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Indo-Lanka agreement on ECT:

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* Govt. sticking to yahapalana commitment says SJB MP

* JVP asks whether selling national assets panacea for all our ills

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday (15) said that the SLPP government had adopted the previous administration’s strategy in respect of the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port having repeatedly decried what it earlier called the sale of the facility to India.

MP de Silva, who also played a big role in the previous administration said that the SLPP earlier strongly opposed the involvement of India and Japan in the proposed Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to develop the ECT.

The former UNP State Minister de Silva said that the government certainly owed an explanation as regards the SLPP’s turnaround having had exploited the ECT issue to the hilt in the run-up to 2019 Nov presidential election as well as 2020 parliamentary election.

Responding to another query, the senior SJB member emphasized that the SLPP’s stand had always been that the ECT would be under the exclusive control of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). Therefore, the Presidential Secretariat statement that the incumbent administration negotiated the ECT agreement afresh with the SLPA having 51 percent of shares and the rest for the foreign investor, MP de Silva said.

Having repeatedly promised the ECT would only be developed by the SLPA, no less a person than President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a hastily arranged meeting at the Presidential Secretariat on January 13 announced the 51:49 basis between the SLPA and the foreign investor.

The Colombo District lawmaker said: “The Terminal Operating Company was always a 51:49 joint venture with the majority of shares with the SLPA.”

Minister of Ports Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority and other officials and representatives of 23 trade unions had been present at the discussion.

The presidential declaration meant that the SLPP went back on one of its major promises. What had really happened was the SLPP endorsed the previous government strategy on the ECT, MP de Silva said, urging the people to be mindful of their strategies.

The SJB MP stressed that the then Opposition deceived the country with its high profile campaigns in the run-up to national polls in 2019 and 2020. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told port unions the ECT would be developed with 51 per cent owned by the government and the remaining 49% as an investment by India’s Adani Group and other stakeholders

One-time Ports and Shipping Minister and SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, now a constituent of the SJB told The Island that the Indian investment therein was nothing but a foregone conclusion. The lawmaker who is afflicted with Covid-19 threw his weight behind the project.

MP de Silva said that Sri Lanka entered into a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with India and Japan in May 2019 on the ECT. The then Ports and Shipping Minister Sagala Ratnayake signed the MOC on behalf of the yahapalana government. Dr. de Silva said that he responded to The Island queries as a parliamentarian of the SJB as the party was yet to take a stand officially.

The agreement on the ECT was the first major investment on ports and shipping sector since China secured strategic Hambantota port on a 99-year lease for USD1.1 bn in 2017.

Trade union sources told The Island that major political parties represented in parliament seemed to be on one page on the ECT issue. The SLPP and the SJB parliamentary groups consisted of 145 and 54 members, respectively. The JVP with just three MPs is alone in campaigning against the agreement on the ECT though port trade unions affiliated to major political parties opposed foreign investment therein.

Former JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa alleged that successive governments were bent on parting with critically important national assets. The JVPer asked whether selling national assets was the panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills. If such a strategy paid off, Sri Lanka would have been in a much better position today, the former lawmaker said.

 

 



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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL

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by PRIYAN DE SILVA

The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969

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The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?

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By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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