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Controversial awarding of contract to blacklisted Indian company to print  foolproof stickers on liquor bottles, cans

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CA issues notice to the Finance Minister, Treasury Secretary, Excise Commissioner General…..

By A.J.A. Abeynayake

The Court of Appeal, after considering a petition seeking a writ of certiorari quashing the tender awarded by the Excise Department to the Madras Security Printers of India to print foolproof stickers on liquor bottles and cans, issued notice on respondents on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle, Commissioner General of Excise M.J. Gunasiri, Madras Security Printers and Attorney General have been named as respondents.

The petitioner, Rathu Bambarendage Lasantha Kumara, states in his petition that the Excise Department has awarded the tender to the Madras Security Printers (MSP) without conducting proper technical evaluation OR following tender procedures.

The petitioner has said the introduction of the sticker with a code on bottles and cans cost only 15 cents as per practice adopted in many other countries but the Excise Department has decided to spend about two rupees per bottle or can.

The petitioner states that Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana raised the issue in Parliament on 20 April and the MP pointed out the questionable practice adopted by the Excise Department to grant the contract to MSP, a blacklisted company in India as well as in several other countries. MP Pathirana categorically pointed out that the State would incur a one-billion-rupee loss due to the deal.

The petitioner says the corrupt practice has caused a great foreign exchange loss to the government of Sri Lanka which is already in a grave state of affairs in terms of country’s foreign reserves.

The petitioner also states that the officials of the Excise Department continuously engaged in corrupt practices by not collecting dues from the liquor industry either by not implementing proper and transparent procedure or by giving contracts to corrupt dealers.

The MSP on many occasions “while taking contracts to supply security printing stickers of manufacturers has illegally collected exorbitant amounts from such manufacturers and caused enormous losses to the respective States,” and “is a notorious company world widely engaged in such corrupt practices,” states the petitioner.

The granting of contract to supply of the foolproof security stickers and/or Digital Image Printing on liquor products in terms of Excise Notification under the Excise Ordinance to MSP is illegal, unlawful, unreasonable, ultra vires and shall be quashed and/or cancelled, says the petitioner.

After considering the facts submitted by the petitioner, the court issued notice on respondents.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, Attorneys-at-law Dasun Nagasena, Rakhita Rajapakshe, Madhwa Jayawardene and Jayamudhita Jayasuriya appeared for the petitioner.

Senior State Counsel, Suranga Wimalasena appeared for respondents Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle.

Gamini Maparana PC and Naveen Marapana PC appeared for respondent MSP.



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Vasu defends constituents’ right to differ

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Prez chairs govt. group meeting:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has strongly defended the right of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) constituents’ to take up contentious issues in public.

Minister Nanayakkara told SLPP parliamentary group meeting at the President’s House on Sunday night (24) that their right to differ on matters of public interest shouldn’t be questioned.

Nanayakkara said so when Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi faulted some constituent parties for dissenting views on certain issues.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was present at the meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The meeting lasted for about two hours.

The SLPP held Sunday’s meet in the wake of some constituent parties of the ruling coalition asking for a discussion on the questionable agreement between the government and the US New Fortress Energy Company over the Yugadanavi power plant, etc. Sources said that initially, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated that the issue could be discussed with the Premier but subsequently arrangements were made for the Sunday’s meeting.

The New Fortress recently announced that a definitive agreement had been executed for the external investment in West Coast Power Limited (WCP).

WCP owns the 310 megawatts Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo. The deal is also for the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo. In terms of the agreement, New Fortress will acquire a 40 per cent ownership stake in WCP. The US energy firm plans to build an offshore LNG terminal located off the coast of Colombo.

Minister Nanayakkara has said it is not unusual for members of a coalition to hold different views depending on the issues as they also represent the interests of the public.

Nanayakkara has pointed out how the left parties remained with the UPFA though they didn’t agree with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to enact the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on 08 Sept. 2010, enabling the President to seek a third term among other things.

The SLPP constituents have differed with the government on several issues such as fuel price increases announced by Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on 12 June as well as the abortive bid to transfer 49 percent of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port to India and Japan.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the constituents’ campaign. He sought an explanation particularly as regards Cabinet approval for the controversial energy deal with the US firm, without a discussion among ministers.

NFF sources told The Island that their leader felt the urgent need to take up the matter to prevent further deterioration of relations among the coalition members.

Several parties including government ally the Jathika Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, respectively against the secretive energy deal with the US firm.

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‘Those who hesitate to get vaccinated pose a threat to others’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said yesterday a significant number of people had not received the Covid-19 vaccine, and posed a threat to society.

“No matter what your age category is, you will be at a higher risk of being infected and spreading it to others. So please get vaccinated,” he urged.

The DDGHS said that a booster shot would be given to people from 01 Nov.

The Health Ministry would carry out the ongoing vaccination drive until everyone got the first two doses, he said.

“However, we won’t keep hundreds of vaccination centres open. Most likely, those who have not got vaccinated will have to go to designated locations to receive the vaccine.”

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School attendance high as parents have faith in teachers – CTU head

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Teachers and principals protested at Colombo Fort yesterday urging the government to rectify their salary anomalies. The protesters marched from the Fort Railway Station towards the Presidential Secretariat but police did not permit them to proceed beyond the Telecom rounadbout. Pic by Nishan S Priyantha

By Rathindra Kuruwita

School attendance was high Despite inter-provincial travel restrictions, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin said yesterday. “The government announced on 22 October that primary sections of all schools would be reopened on 25 October. Despite the short notice the attendance was high, and this is testament to the faith parents have in teachers,” he said.Primary sections of 9,155 schools recommenced yesterday.

“However, we will only teach. Teachers do a lot of additional work instead of teaching and most people who slander us have no idea about this,” he said.

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath urged relevant authorities to provide safe and adequate transport facilities to students. It was vital that those vehicles were ventilated, and social distancing was maintained.

“We urge parents to buy reusable face masks for kids. If your child has any symptoms of COVID such as fever and cold, don’t send him/her to school until you are certain this is not COVID. Teach your child the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. This is the way we can ensure there is no spread in the school system,” Dr. Herath said.

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