and recently Minister
Bandula Gunawardena said that a family consisting of three persons,
could live with ease with a monthly income of Rs 7,500. These were the
Health Deputy Minister Lalith
Dissanayake: Tax amendments made in these Bills are very
important for the boost of the local economy. Our trade would expand
with these amendments. Local businessmen have been provided with relief
from these amendments.
A greater percentage of the government revenue has been spent on
paying wages of the public servants. A considerable percentage is also
spent on paying pensions and welfare of tri forces personnel.
There is a steady growth in the tourism industry. The number of
tourists to the country has been rising sharply and nobody can deny this
Tax concessions granted
Janaka Vakkumbura (UPFA):
A number of tax concessions had been granted to the investors from last
year’s budget. It is essential to provide tax concessions to attract
more and more investors. This move will certainly help solve
unemployment problems as well.
Eran Wickramaratne (UNP): The government should take measures to
simplify the tax system. There are tax defaulters and it is essential to
bring about meaningful methods and means to collect outstanding revenue.
The cost of living in the country seems to be further increased.
The CoL increases not due to depreciation of the rupee or due to the
world economic crisis, there are several internal issues for this
increase. The most important issue is the failure of collecting direct
and indirect taxes by the government.
Amendments made to provide certain fields in the economy
Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Ranjith
Siyambalapitiya: All these amendments had been made in order to provide
tax concessions to certain fields in the economy. Tax holidays that had
been granted previously, will be further extended to certain sectors
through these amendments, in order to encourage investors. We have not
imposed any new taxes through these amendments.
We have formulated economic policies that is favourable for the
country’s development and the betterment of the people. We have been
able to maintain the inflation rate as a single digit, due to these
correct economic policies.
Hunais Farook (UPFA):
Under the Divi Neguma programme, cottage industries have been introduced
to a large number of family units. The development in agriculture is
clearly visible. The yield from the Maha season, has been high in our
There was a population census in the North and East recently.
However, some of the people now settled in the Puttalam district have
originally come from the North. This fact should be considered by the
Finance and Planning Deputy Minister
Geethanjana Gunawardena: These six Bills were presented to
facilitate the proposals mentioned in the previous Budget. There had
been extensive debate on them today in the House and I thank both the
government and the Opposition members who contributed to the debate. I
also thank Treasury Secretary P B Jayasundera and his staff for their
dedicated service to make these amendments within the first quarter of
Some of the Opposition members attempted to draw a misleading picture
on these amendments.
These proposals had been approved by the House during the Budget and
therefore, I believe those should not be brought once again.
The amendments will provide incentives for small and medium scale
industrialists within the country and will encourage their exportation.
Local industrialists will be strengthened with the aid of these
amendments. These will pave way for a better economy in the country.
The Bills were passed with amendments.
The need for alternative systems
Health Deputy Minister Lalith Dissanayake said yesterday in
Parliament that a mechanism to legally recognize alternative systems of
treatment presented by people such as Dr. Eliyantha White, should be
developed. He said that proposals in this regard have been passed in
Provincial Councils and have come to national levels. He observed that
steps should be taken to recognize alternative systems of treatment for
He made these observations, replying to an adjournment motion moved
by UNP MP Palitha Range Bandara.
Palitha Range Bandara (UNP):
There are about 4,000 doctors involved in alternative systems of
treatment. Those alternative systems have been popular among our people
and there are people who are completely cured through these methods.
Therefore I request that necessary legal recognition be given to those
alternative systems of treatment. Chinese acupuncture and homeopathy
methods have gained popularity in the country.
UNP-MP Champika Premadasa seconded the motion
Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh
Gunawardena: UPFA MP Shantha Bandara had presented a similar proposal in
an adjournment motion. However, he could not present it that day since
the House adjourned early. Opposition MPs spoke about Doctor Eliyantha
White. I must say that the President and the government have given
necessary facilities to him to carry out his social service. We have
given necessary recognition to him and alternative systems of
Indigenous Medicine Minister Salinda
Dissanayake: There are so many doctors who use alternative
systems of treatment including Eliyantha White, in our country. There is
a long history to these systems and there is an accumulated medicinal
knowledge in them to be accepted legally, a medicinal practice should be
DNA MP, Sunil Handunnetti, UPFA MP Wasantha Senanayake, UNP MP
Palitha Thevarapperuma, UNP MP Anoma Gamage, UNP MP John Amratunga,
State Resources and Enterprises Minister Dayasritha Thisera, UNP MP
Ranjan Ramanayake, UPFA MP A.H.M. Azwer, UNP MP Dilip Wedaarachchi and
DNA MP Jayanta Ketagoda also participated in the debate.
The House adjourned until 1 pm on April 3.
Age limit raised for SLAS Grade III
Parliament yesterday approved a proposal to grant three months’ leave
for Plantation Industries Minister and Presidential Special Envoy on
Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe from January 21.
The proposal was presented to the House by Chief Government Whip and
Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena before the
commencement of Orders of the day.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa accepted the proposal with the consent of
The government has decided to increase the maximum age limit for
application for the Sri Lanka Accountants’ Service Grade III upto 30
years, International Monetary Co-operation Senior Minister Dr Sarath
Amunugama said in Parliament yesterday.
He said the Gazette Notification in this regard would be issued
within the first two weeks of April.
The Senior Minister said this decision was taken to allow more
candidates to sit the open examination to recruit graduates for Grade
III Sri Lanka Accountants’ Service.
The Senior Minister made these observations in response to a question
raised by DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake, under Standing Orders 23 (2).
MP Anura Dissanayake requested the government to increase the maximum
age limit to apply for the Sri Lanka Accountants’ Service upto 32
observing that applications for this service have been called this year
The Senior Minister stated the government had attended to this matter
in a fair manner and had decided to raise the maximum age limit from 28
to 30 years.
‘SAITM will award degrees’
Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake, yesterday told Parliament
that there were some professors who teach in the South Asian Institute
of Technology and Medicine in Malabe while also serving in state
universities. Making his reply speech to a special statement made by DNA
MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake on March 20 in Parliament, demanding the
amalgamation of SAITM, known as Malabe Private Medical College, the
minister said there was no legal barrier to register an educational
institute under the Companies Act. The University Grants Commission has
recognized SAITM as a degree awarding institute. It could offer BSc and
There are 29 degree offering non-state institutes in the country and
all of them were registered under the provisions of the Companies Act,
the minister said. There was nothing wrong or illegal about it. There
were some institutes which charged hundreds of thousands of rupees from
students and finally did not offer degrees as promised at the
Therefore the need has arisen to regulate these degree offering
bodies, the minister said. SAITM charges only Rs 6.5 million from a
student for five years. A most sophisticated teaching hospital with 1000
beds is coming up in Malabe to facilitate SAITM.
The minister said Sri Lankan universities have now advanced both in
academic and extra-curricular activities and are on par with
international universities. The University of Colombo was the eighth
best university in South Asia.
SAITM has 18 senior professors in Medicine at present, he said. Of
them, three are from Russia and the rest from local universities,
including Colombo, Peradeniya, Sri Jayewardenepura, Kelaniya and Ruhuna.
As these professors are on seven years’ sabbatical leave, some other
professors work on a visiting basis, while serving in government
universities, he said.