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COPE unearths irregularities costing billions in construction of Central Expressway

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By Saman Indrajith

Massive irregularities in the construction of the Central Expressway were revealed by the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) on Friday.  Sources said the irregularities had caused losses running into billiions of rupees.

They said it had been revealed that more than Rs. 1.7 billion were spent on the feasibility study on the road alone.

The delay in the commencement of work on the first section of the Central Expressway, from Kadawatha to Mirigama, during the period 2015 to 2019, had caused a financial loss of Rs. 8 billion.

Sources said it had also been revealed that the selection of SMEC Holdings for the first feasibility study had been done without following procedures.

A change in the original plan to construct the road from Kadawatha, instead of Enderamulla, to Mirigama, had warranted a new feasibility study, which had cost a lot of money. That decision had been taken by the Cabinet in 2015 without consulting experts, sources said.

COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Highways to submit a report on the financial losses incurred due to the abrupt change in the original project.

It was disclosed that an amount of Rs. 159 billion rupees had been allocated and that the decision at issue had been taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM). It has also been revealed that the construction work was delayed for four years due to a payment issue and work commenced only in late 2019, and the delay caused a loss of nearly Rs. 8 billion.

Irregularities in the procurement process as regards the Pothuhera-Galagedara stretch, which is the third section of the Central Expressway, have also been exposed.

The CCEM had pushed for granting the tender to Fujita although MS Taisei should have been given it in accordance with the process and this had led to the delay, sources said.

The COPE has revealed that only 5% of the work on the Kadawatha-Mirigama section has been completed and 75 percent of the work on the second section from Mirigama to Kurunegala had been completed.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Highways said the construction could be completed by next June.

The COPE recommended that a progress report be submitted on the progress of the first, third and fourth sections of the Central Expressway.

It was also revealed that a feasibility study for the construction of this expressway, prior to 2012, had cost about Rs. 284 million.

COPE Chairman also directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Highways to report on the impact of all feasibility studies on the project and its success.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Sarath Weerasekara, Dilum Amunugama, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, MPs Eran Wickramaratne, Jagath Pushpakumara and Premanath C. Dolawatta, Ranjan Ramanayake and D. V. Chanaka were present at the Friday’s COPE meeting held at the parliamentary complex.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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