UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara said President Ranil Wickremesinghe will give priority to presenting a work program that addresses the issues faced by youth, restructuring of Government institutions that are a burden to the country and reviving tourism in Budget 2023.
At a recent press conference at the Sirikotha Party headquarters, he said, “Today’s youth think that there are no point in staying in this country and they should go to another country. Youth are needed to rebuild the country. President Wickremesinghe’s attention is drawn to this. The President hopes to present a program which addresses the issues faced by the youth.”
The UNP General Secretary said the President plans to expand vocational education and create job-oriented education. He said some Government institutions have become a burden to the country. The taxes paid by the people have to be used to maintain these institutions.
The President also hopes to restructure the loss-making Government institutions and thereby free the people from that pressure. The other goal is to increase the number of tourists visiting the country in the next quarter. For that, the Tourism Ministry has planned to implement several programs in December, he said.
President Wickremesinghe said that the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director assured IMF’s assistance to Sri Lanka at a discussion held during the Cop 27 Conference. He said Budget proposals for 2023 will focus on the growth of the economy, in line with the economic program recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The President was responding to Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella in Parliament on Thursday who questioned if it would be possible to receive the staff level agreement with the IMF before the Budget proposals are presented to the House.
President Wickremesinghe said that there would be a few more rounds of discussions before presenting the agreement to the House.
The President said, “They have given us targets. There will be a four-year plan. We have to go up to our original one of 14-15%. While we are looking at that, the Budget will accelerate work so that we can have a higher growth rate and certainly, more development, more investments. Look at the targets of the IMF.”
President Wickremesinghe said, “When I went to COP 27 in Egypt, I met the IMF Managing Director and she promised to assist us. So do not worry about it. Therefore, we have only got to discuss with China and India. China asked us to commence talks after their Party Convention. Now talks have commenced. I request both countries to finalise it by the end of December.”
The President said, “We have to appreciate former President Mithripala Sirisena who participated in the COP conference in 2015 and subsequently took steps to limit the construction of power stations in the country and no new power stations were built thereafter.
Then at the COP 26 conference in Glasgow presided over by former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we made a good proposal and agreed to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. We presented the measures we have taken in this regard.”
“Will be washed away”
JVP National Organiser Bimal Rathnayake said the Government will be washed away if an election is held. Ratnayake said that Ranil Wickremesinghe, who became President by default, is purposely delaying the election. He said, “They are now trying to delay the election by bluffing.
Is that something we have to agree on? Ranil Wickremesinghe changed the number of members in the Local Government from 4,000 to 8,000. A delimitation commission is currently in operation, as it was in 2018 and Rs 1 billion has been spent. He became President through charity and is postponing the election. The people are not pleased with the Presidential Election, Provincial Council election or even Parliament election. As a result, it is a mystery how such a country can run,” he said.
The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) alleged a conflict was created during the joint protest held in Colombo by the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) and Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) supporters.
SJB National Organiser MP Tissa Attanayake and MP Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that it is ridiculous for a group of people, who have not contributed to the country’s politics, to hoot at the Opposition Leader.
At a press conference, Attanayake said that the SJB participated in the protest as a symbolic gesture, not to create a conflict situation. He said, “When a group of people tried to end the peaceful protest by clashing with the Police on the way, there was a conflict of opinion among the people who participated.”
MP Senaratne said that some people believe that the struggle is great but only one group has the full claim for it. He said the extremists have worked to destroy the struggle so far and because of that the struggle has weakened today. Dr.Senaratne said political stooges, who are present in various places did not do anything for the politics of the country, but it is they that hooted at a leader like Sajith Premadasa.
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament on Wednesday that the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has no intention to join or support the Government considering its irresponsible behaviour in solving the economic crisis.
The Opposition Leader said that the Government will have to hold a General Election soon, and the SJB will win it. Premadasa also said that the Government is all talk but no action regarding easing the cost of living burdening the people. The Opposition Leader also alleged that the Government is hunting down Government employees who reveal that students are fainting at schools due to hunger. He alleged that the Government is trying to buy MPs from the Opposition, thus, the SJB has no plan to support the Government.
“Not decided as yet”
Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) General Secretary and MP Jeevan Thondaman has said that if the Budget aims at providing relief to the estate community and to improve their economy, he will support it. He said that he has not made a decision yet as to whether to vote in favour of the Budget or not and that he is still studying it.
He was speaking to the media on Wednesday when he arrived at the Selva Vinayagar Kovil in Kandy on his birthday.
MP Thondaman said that he has held several discussions with President Ranil Wickremesinghe as well.
Former Health Minister and SJB Parliamentarian Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has brought the country to a certain stable level by providing solutions for the immediate problems faced by the people.
He said that even the people accept that the President has taken steps to reduce the oppressive situation faced by the people of the country by providing gas, food and fuel without a shortage.
Dr. Senaratne said that although he appreciates the President’s efforts regardless of party affiliations, he will not join the ruling party. He said that Wickremesinghe was no stranger to him and he was the leader of his former Party.
“My opinion is that a single party cannot build this country. An All-Party program is necessary for this. Otherwise, we will have to face even more problems in the future,” he added.
“Playing the match alone”
President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the delegation that went to attend the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt returned to the country on Thursday morning.
After a brief rest at home, the President was getting ready to go to Parliament to respond to the questions raised by Opposition MPs on his visit. When it was heard that the President would arrive at the Parliament shortly, a large number of Government and Opposition lawmakers were waiting at the President’s office on the second floor of Parliament. Among them were Parliamentarians Wajira Abeywardena, Nimal Lanza, Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, Prasanna Ranaweera, Premanath Dolawatta and Gayashan Nawananda.
One Parliamentarian said, “After we return from a foreign trip, we will sleep for at least two days but the President who returned to the country today’s morning is coming to Parliament in the afternoon.”
Then the other MPs laughed at the comments made by their colleague. MP Wajira Abeywardena said with pride, “The President is playing the match alone. He became the Asian hero of COP-27.”
Although the Parliamentarians rushed to the President’s office when he came there, the President went to the Parliament Chamber without spending much time in his office.
The President briefed Parliament about the outcome of the COP-27 conference as well as the appointment of the Constitutional Council and other Parliament committees. He also spoke on the issue of Tamil prisoners.
When the President ca me out of the Chamber, an Opposition MP who met him said his statement made on Ukraine was a very timely one. The President in his address to Parliament said at present the IMF extends its support to Ukraine and similarly it should extend financial support to all those who have faced hardships due to the food crisis.
MP Wajira Abeywardena said, “Is it the Opposition Leader who opposes the three civil representatives of the Constitutional Council? Then Government lawmaker Gayashan Nawananda said the Opposition Leader is also opposed to the appointment of MP Champika Ranawaka as the head of the Economic Stabilisation Sub Committee of Parliament.
State Minister Prasanna Ranaweera said it was also discussed in Parliament regarding former Maldivian President and current Speaker of Maldivian Parliament Mohamed Nasheed being a part of the Sri Lanka delegation to COP-27 conference.
Then President Wickremesinghe told Ranaweera, “If the Maldivian Government doesn’t have an issue regarding that I also have no issue about it. Even the Maldivian Parliament had announced that Nasheed attended the conference spending his own money.”
As the President’s Parliament office was full of Government and Opposition MPs, the President couldn’t attend to any other official work rather than responding to the questions raised by the MPs. The majority of the MPs were asked by the President about the forthcoming Budget. Then the President said that he will inform them about it later. The President also said this time the Government parliamentary group meeting will be held after presenting the Budget.
The President went to Egypt last Sunday to attend the COP-27 Conference on Climate Change. Since the day the President arrived in Egypt, he had to attend a series of bilateral meetings with foreign leaders.
However, President Wickremesinghe and Pakistan Prime Minister were the only two leaders who participated in those bilateral meetings representing the Asian region. Therefore, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave his priority to President Wickremesinghe.
Minister of Environment Naseer Ahamed, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene, President’s International Affairs Director Dinouk Colambage and President’s Private Secretary Sandra Perera also accompanied the President.
President Wickremesinghe also met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the sidelines of the COP-27 Conference. The President extended his warm greetings to the new British Prime Minister. The President met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the high-level breakfast on the sidelines of COP-27 and discussed the ongoing economic challenges in Sri Lanka and climate change efforts by both countries.
President Wickremesinghe also held discussions on debt management with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. During the meeting the IMF Director made a positive response towards Sri Lanka. She had informed the President to accelerate the debt restructuring process of Sri Lanka. In addition, the President also held talks with Finance Minister of Ghana Ken Ofori-Atta along with the Speaker of the People’s Majlis of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed.
“Social capital being drained”
Leader of the 43 Brigade and SJB Parliamentarian MP Patali Champika Ranawaka has called on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to retire from politics.
At a meeting in Colombo, on Thursday, Ranawaka said, “I call upon Mahinda Rajapaksa not to enter politics again or at least say he will do so. Many people have already left the country. We have a social capital that has been created by years of hard work. That is one of the remaining assets we have. Now that social capital is being drained. Each time they see the Rajapaksas trying to make a comeback, people leave this country.”
Opposition slams Govt
The Opposition slammed the Government in Parliament for choosing to have former Maldivian President and Maldivian Parliament current Speaker Mohamed Nasheed represent Sri Lanka as part of its delegation to the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference.
Questioning the Government’s decision, SJB Parliamentarian Nalin Bandara said while Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation, the Government however has chosen the Maldivian Speaker to represent the country at the COP27.
“Is there no MP from the Government suitable to represent the Government at the COP27? Responding to Bandara, Leader of the House Minister Susil Premajayantha, gave an elaborate explanation of how the COP27 was formed. He said the COP27 was an important event, and a leader of the country must attend.
“There is no issue about it,” he said, adding that it is unclear why the Opposition was questioning the event. National People’s Power Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake slammed the President’s decision to attend the event at a time the country is grappling with a host of issues.
SJB Parliamentarian Imthiaz Bakeer Markar lauded the exemplary service rendered by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa to develop the economy while providing employment to youth in the urban, rural and remote sectors by establishing garment factories throughout the country.
Bakeer Markar said the former President’s son Sajith Premadasa will also follow the footsteps of his late father when he comes into power one day. Addressing the media, Bakeer Markar said the former President not only provided thousands of jobs to youth but also started the ‘Janasaviya’ program to help the less-privileged.
Bakeer Markar also said that the village re-awakening program ‘Gamudawa’ was also launched by former President Premadasa to develop villages and help villagers to be engaged in self-employment activities. He said as there are no such economic development projects in the country at present and the majority of the people are facing severe difficulties due to the escalating prices of day-to-day food items.
The Sunday Observer is the oldest and most circulated weekly English-language newspaper in Sri Lanka since 1928.
Call Us : (+94) 112 429 429
Produced by Lake House. Copyright © 1995 – 2022 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.