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IGP lodges complaint against Chamuditha over disparaging comments on govt.

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Hiru anchor Chamuditha Samarawickrema has been told he was under investigation for undermining the government’s reputation.

After being summoned to the Colombo Crime Division (CCD), recently Samarawickrema had been asked to furnish a statement in respect of his controversial comments on a government move to import 100,000 kgs of ‘ponni’ rice after having repeatedly claimed that it was having a surplus of the staple, mismanagement of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive and the rescinding of a decision to give Pfizer vaccine as the second dose to those who had received Oxford AstraZeneca  (Covishield) first shot.

The former Media Director to President Maithripala Sirisena told The Island that he had declined to do so as he was not forewarned by the police as regards such an investigation when he reported to the CCD as requested.  Samarawickrema said that he believed the CCD summoned him to record a second statement as regards his complaint pertaining to an alleged threat to his life following strong criticism of the police handling makeup artist Chandimal Jayasinghe having a party at the Shangri-La in violation of Covid-19 health guidelines.

The CCD had initiated an inquiry following a complaint received from IGP C. D. Wickremaratne.

Samarawickrema said that as far as he was aware, no TV presenter had ever been investigated for comments made on a live programme.

The police have shown Samarawickrema video footage of three statements in question made on Hiru morning show ‘Paththare Visthare’ in the recent past.

The police have put off recording Samarawickrema’s statement though he was to be questioned last Wednesday (14) at the CCD having been earlier summoned on July 09. The police have informed Samarawickrema that he would be notified when to appear at the CCD, Dematagoda.

Samarawickrema said that he was quite disappointed those in authority found fault with the media for simply taking up issues on behalf of the hapless public.

Media Minister and co-cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella recently told The Island that he consulted lawyers as regards Sirasa telecasts in particular and overall television reportage of various developments as the media couldn’t be allowed to abuse the freedom they enjoyed. The Minister said that the government respected the rights of the media though some sections obviously abused the print, electronic and social media.

Samarawickrema pointed out that the three issues the police wanted to question him had received the attention of independent media.  Samarawickrema said that the media questioned Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena’s declaration of planned rice imports as the Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage was on record as having said he wouldn’t need rice imports. Aluthgamage declared that he was having a surplus of rice for the consumption of the local market. Samarawickrema said that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) sought an explanation from the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) over serious lapses on the part of those responsible for the vaccination drive.

Referring to a recent The Island report, Samarawickrema said that the HRCSL alleged that DGHS didn’t even bother to respond to its request. The media from time to time exposed corruption, irregularities and nepotism in the vaccination programme though health and military authorities worked hard to achieve targets. Inoculation of hundreds of outsiders over a period of two days at Galle were case in point, Samarawickrema said, such shortcomings had been admitted in parliament by State Minister Prof. Channa Jayasumana. Subsequently, two senior doctors were moved out of Galle and now a case was being heard in that regard, Samarawickrema said.



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Colombo Stars defeat Dambulla Aura by 9 runs at Sooriyawewa

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Colombo stars defeated Dambulla Aura by nine runs in the 5th game of LPL 2022 at MRICS Sooriyawewa .on Thursday.

Colombo Stars 165-9  in 20 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 62, Ravi Bopara 26, Dinesh Chandimal 29*; Lahiru Kumara 4-36, Sikkandar Raza 1-31, Tharindu Ratnayake 1-20, Lahiru Madushanaka 1-17)

Dambulla Aura 156/7 in 20 overs (Shevon Daniel 28, Jordan Cox 29, Tom Abell 33, Dasun Shanaka 31*; Suranga Lakmal 2-29, Dominic Drakes 2-35, Naveen-ul-Haq 1/22, Karim Janat 2-30)

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Govt. under pressure to tackle corruption in revenue inflow

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Amendments to Exchange Control Act contemplated

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya yesterday (07) said the government would introduce some amendments to the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017 as part of its response to the continuing financial crisis.

The SLFPer mentioned that amendments were necessary to restore the authority exercised by the Central Bank in respect of regulation of foreign exchange before the enactment of the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017, adding that the government has received several proposals in this regard.

The State Finance Minister said so when The Island sought a clarification as regards rebel SLPP accusations that the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017, enacted during the Yahapalana administration, allowed exporters to ‘park’ funds overseas. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Gevindu Cumaratunga had estimated the stashed amount at over USD 35 bn.

Siyambalapitiya acknowledged that the amendments that had been introduced in 2017 deprived the Central Bank of certain regulatory powers.

The Island

raised the issue at hand with Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, yesterday (07) consequent to his declaration that as much as USD 53.5 bn had been ‘parked’ overseas. This claim was made during the committee stage of the ongoing debate on the Appropriation Bill.

Minister Rajapakse said that Nanayakkara, Weerawansa and Cumaratunga, too, had referred to the same funds though he was able to obtain the latest figures.

Responding to another query, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka emphasised that the situation had further deteriorated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, etc. According to him, the figures available with him dealt with the past 12 years.

The Justice Minister said that he discussed this with the Central Bank. Lawmaker Rajapakse said that in the absence of regulatory powers, the Central Bank hadn’t been able to make necessary interventions.

The Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, told The Island that the urgent need for amendments to the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017 had been taken up with the relevant authorities. Dr. Weerasinghe said that the ongoing controversy, over funds ‘parked’ overseas, gathered momentum against the backdrop of his recent speech, at the AGM of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association, where the inordinate delay, on the part of the exporters to convert export earnings to rupees, was highlighted.

In terms of current foreign exchange regulations, the exporters are required to convert 25 percent of their export proceeds, within a month, and all export proceeds within 180 days.

Having found fault with apparel, tea and rubber for the unsatisfactory conversion rate of forex earnings, Dr. Weerasinghe said that they were in the process of examining a selected group of exporters but realized the majority weren’t forthcoming with the required data.

The Justice Minister said that the entire revenue collection system was utterly corrupt, influenced and manipulated by interested parties. “The people are suffering because of continuing corruption at every level. Those responsible for revenue collection are part of the growing racket. They seem to be unstoppable,” he said.

Dr. Rajapakse said that there couldn’t be a better example than continuing the racket in security stickers on bottles of liquor to highlight the pathetic situation here. The Minister alleged that the racket, involving liquor manufacturers and some excise officials, deprived the Treasury a massive amount in revenue. In spite of frequent media exposure, the racket continued unabated, Dr. Rajapakse said, adding that those who defended the manufacturer of the security sticker were all part of the scam.

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Criminal waste at State Hospital revealed

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Chairman, Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital, Professor Shanthilal Devapriya Jayaratne responds to probing questions from COPE members (Pic courtesy parliament)

Surgical items thrown away amidst shortages

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has called for a comprehensive report from Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital regarding hiring of a private surveyor, way back in 2015 although the Surveyor General’s Department had completed the task.

The COPE, chaired by Prof. Ranjith Bandara, on 06 Dec, asked the Legal Officer of the hospital to provide a list of persons responsible for hiring the private surveyor.

During the inquiry, several irregularities were exposed, according to parliamentary sources. The COPE raised the issue of 80% of surgical items being discarded due to the expiration of shelf life. The hospital management said that they had received a report compiled, following an inquiry. Those items had been procured at a cost of Rs 4.2 mn for the neurosurgical unit of the hospital.

Health Secretary Dr. Asela Gunawardena was to submit a comprehensive report in this regard within two weeks.

The COPE also called for reports on spending Rs 1.8 mn on a software package and spending Rs 19.7 for scanning and uploading documents in 2019.

Lawmakers also discussed how payments had been made for unfinished work undertaken by various parties. (SF)

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