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

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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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Prez to unveil plan on 13 A

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SJB, SLPP rebels to boycott opening of new parliamentary session

By Saman Indrajith

The main Opposition party, the SJB, and the dissident SLPP MPs have decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Fourth session of the Ninth Parliament by President Ranil Wickremessinghe today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared, on January 26, that he would brief Parliament on his decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

MP Prof G.L. Peiris told the media that the FPC would boycott President Wickremesinghe’s speech, scheduled to take place today (08) when the Fourth session of the Parliament is ceremonially declared open.

Prof Peiris called the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session a mere show. “This is not acceptable. The people are fed up with policy statements. They need solutions instead,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing a press conference, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo yesterday said that his party members too would boycott today’s ceremony.

Kiriella said that President Wickremesinghe was now speaking of economic development in 2048. “This he is promising to do while doing everything possible under the sun and the moon to deprive people of their democratic right to an election. Therefore, we have decided not to attend President’s ceremonial treading of the government policy statement which is another example of this makeshift government’s predilection for waste of money and time.”

All Ceylon Tamil Congress, led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, too, has decided to boycott today’s sessions.

TNA spokesman, Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran, said that his party would attend Parliament sessions today.

Political party sources said that TNA, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Makkal Congress, in the Opposition ranks, however, would attend Parliament today.

Following the ceremonial opening of the day’s session, the President is scheduled to present the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at 10 am, according to the powers vested in him, under Article 33 of the Constitution.

A rehearsal for the ceremonial opening was held Monday at the Parliament premises where many, including students of Presidents’ Girls College, Kotte, were present.

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MSC America belonging to largest shipping line calls at ECT

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Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander, exchanging plaques to mark the occasion (pic courtesy Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry

MSC America, the first container vessel under the business promotions programme to attract new lines to the Port of Colombo (POC), called at the East Container Terminal (ECT), owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday (07).

The latest programme to attract new shipping lines to the POC has been planned and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Owners (SLAVO) to effectively address strategic business promotions as a fruitful mean to overcome the prevailing economic crisis. Attracting more new lines to the POC, increasing operational efficiency, expediting naval services, efficiency in logistics and warehouse management and container and cargo transportation are among the objectives.

MSC America that called at the ECT, owned by the POC, will hereafter operate a weekly call to Colombo.

On the first call, yesterday, the vessel carried 2300TEUs to Colombo and is expected to carry 2500TEUs on a weekly basis. The vessel, with a length of 334m and a 7.5m draft, sails under the flag of Panama. The port rotation includes Singapore and South Africa.


MSC is the largest global shipping line, with a fleet of more than 775 TEU vessels for container transportation around the world. The shipping line that maintains long term operations with the POC has a collaborative business relationship of more than 10 years with SLPA. Since 2015, it is the prime shipping line of the POC with an annual operational capacity of 2.0m TEUs. It performs about 900 calls per annum at the POC.

The deep draft vessels, owned by MSC, call at the CICT of the POC, whilst calling the SLPA controlled JCT and ECT with more than 1.0m TEUS per annum, becoming the main customer of the SLPA.

According to MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the local agents for MSC shipping lines, another new three shipping lines, under INGWE West Bound service, East Africa Express service and East Med Service, will be calling this month at the POC.

To mark MSC America’s first call at the POC, a special plaque exchange was held at the ECT of the SLPA between Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander. Chairman of SLPA, Keith D Bernard, and several representatives of MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., also attended the occasion.

Expressing views at the occasion Minister de Silva said:

“With the deep draft of the East Container Terminal, there is ample potential for mega vessels to call at the port. The remaining development process of the terminal is expedited with an investment of Rs.5.9 billion. Today, a mega vessel of the MSC has contributed for container operations via the Port of Colombo. Similarly four new services will be added to increase the capacity of the POC. That will increase our revenue. This has further strengthened the credibility placed by the international shipping community on the Port of Colombo.”

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Remembering Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group

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The Upali Group of Companies, its employees, and sales agents countrywide, have made arrangements to invoke blessings on its founder, Upali Wijewardene, who disappeared in his Learjet, 40 years ago. Bodhi Pooja, Pahan Pooja and an alms-giving will be held, in his memory, on Feb. 13 (Monday).

A special Bodhi Pooja will be held at the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, at 6 p.m. on February 13 with the blessings of Prof. Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkhitha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.

Arrangements have been made to offer alms to the Maha Sangha at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, and scholarships to 10 needy children, from the Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

Alms-giving to the inmates of the Home for the Elders at Mulgampola, Kandy, Bodhi Pooja Pinkama and Kavi Bana Pinkama, from 4.30 p.m. onwards, at the Ceylon Chocolates factory premises.

Bodhipooja, Pahan Pooja and Kavibana deshana will be held at Vidya Niketha Piriven Viharaya, Sapugoda Kamburupitiya.

The employees of Upali Consumer Products have arranged an alms-giving lunch at the ‘Children’s Home’ at Ja-Ela.

Founder’s Day Programme on February 13, 2023.

9.00 a.m. – Holy Mass at Mattakkuliya Church.

10.00 a.m. – Offering of Buddhapooja at the ‘Dhathumandiriya’.

10.30 a.m. – Scholarships to 10 needy children from Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

11.30 a.m. – Alms-giving for the Maha Sangha at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

12 noon – Providing lunch for the Children’s Home, Ja-Ela, organized by the employees of Upali Trading Co. Ltd.

5.15 p.m. – Offering Gilanpasapooja (permissible drinks) for Dhathumandiraya.

6.00 p.m. – Bodhi Pooja and Pahan Pooja at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

All these pinkamas (meritorious acts) are organized by Upali Group employees and newspaper, Kandos/Delta and soap agents.

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