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Minister Gammanpila says he wants local engineers to build pipeline project

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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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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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