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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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Presidential Poll can be held with Acting IGP – Fmr. Election Chief

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Former Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said there is no obstacle to holding the Presidential Election with an Acting Inspector General of Police.

He said he believes the current IGP can hold the position he held before until the court hearing concludes.

He said he believes a suitable person should be appointed as Acting IGP tomorrow, adding that there may be no IGP until the hearing concludes, but the election can be held under an Acting IGP.

He added that there is no issue because if the country is governed under an appointed President, it is not a big deal to conduct the election under an Acting IGP.

(News1st) 

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Japan officially notifies SL to resume disbursement to Yen loan projects

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Following the completion of the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Official Creditor Committee (OCC) and Sri Lanka on 23 July and the expression of the willingness by the Government of Sri Lanka to swiftly conclude a bilateral agreement on debt restructuring, the Government of Japan has officially decided to resume disbursement to Yen Loan Projects, which had been suspended since the default of Sri Lanka in 2022.

On 24 July, the Government of Sri Lanka, the Embassy of Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Sri Lanka Office held a joint press conference to inaugurate this milestone decision at Ministry of Finance.

While congratulating the completion of the MOU on debt restructuring between Sri Lanka and the OCC, Ambassador MIZUKOSHI Hideaki highlighted the unprecedented initiative and outstanding contribution by the Government of Japan, as a co-chair of the OCC, in leading and concluding the public debt restructuring.

Ambassador Mizukoshi also commended Sri Lankan authorities for their ongoing efforts in implementing the comprehensive economic and social reforms essential to guide the country back to a sustainable path. He stated that all the suspended yen loan projects are crucial infrastructures that promote Sri Lanka’s economic growth and further reaffirmed Japan’s continuous and unwavering commitment to supporting Sri Lanka.

On behalf of Mr. Yamada Tetsuya, Chief Representative of JICA Sri Lanka Office, Ms. Ide Yuri, Senior Representative, handed over the official letter on this decision to Mr. Mahinda Siriwardana, Secretary to the Treasury, which is addressed to President Wickremesinghe from Dr. Tanaka Akihiko, President of JICA.

Ms. Ide Yuri expressed her hope that the resumption of Yen loan projects will contribute to stabilizing the economy and society of Sri Lanka and help gain momentum toward long-term sustainable growth, thus paving the way for Sri Lanka to recover trust and confidence from the people and private businesses of both Sri Lanka and the world.

Secretary Siriwardana expressed his profound gratitude for this decision and sincere appreciation for Japan’s excellent initiative and long-term dedication in the debt restructuring.

It is hoped that the resumption of disbursement to Yen loan projects would further strengthen the bond between Japan and Sri Lanka, as well as help this island nation bring itself back on track for further economic development, serving as a hub in the Indian Ocean.

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Cabinet takes decision following SC order on IGP

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During a special Cabinet briefing today (July 24), it has been decided to announce its response to the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the Inspector General of Police (IGP) within the next two days after studying in depth the legal aspects of the matter.

The special cabinet meeting chaired by President Ranil Wickramasinghe was held this evening at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

The Cabinet of Ministers had been of the opinion that since the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the IGP was received only this afternoon, adequate time is needed to conduct an in-depth study of the related legal issues.

Accordingly, it was unanimously decided that it would be most suitable to announce the response of the Cabinet in the next two days.

Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued an interim order preventing Deshabandu Tennakoon from performing duties and functioning in the position of the IGP.

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