By Saman Indrajith
SJB Matara District MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday said that two Cabinet ministers of the yahapalana government and a group ofMinistry of Finance and Excise Department officials were behind a deal to hand over a tender to an Indian company to introduce a sticker to be affixed to liquor and beer bottles.
Addressing the media after lodging a complaint with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption in Colombo, the MP said: “The tender was awarded to Madras Security Printers company of India without following due procedure. The officials concerned lined their pockets. This deal, started during the yahapalana government has been finalised under the incumbent government. We hope that the matter would be investigated by the government, and the wrongdoers including the politicians and the officials will be exposed.”
MP Pathirana said that in addition to the complaint to the CIABPOC, he had handed over documentary proof and a copy of the complaint to the Committee on Public Accounts in
Parliament for a separate probe besides submitting a copy of the same to the Auditor General’s Department.
MP Pathirana said that following his expose of the deal in introducing fool-proof stickers to liquor and beer bottles, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had contacted him over the phone and made inquiries about it. “I met the President this morning and explained everything about this fraud that would pump people’s money to an Indian company. I pointed out to him all the irregularities of the tender process and how the officials turned down the bid of the government printer with a lower quotation to help the Indian company with a higher bid. If the sticker is printed here by the government press, the money will remain in our country. The Indian company MSP is a blacklisted venture. The President promised that he would instruct officials to look into this.”
Pathirana said that the sticker with a code is accessorised with a software to check its authenticity. “The tender for the creation of that software too has been handed over to an Indian company without following proper tender procedures. That has been done during the yahapalana government’s time.
MP Pathirana said that around 40 million bottles of hard liquor and beer were produced annually in Sri Lanka. It was to prevent counterfeits being produced the label had been introduced.
“Two ministers of the former government and some officials got together and made deals with MSP to pocket commissions from the project. The day after I exposed this in parliament, the Excise Department issued a statement, which only proved it was intent on protecting the culprits. The Excise Department officials are also disturbed by my exposures of their links to artificial toddy makers. My initial intention was to highlight the need to devise a mechanism to prevent the use of artificial toddy to produce vinegar because people including children who do not consume that rotgut toddy are exposed to carcinogenic elements via vinegar. A few days ago, the STF commandos of Gonahena camp raided an artificial toddy distillery in Kochchikade and recovered vast quantities of the contraband along with chemicals used to prepare artificial toddy. This country’s daily production of toddy is around 160,000 litres. The truth is that the capacity to produce coconut toddy even after tapping all licensed trees is around 45,000 litres a day. Producing illicit toddy is an offence under Excise Ordinance and Food and Drugs Act. I call for urgent attention to amend the Excise Act immediately to prevent the loss of tax revenue.”
CAA reverses decision to file legal action against Litro Gas
For introducing controversial hybrid LPG cylinder
by Suresh Perera
The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has backtracked on moves to file legal action against Litro Gas Lanka for launching 18-litre premium hybrid domestic LPG cylinders in contravention of consumer laws.
The Chairman was not in favor of moving court on the matter due to political pressure, a senior CAA official said.
The move to desist from legally challenging Litro’s launch of the new hybrid cylinder to the market without the regulator’s approval comes in the backdrop of State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna’s intervention to allow the controversial product to be sold to consumers at its introductory price of Rs. 1,395.
“What’s the purpose of a regulatory body if politicians can interfere with CAA’s legally mandated functions to protect the interests of consumers?”, the official asked.
The selective application of the law will boil down to seeking approval from politicians on whether legal action should be instituted when even a grocery store is raided for violating regulations, he said.
“The law is the same, and if are to take punitive action by favor, then the CAA will be a dead duck bowing down to political dictates”, he opined.
Litro Gas has come under fire for introducing new hybrid domestic cylinders for Rs. 1,395 in spite of the weight being reduced by three kilograms in comparison to the regular 12.5 kilogram cylinders priced at Rs. 1,493.
“We have already received hundreds of complaints about a shortage of 12.5kg cylinders in the market as Litro is trying to push its new hybrid cylinders”, the official said.
“This is unethical”.
A resident of Kirillawala in the Gampaha district complained that only hybrid LPG cylinders were available over the past few days.
“I was told by the Litro dealer in the area that stocks of 12.5kg regular cylinders will not be received for some time”, he said.
However, Litro Gas Chairman/CEO, Anil Koswatte assured that there was no dearth of LPG in the marketplace.
When told that technically there may be no shortage of cooking gas, but on whether regular 12.5kg regular cylinders were also available apart from the new 18-litre premium hybrid product, he said that there may be delays in deliveries due to the prevailing situation, but both domestic cylinders are freely available.
Consumers can also order online or by calling 1311 for delivery, he said.
The LPG production process is continuing uninterrupted despite many challenges posed by the pandemic. Workers adhere to health safety regulations and are regularly screened and provided accommodation to prevent contact with outsiders who may be infected, he continued.
With ballooning global LPG prices, Litro Gas Lanka incurs Rs. 300 to 400 million in losses per day as the government has turned down an appeal for a Rs. 700 price increase on domestic cylinders.
The new hybrid 18-litre domestic cylinder was introduced to the market to cut losses as LPG is now sold below procurement cost.
Asked about the claim in a YouTube video shared on social media that he draws a remuneration of Rs. 3 million per month at a time Litro is facing a financial crunch, Koswatte declined to comment on what he termed as “gossip to sling mud at him”.
The presenter of the YouTube program, Chapa Bandara, claimed that Koswatte draws a monthly salary of Rs. 2 million from Litro Gas Lanka Limited and Rs. 1 million from Litro Gas Terminal Lanka Ltd.
“I am not paid with government funds”, he noted, while pointing out that both are private companies.
“My salary is a matter for the shareholders to decide on”, he stressed, while adding that his salary should not be of concern to anybody as it’s purely a private matter.
The Chairman said that if he responds to tittle-tattle, it will create the impression that he also thrives on gossip.
Presenter Bandara also asserted that a woman who served as the General Manager at the time Koswatte was Chairman of Laksala has been appointed Director (Human Resources) of Litro Gas.
Allied Security Services to reward officer who foiled Rs. 10.7mn robbery
Timely action by a security officer on duty at a private bank in the Anuradhapura New Town thwarted the robbery of Rs. 10.7 million by a two-member gang on Thursday morning.
The officer risked his life to prevent the gangsters from escaping with the cash during the heist, an official said.
An officer of a different security agency had alighted from the vehicle and walked towards the ATM with a representative of the bank to reload cash into the machine when two persons lurking in the vicinity had thrown chilli powder and grappled with them in an attempt to grab the bag containing the cash, he said.
They had, however, fought back, and in the melee, the bag had slipped to the ground. The security officer, who was near the entrance to the bank, had promptly run across, picked up the bag and taken it into the premises, he noted.
Sensing they had lost the chance of robbing the money, the gangsters had escaped on a motorcycle before the police arrived, the official said.
A security officer of the company entrusted with reloading cash to the bank’s ATMs was injured when his gun went off by accident during the confusion, he said. “He was admitted to the Anuradhapura General Hospital”.
The brave security officer, whose resourcefulness prevented the money from being snatched, was identified as S. R. K. Somarathne of Allied Security Services (Pvt) Limited. He is a resident of Hidogama in Anuradhapura.
“We will be rewarding this valiant officer who foiled the robbery in spite of the grave risk to his life”, a senior official of Allied Security Services, said. (SP)
Police round up unmasked persons in public spaces in Colombo
With the alarming spike in Covid-19 infections across the country, Police on Friday launched an operation in Colombo to round up unmasked persons in public spaces.
Police said that 85 people taken into custody were initially taken to the Bo-tree junction in Pettah, where DIG (Colombo Division) Jagath Chandrakumara, gave them a brief lecture on the risk of not adhering to health safety guidelines.
They are not only placing their lives on the line by ignoring corona preventive guidelines such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance, but also jeopardizing others by spreading the virus, he said.
Police said that 85 persons taken into custody were later transported in buses to the Pettah police station, where they were granted police bail. They will have to appear in court when notified.
The operation was conducted under the supervision of DIG Jagath Chandrakumara, SSP (Colombo Central) Nishantha Chandrasekara, SSP (Colombo Central 1) Samarakoon Banda, Pettah Acting OIC Chief Inspector Abeyratne and Dam Street OIC Chief Inspector A. P. Paduruarachchi on the direction of senior DIG (Western Province) Deshabandu Tennakoon.
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