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(This article was originally published in Daily FT on 10th August 2016)

By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) interim report for the first three months of 2016 was yesterday presented to Parliament by COPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti, outlining details of investigations on 19 public enterprises.

Sunil Handunnetti MP

Sunil Handunnetti MP

Deviating from the traditional summary on the loss-making public enterprises and their issues, MP Handunnetti proposed ways to improve COPE operations. He proposed foreign and local training for COPE members and the staff while enhancing the facilities and to introduce a software solution for information management.

“The staff attached to the COPE office is very limited and that number should be increased concurrently with the increase of the huge workload in the office. The COPE office should be established in a more spacious place with storage facilities,” he said.

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(This article was originally published in Daily FT on 22nd July 2016)

By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday commended Parliament for acting responsibly and helping to defuse tensions between students who clashed last Saturday during a welcome ceremony held at the University of Jaffna.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

However, the Prime Minister accused one parliamentarian of trying to capitalise on the incident.

“But unfortunately there is one particular member who was eager to take advantage. He could find racism among blacks in Uganda if necessary. However, JVP MP Anura Dissanayake spoke to me immediately after the incident. I spoke with ITAK MP Mavai Senathirajah, Minister of Higher Education and Highways and the Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella, Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka and Minister of Prisons Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D.M. Swaminathan who took action,” he added.

According to Minister Kiriella, separate investigations into the incident were underway. “Both the Kopai Police and university authorities are conducting investigations. Disciplinary action will be taken against those who are behind these clashes. Senior members of the University Grants Commission will be meeting the non-academic and academic staff of the University of Jaffna on Friday to discuss matters in detail,” said the minister.

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(This article was originally published in Daily FT on 22nd July 2016)

By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

Returning from a successful official visit to Singapore, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday updated the House on the details of his meetings, including the agreements brokered and support garnered for the development of Sri Lanka.

Prime Ministers - Ranil and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore

Prime Ministers – Ranil and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore

“I revealed to the Singaporeans the programs we have launched to transform Sri Lanka into a regional transhipment centre and business and commerce hub as well as the development taking place within our sea, air, highways, energy and telecommunication sectors. I told them about our plans to create one million new jobs, which will create a stronger middle class. The economic zones planned for Kandy, Colombo and Hambantota were also highlighted at the meetings I had.”

“The Megapolis Project in the Western Province requires $ 40 billion and the Hambantota economic zone $ 10 billion. These happen to be the largest development programs in the region and will affect the economy in this region,” said PM Wickremesinghe, who was confident the current Government could easily meet its development goals.
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(This article was originally published in Daily FT on 21st July 2016)

By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday rejected the Joint Opposition’s accusations that he had decided to establish a taskforce for national reconciliation led by former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranathunga

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranathunga

The Prime Minister, responding to Joint Opposition MP Wimal Weerawansa, confirmed that no such appointment had been made. “She is one of your old friends. I could ask her and let you know but why don’t you give her a telephone call since you two were together in the same Government sometime ago?” said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who countered Weerawansa’s allegations by saying that members of the Rajapaksa Government had lobbied to produce members of the armed forces before war crimes tribunals.

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