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New Bill to enable dollar income from ships crossing SL waters

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The Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security took into discussion matters contained in the National Hydrographic Bill, which gives the necessary legal authority to create “Electronic Navigation Charts so that Sri Lanka can earn an annual dollar income from ships sailing near the Sri Lankan waters.

It was taken into discussion when the said Committee met in Parliament recently under the chairmanship of Member of Parliament Dr. Sarath Weerasekera.

Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who was present at the Committee meeting held stated that since 1983, the right to receive dollars from ships traveling through Sri Lankan waters has not been used. Accordingly, the Minister of Justice further commented that Sri Lanka will get the necessary legal power through the passing of this Bill.

Furthermore, through the establishment of the National Hydrographic Office, the officials stated that the purpose of this Act is to register hydrographic surveyors and nautical cartographers and to make provisions for related matters.

The Navy stated that the Royal Navy of England has created 3 maps covering the South Seas. Accordingly, the officials further commented that only data has been provided from Sri Lanka for the creation of the maps. However, the Navy officials informed the Committee that the Sri Lankan government has the right to explore and obtain data and create maps for the relevant sea areas through this Act. Based on this updated data, related maps can also be updated and dollars can be generated, the officials further said.

Officials of the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) who addressed the Committee said that some of the functions carried out by their Agency will be drifted away by this Bill. However, the Committee Chair pointed out that this Bill is currently scheduled to be debated in the Parliament and pointed out that during the Committee stage, the NARA institution will be given the opportunity to add amendments to it through the relevant Minister.

State Minister of Fisheries, – Piyal Nishantha on approval of the Committee Chair and Committee Members – Rauff Hakeem, Prof. Channa Jayasumana, Major Sudarshana Denipitiya, Member of Parliament – Buddhika Pathirana, General Kamal Gunaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, Commander of the Navy and the heads of related Ministries and institutions were present at this Committee meeting held.

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Uddika Premarathne resigns as MP

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Anuradhapura District’s SLPP MP Uddika Premarathne has handed over his letter of resignation as a Member of Parliament, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has confirmed.

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Govt. donates Ifthar funds to Children of Gaza Fund

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The Cabinet has approved the proposal by President Wickremesinghe to create a “Children of Gaza Fund” in aid of Gaza violence victims. 

All Ministries & Government Institutions directed to forego Ifthar celebrations & contribute to this fund. 

The Government’s donation of US $1 million will be distributed through official UN agencies to aid affected children with citizen contributions encouraged.

The Presidential Secretariat urges donations from citizens for the “Children of Gaza Fund” during the month of Ramadan to account number 7040016 at Bank of Ceylon (7010), Taprobane Branch (747) by 11th April & deposit receipt to be forwarded to 0779730396 via WhatsApp, the PMD adds.

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Won’t be able to offer SriLankan to investors even for free – Minister

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Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday (26) spoke firmly on the national carrier – SriLankan Airlines, stating that the airline’s disruptive employees and tarnished reputation would deter potential buyers in the privatisation process.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, he said  “We cannot run an airline with disruptive employees. This is a critical moment for SriLankan Airlines. We cannot afford to entertain employees who fail to handle situations under pressure.”

“The deadline for the Expressions of Interest (EOIs) is set for 5 March and in the present scenario, according to the information I received some of the bidders want to withdraw. With the negative reputation plaguing the airline, we will not be in a position to offer it free-of-charge even,” the minister claimed.

However, SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage’s views had contrasted starkly with that of Minister de Silva.

The discussion saw a disagreement regarding ground handling. Minister De Silva advocated for immediate privatization of the service, citing shortcomings. Chairman Pathirage, while acknowledging areas for improvement, argued that the lack of aircraft, not ground handling, was the primary issue. He blamed lengthy government procurement procedures for hindering fleet acquisition.

De Silva justified his push for privatization by citing the airline’s struggles and reports of potential bidders withdrawing their interest. While not inherently opposed to privatization, Pathirage emphasized the ongoing process and the lack of control the airline has in the decision.

Meanwhile, trade union representatives commended Pathirage for his leadership whilst blaming political interventions and its past management. 

“We all undoubtedly praise the Chairman for his leadership and unwavering commitment to operate this airline amidst all odds. Neither the employees nor the current management of the SriLankan Airlines are responsible for the cancellations and bad reputation, but the political intervention,” they stated.

They also slammed the former COPE Chairmen and MPs Dr. Harsha de Silva and Dr. Charitha Herath for disrupting the lease procedure of the airline when the aircraft were at a lower price. “They are responsible for all the operational delays the airline is facing at present,” they claimed.

(Excerpts : DailyFT)

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