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Lak Sathosa garlic scam: CID ‘Murder Unit’ intervenes

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Ex-CAA Director questions rationale in probe on Bandula complaint

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Thushan Gunawardena says the Murder Investigation Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiring into his accusations regarding the massive garlic scam in the state-owned enterprise, Lak Sathosa, wanted to question him. Gunawardena told The Island that the Officer-in-Charge of that unit, Chief Inspector L.D.S.B. Jayasekera had asked him to report to the Murder Investigation Unit today (22) at 9.am.

Gunawardena said that he was quite surprised by the Murder Unit’s intervention at the behest of the IGP C.D. Wickremaratne following a complaint lodged by Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena. Pointing out that the CID had informed him that he was being dealt with in terms of Code of Criminal Procedure Act (No 15 of 1979) Section 109 (6), Gunawardena said that the Trade Minister himself admitted in Parliament that there had been a garlic scam at Lak Sathosa.

Gunawardena said that the CID had recorded his statement on Oct. 8 in this regard. Responding to another query, Gunawardena pointed out that at the time the CID recorded his statement, over a dozen journalists, including several editors of national newspapers, had been asked to make statements.

Gunawardena reiterated that the top management of Sathosa had brazenly manipulated a Cabinet directive, meant to ensure the steady supply of food items to Sathosa outlets. The Trade Minister couldn’t claim he had not been aware of what was going on at an enterprise under his purview, Gunawardena charged. Several management level persons had been arrested along with outsiders involved in the scam, Gunawardena said, adding that the SLPP government should be ashamed of its pathetic failure to ensure essential items at reasonable prices.

Gunawardena said that 56,000 kilos of garlic, released by Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to Sathosa, had been sold to a regular Lak Sathosa supplier at Rs 135 a kilo. The Sathosa management had planned to buy back the same consignment at Rs 445 a kilo and then make it available to consumers at about Rs 540 a kilo. The plan had gone awry due to an unexpected raid carried out by the then CAA, under his direction Gunawardena said, adding Sathosa had sold the stock at such a low price on the basis of poor quality in spite of Quality Assurance clearance.

Responding to The Island queries, Gunawardena emphasized that many food consignments had been rerouted the same way. He said that such a massive fraud couldn’t have been carried out without political backing. A container load of orid (undu) had been among the consignments sold the same way, he said, insisting that Sathosa, and a select group of suppliers had been involved in the particular racket. “Politicians cannot be unaware of what is going on.”

Gunawardena asked whether the CID had initiated an inquiry into the recent shocking revelations pertaining to corruption at the state owned Litro Gas. Pointing out that as in the case of Lak Sathosa, the corruption charges were made by a person within the organisation Chairman and CEO of Litro Gas and Litro Terminals Theshara Jayasinghe, Gunawardena said that Parliament should make an urgent intervention. “

Gunawardena also said that the CID had never inquired into his complaints regarding corruption at Lak Sathosa lodged well over a year back.



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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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