The United National Party (UNP) said today the proposed amendments to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Act had several loopholes and would enable the government to obtain monies from the EPF which was worth more than One Trillion Rupees.
One of the provisions of the Amendment Bill states that according to certain prescribed terms and conditions EPF money could be utilised for construction work on land belonging to or held by the EPF.
UNP parliamentarian and economist Harsha De Silva said these provisions were in reference to a 30-storey EPF building called ‘Mehewara Piyasa’ for which the foundation stone was laid by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2009.“The EPF belongs to the people of the country whose hard earned money is saved for a rainy day. The government is taking our money without our permission and using it to their advantage and to serve their own purposes. They cannot use this money to construct buildings. Is this good governance?” Dr. de Silva asked.
He said the EPF department had announced that the 2010 EPF annual report was yet to be finalised which leads to further questions including the lack of transparency.
“Why have they failed to issue the report even after 12 months have lapsed,” Dr. de Silva asked and added that the Bill, which the government expected to be presented in Parliament on January 18 should get clearance from the National Labour Advisory Council and that there should be discussions with other stakeholders as well. The Bill should be first tabled in parliament and debated.
He said that the Bill should be postponed at least as a mark of respect for Roshen Chanaka who passed away during mass protests at the Free Trade Zone last year.
The Private Sector Pension Bill presented by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa was withdrawn after a mass protest at the Free Trade Zone which led to the killing of 22-year-old Roshen Chanaka.
Dr. de Silva said the government was seeking to reintroduce the bill surreptitiously.
“The government is attempting to use the new Bill presented by Labour Minister Gamini Lokuge as a means of re-introducing the controversial Private Sector Pension Bill. The EPF is handled by the Central Bank,” he said and added that the minister had no authority to present the Bill. (Olindhi Jayasundere)