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Minister Gammanpila says he wants local engineers to build pipeline project



Responds to The Sunday Island reports

Referring to the two separate news stories on the cross-country pipeline project published in The Sunday Island on December 13 and 20, respectively, the media secretary to Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, says they contain “misleading and inaccurate information”.

Denying that there was a presidential directive to halt the pipeline project as mentioned in the news report, the Minister’s media secretary said in a rejoinder the “President has never discussed about the subjected project with the Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila”.

In fact, it can be stopped only by the Cabinet of Ministers as it was a decision taken by the Cabinet in 2019 based on a cabinet paper submitted by the then Minister of Petroleum Kabir Hashim, it noted.

“After observing colossal amount to be spent on the project, Minister Udaya Gammanpila advised the management of Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited (CPSTL) to explore the possibility of constructing the pipeline by the company having outsourced the components of the project which are beyond their capacity. The management of CPSTL is yet to submit the report, it said.

“The Minister further observed that the previous government had called the bids without preparing even an engineer’s estimate. Hence, he has advised the CPSTL management to prepare an estimate. The minister intends to submit a cabinet paper to revise the decision taken by the previous government after studying the reports to be submitted by the CPSTL management”, it further said.

If the journalist inquired about the project from the Minister or the Secretary of the Ministry instead of trade union leaders, he would have received the correct information. That is because Trade Union leaders are not involved in managerial decisions, it added.

News Editor’s Note: The Minister’s stated position that he was keen to get local engineers to build the pipeline could be appreciated if not for officials down the line who were aware, and moreover concerned, over subtle moves to push ahead with the project based on the original Rs. 15 billion bid by the Chinese company.

Officials were categorical in their assertion that attempts were ongoing to revive the original project at enormous cost when a new feasibility study and related research had shown that the pipeline, if deemed necessary, could be built at a cost of Rs. 5 billion – a fraction of the estimate quoted by the Chinese bidder.

After the initial story was published, officials said the project has been scrapped on a presidential order as it was a criminal waste of public funds. The President’s Office has so far not denied that the President wanted the project, described as a white elephant, halted immediately to stop billions of rupees going down the drain.

A key trade union had also written to the President earlier on moves to revive the project. With eyes and ears working overtime to identify those “leaking information”, it’s sad that a trade unionist who wrote to the President and spoke to the media on this matter of grave public concern has been asked to “show cause”.

Though the Minister didn’t retract the initial news story headlined “Moves to kick-start Rs. 15Bn mega pipeline project comes under fire” (Sunday Island of 13/12/20), he certainly deserve plaudits for placing in the public domain that he wants the job handled locally on “observing the colossal amount to be spent on the project”, after the follow-up news story on presidential intervention to stop it was published.

We appreciate the Minister’s stand that local engineers should be allowed to build the pipeline. This places him on the same wavelength as this was exactly what honest officials who play a straight bat have continued to fight for against many odds.

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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’



By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners



By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered



A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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