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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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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder



State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL




SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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