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Kinniya UC chairman blamed for ferry disaster



By Saman Indrajith

Rural Roads and Other Infrastructure State Minister, Nimal Lanza, yesterday, in Parliament, said that the Kinniya Urban Council Chairman, who is the brother-in-law of SLMC Batticaloa District MP Imran Maharoof, was responsible for the tragedy in Kinniya which claimed six lives on Tuesday.

Minister Lanza said that the government had not issued any permits for a ferry service in the Kurinchenkerni lagoon. The regional politicians, using their political power, had operated the ferry service and many lives had been lost due to the actions of the Urban Council Chairman. Minister Lanza said, requesting the Governor of the Eastern Province to remove the UC chairman concerned from office and take disciplinary action against him.

Making a special statement in Parliament State Minister Lanza said: “We extend our condolences to the victims and family members of this disaster. We also wish speedy recovery of those who are in the hospital owing to this tragic accident. People in Kinniya had suffered for a long time because they did not have a bridge across the Kurinchenkerni lagoon. Some had used boats for their travel across the lagoon. Following the requests from the people, several ministers of the yahapalana government went there and placed foundation stones several times. Yet they could not construct the bridge. After we came to power we laid the foundation stone to construct the bridge on April 10, 2021. There had been a meeting on Nov 24, 2020 at the Kinniya Divisional Secretariat where permission was granted to use a three and half km long road as an alternative route until the bridge is completed. That decision had been made by the political authorities of the Urban Council and Members of the Pradeshiya Sabhas of the area. While people were using that alternative route the political authority gave permission for the operation of the ferry.

“When the Kinniya Pradeshiya Sabha asked for permission from the Road Development Authority that request was turned down because it was not safe. The RDA also turned down a request by Kinniya Urban Council for the use of a barge because it was unsafe. It is after that the Urban Council had issued the permit on its own. The permit had been issued to a businessman. There are safety measures to be followed when operating a ferry service. These operators have not even provided a life jacket to the passengers. I state that the first person responsible for this tragedy is the chairman of the Kinniya Urban Council. It was he who arrogated power to himself to grant the permit while the government and the officials continuously rejected the requests for a permit. A question has been raised in parliament on July 14, 2021 seeking the approval for the ferry service and in response to that we instructed the contracting company to expedite the work on the bridge. As per the request of people and MPs a decision was made to consider the start of a ferry service and RDA was planning to commence a proper ferry service with safety precautions but the urban council chairman by the name of Riyaz, who is the brother in law of SJB MP Imran Maharoof, issued a permit on his own. MP Maharoof too was involved in commencing the ferry service. The urban council has no powers to start a ferry service in this manner. I table all the documents with regard to this process which violated many regulations. It is wrong for the opposition to try to place the blame at our doorstep. We call on the President, the Prime Minister, and Minister in charge of police, and the IGP to investigate this incident. I also call on the Governor Eastern Province to suspend this chairman immediately and to take disciplinary action against him. It was he who should pay for this crime and loss of lives of innocent people by his imprudent act of assuming powers not belonging to his post to give a permit for the operation of the ferry.”

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Forex crisis will lead to power cuts, warns Ranil



Udaya pooh-poohs warning

By Saman indrajith

UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the country would face power cuts soon if the government did not resolve the foreign exchange crisis urgently.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2022, the UNP leader said the forex issue could result in Sri Lanka running out of money to import fuel.

Wickremesinghe called on the government to make a statement on the current situation.

The UNP leader pointed out that Sri Lanka had only Rs. 1.5 billion in foreign reserves, out of which Rs. 300 million were gold reserves, which meant only Rs. 1.2 billion was the liquid amount in foreign reserves.

The former PM said the low foreign reserves could lead to the country facing power issues in the future as there would be no funds left for fuel imports. However, the Minister of Power, Udaya Gammanpila, assured that Sri Lanka had enough fuel stocks.

The Minister said it was reasonable for people to assume that there would be power cuts in the future due to the foreign exchange crisis.

Reiterating that Sri Lanka had necessary fuel stocks, Minister Gammanpila said the fuel in hand was sufficient for the next 40 days.

Although the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery had been closed for 50 days, measures would be taken to resume operations at an early date, the Minister added, assuring that the foreign exchange crisis would not result in power cuts.

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State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses



Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat yesterday

Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday assured that the government would compensate any paddy farmer who suffered losses due to adopting organic fertiliser.

Speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, the Minister said that even if the government had not proposed to allocate funds in the Budget proposals for possible losses to paddy farmers using organic fertiliser, funds would be obtained from a supplementary estimate for the purpose.

Ranasinghe said that it was wrong to state that the government shifted from chemical to organic fertiliser abruptly. The government had promised to do so in its election manifesto and people had approved it by giving a two-third majority of votes for that. The UNP too had planned to adopt organic fertilisers in place of chemical fertilisers some 30 years back.

The State Minister said that during the past 30 years all the governments had spent billions of rupees to increase awareness of organic fertilisers among officials and the general public. In addition, there had been numerous projects introduced with the assistance of the World Bank to promote organic cultivation in the country.

Minister Ranasinghe said that there were chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides and there was information that some traders sell them at exorbitant prices. The government would get the Consumer Affairs Authority and police to implement the law against the black marketers.

He said that some farmers had raised concern that nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be washed away owing to the heavy rains, but the government would supply that fertiliser again as it was promised by State Minister of Organic Fertilizer Sashindra Rajapaksa.

The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the farmers’ associations in the Polonnaruwa District.

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Arjuna quits UNP



World Cup winning captain and former minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday quit the UNP over its failure to get its act together

Ranatunga has communicated his decision to leave the UNP to the Leader, Secretary, Deputy Leader, and the Assistant Leader of the UNP.

Ranatunga said, in a letter to the UNP leadership, that he decided to join the United National Front ahead of the 2015 presidential election to make a change for the common good.

He has said as the first step towards that objective he contested the 2015 general election and secured the highest number of votes from the Gampaha District.

Ranatunga said that when many left the party in 2020, he remained with the UNP in order to protect it.

He said in 2020 the UNP suffered a massive loss, “and what is required is to prepare a programme to overcome the present and future challenges”.

“However, as there seems to be no such preparation there appears to be no purpose in remaining with the party”, Ranatunga said.

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