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Norway to provide Rs. 1.2 billion for mine action in Sri Lanka

The Government of Norway is providing NOK 60 million (over Rs. 1.2 billion) over a period of three years for mine action in Sri Lanka.
 
"Sri Lanka has been heavily contaminated by landmines, but the country is now approaching its goal of becoming mine-free. This year, Norway holds the presidency of the Mine Ban Treaty, and intends to help Sri Lanka achieve this important goal," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide.
 
State Secretary Marianne Hagen announced Norway's contribution at a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo yesterday. 
 
With the help of national and international organizations, Sri Lanka has carried out extensive mine clearance activities. In December 2018, 94 percent of the mined areas had been cleared. Norway's contribution will support the vital efforts the authorities are making in this area.
 
"Mine clearance efforts are an important part of the reconciliation process, and mean that families who were forced to leave their homes during the war can return home safely," Ms Søreide said.
 
Supporting mine action is part of Norway's obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty, which was adopted in Oslo in 1997. In 2018, the Government provided NOK 325 million for mine clearance efforts in 18 countries. This level of funding will be maintained in 2019. This is also in line with Norway's new humanitarian strategy.
 
The funding provided by Norway will be channeled through two mine clearance organizations that have been working in the country for a long time - the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and the HALO Trust. Norway's main focus is on humanitarian mine clearance to protect civilians. (Colombo Page)

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Gota to boycott March 8 Rally!

Former Secretary of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is likely to boycott the ‘Pohottuwa’ rally to be held on March 8 in Kandy sources say. According to reports he has not been invited for the rally and has also decided to not attend even if invited. Rajapaksa has said he would not appear on political stages until the favourable time. 
 
Sources close to Rajapaksa say he feels it is too early to appear on political stages and would only do so when he feels it is the correct time to do so. While the country is seeking a change, Rajapaksa is said to believe the necessary change will not be delivered by the budget which is to be presented today.

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2019 Budget: :Live Updates

The budget proposal for the year 2019 presented by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has received the unanimous approval of the Cabinet of Ministers today.

The Second Reading of the Budget will commence at 2.00 p.m. today. Refresh the page to get the latest updates.

1.58 p.m. 0- Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera arrives in Parliament1.58 p.m. 0- Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera arrives in Parliament

2.06 p.m. - Speaker begins proceedings of Parliament.

2.07 p.m. - Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill begins.

2.10 p.m. - Samaraweera says Sri Lanka was able to record a primary surplus in the budget for the first time in over 50 years in 2017.

2.12 p.m. - Says the incumbent government inherited an economic time bomb from the previous administration but points out they were able to able to bring the economy to a better place amidst severe challenges. 

2.15 p.m. - The rupee had appreciated by 1.5% against the dollar as of late. Butwe now have the opportunity to continue the projects that we brought in. We have been able to keep the budget deficit at 4.5% of the GDP. 

2.16 p.m. - Imports were around 10% of the GDP while exports were 14% of the GDP. We believe in economic growth led by free enterprise and private enterprise which is what we introduced in the previous budget.

2.17 p.m. - Samaraweera says that the aim of the budget is to empower its citizens while nurturing the poor.

2. 19 p.m. - Samaraweera says that the rapid rural infrastructure development programme ‘Gamperaliya’ was the ‘first victim’ of the illegal government during the political crisis as they scrapped it . The first Cabinet paper of the current government was to bring it back

2.21 p.m. - The "Enterprise Sri Lanka” low interest credit scheme will be broadened to accommodate more budding entrepreneurs and would be implemented across the island

2.22 p.m. - Religious places to get LKR 1 million as ppposed to LKR 500,000 from Gamperaliya to improve infrastructure facilities.2.22 p.m. - Religious places to get LKR 1 million as ppposed to LKR 500,000 from Gamperaliya to improve infrastructure facilities.

2.23 p.m. - Enterprise Sri Lanka will become the ecosystem for large scale development and networking and the public is encouraged to call 1929 and inform officials about any bank officers who discourage customers coming to get loans.

2.24 p.m. - We will help farmers in Hambantota and several other districts. LKR 250 million has been allocated for the first phase. Warehouse facilities will be made available in  Jaffna and other districts. 

2.29 p.m. - The "Diri Saviya" loan scheme will be developed further to poultry farmers. LKR 800 million allocated for growing new rubber trees increasing rubber tapping due to the shortage of natural rubber. 

2.30 p.m. -  Ceylon Cinnamon will be subjected to compulsory inspections and we will allow a grace period of 12 months for the producers. Balapitiya and Kosgoda training facility have been allocated LKR 75 million. 

2.31 p.m. - Moragahakanda multipurpose project will be finalised by 2020.

2.33 p.m. -  For the Yala and Maha seasons, LKR 12,000 million has been allocated for the construction of waterways in Wayamba, Maha Ela and Minipe. 

2.31 p.m. - LKR 1300 million to be allocated for the construction of new fisheries harbours in Point Pedro and Pesalai. Fish exports have increased by 14%.

2. 40 p.m. - A free glass of milk for every primary school student in the country.

2.41 p.m. - Even though we have developed with new roads and expressways but there are 1 million people with no sanitary facilities in the country. More than 100,000 in Hambantota district have no sanitary facilities. There are 25,000 houses with no washrooms in Monaragala. When this end we will promise that there will be no house without a washroom we will allocate Rs. 4 billion towards this. Every main bus stations and railway stations will have washrooms for men, women and people with disabilities. We will invite private sector companies to operate and manage these facilities. women and people with disabilities. We will invite private sector companies to operate and manage these facilities.

2.43 p.m. - Labour laws in the country will be amended to encourage more women into the labour force. Only 30% of females are part of the working population. We will develop day care centers across the island. The presence of women in senior roles are limited.

2.44 p.m. - Monthly allowance allocated for differently-abled persons to be increased from LKR 3,000 to LKR 5,000. We have allocated LKR 4,320 million for this purpose which will help more than 72,000 our our citizens.

2.50 - p.m. -  We will make initiate a pilot project in Dompe to teach women prisoners skills that would be usueful such as arts and crafts. We have allocated LKR 50 million towards this initiative.

2.51 p.m. -  Resources have been allocated to ensure that we resettle our Muslim refugees in the North.

2.53 p.m. - A "Home Sweet Home" loan scheme will be available newly married couples. These loans will have a repayment period of 25 years with an interest rate of 6% interest rate.

2. 57 p.m. -  As a measure to bring down cost of living and improve economic competitiveness, in last year’s Budget, it was proposed to phase-out all para-tariffs, starting with 1,200 para-tariffs that were removed in November 2017. This process will continue in 2019, where all HS codes with an import Cess will be subject to a phasing out. . 

2. 57 p.m. -  As a measure to bring down cost of living and improve economic competitiveness, in last year’s Budget, it was proposed to phase-out all para-tariffs, starting with 1,200 para-tariffs that were removed in November 2017. This process will continue in 2019, where all HS codes with an import Cess will be subject to a phasing out. . 

3.01 p.m. - 1,000 art graduates will be trained through internships where LKR 25,000 will be paid by the government. We have allocated LKR 300 million has been allocated for this.  

3.02 p.m. - Our migrant workers are faced with significant issues in building a house. As such, we will introduce the “Sihina Maliga” loan scheme, in order to make their ‘dream home’ a reality, under “Enterprise Sri Lanka”. Migrant workers, registered with the Foreign Employment Bureau and currently working abroad, will be able to get a loan of Rs.10Mn where the Government will bear 75% of the interest cost and where the tenure of the loan will be a maximum of 15 years, with a two year grace period.

3.04 p.m. - We will establish industrial estates under Industrial Development Board (IDB) in KKS, Manthai East, Paranthan, Kondachi, Kinniya, Samanthurai & Trincomalee3.04 p.m. - We will establish industrial estates under Industrial Development Board (IDB) in KKS, Manthai East, Paranthan, Kondachi, Kinniya, Samanthurai & Trincomalee

3.06 p.m. - We are launching the Enterprise Innovation Program, which will support the development of innovative new products and technology by Sri Lankan firms. The Program will be implemented over 3 years, Proposed LKR 250 Mn Proposed LKR 50 Mn providing matching grants for proof of concept, prototyping, R&D and technology adoption.

3.08 p.m. - We will remove the minimum employment requirement imposed on the companies predominantly engaged in the Information Technology Services, to be eligible for the special additional deduction of 35% on the salary expenses incurred. 

3.09 p.m. - A Revenue Intelligence Unit will be established at Ministry of Finance, to take steps to assist our main Revenue Collection Departments, such as, Customs, Inland Revenue and Excise, to broaden their revenue collection bases, increase total revenue collected and minimize leakages & evasion. 

3.11 p.m. - The Gem and Jewelry Industry will be supported with the PAL and Customs Duty on the importation of machinery used in lapidaries and the PAL on the un-cut gems imported, will be reduced from 7.5% to 2.5%.

3.14 p.m. - Tourism is a key sector with high potential to contribute to growth in the short term. Recognizing the costs inherent in the sector, Nation Building Tax (NBT) on foreign currency receipts by tourist hotels registered by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) will be removed. It is proposed to make it mandatory for travel agents to remit funds to hotels in US Dollars when invoiced in US Dollars. The Central Bank will issue directions in this regard. 

3.17 p.m. - Economic Service Charge (ESC) applicable for export sectors which are subject to Corporate Income Tax of 14%, will be reduced to 0.25% from 0.5%. This will be a major boost to exports, IT and tourism.
To support the local construction companies, no foreign construction company will be allowed to tender for Government projects, unless the project is fully foreign financed, without forming a joint venture with a local construction or consultancy company. This will support the local companies to benefit from the transfer of technology. 

In order to further support the Property Development Sector, I propose to : a. Grant residential visas for 3 years to foreign nationals who invest USD 400,000/= or more in condominiums. This process will be implemented this year. This residential visa will not be valid when the foreigner exits from this investment. b. Cess on imported construction material will be reduced by 30%.  

3.24 p.m. - Our investment strategy in the educational sector is driven by the twin objectives of ensuring the availability of infrastructure and creating opportunities for students to excel through improvements in the curricula and teacher training. Our Government’s program of ensuring “13 years of Education” for every child will be further supported this year. As such, we have already allocated Rs.32,000 Mn. to improve the laboratories, class rooms, libraries, sanitary & water facilities, teachers’ quarters, etc

3.27 p.m. -  our curricula will be modernized with a focus on more analytical and creative learning, as opposed to rote learning. Our future investments will be guided by the STEM+A master plan, which is being Allocated LKR 32,000 Mn Proposed LKR 100 Mn Knowledge Driven Skilled Society  finalized. This will allow students to pursue a combination of subjects such as Mathematics with Music or Biology with English.

3.30 p.m. -  I am also delighted to announce the launch of the Scholarship for Educational Excellence - SEE Fund, to facilitate the country’s top performers at Physical Science, Biological Science, Technology, Commerce and Arts, at the Advanced Level Examinations held each year to pursue their undergraduate education at top universities, such as Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. The first batch will be chosen from the results of the 2019 ‘A’ Levels in August. 14 scholarships will be given this year to those who top their respective areas. Those selected will be required to return and serve at least 15 years in Sri Lanka. We will also expand the scholarships given in the coming years.

3.32 p.m. - Already LKR 25,000 Mn. has been allocated to meet the infrastructure gaps at our universities with investments, in Theatre Complexes, Professorial Units, Departmental Complexes, Libraries and Canteens. To complement the Medical Faculties at the Wayamba and Sabaragamuwa Universities, professorial units will be established at Kuliyapitiya and Ratnapura Hospitals, while a Faculty of Allied Health Science at the Ruhuna University will also be established, which will enable students to pursue careers in medical related services, which is an urgent requirement in our country. A “State of the Art” Laboratory for research in areas such as cancer, diabetes and infectious deseases will be set up at the Medical Faculty of the Sri Jayawardenapura University.

3.34 p.m. -  Only around 30,000 students enter universities from over 300,000 who sit for the ‘A’ Levels. We will introduce a loan scheme, "My Future" under "Enterprise Sri Lanka" which enables our students to pursue Undergraduate Education at Non-State Universities. A student can draw up to LKR 1.1 Mn. at zero interest, with the repayment starting only after 2 years of graduation, to be repaid over a period of 12 years. 

3.27 p.m. -  There is also a requirement to promote Tamil Medium Teacher Training as a matter of priority. I propose Rs.400Mn to be provided to the Ministry of National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress & Hindu Affairs.

3. 30 p.m. - There is an urgent need to develop relevant skills in the healthcare sector. We encourage, the private sector to offer internationally accredited training courses for Nurses, where the Government will provide a stipend of LKR 10,000/- per month per trainee, for a period of 2 years. These qualified Nurses will be able to seek employment in non- governmental institutions. A similar apprenticeship program will be encouraged for pharmaceutical professionals. Pharmaceutical companies will hire science graduate apprentices for a 1 year program, to be accredited by an appropriate institution, and the Government will provide a stipend of LKR 15,000/- per month per apprentice for that year.

3. 30 p.m. - There is an urgent need to develop relevant skills in the healthcare sector. We encourage, the private sector to offer internationally accredited training courses for Nurses, where the Government will provide a stipend of LKR 10,000/- per month per trainee, for a period of 2 years. These qualified Nurses will be able to seek employment in non- governmental institutions. A similar apprenticeship program will be encouraged for pharmaceutical professionals. Pharmaceutical companies will hire science graduate apprentices for a 1 year program, to be accredited by an appropriate institution, and the Government will provide a stipend of LKR 15,000/- per month per apprentice for that year.

3. 31 p.m. -  The Sri Lanka Army has come forward to support the Government’s drive to effectively train those interested, especially those from low income backgrounds in agriculture, animal husbandry, ornamental fish, use of heavy machines such as Backhoe’s, Motor Graders, Dozers and also undertake training of electricians, welders, air-conditioning technicians, catering assistants, stewards, carpenters, masons and plumbers. These training courses will be NVQ certified and the training will be undertaken at selected Army camps. The trainees will be given the stipend and the concessionary season ticket already made available to VTA trainees.

3.32 p.m. - Towards  creating a more healthier society,  we have allocated LKR 24,750 Mn in improving the quality of infrastructure, with allocations being provided for the investments in new equipment, rehabilitation of buildings and other infrastructure at hospitals and other such facilities. This is an 38% increase in the provision compared to last year.

3.33 p.m. - LKR 1,625 Mn. has been already allocated to strengthen the Primary Health-care Units, especially in the Uva, Sabaragamuwa Central and the North Central Provinces, with the introduction of systems to coordinate patient-care over time and through the referral networks, facilitating the ability to follow up on patients at risk, which will also support to avoid duplication between providers.3.33 p.m. - LKR 1,625 Mn. has been already allocated to strengthen the Primary Health-care Units, especially in the Uva, Sabaragamuwa Central and the North Central Provinces, with the introduction of systems to coordinate patient-care over time and through the referral networks, facilitating the ability to follow up on patients at risk, which will also support to avoid duplication between providers.

3.34 p.m. - Suwaseriya ambulance service to be expanded islandwide where 300 Base Stations will be set up in 2 years, at a cost of LKR 600 Mn. 100 Base Stations will be set up this year and I propose to allocate LKR 200 Mn for this in 2019.

3.36 p.m. -  We will provide Home Dialysis Machines, while also strengthening the Hemo-Dialysis Centres in 45 hospitals, together with RO Water Plants.

3.38 p.m. - Sports is an integral part of a healthy society and also builds leadership and team spirit. We have already allocated LKR 3800 Mn. towards sports.

3.39 p.m. - In addition, LKR 300 million allocated over two years to upgrade sports stadiums and playgrounds to support our rural youth. The Bernard Aluwihare Sports Stadium in Matale, and the Weerasinghe Mallimarachchi Playground in Kolonnawa, will be upgraded.

3.40 p.m. - We will introduce the “Science at Work” Challenge, where challenges in the following 5 themes will be posed to the Scientific Community to work on, and viable solutions will be supported to be implemented with the allocation of the required finances.  (a) Reducing post-harvest losses in agriculture and fisheries  
(b) Creating global benchmark yields in Paddy and Minor crops  
(c) Addressing Human-Elephant conflict  
(d) Create a 1,500 sq.ft. low-cost livable Housing Units 
(e) Value addition to local medicinal plants and bio- products to position them as Nutra-ceuticals.

3.42 p.m - Under the Urban Re-generation Project (URP), over 8,000 houses have already been completed and over 7,500 houses are being constructed while another 5,000 houses will commence construction. LKR 8,000 million is allocated towards this.
3.43 p.m. - Sukithapurawara" Township Development Program which covers all 9 Provincesis being implemented to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization in the country. Rs.3,000 Mn. has been already allocated. I propose to allocate a further Rs.2,000 Mn. to facilitate this Programme.

3.45 p.m. -  Flood and Drainage Management, Enhancement of Drainage Capacity in the Colombo Water Basin, Beira Lake Linear Park & Beddagana Park and the Weras  Ganga Projects are designed to mitigate floods within Colombo and the Greater Colombo areas, for which, LKR 10,900 million is already allocated.

3.46 p.m. - The iconic old Town Hall building in Jaffna was destroyed during the conflict. It is now a timely requirement to reconstruct the Jaffna Town Hall. I propose LKR 700 million for this effort.

3.48 p.m - All Government and Private commercial buildings in the country will be “Disability Friendly” by 2023. It is envisaged that this will be a mandatory requirement for new building approvals from 1st January 2020. All State buildings will be made “Disability Friendly” by 2022.

3.50 p.m.- The “Sahasara” Bus Modernization Program will get priority in the next 5 years to transform bus services across the country. Private Sector Bus Employees will now have better job security with EPF and ETF contributions being made and being eligible to get loan facilities as an incentive for better service towards passengers. A Revenue Support Fund will be established as a transitional arrangement to enable bus owners to be paid on a monthly basis for the kilometer operated, rather than the highly unsatisfactory competition that exists, causing inconvenience to the public, accidents and chaos on our roads. We also commit to introducing within the next few months, starting with the Central and the Western Provinces, pre-paid fare cards, electronic tracking of buses, using GPS and information on next bus and bus schedules, delivered to the palm of the passenger through mobile applications. We have allocated LKR 1000 million towards this.3.50 p.m.- The “Sahasara” Bus Modernization Program will get priority in the next 5 years to transform bus services across the country. Private Sector Bus Employees will now have better job security with EPF and ETF contributions being made and being eligible to get loan facilities as an incentive for better service towards passengers. A Revenue Support Fund will be established as a transitional arrangement to enable bus owners to be paid on a monthly basis for the kilometer operated, rather than the highly unsatisfactory competition that exists, causing inconvenience to the public, accidents and chaos on our roads. We also commit to introducing within the next few months, starting with the Central and the Western Provinces, pre-paid fare cards, electronic tracking of buses, using GPS and information on next bus and bus schedules, delivered to the palm of the passenger through mobile applications. We have allocated LKR 1000 million towards this.

3.52 p.m. - LKR 1300 million allocated for the modern multimodal passenger terminals that will become a reality starting from Makumbura and will include Kandy, Kadawatha, Pettah and Moratuwa. We will ensure the 40% share of the SLTB market and improve efficiency of both the SLTB and private bus operations, by establishing a joint Bus Operation Control Centre connected to live digital data streams throughout the Country, so that bus transport will become an attractive option for the 21st Century.

3.54 p.m. - A concessionary loan “City Ride”, under “Enterprise Sri Lanka”, will be introduced, where the Government will bare 75% of the interest cost for private bus fleet owners to expand their fleets by a total of  1,000 luxury buses.

3.56 p.m. - Three-wheelers will be supported through a concessionary loan "Mini Taxi-Electric Three Wheeler" under “Enterprise Sri Lanka” Loan Scheme to upgrade into electric three- wheelers and small cars that will be more environmentally friendly, safer and more comfortable. Government will bear 75% of the interest rate and the existing three-wheeler should be disposed.

3.58 p.m. - Work on the Colombo City Light Rail Transit (LRT) will commence in 2019, connecting Malabe to Fort, for which LKR 5,000 million is already allocated.

4.00 p.m. - LKR 1175 million allocated for Commando Allowance, Uniform Allowance, Rent Allowance and the Good Conduct Allowance of the Armed Forces, where some have not been increased in some instances, for over 20 years, will be increased from 1st July 2019.

4.02 p.m. -  LKR 500 million allocated for Youth empowerment through enhancement of skills that will be further supported by the ‘Smart Sri Lanka” project.

4.03 p.m. -  I propose to develop an objective, transparent and measurable criteria, to streamline the “Samurdhi” Program in a more effective manner, which will actually facilitate the addition of around 600,000 deserving households. LKR 10,000 million has been allocated for this. Many deserving families have been left out, merely because of their loyalty to other political parties.

4.05 p.m. -  Sri Lanka faces a growing challenge due to its ageing population. To address this issue in a holistic manner, the Government will take steps to introduce a National Pension Plan with a sustainable financing structure.

4.07 p.m. - We will continue investments in creating “Green & Clean” Public Spaces such as, “Haritha Udyana” (eco-friendly parks), which will enable the greening of our cities and villages, whilst facilitating stronger bonds in communities. We will partner the Colombo Municipal Council in its ‘City Beautification’ endeavor. LKR 1000 million has already been allocated.

4.09 p.m. - LKR 2,000 million will be channeled to facilitate the rehabilitation of houses and other infrastructure facilities affected by disasters, while also introducing disaster resilient houses in selected high-risk districts.

4.10 p.m. - We recognize the unique contribution of artists, writers and musicians, towards enriching our society and enhancing Sri Lanka’s cultural value. Thus, our Government has continually supported the development of culture and arts in Sri Lanka. We will also introduce and implement a fair scheme of royalty payments for our artists, so that they continue to benefit from their creations, when such creations are aired/telecast or otherwise publicized. This will protect their creations and provide them with a continuous income source. To further support this initiative, we have made royalty income up to LKR 50,000/- per month, exempt from withholding tax.

4.11 p.m. - The Office for Reparations Bill was passed by this House and work will begin in 2019. We will provide the required resources for the office to be set and staffed adequately and LKR 700 million is allocated for this.

4.13 p.m. -  To fast track development in the North and the East, we will establish the “Palmyrah Fund”, with an investment of LKR 5,000 million spread over 2 years. We invite well-wishers, philanthropists, especially in the Diaspora, to also contribute to this Fund, which will be administered by the Treasury. The funds will be routed through the Government Agents for development activities in the war affected areas. In addition to these development activities, the fund will also channel resources towards programs that addresses alcoholism, drug abuse, youth unemployment, civil society-initiated counseling and support programmes. 

4.14p.m. -  LKR 250 million allocated for the Debt Relief Scheme will be continued through the Cooperative Rural Banks and Thrift and Credit Cooperative Societies.

The tax on cigarettes will be revised from midnight today. All 60mm cigarettes will be subject to a 12% Nation Building Tax (NBT) from June 01. Accordingly the price of a cigarette will increase by LKR 5. 

Tax on casinos will be increased from LKR 200 million to LKR 400 million. Entrance fee for casinos in Sri Lanka to be increased to USD 50.

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Valiant GR War Heroes, Now Disabled & Cared for Life Get New Therapeutic Swimming Pool in Senapura 

Dozens of Gajaba Regiment (GR) War Heroes who suffered permanent injuries and turned differently able, yet receiving rehabilitation and recuperation under the care of the Headquarter Battalion (HQBN) camp of the Gajaba Regiment in Senapura on Saturday (23) were the beneficiaries of a state-of-the-art new therapeutic Swimming Pool that remained a long-felt medical requirement for hydrotherapy treatment.

The Ladies Chapter of the Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE), chaired by Mrs Shehani Piyasena footed the entire phenomenal cost of this construction at the request of Mrs Sujeewa Nelson, Chairperson, GR Seva Vanitha Unit at the invitation of Major General Shavendra Silva, Colonel of the Regiment, Gajaba Regiment and Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army (COS) and Colonel Jananka Vithanachchi, the Commanding Officer of the HQBN.

Hon. Sarath Ekanayake, the Governor of North Central  Province as the Chief Guest representing, HE the President and Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Commander of the Army were greeted to a warm welcome by the Colonel of the Regiment, GR and the HQBN Commanding Officer on their arrival for the inaugural ceremony of this much-needed medical therapy. A few minutes later, both the Governor and the visiting Commander of the Army, together with Senior Officers visited the wards where GR War Heroes are undergoing rehabilitation after they turned permanently handicapped. The day's protagonists gave away gift parcels to the inmates and shared a couple views with some of them while inquiring into their well-being.

The climax of the day's event then began to draw the attention as the Governor,  Commander of the Army, Colonel of the Regiment, GR, Mrs Shehani Piyasena, Chairperson, COYLE, Mrs Sujeewa Nelson, Chairperson,  Gajaba Regiment  Seva Vanitha Unit, together with several Senior Officers walked up to the new swimming pool complex to unveil a plaque and cut a ribbon before the new facility was declared vested in those GR War Heroes who sacrificed their legs and limbs to protect the territorial integrity and unitary status of this island-nation. This new swimming pool, formally handed to GR by COYLE representative, is 25 meter long and equipped with 8 swimming lanes and the opening was symbolized by a display of swimming capabilities of those physically-handicapped War Heroes.

Commander of the Army in appreciation of the COYLE's great thoughtfulness and generosity awarded a memento to Mrs Shehani Piyasena of the COYLE at the same occasion and spoke high of their silent gesture of gratitude as the COYLE fights shy even to disclose the exact cost of the project. 

Regimental Senior Council Members, Regimental Centre Commandant, Brigadier Harendra Peiris, Deputy Centre Commandant, several other senior officers, Other Ranks, school children and villagers of the area also were present at the occasion. Towards the end of the ceremony, a few selected school principals were given packs containing some valuable sports items for use in their schools.

Gajaba Regiment, as one of the premier infantry outfits of the Sri Lanka Army, has shown the epitome of valour, courage and sacrifices for the sake of the motherland during its 35 years long, yet proud and eventful history. This valiant Regiment suffered the highest number of casualties and supreme sacrifices during the three-decade long brutal terrorism.  Gajaba War Heroes who turned physically-handicapped are in this way taken care by the Headquarter Battalion of the Gajaba Regiment which was established on 27 May 1994.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://isis.lk/news?start=84#sigProId830fa032bb

 

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Dayasiri against providing relief to public through budget 

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary and MP Dayasiri Jayasekara says relief cannot be granted to citizens through this year's budget as it will further deteriorate the country. 
 
The MP made these claims while speaking to media following an event held at the SLFP Headquarters yesterday. Commenting on it further the MP said : 
 
“It is questionable if a country that is facing an economic downfall can be helped through a budget. I don't think we are able to provide relief to the people at this time. If we do so it will only deteriorate the country further. Therefore what the country needs now is a new social, cultural and economic vision”. 
 
Government response: Political Hypocrisy 
 
A UNP stalwart responding to these comments said that since 2015 as a result of handling the country’s economy carefully that we have been able to provide assistance to the people despite having significant debts to settle. 
 
He pointed out that the Rajapaksa’s, on the other hand, hid the state's debt in government organizations and added false data to show an inflated development while making the country a Chinese colony. He also added that they are now spreading false rumours due to political hypocrisy.

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Senior Army officer issues orders to Army Wives! 

The Senior Army officer in Charge of the Eastern Province is said to have ordered the wives of Senior Officers reporting to him to attend all activities and events attended by his wife.

According to authoritative sources, the said Senior officer had called 40 Senior officers and said their wives must attend these events. He is said to have threatened to implement strict regulations on the use of official vehicles and other privileges enjoyed by these officers should their wives fail to act according to the order. 

However the wives of the Army officers under him are said to be questioning as to how their husband’s senior officer can issue orders to their spouses in such a manner. With many wives living away from the area, they are finding it difficult to attend these events and meeting, sources said, calling the order an unfair move on the part of the senior officer.

The same officer is accused of forcing the nearly 300 strong officer cadre reporting to him to provide sponsorships or advertisements amounting to Rs. 20 000 for the annual event of his regiment Mela held to collect funds for the Regiment. Many officers unable to raise such amounts have been left to shell out the required amounts from their own pockets. According to sources the senior officer appears to have gone ‘mad’ with power to think he can issue orders not only to his officers but to their family members as well.

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Mangala to present 2019 Budget: Empowering the People Nurturing the Poor

The fifth budget of the present government to be presented in parliament at 2 pm today by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera is aimed at reducing the budget deficit to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 5.3% in 2018.

Minister Samaraweera's second budget as Finance Minister is themed under ‘Empowering the people, nurturing the poor’ and will focus on increasing the number of entrepreneurs in the country and eliminating all barriers that hinder this objective.

Samaraweera’s budget will have other tough targets, including maintaining the debt-to-GDP ratio to just 70% and limiting recurrent expenditure to 15% of GDP. Capital expenditure will also be limited to only 3.5% of GDP, the Finance Ministry had said. Total public expenditure is estimated to be Rs. 4.5 trillion while revenue is expected to be Rs. 2.4 trillion.

“The Budget will have proposals to expand Enterprise Sri Lanka and improve skills and entrepreneurship opportunities to improve the quality of Sri Lanka’s human resources,” a statement released by the Finance Ministry said on Monday. “Policies needed to empower the poor and reduce poverty will be included in this Budget.” 

The budget deficit in 2015 was 7.6% and improved to 5.3% in 2018 while the government is also currently running a primary surplus.

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Second Special HC to be set up at Hulftsdorf court complex

The Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms has decided to set up the second Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar at the same location where the first Special High Court was established. According to Secretary of Justice and Prison Reforms R.M.D.B. Meegasmulla necessary steps would be taken to establish the second Special High Court without delay.This would be undertaken in accordance with the authority conferred to the Justice Minister by the Judicature Act No. 2 of 1978.
 
The judges for the second Special High Court had already been appointed, however, the location of the court remained an issue. The first Special High Court was officially set up on 21st of August 2018 at the Hulftsdorf court complex.
 
The Special High Courts are being set up hear the cases related to fraudulent acts, misuse of public property and acts of bribery.

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Marapana requests Italy to amend SL expatriate workers' pension scheme

Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana visited Italy from 01 – 03 March 2019, and held bilateral discussions on 01 March at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Italian Republic, Manlio Di Stefano. 

The Foreign Minister stated that Sri Lankan expatriate workers in Italy are required to make a pension contribution amounting to around 9 percent of their salary and that they qualify for a pension after working for 20 years. 

The Minister observed that they collect this contribution together with the employer’s contribution only upon their reaching 68 years of age. He stressed that in such circumstances many of the workers do not get to enjoy this benefit as most of them work only for about 4-5 years in the country.

Minister Marapana requested the Italian authorities to consider adjusting this scheme so that a person would receive his contribution immediately upon relinquishing his employment in Italy, irrespective of the number of years worked and without having to wait until he has reached 68 years. He requested the Italian authorities to consider exempting expatriate workers from contributing to this pension scheme, if there were no legal constraints.

The Minister also brought to the attention of the Italian authorities the difficulties faced by Sri Lankans to submit their visa applications through the outsourced processing agency to obtain visas to enter Italy as tourists or to visit relatives. The Italian Undersecretary agreed to ease the difficulties encountered by Sri Lankan visa applicants.

Minister Marapana further requested that the Italian government consider providing employment to Sri Lankan skilled workers, especially the IT professionals, nurses, and healthcare supporters as Sri Lanka provides special certifications and training in these areas for the workers aimed at foreign employment.

The Foreign Minister later met members of the Sri Lankan community in Italy at a community meeting and discussed a range of issues pertaining to their social and economic aspects of the community members. The Sri Lankan community in Italy presently comprises around 120,000 residing in different parts of the country.

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Three killed in horror D.S Gunasekara bus crash! 

Three people lost their lives today when a Colombo bound Vavuniya bus crashed into a bridge and a transformer near the Mahawewa junction in Marawila around 4.30 am today.

According to the Police the bus had attempted to overtake a lorry while travelling at a high speed causing the driver to lose control of the bus.

The bus belongs to the D.S Gunasekara transport company and has been left in a mangled state. 

The horrific crash killed four individuals while 19 others suffered serious injuries. Among them are three Army soldiers, one Navy personnel and four women.

Police say some passengers were left trapped in the bus for a significant amount of time.

This may result in higher fatalities they said. Meanwhile the conductor of the bus is said to have fled the scene following the incident.

Marawila Police are carrying out further investigations into the incident.

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Mahinda to decide SLFP stance on 2019 Budget

It is reported that the Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa will be the deciding factor on whether the Sri Lanka Freedom Party would support the budget that is to be presented in Parliament by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera today.

According to internal sources of the SLFP, President Sirisena and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa have agreed that they should vote in favor of the Presidential vote and should oppose all other Ministry expenditure votes.

The sources added that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision will be conveyed at the UPFA's party group meeting today (5th).

This was also stated by Parliamentarian Shantha Bandara at a media briefing held at the SLFP headquarters in Darley Road, yesterday (04).

Finance Minister Samaraweera told the media on Sunday that the 2019 budget would be called an ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ budget. “We are not going to give handouts. We are helping people to help themselves. We are giving them fishing rods instead of the fish.”

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I am the Presidential candidate says Ranil Wick!

Prime Minister and Leader of the United National Party Ranil Wickramasinghe has announced that he would definitely contest in the next Presidential elections.

According to weekly sinhala newspaper ‘Aruna’ he has made this announcement to a group of close associates recently. 

The report further states Wickramasinghe had summoned a number of school friends, political associates, businessman and professionals on Wednesday (13) and made this announcement. (Aruna)

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