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Even after H’tota sellout, govt. didn’t take remedial measures – Arjuna



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday (20) told The Island that the ongoing deepening controversy over the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill underscored Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to adopt a common stand in respect of matters of national importance.

 Ranatunga compared the handing over of the Hambantota port to China, under controversial circumstances on a 99-year-lease, in July 2017, with the Colombo Port City project to be managed in terms of the proposed Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act.

 The former lawmaker said that he gave up ports and shipping ministry as he didn’t want to endorse the disputed agreement under any circumstances.

 Ranatunga contested the Gampaha district on the UNP ticket at the last general election, but couldn’t retain his seat like all other party candidates, barring for a solitary National List seat.

 Responding to another query, Ranatunga said that the Port City Project, too, had been under the purview of the ports and shipping ministry. But the yahapalana administration following consultations with him, brought the Port City project under the then Megapolis minister Patali Champika Ranawaka’s purview.

 Ranatunga was replaced as Ports and Shipping Minister by SLFP Vice President and Kalutara District MP Mahinda Samarasinghe.

 Ranatunga emphasized that he gave up the ministry after the yahapalana government rejected a proposal prepared in consultation with the ministry and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). It was discarded by those bent on pursuing an agenda inimical to Sri Lanka, he charged.

 The then SLFPer Samarasinghe finalized the agreement on July 29, 2017. However, Samarasinghe contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket. He re-entered parliament from the Kalutara district.

 Former minister Ranatunga said that he was quite surprised by rejection of his proposal as he presented a sensible solution which addressed concerns of both countries. Ranatunga said that he didn’t want to remain as the ports and shipping minister at any cost.

 Acknowledging some support provided by the then his cabinet colleague Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse PC, as he struggled to thwart a plan inimical to the country, Ranatunga claimed that the Joint Opposition (SLPP now)  backed the agreement. Ranatunga pointed out that some tend to conveniently forget both Hambantota and Port City projects were initiated during the previous Rajapaksa administration.

 The Hambantota port project was initiated in 2007 at the height of the war, whereas the Port City got underway in late 2014.

 Appreciating the investments made by China in Sri Lanka over a period of time, Ranatunga stressed that the country couldn’t afford to enter into agreements detrimental to its interests. The former minister urged lawmakers, both opposed to the project as well as those backing it to be cautious in their approach.

 Noting that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) had been among those who petitioned the Supreme Court against the proposed Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, Ranatunga said that the handling of the Hambantota port agreement exposed him to how the country was being manipulated. “In spite of the Hambantota port coming under the purview of the Ports and Shipping Ministry, it didn’t really have a say. That is the undeniable truth,” Ranatunga said.

 The former MP questioned the rationale in reclaiming land adjacent to the Galle Face Green at such a huge cost as the project could have been set up in some other suitable location.

 Ranatunga said that he was not aware of the current status of the cases filed against the Hambantota port. Among those who filed cases was the then MP Vavudeva Nanayakkara. However, none of the 19 petitioners who moved the Supreme Court against the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, including BASL, ironically failed to figure in the legal challenge thrown against the Hambantota port deal.

 Ranatunga said due to failure on the part of the parliament to take remedial measures the country seemed to be repeating mistakes. The former minister regretted the overall failure to address contentious issues, such as major foreign investment which might threaten the country’s stability. The government and the main Opposition should bear the responsibility for both Hambantota and Port City projects as they proceeded with Hambantota and port city projects.

 Meanwhile, former National Policies and Economic Affairs State Minister Niroshan Perera yesterday (20) told The Island that some government lawmakers simply pursued a political agenda regardless of the consequences. Obviously, they ignored the possible consequences in case the government went ahead with the project, he claimed.


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SF claims thousands of police and military personnel leaving



By Saman Indrajith

Thousands of police and military personnel had left the services recently as they did not want to carry out illegal orders, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament yesterday. According to the war-winning army commander 200 policemen have resigned during the past two months and 25,000 soldiers have left the army during the last two years.

“We urged the law enforcement and military officials not to follow illegal orders. We will reinstate them with back pay,” he said.

Fonseka also urged the President and the government MPs not to take people for fools.

“Sri Lanka owes 55 billion dollars to the world. Ranil’s plan is to borrow another seven billion during the next four years. So, in four years we will owe 62 billion to the world.

Ranil and his ministers ask us what the alternative to borrowing is. These are the people who destroyed the economy and society. They must leave. Then, we will find an alternative and develop the country,” he said, adding that the IMF loans had made crises in other nations worse.

“Ranil says that by 2025, we will have a budget surplus as in Japan, Germany and South Korea. These countries are economic power houses, and this comparison is ludicrous.”

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CEB hit by exodus of technical staff



By Shiran Ranasinghe

At least five technical personnel of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) resigned daily for overseas employment, a senior CEB official said.They included electrical engineers, electricians and foremen, he added.

“Most of them are quitting due to the economic crisis while others are simply disillusioned. Trained and experienced technical staff are in high demand in many countries,” he said.

CEB United Trade Union Alliance President Ranjan Jayalal said that the CEB had lost about 2,000 employees in recent times due to the above reasons.

“We had about 24,000 such personnel a few months ago. Now the number has come down to 22,000. A number of people had to retire on 31 December, 2022.

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Sajith questions sudden decision to charge Rs. 225,000 from students following NDES



By Saman Indrajith

The government had decided to charge Rs 225,000 from those enrolling at the Institute of Engineering Technology, Katunayake under the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said yesterday in Parliament.

Premadasa said that the institute awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences (NDES) and no fee was charged from students until 2023.The IET awards the National Diploma in Engineering Sciences under the three major fields of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and eight sub-fields.

“This is an institute that has created over ten thousand tier two engineers. NDES is a four year programme,” he said.

The opposition leader said that the sudden decision to charge 225,000 rupees from students at a time when the average Sri Lankan family is facing significant economic challenges is unfair.

“This institute offered free tuition. We should continue this tradition. A large number of engineers are leaving the country and we need to ensure that we have a continuous supply of engineers to ensure we can maintain our essential technical services,” he said.

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