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FSP picks holes in Trinco Tank Farm deal

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

An agreements signed on Thursday night to develop the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm as a joint venture between Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka IOC was illegal and Sri Lankans should not accept them, Education Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), Pubudu Jayagoda said yesterday.

Jayagoda said that usually such agreements had three parts, – lease agreement, a modalities agreement and an agreement on the joint venture company, i.e. Trinco Petroleum Terminal Ltd. However, only the modalities agreement had been presented to the Cabinet in late December and it was that agreement the Cabinet approved on 03 January 2022, he said

“Did the government sign the lease agreement too? From what we hear, a lease agreement was signed on Thursday night. However, the Governor of the Eastern Province needs to sign the agreement for this lease agreement to be valid and legitimate. Since the Governor had not signed the agreement, the lease agreement is not legitimate and the entire agreement is null and void without a lease agreement. So we would like to tell Sri Lankans that there is no reason for us to accept or respect this agreement,” he said.

On Thursday night the lease agreement was signed and the signatories were Treasury Secretary, Land Commissioner General, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), LIOC and Trinco Petroleum Terminal Ltd., the Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said in a Tweet.

The Education Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party said that the government had started to sign important agreements in the middle of the night. Earlier an agreement was signed, in the middle of the night, with US based, New Fortress Energy to transfer 40% of Yugadanavi shares and to handover the monopoly over the supply of LNG, he said.

“These strategically important agreements that have significant impact on our lives are not even presented to the Cabinet, let alone the people. These agreements are against our constitution and the law,” he said.

Jayagoda said given that the people had no access to the full agreement, they had to depend on the statements made by Minister Gammanpila. However, most of the statements the Minister made were false, he said.

“The Minister claims that agreements in 1987, 2003 and 2017 had already granted India the access to the old tanks in Trincomalee. These claims are contradictory. If the 1987 agreement had given the tanks to India, why sign another one in 2003 or 2017. Despite the Minister’s claims, there was no formal agreement to hand over 14 tanks to India in 2003, he said. A MoU was signed, but a formal agreement was never executed. The 2017 agreement between India’s Sushma Swaraj and then Minister Malik Samarawickrama too was only a MoU. So, IOC was holding these tanks illegally. However, when this agreement is signed it will formally have these tanks. The Minister also claims that the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord earmarked these tanks for Indian use. However, the agreement only states that if we develop these tanks with a foreign partner that partner will have to be India. So Gammanpila is bending facts,” he said.

Jayagoda pointed out that it was now widely acknowledged that Sri Lanka didn’t sign the Indo-Lanka agreement voluntarily. India twisted the arm of then President J.R. Jayewardene to make him agree. The agreement did not even have clauses on what steps to take if one party violated the agreement, he said.

“The agreement had been violated so many times and it is a joke to say that we are adhering to a non-existent clause of this agreement. There really is no reason why we should accept the accord at all,” he said.

The current agreement signed on Thursday allows LIOC to make changes to the structures in the tank farm, Jayagoda said. The 2003 agreement only allowed IOC the use of the tanks.

“This is why this is a more dangerous agreement than anything signed in 1987, 2003 or 2017. Moreover, the agreement states that Sri Lanka can’t enter into agreements with other companies to operate in the tank farm for another decade. The worst part is that under the 2003, any issue that arises between the two parties could be solved by Sri Lankan law but the 2022 agreement says that we have to go before arbitration courts in Singapore to settle any dispute. Our previous performances before arbitration courts have been less than stellar,” he said.



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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary

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By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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