Govt. determined to fight food mafia – Sarath Weeerasekera


The Special Committee on Covid-19 Control, which met via online technology under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday, September 10, extended the quarantine curfew until 4 am on September 21. The progress of the vaccination drive and the future course of action was discussed.

Health officials said that a high percentage of deaths from Covid-19 are in the 60s and most of them had not received even a single dose. Therefore, the President emphasised the need to continue the implementation of the mobile vaccination program and provide vaccinations to those over 60 years of age who are unable to come for vaccination and who are suffering from various diseases.

The President said that those who are reluctant should be encouraged to get the vaccine. As vegetable farmers have been severely affected by the inability to release their produce to the market on a daily basis, it was decided to keep all the economic centres in the island open.

School closure

The impact of closure of the schools in 2020 and 2021 on the loss of primary education to nearly 700,000 children and the pre-school education to a similar number of children was also discussed. It was also revealed that there are over 3,000 schools in rural areas with less than 100 students. A technical committee consisting of health and education officials was tasked with making an expeditious recommendation first on the feasibility of opening such schools.

PM in Italy

Sri Lanka Embassy and Italian officials welcomed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Mrs. Shiranthi Rajapaksa at the Guglielmo Marconi International Airport in Bologna, Italy on Friday, September 10, at the start of the Premier’s official visit.

The Prime Minister will deliver the keynote address at an International Symposium at the University of Bologna and participate in several other official engagements in the city.

At a recent media briefing at the SLPP headquarters, Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris said Premier Rajapaksa has been invited to address the opening session and deliver the keynote speech at an international symposium organised by the University of Bologna in Italy.

He said, “It is a matter of great pride for us that our country and its leadership is held in the highest esteem not only in South Asia but in the world at large adding that European Leaders at the highest level will participate in this conference”.

Prof. Peiris said this would be an ideal opportunity to project to the international community a realistic picture of the situation in Sri Lanka while Premier Rajapaksa will be meeting and holding substantive discussions with the leadership of Western countries. The Minister said that Prime Minister Rajapaksa will also have discussions with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Italy and is also scheduled to have discussions with the President of the European Parliament.

 CAA Act

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa has urged the Government to withdraw the Gazette notification, under which Emergency Regulations were imposed, and instead activate the Consumer Affairs Authority Act. He said that the real objective of the Government imposing Emergency Regulations is to form a dictatorial administration, leading to the burial of democracy in the country.

Sajith Premadasa in a recent media release stated, “The State of Emergency will not bring in Covid-19 vaccines, and it will not contain the pandemic. It will not bring down the prices of essential food commodities either. The real objective of imposing Emergency Regulations is to form a dictatorial administration. Government should reverse the Gazette Notification under which Emergency was imposed and should activate the Consumer Affairs Authority Act to punish those who hide stocks of essential consumer goods”.

 CAA Act

Agricultural Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage told Parliament that the State of Emergency was declared not to militarise the country as claimed by some factions and it was solely done to provide essential goods at a concessionary price. He said that the Government during the past month attempted to control the escalating prices of essential goods by using the Consumer Affairs Authority Act, which was not powerful enough and needed amendments.

“The CAA Act is not powerful enough. The fine for selling essential goods above the controlled price was Rs. 2,500. We have presented an Amendment to the CAA Act in Parliament to increase the fine to between Rs. 100,000 and Rs. 2 million. It will take at least three months to pass this Amendment as it has to go to the Attorney General, to the Cabinet and then to Parliament for approval”, he said.

The Minister said if the President wanted to militarise the country, he could have suppressed some 847 protests carried out recently amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister Aluthgamage said, “The President did not order teargas or water cannons at any of the protests for the past one and a half years. He could have used a State of Emergency to control those protests”.

 UNP to be revamped

UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywardana said UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has shouldered the arduous task of revamping the United National Party (UNP) set up in 1946 with the contribution of all ethnic groups of the country.

Addressing the people’s representatives of the Galle district Local Government Institutions and party activists via Zoom technology, he said the country has drifted towards a national tragedy and people’s existence is endangered owing to the inability and the inefficiency of the Government.

Mr. Abeywardana said the UNP has completed 75 years in its political journey. As we observe the dawn of freedom to Sri Lanka, we can notice an exceptional link between the Southern Province and the freedom struggle. The Matara district played a prominent role in the freedom movement.

 ‘Change political culture’

Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) Leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Parliament that if the Government really wants to solve the economic crisis in the country, they should change the corrupt political culture.

Speaking during the debate on the Finance Bill, he said, “Although many Government MPs and Ministers repeatedly said there is no problem in the country and the economy is functioning smoothly, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has accepted that there is a problem in revenue generation and several economic woes. He even provided their plan to solve those issues.

“But the real issue behind all of those problems is the corrupt political culture in the country. If you genuinely want to solve the economic crisis, you have to change that.” Are you ready to do that?,” Anura Kumara Dissanayake said.

When a development project is commenced, the progress of it is measured not by the benefits to the public, but from the commissions the Ministers could get through it. Dissanayake said this is the reality and everyone knows that. This should be changed. Speaking about the Finance Bill which was taken up for debate in Parliament on September 7, the JJB Leader alleged that the Bill’s sole purpose is money laundering.

The proclamation of Emergency Regulations for the supply of essential food by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was passed by a majority of 81 votes in Parliament on Monday (September 6).

When the vote on the Emergency Regulations was taken, 132 MPs voted in favour while 51 members voted against. All Government MPs present voted for the emergency regulations, while Opposition Parliamentarians representing the SJB, JVP and TNA voted against. UNP National List MP Ranil Wickremesinghe was not present at the time the vote was taken. The President enacted the Emergency Regulations for the provision of essential food items in accordance with the powers vested in him under Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance.

 Uncivilised act

Public Security Minister, Rear Admiral (Rtd) Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament that the Government was duty bound to look after the people and that it would not hesitate to bring in any laws necessary for that purpose.

Participating in the debate on the Presidential proclamation to declare an Emergency, the Minister said that food security was an integral part of national security, and therefore, the Government would bring new laws or enact amendments to laws to achieve that objective.

Minister Weerasekera said, “There is a food mafia. We are fighting it. It is an uncivilised act to create a food shortage at a time like this. The Government has a responsibility to enforce laws to protect the interests of the people. We will defeat this mafia without considering their party affiliations. Unfortunately, the Opposition is not helping us overcome this obstacle. It looks as if the Opposition had joined forces with the virus to fight against the Government”.

“We faced two world wars, two rebellions and launched a battle against terrorism for 30 years. We never had food shortages. The prevailing shortages are artificially created. We are determined to fight those who are hoarding food and essential supplies. The Opposition members are eagerly waiting to see the crisis worsen day by day. They are deriving some perverse pleasure from the suffering of the public. They are wishing for food scarcity to gain political mileage. They want the people to take to the streets. They want to see the number of Covid-19 deaths increase to thousands”, he also said.

Public money misused

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told Parliament on Tuesday, September 7, the Government has lost Rs. 1,600 billion in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking during the debate on the regulations imposed under the Financial Bill and Export Import Control Bill, the Minister said that the revenue received from the Customs, the Excise Department, the Inland Revenue Department and the tourism sector has gone down significantly due to the lockdown.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the VAT revenue received from the Inland Revenue Department has also decreased by about 75 percent but expenditure had not decreased. The Minister also said that foreign loans and aid coming into the country have also declined. He said that nearly 80 percent of the Covid-19 vaccines have been purchased for cash.

The Finance Minister said, “The country is going through a very difficult time. The pandemic has affected the country drastically. The forex issue is also another problem that we have to overcome. We need the cooperation of the Opposition to come out of the situation we are in as one nation, casting aside politics. Sri Lankan’s state expenditure has exceeded revenue for decades and the pandemic situation has made it worse. Public money has also been misused. So, we need to make genuine efforts to rectify these shortcomings”.


EPRLF Leader and former Parliamentarian, Suresh Premachandran told the media in Jaffna that the TNA is in crisis and is on the verge of splitting permanently. He had said that the split in the TNA was evident when considering that a section of the TNA had signed a document prepared by Leader of the Tamil People’s Alliance, C. V. Wigneswaran to be sent to the UNHRC in Geneva, while another faction had not only refused to sign but also were heavily critical of Wigneswaran’s letter.

Mr. Premachandran said that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had submitted another letter to the next session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Mr. Premachandran had said the two sections of the TNA were organising discussions throughout Jaffna these days to state their positions.

He had said that the TNA group that came to solve the problems of the Tamil people was being held hostage by a group of people who were trying to increase their power, adding that the ordinary Tamil people are well aware of this situation. Mr. Premachandran had said while the Government is using various laws to oppress the Tamil people on one hand, the TNA on the other hand is adopting double standards on Tamil issues, leaving the Tamil people in a desperate situation.

Red carpet welcome

The Sri Lankan Tokyo 2020 Paralympics team returned to the country on Tuesday (September 7) to a red carpet welcome. The team led by F46 Javelin Gold Medalist and new World Record holder Dinesh Priyantha Herath flanked by Javelin F64 Bronze Medalist Samitha Dulan Kodithuwakku and officials were led to the VIP Lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport for a reception.

The Cabinet of Ministers has given the nod to award cash prizes to the two Sri Lankan athletes who clinched a Gold and a Bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. The proposal was tabled by the Minister of Sports and Youth, Namal Rajapaksa.

The Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seeking a pardon for former SJB Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake. Ranjan Ramanayake is currently serving a four-year sentence after he was found guilty of contempt of court.

The Former President said that Ramanayake sacrificed his wealth for the well-being of the people. “As your Government had pardoned several others who were imposed with harsh punishments by the court, you would also agree that it is unfortunate for Ramanayake to suffer for a less serious crime”, the letter noted.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had appealed to the President to grant a Presidential Pardon to Ranjan Ramanayake