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13 containers of imported coconut oil under laboratory investigation for toxic substances



by Suresh Perera

Amidst allegations that consignments of contaminated coconut oil imported to the country have been cleared for release to the market by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), the head of the premier body dismissed the claims as “unfounded”, saying that samples of the 13 containers are still under testing for any harmful substances.

“The laboratory investigation is continuing and it will take another two days for the process to be completed”, said Dr. Nushad Perera, SLSI’s Chairman.

Referring to reports that SLSI officials had authorized the sale of 183,055 kilograms of coconut oil brought down to the country by four importers, he said these claims were far from the truth as the stocks have been sealed by the Customs until the sample testing is done.

Neither the SLSI nor the Customs or the Health Ministry Food Control Unit has given the green light for the consignments to be sold to consumers, Perera stressed.

The 13 containers were imported by four different suppliers, Ali Brothers (Pvt) Limited, Sena Mills Refineries, Edirisinghe Edible Oils and Katana Refineries, the SLSI said in a statement.

“They are longstanding importers of coconut oil”, it said.

The containers were detained by the Customs on suspicion that the stocks contained aflatoxins, a family of toxins produced by certain fungi found on agricultural crops. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world.

In case any toxic substances are found, the Health Ministry will instruct the Customs to re-export the consignments, the SLSI chief said. “Otherwise, they will be allowed to be sold in the market”.

Both the Customs and the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) have confirmed that the 13 containers are still being held in warehouses until the outcome of the laboratory tests.

In the midst of allegations of contaminated coconut oil, industry sources claimed that the adulteration of the commodity happens in a big way in the marketplace.

Despite the big talk about raids by the CAA, it is common knowledge that coconut oil is adulterated with cheaper palm oil and sold to consumers at anything between Rs. 340-370 per 750ml bottle, the sources said.

Adulteration of the commodity is so common that it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than pure coconut oil in the marketplace, they said.

All the noise about random checks by the CAA is absolute bunkum as those in the industry know that even rancid oil from wayside eating houses are collected, bleached and resold, they asserted.

“It is no secret that adulterated and rancid coconut oil can lead to serious health hazards as it contains carcinogenic free radicals, but does anybody in authority care?”, the sources queried.

The demand for coconut oil generally spikes during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year season as it is used for the preparation of traditional sweetmeats.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament



Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.



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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert



By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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