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Govt. urged to come clean on harmful Chinese organic fertiliser shipment

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne says the government owes an explanation regarding the Attorney General’s intervention in the Commercial High Court to thwart unloading of a large consignment of organic fertiliser, ordered from Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd. of China, and also stop payments to the Chinese firm and its local agent, Chelinaa Capital Corporation (Pvt) Ltd.

MP Kaviratne pointed out that the Attorney General made representations before the Commercial HC on behalf of the Fertiliser Company against the harmful consignment sent by the Chinese company. She said that the announcement regarding the AG’s intervention on Friday (22) was made by the President’s Media Division (PMD).

The people have a right to know who wanted the consignment unloaded regardless of the National Plant Quarantine Services confirming the presence of certain harmful bacteria and other organisms. The Matale District MP emphasised that there hadn’t been a previous instance of the AG moving against a foreign supplier and its local agent in such a way. She asserted that the government appeared to have been sharply divided over the fertilizer deal.

The Commercial High Court issued an injunction last Friday.

State Counsel Sehan Soyza and Dr. Charuka Ekanayake, Deputy Solicitor General Nirmalan Wigneswaran and Additional Solicitor General Susantha Balapatabendi PC appeared for the Ceylon Fertiliser Company.

The enjoining order barred People’s Bank from making any payments under a letter of credit opened on behalf of Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd. of China. It also barred the Chinese company and its local agent from receiving any payments under the letter of credit.

Referring to a recent statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Colombo that strongly disputed the basis on which Sri Lanka refused to accept the consignment, lawmaker Kaviratne urged the government to come clean on this contentious matter.

The PMD stated: “The consignment is a partial shipment worth more than a billion rupees that was procured through a tender process initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture.”

MP Kaviratne said that the Chinese company has written to Prof. Ajantha de Silva, DG, Agriculture reassuring the quality of their product though Sri Lanka believed otherwise.

MP Kaviratne also pointed out that the controversial payments in respect of liquid nano fertilizer imports, too, involved the People’s Bank. The MP said that fresh major financial controversies had erupted at a time the country was in a dire financial situation with an extremely serious balance of payments crisis. The MP noted that Secretary to the President Dr. P. B. Jayasundera has strongly contradicted the declaration made by JVP MP Vijitha Herath regarding liquid fertilizer imports from India. Dr. Jayasundera, in a statement issued through the PMD media reports based on the Opposition MP’s claim as regards the opening of a personal account in a state bank to import fertilizer from India. Dr. Jayasundera said: “Those news stories are completely false and malicious. The opening of an account in a state bank is an act between the relevant bank and the account holder. It is the responsibility of the bank to act in accordance with the standard procedures in this regard.”

Dr. Jayasundera added that “stern legal action has already been taken against the false propaganda targeted at him by highlighting a statement made by a Member of Parliament.” The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over the weekend recorded ‘Aruna’ editor Mahinda Illeperuma’s statement in connection with the inquiry initiated following a complaint from Dr. Jayasundera. Illeperuma told The Island that ‘Aruna’ story, too, was based on MP Herath’s disclosure in Parliament on Friday.

MP Kaviratne said that the SJB appreciated a thorough inquiry into both issues. She emphasized that the country wouldn’t have to place emergency orders under an extremely dicey situation if the government acted prudently.

MP Herath is on record as having said that the government deposited USD 1,275 mn in a newly opened account under the name of United Farmers’ Trust Limited at the Town Hall branch of the People’s Bank. Naming the Directors of the company as Mohan Perera and G.M. Weerasinghe, the JVP asked the government who they were.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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