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Cabinet decision on ECT irreversible, SLPA can take over SAGT-Wimal

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, yesterday (2) said that the party that controlled the East Container Terminal (ECT) would be in a position to take over the neighbouring South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) in a couple of years in terms of an agreement between the government and Sri Lanka’s first public-private container terminal.

The SAGT operation was launched in 1999 during President Kumaratunga’s tenure at the height of the war.

The Board of Investment flagship SAGT consists of approximately 60% Sri Lankan shareholding, and is backed by John Keells Holdings, APM Terminals, Peony Investments (subsidiary of Evergreen Marine Corporation) and the SLPA.

The SLPA owns 15 % shares of the SAGT. In the China- managed Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), too, the SLPA owned 15% shares whereas the Chinese held 85%.

Minister Weerawansa told a hastily arranged press conference at his party office at Pitakotte Sri Lanka shouldn’t under any circumstances allowed external investment in the ECT. The minister explained that the deep water ECT was the strategically most important terminal in the Colombo harbour. Therefore, it should be in Sri Lanka’s hands.

At the onset of the briefing Weerawansa explained how Sri Lanka could immensely benefit when the SAGT was brought under SLPA control. There couldn’t be any issue at all in the wake of the cabinet unanimously deciding on Monday (1) to retain the ECT, MP Weerawansa said, pointing out that the country would receive a mega boost when the SLPA commenced managing both terminals.

Weerawansa and State Minister Jayantha Samaraweera profusely thanked those in the SLPP, in parliament and outside who helped thwart the move to go ahead with an agreement finalised in late May 2019 involving Sri Lanka, India and Japan. The minister appreciated the role played by the Maha Sangha in the campaign against the move.

The agreement based on an understanding the then President Maithripala Sirisena reached with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New Delhi and Tokyo in March, 2018.

The NFF emphasised that the Cabinet decision was line with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto for the presidential election.

The NFF leader said that they always opposed the move to bring in external investment at the ECT. However, in terms of the presidential election manifesto, external investments could be utilized in the setting up of West Container Terminal (WCT) which is something only on paper at the moment.

Among those lawmakers who had publicly opposed Indian investment at the ECT in addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera are Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Prof. Tissa Vitharana, Asanka Navaratne, Weerasumana Weerasinha, Udaya Gammanpila and Ven. Atureliye Rathana.

Minister Weerawansa said that unlike those who had backed the UNP remained silent when the administration took decisions inimical to the country. The minister targeted the civil society and the JVP for being silent when the UNP handed over Hambantota harbour on a 99-year lease to China in 2017.

Asked to comment on India’s declaration that New Delhi expected Sri Lanka to implement tripartite 2019 agreement endorsed by the cabinet three months ago, Minister Weerawansa strongly defended the government decision. The minister said that the cabinet decision on ECT wouldn’t be reversed. According to him, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to be mindful of Sri Lanka’s concerns than Indian statements.

Minister Weerawansa said that the NFF didn’t oppose Indian or other foreign investment in the WCT. The NFF leader said that India and Japan could take advantage of Sri Lanka’s offer based on what the Minister called CICT model. Responding to another query, MP Weerawansa said that India could take 85% of the proposed WCT.

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SLFP: PCoI has exceeded its mandate and failed to address critical issues

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI on Easter Sunday Attacks to identify local and international forces behind the attacks, establish the motives of those groups and to punish those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks, but those issues had not been addressed by the PCoI’s final report, the SLFP said yesterday.

 SLFP General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the party’s Executive Committee had discussed the report in depth on Thursday and decided that the Commission had not addressed the issues it had been appointed to probe.

On the other hand, some of its recommendations have gone beyond its mandate.

Issuing a press release, the SLFP said that while the PCoI observed that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been soft on Islamic extremism and his government had not taken active steps in combating extremism, however, the PCoI had treated Wickremesinghe with kid gloves while taking a tough stance on former President Maithripala Sirisena.

 “The former President took over the Ministry of Law and Order on 30 October 2018, i.e. only five months and twenty days before the attacks. None of those who held the post before have been accused of anything. The report also focuses little on those who planned the attacks, those who financed the attacks and those who protected the attackers. Moreover, although there is evidence to prove that the weapons found in Muslim mosques after the attacks had been brought in by ships; the report had not investigated it in-depth,” the SLFP said.

 The party also said Pulastini Rajendran alias Sara Jasmine, the wife of Mohommadu Hastun, a suicide bomber, had fled to India sometime after the attacks. However, the Commission had not only paid any attention to it but also had ignored what could have been found.

 “The mandate set by President Sirisena says to look at current or former state officials who are directly or indirectly linked to these incidents. There is no mandate for the Commission to look into whether the head of the state or ministers have fulfilled their constitutional duties. Thus, the recommendations on the former President are beyond the PCoI’s mandate. The pages 292 and 293 of the report state that President Sirisena had instructed the Police to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim at the National Security Council. However, they also insist that the former President had not carried out its duties and responsibilities. Page 296 says that the former President not appointing an acting Defence Minister when he left for India and Singapore was a violation of the Constitution. However, in another place the Commissioners say that making such appointments is at the President’s discretion,” the SLFP said in a press release.

 The SLFP also states that the former President had carried out his duties and the report has ample evidence of it. Thus, there is no way that criminal proceedings can be instituted against him.

 “The concept that criminal proceedings can be instituted against a President for not carrying out some duty sets a bad precedent and is a slight to the power given to the President by the Constitution. The US and New Zealand security agencies had received information about 9/11 and the Christchurch shootings but the heads of the states were not charged. We vehemently refuse the allegations against the former President and reject many of the other recommendations too.”

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Dubai haven for majority of Lankan fugitives with INTERPOL red notices

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By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

Police had obtained INTERPOL Red Notices against 24 drug traffickers hiding overseas, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

In addition, DIG Rohana said INTERPOL blue notices had been issued for 87 wanted criminals who were currently residing overseas.

The DIG said a majority of the suspects were reported to be hiding in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, while some were in neighbouring India and European countries.

The country’s law enforcement agencies had seized over 1,610 kilos of heroin in 2020 alone, the DIG noted, adding that last year 33,125 suspects had been arrested for possessing heroin and 1,400 others for having in their possession synthetic drugs.

About 61,550 persons had been arrested for narcotic-related offences, in 2020, said the Police Spokesperson, noting that intelligence reports had suggested there was a shortage of heroin in the local drug market due to continuous raids carried out by law enforcement authorities. That had led to a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as ICE, he added.

INTERPOL assistance had been sought to extradite 129 Lankans wanted for various crimes, he said.

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Organise State Vesak festival at Nagadeepa with those of other religions- PM 

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has instructed authorities to hold this year’s State Vesak Festival at the Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya in Jaffna focusing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Prime Minister at a meeting held at Temple Trees on Thursday evening had given instructions to the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs Prof Kapila Gunawardena to organize the State Vesak Festival together with those following other religions.

Accordingly, the Departments of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Affairs under the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, will join in the efforts to organize the event.

Among those present were Sanghanayake of the Northern Province Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Vihara Ven Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Navadagala Padaumakitthi Nayaka Thera, Sanghanayake of the Eastern and Thamankaduwa Ven Munhene Mettharama thera, Sanghanayake of the Matara-Hambantota districts Adrahere Kassapa Nayaka thera, State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake, MP Suren Raghawan and officials of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

 

 

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