Colombo seeks Beijing’s help to boost foreign investment
China and Sri Lanka yesterday (28) reiterated their commitment to building stronger relations between the two nations, during separate talks the visiting Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe had with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
A brief communique issued by the President’s Media Division quoted General Fenghe as having said that bilateral discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were extremely fruitful and the relations were further strengthened by the visit.
Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong, Deputy Chief of staff of Joint Staff Department under the China’s Central Military Commission Lieutenant General Shao Yuanming, Major General Ci Guowei and Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera participated in the discussion.
A top-level delegation led by the Chinese Defence Minister arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Tuesday night (27). Defence Secretary Gen (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne, Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne and Air Force Chief of Staff Air Vice Marshal Prasanna Payoe welcomed the delegation. Ambassador Qi Zhenhong, too, was there to welcome the delegation.
At the onset of talks with General Fenghe, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa appreciated China going ahead with the visit in spite of the fresh Covid-19 eruption. Having thanked China for donating 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine and Personal Protective Equipment, PM Rajapaksa assured that in spite of the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, the Government wouldn’t declare countrywide lockdowns due to the impact such lockdowns would have on the economy and society.
The Prime Minister’s Office quoted the PM as having told General Fenghe: “I’m sure you’ll agree that there is still a lot that needs to be done for post-pandemic economic recovery. One of our main priorities in this effort is to attract investments from around the world. I look forward to your support in rebuilding investor confidence in Sri Lanka.”
Among those ministers present were Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris.
Both statements issued by the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s didn’t make reference to the biggest China funded project in Sri Lanka, Colombo Port City.
The Supreme Court over a period of five days beginning April 19 heard 19 petitions filed against the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill. The SC is expected to inform the President and the Speaker of its ruling soon, as per constitutional requirements.
General Fenghe’s visit follows high level talks senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi had in Colombo in the third week of October 2020. Jiechi was followed by then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who asked Sri Lanka to decide whether it wanted to continue relationship with China as if in an ultimatum. (SF)
CAA reverses decision to file legal action against Litro Gas
For introducing controversial hybrid LPG cylinder
by Suresh Perera
The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has backtracked on moves to file legal action against Litro Gas Lanka for launching 18-litre premium hybrid domestic LPG cylinders in contravention of consumer laws.
The Chairman was not in favor of moving court on the matter due to political pressure, a senior CAA official said.
The move to desist from legally challenging Litro’s launch of the new hybrid cylinder to the market without the regulator’s approval comes in the backdrop of State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna’s intervention to allow the controversial product to be sold to consumers at its introductory price of Rs. 1,395.
“What’s the purpose of a regulatory body if politicians can interfere with CAA’s legally mandated functions to protect the interests of consumers?”, the official asked.
The selective application of the law will boil down to seeking approval from politicians on whether legal action should be instituted when even a grocery store is raided for violating regulations, he said.
“The law is the same, and if are to take punitive action by favor, then the CAA will be a dead duck bowing down to political dictates”, he opined.
Litro Gas has come under fire for introducing new hybrid domestic cylinders for Rs. 1,395 in spite of the weight being reduced by three kilograms in comparison to the regular 12.5 kilogram cylinders priced at Rs. 1,493.
“We have already received hundreds of complaints about a shortage of 12.5kg cylinders in the market as Litro is trying to push its new hybrid cylinders”, the official said.
“This is unethical”.
A resident of Kirillawala in the Gampaha district complained that only hybrid LPG cylinders were available over the past few days.
“I was told by the Litro dealer in the area that stocks of 12.5kg regular cylinders will not be received for some time”, he said.
However, Litro Gas Chairman/CEO, Anil Koswatte assured that there was no dearth of LPG in the marketplace.
When told that technically there may be no shortage of cooking gas, but on whether regular 12.5kg regular cylinders were also available apart from the new 18-litre premium hybrid product, he said that there may be delays in deliveries due to the prevailing situation, but both domestic cylinders are freely available.
Consumers can also order online or by calling 1311 for delivery, he said.
The LPG production process is continuing uninterrupted despite many challenges posed by the pandemic. Workers adhere to health safety regulations and are regularly screened and provided accommodation to prevent contact with outsiders who may be infected, he continued.
With ballooning global LPG prices, Litro Gas Lanka incurs Rs. 300 to 400 million in losses per day as the government has turned down an appeal for a Rs. 700 price increase on domestic cylinders.
The new hybrid 18-litre domestic cylinder was introduced to the market to cut losses as LPG is now sold below procurement cost.
Asked about the claim in a YouTube video shared on social media that he draws a remuneration of Rs. 3 million per month at a time Litro is facing a financial crunch, Koswatte declined to comment on what he termed as “gossip to sling mud at him”.
The presenter of the YouTube program, Chapa Bandara, claimed that Koswatte draws a monthly salary of Rs. 2 million from Litro Gas Lanka Limited and Rs. 1 million from Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Ltd.
“I am not paid with government funds”, he noted, while pointing out that both are private companies.
“My salary is a matter for the shareholders to decide on”, he stressed, while adding that his salary should not be of concern to anybody as it’s purely a private matter.
The Chairman said that if he responds to tittle-tattle, it will create the impression that he also thrives on gossip.
Presenter Bandara also asserted that a woman who served as the General Manager at the time Koswatte was Chairman of Laksala has been appointed Director (Human Resources) of Litro Gas.
Allied Security Services to reward officer who foiled Rs. 10.7mn robbery
Timely action by a security officer on duty at a private bank in the Anuradhapura New Town thwarted the robbery of Rs. 10.7 million by a two-member gang on Thursday morning.
The officer risked his life to prevent the gangsters from escaping with the cash during the heist, an official said.
An officer of a different security agency had alighted from the vehicle and walked towards the ATM with a representative of the bank to reload cash into the machine when two persons lurking in the vicinity had thrown chilli powder and grappled with them in an attempt to grab the bag containing the cash, he said.
They had, however, fought back, and in the melee, the bag had slipped to the ground. The security officer, who was near the entrance to the bank, had promptly run across, picked up the bag and taken it into the premises, he noted.
Sensing they had lost the chance of robbing the money, the gangsters had escaped on a motorcycle before the police arrived, the official said.
A security officer of the company entrusted with reloading cash to the bank’s ATMs was injured when his gun went off by accident during the confusion, he said. “He was admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital”.
The brave security officer, whose resourcefulness prevented the money from being snatched, was identified as S. R. K. Somarathne of Allied Security Services (Pvt) Limited. He is a resident of Hidogama in Anuradhapura.
“We will be rewarding this valiant officer who foiled the robbery in spite of the grave risk to his life”, a senior official of Allied Security Services, said. (SP)
Police round up unmasked persons in public spaces in Colombo
With the alarming spike in Covid-19 infections across the country, Police on Friday launched an operation in Colombo to round up unmasked persons in public spaces.
Police said that 85 people taken into custody were initially taken to the Bo-tree junction in Pettah, where DIG (Colombo Division) Jagath Chandrakumara, gave them a brief lecture on the risk of not adhering to health safety guidelines.
They are not only placing their lives on the line by ignoring corona preventive guidelines such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance, but also jeopardizing others by spreading the virus, he said.
Police said that 85 persons taken into custody were later transported in buses to the Pettah police station, where they were granted police bail. They will have to appear in court when notified.
The operation was conducted under the supervision of DIG Jagath Chandrakumara, SSP (Colombo Central) Nishantha Chandrasekara, SSP (Colombo Central 1) Samarakoon Banda, Pettah Acting OIC Chief Inspector Abeyratne and Dam Street OIC Chief Inspector A. P. Paduruarachchi on the direction of senior DIG (Western Province) Deshabandu Tennakoon.
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