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Manusha slams MoF officials

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Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara said that the Finance Ministry officials are acting without any understanding regarding how to protect the fishermen and the fisheries industry.

The Minister stressed, as a result these officials have not been able to prepare a viable programme to protect fishermen and develop the fisheries sector.

The Minister also pointed out that the Ministry of Finance officials’ actions indicate they do not have a proper understanding of the valuable contribution made by the fisheries sector to the development of the economy of this country.

The Minister stated this during a meeting held at the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment today (17) with those employed in the fisheries sector. The meeting was a part of a series of such events organized under the “Garu Saru” programme, initiated by the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment to uphold the dignity, security and professional status of all those employed in the informal sector of work in Sri Lanka.

As a person who hails from Galle district, the Minister pointed out that he has a good understanding of the fisheries industry and the challenges faced by the professionals who are engaged in the sector.

The Minister went on to say, “In other countries of the world, whether a person is a fisherman, a plumber, a doctor or an engineer, they are entitled to the same privileges. All of them have the same level of respect. In our country people are divided on party lines, ethnicity and also according to their professions. This is to take various advantages. By doing so, they try to keep the fishermen and the plantation workers at a low social status level and deny them privileges and respect enjoyed by some other professionals.

But as our main programme, our Ministry started an initiative to ensure that the workforce in the informal sector of this country gets the dignity, security and professional status enjoyed by those engaged in the so-called formal sector of work.

There are only 2.5 million employees in the country on record. But there are another 6 million who contribute to this economy. You are among those people. But there was no programme to protect this group.

That is why we have started this programme to give dignity, security and respect to these 6 million workers. Also, our aim is to introduce a proper social security mechanism for these workers to protect them when they are unable to work and when they are old.

We are introducing a new bill to bring an employment act. Thereby, a new chapter will be created and a committee will be created for those in these fields. Then we will take steps to make it a statutory body in this country.

The most important thing here is that this is not a workers’ union. This will be a professional council. Here, as fishermen you will decide what your industry wants and what is best for your industry. As the Minister, I have the power to gazette the regulations that you will decide and agree.

The real story is that nowadays anyone can become a fisherman. That means anyone can get a boat and go fishing. But this should go beyond that and it should be done in a professional manner.

Therefore, you should propose how to develop this industry at a professional level and I will spearhead efforts to implement them. Our aim is also to prepare a system to take care of those engaged in this sector when they are old or unable to work or when they lose their jobs.We gave an undertaking to the Cabinet of Ministers that we will submit a report within three months with proposals to usher in a social security system covering the entire workforce of the country.

Through that, we are trying to integrate the various insurance schemes such as agricultural insurance, farmer insurance and various social security funds such as EPF and ETF and have a one common system for all the working people. The related proposals are now being prepared by an expert committee.

After that you too can get EPF after 55 years of age. It is also possible to get employee benefit funds like the ETF. If you want, you can get it as a pension. This is a national programme.

The GPS system that was brought to prevent boats from illegally going to Australia was also installed in your boats. To install GPS you have to incur a cost of around Rs.800,000. Also, only one group has been given permission to make them.

Fishermen need a GPS. But what has happened here is that they have made it compulsory to install the GPS system given by Australia and not others. And without this you will not get the license to go to sea.

The GPS must be repaired to get this license. Also, the people going to the sea should be insured, and this insurance is done by different companies. But the insurance pays only if the boat breaks and all the lives are lost. There is a lot of confusion here.

Often when a life is lost, especially when a person falls into the sea and goes missing, a death certificate cannot be obtained. There are also questions about how to compensate them at such times. When a boat has to be towed, there is a problem of which insurance company intervenes.

These are not matters related to us, these are matters related to the Ministry of Fisheries. But we do what is necessary for your safety and dignity. Here, we are working to create your safety as well as professional dignity.

Although we have the sea around the country, we bring fish from abroad. Imported fish is taxed only 100 or 200 rupees for a kilogramme and this is also after excluding the water weight. But if we build a factory in the country, the Government imposes an 18% VAT. We are the ones who raised our hands for this.

But this has been prepared and sent by the officials of the Ministry of Finance. They do not know how to take care of the fishermen.

There is a problem that when we do fishing, whether we use the safety tools used by other fishermen in the world? If so, our accidents can be greatly reduced. We present these as laws. 

Sometimes you may feel we are trying to further burden you. However, as the Ministry of Labour, we are trying to do things that need to be done for the safety of the worker. They are discussed with other institutions and we try to implement them without any conflict” the Minister said.

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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Lankan convict in Gandhi assassination case passes away

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Santhan alias T Suthendiraraja, a Sri Lankan national who was one of the six convicts released in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, died on Wednesday morning at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) in Chennai.

Santhan, who was released by the Indian Supreme Court in November 2022, was kept at the special camp near the Tiruchirapalli Central Prison.

Last week, the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai issued an order to deport Santhan to Sri Lanka, however, he was admitted to the RGGH for treatment for a kidney-related ailment.

Addressing the reports, E Thenirajan, Dean, RGGH, said that based on the directions of the Tiruchirapalli district collector, Santhan was admitted to the hospital on January 27.

Thenirajan said a team of doctors were treating him at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and constantly monitoring him. He said Santhan was diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis or a liver disease.

“He suffered a setback to his health yesterday (Tuesday) night. He had lost consciousness and we were providing treatment. Around 4.30 am today (Wednesday), he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was revived following a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) procedure and was on ventilator support. However, he failed to respond to further treatment and passed away at 7.50 am,” he said.

Thenirajan said they would carry out the post-mortem procedures now and take further measures to send his body to Sri Lanka.

According to court documents, Santhan is believed to have fled then strife-torn Sri Lanka in 1991 and reached India by boat, along with Sivarasan, who led the assassination team and was never caught alive, and a few others. According to the Supreme Court order, Santhan’s role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was direct and active.

Santhan was initially sentenced to death for his involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, however, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in November 2022, along with five other convicts, after spending over three decades in prison.

(The Indian Express)

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