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Govt. assures procurement process followed to the letter



… seeks House approval for measures to ease pressure on foreign reserves

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Cabinet spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) assured that the incumbent government followed the procurement process to the letter.

Rambukwella, who is also the media minister, told the post-Cabinet media briefing at the Information Department that the government didn’t operate outside the laid down procurement process.

The minister said so when The Island asked about Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s proposal to finalise an agreement with Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) to procure 8,400,000 barrels of Murban crude over a period of eight months commencing Oct 1, 2020.

Rambukwella was flanked by co-cabinet spokesperson Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Director General, Information, Nalaka Kaluwewa. The other co-cabinet spokesperson Udaya Gammanpila was not present.

Acknowledging that the government shouldn’t resort to emergency purchases, Minister Rambukwella said that there were instances the government had no option but to do so under certain circumstances.

Pointing out that the government had taken a series of steps to ease growing pressure on foreign reserves and also sought international assistance at the ongoing UNHRC sessions to save the national economies of countries ruined by COVID pandemic, The Island asked how the new parliament could curb waste, corruption and irregularities as COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and PAC (Public Accounts Committee) faulted successive governments. Minister Rambukwella took up the stand that the current dispensation followed procedures.

At the commencement of the briefing, the media was informed ot a government decision to secure parliamentary approval for specific action taken in terms of Imports and Exports (Control) Act, No 1 of 1969 to ease pressure on foreign reserves. A committee appointed in line with proposals made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on April 1, 2020, the government imposed severe restrictions on imports after having categorised imports into three classes.

Minister Rambuwella said that the balance of payments was an issue as even far bigger countries struggled to tackle due to the difficulties caused by the continuing COVID pandemic.

The Cabinet at its meeting on Sept 16, 2020, decided to submit four special gazette notifications issued in terms of Imports and Exports (Control) Act, No 1 of 1969 for parliamentary approval.

Minister Rambukwella also said his proposal to print passports as well as confidential documents locally had received the attention of the Cabinet of ministers. The Cabinet had decided to undertake a comprehensive study to ascertain whether the Government Printer could handle the tasks, he added.

The media also raised the issue of the alleged liberalisation of policy to facilitate the proposed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact. Denying such allegations, the ministers said the government decision was to provide state land to the needy in line with the President’s 2019 election manifesto.

The media sought an explanation as to how the government proceeded with land distribution on the basis of recommendation/approval provided by grama sevakas. Asked whether a deliberate attempt was being made to distribute state land in a haphazard manner against a series of wanton destruction of forest land, the ministers denied the accusations.

The ministers assured that the government wouldn’t interfere in the ongoing investigations into the destruction of Ramsar wetlands at Anavilundawa allegedly by former Chairman of Arachchikattuwa Pradeshiya Sabha Jagath Samantha. The media asked whether the suspect remained at large because of government interference as he was the elder brother of State Minister Sanath Nishantha.

The media said that in spite of a committee appointed by the government having identified Jagath Samantha as the main suspect, the police were yet to arrest him. The ministers pointed out that the government members had raised the issue in Parliament therefore there was no basis for accusations of an attempted cover up of the Anavilundawa incident.

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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’



By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners



By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered



A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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