Opposition objects to Parliament tweet over Google Loon

COPE Committee chaired by Prof Charitha Herath interviwed officials online for the first time

ECONOMYNEXT- In Parliament today the Opposition demanded Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene reveal who is responsible for tweeting from the official Sri Lanka Parliament account as the findings of the COPE committee had been misrepresented.

A heated argument arose about reported findings by COPE about the Google Loon Project when they looked into the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), which has not yet been confirmed as an exact fact.

Opposition MP Harin Fernando who was the former Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure facilities said that LKR 6.4 million was not used for the promotion activities for Google Loon Project as mentioned by COPE and Parliament Sri Lanka official Twitter.

He said that it is an absolute lie and the Auditor General’s report has mentioned that it was used for a launch named ‘Digital Unimaginable’ which happened during the 100 day period in the Yahapalana Government.

He questioned how the Parliament’s official Twitter account post such a thing when it’s not true by tagging the COPE Chairman Prof Charitha Herath.

“What an insult is this? We lost a valuable project to Sri Lanka and not even one single rupee was spent for it by the government,” he said

When Speaker Abeywardena said that he will look into who is handling the Twitter of the Parliament, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa asked whether the “Speaker and the General Secretary of the Parliament don’t know who is tweeting using the Parliament name?”

Chairman COPE Herath said that committee proceedings are given to the media the same day, he said that media reports on COPE committee on TV channels were edited and aired and that the parliament media do not edit them before release.

Further, he said that there were two opinions between the ICTA and Auditor General Department about the mentioned 1.8 million and 6.4 million in the Google Loon Project and that it has not been resolved yet.

He also said that Parliament of Sri Lanka Twitter regularly updates the business in parliament and because that since he is the chairman of COPE they had tagged him.

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Fernando then raised the question as to how the Parliament of Sri Lanka Twitter posts something that COPE has not reached a final decision on.

Member of COPE S.M. Marikkar said that the committee never discussed the Google Loon Project specifically and it was only discussed for about 3 minutes.

“We discussed how to regularize ICTA which runs as a private institution while neglecting government regulations, to function under the Auditor General,” Marikkar said.

The Speaker revealed that the Parliament of Sri Lanka is handled by the Parliament Media unit under the purview of its director.

Premadasa said that the names of the officers involved in the said tweet should be revealed by the end of the day and investigation should be conducted.

The tweet in question by the Parliament of Sri Lanka Twitter about the Google Loon Project is as follows,

‘Though the Google Loon project by @icta_srilanka aimed at providing internet access islandwide wasn’t executed, #COPE revealed that Rs. 1.8 mn have been spent to release Google Loon equipment from the customs & Rs. 6.4 mn have been spent for project promotions.’

(Colombo, December 10, 2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe

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