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Cabraal to get cabinet-status and privileges, pension in limbo

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BY SANATH NANAYAKKARE

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would soon elevate the ranking of the Central Bank Governor to be on par with a cabinet minister, Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said at the ‘Salakuna’ talk show telecast by Hiru TV recently.

When presenter Chamuditha Samarawickrame asked if this has not been done yet, Cabraal replied, “No, It will be done soon.”

“The issue here is: where really is the Central Bank Governor positioned in terms of precedence? In the near future it will be equated to that of a cabinet minister together with privileges attached and I would be given that rank,” he said.

When the program presenters pointed out that the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, MP Sagara Kariyawasam had stressed that cabinet rank/ status would not be given to the Central Bank Governor, Cabraal responded: “He said so before I insisted on that. Not after.”

“The post of Central Bank Governor has to be in some order of precedence. At one time the Governor was on par with a cabinet minister. It was later changed for some reason and the president would act to re-establish its previous status,” he said.

However, he said that the elevated Governor’s position would not entail the powers of a cabinet minister and would only be placed on an equally important level.

“Given the current internal and external economic volatility and pressures, President Rajapaksa insisted on my assuming that responsibility. I was functioning as a state minister and performing my duties with great satisfaction; but if the country needs my services again as CB Governor, I would fulfill those duties with equal enthusiasm.

“The President would have thought that with my past experience and performance at the Central Bank, I would be able to help bring economic and price stability and enable growth through proper policy advocacy,” he said.

In response to a question which has become a political hot potato, the Governor said that he was not getting a pension as he is working at the Central Bank again.

“When I first assumed the post at the Central Bank in 2006, I didn’t think of a pension. Nor did I worry about my salary. I didn’t get a duty-free vehicle either because I had those things. I worked for a salary of Rs. 70,000 per month. Can you imagine a chartered accountant with a 33-year experience in top management roles in leading organizations working for a mere Rs. 70,000?,” he asked.

“In fact, I applied for pension four years after I left the office of Governor in January 2015. Any other person would have done so the following day. Former Governor Coomaraswamy informed me that the request would be taken up with the then President’s Secretary and after some time I got a letter of rejection.

“I just left the matter there without making any noise about it. Last Governor Prof. W.D. Lakshman would have acted on a pension scheme and I saw in the newspapers that a pension would be paid. If the President’s Secretary has approved a pension, I can take it. I thought I should get what I am entitled to.

“Governor Lakshman worked at the Central Bank for two years and when he gets a pension, others also should get it. I worked at the Bank for nine years. He can’t be paid without my being paid,” he said.

During Prof. W.D. Lakshman’s tenure as Governor from November 2019 to September 2021, the Monetary Board approved pensions with arrears for several former governors including Cabraal irrespective of the lengths of their tenure.

Under the new scheme, all Governors will be eligible for pensions regardless of their service periods, despite other public sector employees requiring at least 10 years of service to qualify for a pension. The only exceptions are Members of Parliament who get a pension after five years.

According to media reports at the time, the Monetary Board’s decision followed requests from the then State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

However, Cabraal told Hiru TV that he had asked for it just once.

When asked if former governor Arjuna Mahendran would also be entitled to a pension, he said “If there is a disciplinary inquiry against someone and if there is suspicion, there is room for his pension not to be paid.”



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JVP, too, moves court against deal with US company

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By Chitra Weerarathne and A.J.A. Abeynayake

The JVP yesterday (26) filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal requesting it to declare null and void a Cabinet decision to transfer 40 percent of the Yugadanavi Power Plant to US Company, New Fortress Energy Inc.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ceylon Electricity Board, West Coast Power (Pvt) Ltd, Lakdanavi Limited, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have been named as respondents among 43 others.

The JVP’s petition has come in the way of Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith and Ven Elle Gunawansa, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya and the Federation of National Organisations (FNO) moving the court against the controversial deal with US energy company,The application has also sought a writ of mandamus on the respondents preventing them from taking any action with regard to the matter until the application is taken up and its examination is concluded.

Former JVP MPs Sunil Handunnetti and Wasantha Samarasinghe are the petitioners.

The petitioners state that the Cabinet decisions undermine the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and several other statutes, and conventions of democratic governance and Cabinet of Ministers exercising executive powers.

The petitioners state that LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., is the largest power sector engineering company in the country. It was first incorporated in the 1980s as a joint venture of the Ceylon Electricity Board and a multinational group – ABB of Norway.

The Petitioners state that Lakdanavi (Pvt) Ltd., is a fully owned subsidiary of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., and is a company specialised in engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance in the energy and power generation sector.

They assert that the government has not properly explained particulars of the deal even to the Cabinet of Ministers when transferring the shares of the power plant to the American company.

They have also alleged that the government has not obtained the approval of Parliament for the agreement in question and that the relevant share transfer process has not been carried out in accordance with a formal tender procedure.

They have sought the Appeals Court to issue an order rescinding the decision taken to transfer the shares to the American company and the agreement signed by the government.

In addition, the General Secretary of the SJB MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court on 21 Oct., challenging the government decision to transfer 40 per cent of the Kerawalapitiya Power Plant to the US firm.

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Ex-Indian HC in Colombo during turbulent 1989-90 will be featured in next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar

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Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, former High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, will be featured in the next Pathfinder “In Conversation” webinar scheduled at 2.30 p.m. IST/SLST on Thursday 28th October.

Mehrotra will be interviewed by Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman, Pathfinder Foundation. They will discuss the guest speaker’s publication ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’, which features his experience during the period 1989-1990, when he served as High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, during a politically turbulent era coupled with the separatist war in the north-east and an insurrection in the south.

His book, ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ touches on the beginnings of the conflict, briefly follows on its evolution until it reached its peak in the early 1990s, and then takes the reader in detail through the author’s own experience in the country, nearly two years after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force had been inducted at the invitation of President J. R. Jayewardene, while President Premadasa, who succeeded President Jayewardene considered the presence of an Indian military contingent on his nation’s soil as an affront to its sovereignty. Soon after his election, the President issued an ultimatum for the IPKF to leave its shores by 29th July 1989 and threatened military action against it if it failed to do so, which brought the two nations to the brink of a military confrontation.

The High Commissioner’s intensive consultations and tireless interaction with the political leaders of Sri Lanka, the warring factions in the country’s north-east, and the governments in New Delhi and Colombo helped signing of the joint communique on 28th July 1989 on arrangements for phased withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 with due recognition of its contribution and sacrifices made to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. ‘My Days in Sri Lanka’ provides information that has never been divulged before. The “In Conversation” webinar will delve into these experiences of the High Commissioner; whose rather brief assignment was from April 1989 to June 1990.

Following his assignment that covered the most turbulent period of Sri Lanka in modern times, Ambassador Mehrotra served as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Africa before his retirement in 1992. Later, he served as UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative in Cambodia from 1997 to 2000 and as Head of the UN Diplomatic Mission in Jakarta for Peace Talks between Indonesia and East Timor.

Those who are interested in retracing the history of Sri Lanka should register in advance for this webinar through the link below:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0nxJI2dPR8SCKK7k4hqDpg

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Cardinal lashes out at Minister known as Ten Percent

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His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith visits Sarakkuwa in the Pamunugama area where clearing of X-Press Pearl debris continuinues.Pic by Nishan S .Priyantha

By Norman Palihawadane and Nishan S. Priyantha

Monies taken in the form of commissions by forfeiting people’s welfare will never do any good to those who take them, says His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

“The biggest malady our society is afflicted with is the commissions earned by politicians through various deals. They take commissions from companies by depriving the people of their dues. Such money has blood on them and they would not do any good to those who take them,” the Cardinal said yesterday.

Speaking to journalists at the Sarakkuwa beach in Pamunugama during an inspection tour to witness the progress of cleaning work of the MV X-Press Pearl wreck the Cardinal said: “We have a Cabinet minister who is notoriously known as Mr. Ten Percent. Imagine the shame on this nation when there is such a minister taking ten percent of commission from every project he passes. The monies collected in that way would never bring out any good.”

The Cardinal said that the President, the Prime Minister and government institutions including the Ministry of Fisheries, coast conservation department, marine environment protection authority and urban development authority were duty bound to remove the wreck, clean the beach and the ocean. “In doing so, the government should be concerned about the interests of people, and not about the shipping company, its local agents or agents of the insurance companies. We demand that the government take this case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and get full compensation for the people. We have information that the agents of companies have come down and are staying in Colombo exerting influence on various political leaders and officials. Their objective is getting out of this by paying a paltry sum. If the politicians and officials permit that we will take to the streets with people.”

The Cardinal said that there was information that Urban Development Authority officials were making plans to give away Muthurajawela to foreign companies. “Muthurajawela is a national asset and belongs to the people. The politicians have no right to sell them off to Korean or Chinese companies. We would not let that happen,” he said.

Associated with the Cardinal were Ven. Pahiyangala Ananada Thera, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Chairperson, bishops and other religious leaders.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl caught fire off the coast of Colombo in May and sank while transporting 1,486 chemical containers from the Middle East with stops in India and Sri Lanka during its voyage to Singapore.

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