The Treasury has decided to scrap paying the ‘entertainment allowance’ given to district secretaries, additional district secretaries and divisional secretaries following numerous complaints regarding the misuse of the allowance. A district secretary is paid Rs. 15,000 monthly as an entertainment allowance while additional district secretaries and divisional secretaries are paid Rs. 10,000. The allowance is [...]


No more entertainment allowance for officials


The Treasury has decided to scrap paying the ‘entertainment allowance’ given to district secretaries, additional district secretaries and divisional secretaries following numerous complaints regarding the misuse of the allowance.

A district secretary is paid Rs. 15,000 monthly as an entertainment allowance while additional district secretaries and divisional secretaries are paid Rs. 10,000. The allowance is for any bills they may incur for tea, coffee and snacks when hosting foreign delegations or VIPs in their offices, a Treasury source said.

Some officials, however, are regularly misusing the fund, the source claimed. Some submit supermarket bills that contain commodity items purchased for themselves. Others do not even offer a cup of tea to their guests but still claim the allowance on a monthly basis by submitting forged bills, the official said, adding that the allowance has been turned into a ‘self-entertaining allowance.’

As such, the Treasury has now decided the allowance will no longer be paid as a bulk amount each month but will be reimbursed on a case-by-case basis after thoroughly scrutinising bills that are submitted.

China may have to be lenient with other borrowers, if it shows favour to Lanka, says diplomat

Last week, one of the influential players in the ongoing discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came forward with a statement saying its creditors provide financing assurances to support international lending agency’s Extended Funding Facility (EFF) to Sri Lanka.

One paragraph at the bottom of the statement stressed a point which seems to be causing the months’ delay with other bilateral creditors like China.

“Paris Club members further noted Sri Lankan authorities’ commitment to seek from all its commercial creditors and other official bilateral creditors, a debt treatment on terms at least as favourable, and to hold all creditors in arrears until a comparable debt treatment is provided.”

For the Chinese, a Colombo-based diplomat noted that if they agreed to at least a “favourable” deal for Sri Lanka, it would be obliged to do the same to other countries who borrowed heavily from the Chinese and were unable to service those loans.

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian A.H.M. Fowzie took his oaths this week. Pic from Parliament media

Fowzie returns; defies party, gives vote of thanks for Colombo voters

It took just one day for newly sworn in Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian A.H.M. Fowzie to defy his party by taking part in the debate on the President’s policy statement.

The octogenarian was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Parliamentarian Mujibur Rahuman. Making his first speech in the House since his return on Friday, Mr. Fowzie gave an account of his political journey since entering active politics at the age of 22 in 1960.

He thanked Colombo district voters who voted for him at the last local council elections, and said it was an honour to serve the country and his Colombo district constituents.


What did the President say to Wigneswaran?

Thamil Makkal Kootani (TMK) Leader and former Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran seems to have developed a close rapport with President Ranil Wickremesinghe lately.

This was evident when the retired judge met the President in Jaffna yesterday to raise issues faced by people in the North.

On reviving the ferry service between Karaikkal, Tamil Nadu and Kankesanthurai, President Wickremesinghe said the Government was
willing to facilitate the service, but Indian companies were yet to come forward to engage
in discussions.

On Wednesday, when the President was leaving the Parliamentary chambers after concluding his throne speech, he had a brief chat with Mr. Wigneswaran. When reporters later asked what the President told him, the Jaffna district MP said the President had told him that half the issues he raised earlier had been addressed in his speech.

After he had a one-on-one meeting in Jaffna, one journalist from Jaffna called the one-time judge to know what transpired between the two, and the motives for seeking a meeting with the President.

The MP responded: “Rather than always complaining about our issues and protests, I tried to resolve the issues by taking them up with the President directly.”

Hakeem asks for at least 15 minutes to speak, PM was ready to make him “Acting Opposition Leader”

While the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) boycotted the two-day Parliamentary debate on the President’s policy statement, several of the SJB’s coalition partners chose to take part.

Among them was Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem, who was less than impressed on Friday when the Deputy Speaker informed him that only ten minutes had been allocated for his speech.

Mr. Hakeem noted that though the principal Opposition party is boycotting the debate, those among other opposition parties who wished to participate were put in a difficult position.

“The Chief Opposition Whip is simply sending a list of names and we party leaders have to share equal time with everybody else,” he remarked.

Given that the debate is regarding the policy statement of the President, he said party leaders must be allocated at least a substantial time to deal with the important aspects of it. He asked the chair to allocate at least 15 minutes for him.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was quick to rise and say the Government was prepared to accept Mr. Hakeem as “Acting Opposition Leader” for the moment and give him 15 minutes.

“We have no objection,” he quipped, to laughter from both sides of the aisle.

X-Press Pearl disaster: Fin Min says taxes must be paid before ship can be fully removed

Two years have passed since the X-Press Pearl’s ecological disaster in Sri Lankan territorial waters, where the ship was burnt and sunk off Colombo. The Government is yet to secure full compensation from the foreign company for the immeasurable damage caused to Sri Lankan maritime resources, which experts estimate is billions of rupees, and warn its impact will last for decades.

Amid all this, the wreck of the container ship is currently being removed from the ocean floor. According to the Maritime-Executive, a digital platform reporting on affairs related to the maritime industry, Marine Environment Protection Agency (MEPA) officials were quoted saying the remaining components of the container ship are to be removed this week.

It seems MEPA officials were not informed of the due procedure of taxes related to lifting off scrap metal from Sri Lankan territorial waters.

Meanwhile, Finance State Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said his Ministry would not allow the complete removal of scrap metal from the container ship without the payment of applicable taxes.

It is estimated that 48,000 Metric Tonnes of scrap metal could be extracted from the wreck, and an import and export licence must be secured before removing scrap metal from vessels within Sri Lankan territorial waters. In addition to that, the entity had to pay relevant Customs taxes as well.

President says no: Governor’s request to continue Colombo office rejected

The Presidential Secretariat has rejected a request by Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath to continue maintaining an office in Colombo.

The Governor had maintained an office in Colombo on rent for nearly 18 months before the expiration of the lease agreement at the end of last year.

The Governor’s office had then written to the President’s office noting that extending the lease agreement was no longer possible after the Treasury issued a circular announcing restriction on renting buildings.

However, her office asked that steps be taken to extend the lease agreement for the office through “special approval” so the Governor “can continue her duties efficiently.”

The President’s office, though, has shot down the request.


NPC tries to retain secretary who should retire

Even though the Government has declared that all public officers must compulsorily retire upon reaching 60 years of age, various entities are trying to find a way to circumvent this regulation and keep such officers on the payroll.

One such example has come to light following a complaint by officers of the National Police Commission (NPC).

The officers have raised issue over the Commission allegedly deciding to retain the services of its secretary despite her reaching 60 years of age at the end of last month.

In their complaint, the officers have questioned on what grounds the NPC has deemed that the law does not apply to its secretary.


No Grand Romantic Escape for many local lovers this Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many young couples are trying to finalise their plans to mark the day amid various challenges they are subjected to due to the country’s ongoing economic crisis. For many, daily survival has become a priority these days and they will celebrate the day with their special one at low-key events.

One advertisement titled “The Grand Romantic Escape,” run by a leading hotel in the town in view of Valentine’s Day, caught the attention of many this week. The two-day Presidential suite package which consists of a diamond ring, cupid adventure in heli tours, complimentary spa and sundown cocktails with a seven-course set menu on a yacht is worth Rs 2.5 million for each couple without applicable taxes.

Given the current plight of the country that declared virtual bankruptcy last year, one wonders if there would be any takers locally. One teenager commented under the banner of the said hotel’s Facebook page as follows: “With that kind of money, you can open a fixed deposit instead and survive till next year’s Valentine’s Day.”

Viral video: Estate staff member who harassed vegetable vendor in hot water

Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development State Minister Jeevan Thondaman, who is also the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) General Secretary has intervened, after his attention was drawn to a viral video showing a woman working on an estate in Ragala being harassed by one of the estate’s management staff members.

The video showed the staff member scolding the woman and throwing away vegetables she was selling on the roadside. In the footage, he continued to harass the woman even after she said was selling vegetables because she had no other way to survive.

The video provoked fury on social media and after Mr. Thondaman’s attention was drawn to it, he Tweeted that he had contacted the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company which owned the Ragala estate, over the “shameful incident.” “I was assured the person in the video is a junior executive who will be removed ASAP. If in case he isn’t removed, rest assured stern trade union action will be taken,” Mr Thondaman Tweeted.

The company had temporarily suspended the employee and he had also submitted a written apology to the victim.

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