Govt promises to reveal details of foreigners at VOA Iranawila facility


By Saman Indrajith

The government yesterday promised to provide Parliament with details of all foreigners who worked at the Voice of America transmission centre at Iranawila.

The promise was made by Mass Media and Megapolis Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna in answer to a question raised by JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake.

The Deputy Minister told Parliament that Voice of America had suspended its operations in Iranawila since Dec. 31, 2016. It commenced its operations in 1985. It was given 672 acres of land in Iranawila area as per the provisions of an agreement dated Jan 15, 1985 between the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Service and the US government. Later, the agreement was amended on Dec. 09, 1991 and the land area was reduced to 408 acres. The land was given to the Voice of America on lease. It paid Rs 40,000 per month at the beginning and slightly increased the amount being paid as lease. As at Dec, last year the payment was Rs 100,000 per moth.

The minister tabled agreements dated 1985.1.15 and 1986.10.24 between the SLBC and the US government and another dated 1991.12.09 between the Sri Lankan government and the US government.

Asked to inform the House of the number of Lankans and foreigners who had worked at the Voice of America’s Iranawila centre, the Minister said the government did not have that information; it could obtain such details only about the newspapers which came under the purview of the Sri Lanka Press Council. There is no authorised body with a mandate to regulate radio stations and to obtain the number of persons working in such stations. The Voice of America has ended its operations in Iranawila.

MP Ratnayake: Whether the Voice of America operated a radio station or a spy agency base at Iranawila is a different matter. But, the government should be able find details of the number of people who worked there.

Deputy Minister Alagiyawanna: The transmission station has been closed and land taken back. Some of its property has been handed over to the SLBC. Some vehicles were given to the Telecom and the Divisional Secretariat in the area. There is a proposal to develop the land as a tourism zone.

MP Ratnayake: My question is different. The Minister is not answering my question. What I am asking is the number of persons who worked there. Those foreigners cannot come and work here without work permits. The Minister could contact the Department of Immigrations and Emigrations to get the number of work permits issued to those who worked at the Voice of America facility in Iranawila. I would like to ask the government is ready to do so and provide this House with that information.

The Minister agreed to do so. 

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