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Investigation into missing DLB vehicle drags on for 14 years

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Prof. Herath and Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne inquiring into DLB accounts (pic courtesy Parliament)

House Inquiry reveals deficiencies in COPE, AG

An ongoing inquiry into the disappearance of a double cab, belonging to the Development Lotteries Board (DLB), way back in 2008 has revealed deficiencies in the Auditor General’s Department and the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).

The tardy progress in the probe came to light when the COPE on 10 March took up with the DLB the disappearance of the cab, procured by the then Chairman of the DLB one-time lawmaker Sarana Gunawardena in 2008, at a cost of Rs. 8,095,000.

The COPE pointed out that the vehicle hadn’t been sighted since it was bought.

The COPE took up the issue at a meeting in the Parliamentary complex when the Auditor General’s reports for 2017 and 2018, pertaining to the DLB were examined. The reports on COPE proceedings made available to the media didn’t reveal the reason why the probe had dragged on for 14 years.

At the COPE meeting, chaired by its Chairperson, Prof. Charitha Herath, it was revealed how the DLB has been compelled to pay nearly Rs 16,190,000 to the private company that supplied the cab following a court ruling. The inquiry further revealed the DLB had suffered a loss of Rs 26,634,185 by 31 Dec, 2018. This amount included lawyers’ fees, the COPE revealed.

Among the lawmakers present at the inquiry were Ministers Sarath Weerasekera, Mahinda Amaraweera, State Minister Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and MPs, Susil Premjayantha, Jagath Pushpakumara, Champika Ranawaka, Dr. Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne, Madura Vithanage and Premnath C. Dolawatta.

A statement issued by the Office of the Legislative Services, Janakantha Silva, who is also the Acting Director, Communication, quoted the Chairman DLB, Ajith Naragala as having said that on the instructions of the Attorney General legal proceedings had been initiated to recover the losses incurred by the DLB.

Prof. Herath has pointed out how those who served on the board of directors of state enterprises caused significant losses to the government.

The COPE also asked the DLB why a state-of-the-art recording studio, built at a cost of Rs 38.75 mn hadn’t been used though it was available since 2015. Instead, the DLB had paid Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) Rs 2146.82 (well over Rs 2 bn) for recordings done at its studios, the COPE pointed out though the DLB claimed the recordings were done at a concessionary rate.

The DLB has told the COPE that it intended to develop the facility as an auditorium. Prof. Herath pointed out how the government suffered huge losses due to unilateral and unplanned ad-hoc decisions taken without proper consultations.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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