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COPE uncovers Rs.50 mn scam at PGIS of Peradeniya University

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Peradeniya University officials at the COPE inquiry (pic courtesy Parliament)

It was revealed at the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) that a former senior official of the Postgraduate Institute of Science (PGIS) affiliated to the University of Peradeniya had fraudulently obtained Rs. 50 million from fixed deposits maintained by the PGIS of the university, according to a statement issued by the Communication Department of Parliament

The Post Graduate Institute affiliated to the University of Peradeniya had closed 14 of its fixed deposits at the Peradeniya Branch of the People’s Bank, between January 01, 2009 and December 31, 2016 and obtained a sum of Rs. 93 million.

Out of that amount, only Rs. 37 million (Rs. 37,948,865) has been invested in new fixed deposits and Rs. 50 million (Rs. 50,338,160) had been fraudulently obtained personally by the Senior Assistant Bursar of the PGIS of the University.

The officer involved in the financial fraud has been interdicted and is being investigated by the CID. It was further revealed at the COPE meeting that the Council of the University of Peradeniya is conducting a disciplinary inquiry into the fraudster and in addition the Auditor General’s Department is imposing surcharges.

The COPE met under the chairmanship of Prof. Charitha Herath to review the Auditor General’s report for the years 2018 and 2019 and the current performance of the Postgraduate Institute affiliated to the University of Peradeniya.

The Committee also focused on the payment of an allowance of 10% made to the Librarian of the Faculty of Science, in addition to the relevant monthly salary for his work in the Postgraduate Institute, without the relevant approval.

The COPE inquired as to why the report had not been submitted by the PGIS even though a sum of Rs.6,386,200 had been paid to the PGIS for the submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment report (EIA) on the construction of the proposed Badulla-Kandy expressway.

The Committee also noted that the Research and Scholarship Fund, which was established by the Postgraduate Institute of Science to provide research and scholarship facilities, had not spent any money during the year 2019 and had a balance of Rs. 8,038,458 by the end of the year. The Director – PGIS stated that 12 scholarships had been awarded to suitable scholarship recipients.

The COPE recommended that a separate Internal Auditor be appointed for the audit of those postgraduate institutions rather than relying on the internal audit department of the university.

In addition, the Committee instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Education Prof. Kapila Perera to appoint a subcommittee on the administrative affairs of all nine postgraduate institutions throughout the country and submit a report within six months. The Committee also instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Education to appoint a subcommittee on the administrative affairs of those postgraduate institutions in the country and submit a report within six months.

State Ministers Susil Premajayantha and Indika Anuruddha, MPs Patali Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickramaratne, Premnath C. Dolawatta and Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Prof. Kapila Perera, Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof. Sampath Amaratunga, Vice Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya Prof. Upul Dissanayake and many other officials participated in the meeting.



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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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