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Avant Garde case accused acquitted

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Avant Garde Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi and seven others were acquitted and discharged yesterday by the Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar in connection with maintaining a floating armoury in the seas off Galle harbour.

The case was heard before a three-judge bench comprising Justices Aditya Patabendige, Manjula Tillakaratne and Mahen Weeraman.

The Attorney General had filed 7,573 charges against them including operating a floating armoury onboard the MV Avant Garde off the coast of Beruwala near the Galle Harbor, illegal possession and transportation of 203,395 live ammunition without a licence on board the ship and causing a financial loss to the tune of Rs. 11.4 billion to the state by granting approval to the Avant Garde Maritime Services to operate a floating armory in the Galle Harbor from 07 August 2012 to 8 January 2015. On the 17th of January 2020, after considering the objections, the Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar said only 19 charges could be carried forward.

Justice Patabendige, declaring the verdict, said that former defence secretary, Karunasena Hettiarachchi had told the court that the Defence Ministry had given permission to Avant Garde and Rakna Lanka Company, established under the Defence Ministry, to maintain a floating armoury in the Red Sea.

Hettiarachchi said there was Defence Ministry permission to keep arms and ammunition in the ship. The defence submitted a letter issued by the Defence Ministry to prove this and the prosecution had failed to prove that this was not an authentic document. Hettiarachchi had also agreed that it was an authentic document, Justice Patabendige said.

The other defendants acquitted are former Chairman of Rakna Lanka Security Company Victor Samaraweera, Vishwajith Nandana Diyabalanage, Nilupul de Costa, former Additional Secretary of the Defence Ministry Saman Dissanayake, Albert Thilakaratne and the Ukrainian Captain of the ship, Gennadiy Gavrylov. P.B. Premachandra, who had also been named as a defendant in the case passed away during the trial.



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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