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NFC launched Rs 100 mn project in honour of Lester James Peries without approval

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Waste, corruption and irregularities galore

It was revealed during the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) proceedings on Monday (19) that the National Film Corporation (NFC) hadn’t even bothered to obtain approval for the construction of a museum and a film school named after the late Lester James Peries. Construction work commenced on April 5, 2019.

The COPE has instructed the NFC Chairman Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa to complete the Rs 100 mn project following the due process.

The following is the text of the statement issued by Parliament after examination of the Auditor General’s Reports and the Current Performance Reports for the Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 of the Sri Lanka National Film Corporation:

The Chairman of the COPE Prof. Charitha Herath said that many issues have transpired due to the lack of standards in the process of digitizing cinemas.

Accordingly, The COPE Chair pointed out that a new perspective on the part of the Sri Lanka National Film Corporation with regards to the digitization of cinemas is required. He stated the above at the COPE Committee meeting held on the 19th of July 2021.

The COPE Meeting was held to examine the Auditor General’s Reports and the Current Performance Reports for the Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 of the Sri Lanka National Film Corporation.

The COPE also disclosed that the outstanding film production loan balance which was given by the National Film Corporation and Fund as at 31 December 2020 is Rs. 141,292,087.

The Committee also directed the Corporation to take immediate action in order to recover the outstanding loan amount of Rs. 7,780,983 given to 146 cinemas which were closed before 2001.

Recommendations were made at the COPE meeting held on 24th March 2016 to formulate a programme for the modernization of cinema halls and to report on the progress. The COPE inquired the National Film Corporation regarding the non-implementation of the decisions taken.

By the end of 2019, the Corporation maintained 09 current bank accounts and the Committee disclosed that its average monthly balance was Rs. 29.2 million. The COPE chair pointed out that the lack of proper financial management governing the institution was a serious concern.

The COPE paid special attention regarding the failure to complete the construction of a museum and a film school named after Dr. Lester James Peries which commenced on April 05th, 2019 at an estimated cost of Rs. 99.9 million on time.

The approval of the Urban Development Authority had not been obtained for the construction. The Committee instructed the Chairman of the National Film Corporation, Dr. Jayantha Dharmadasa to complete the project following the due process.

The Committee further directed the Chairman of the National Film Corporation to conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of a Film School.

It was also revealed that two officers who had not been confirmed in a permanent position at the Department of Cultural Affairs in 2019 and another officer had been appointed to fill the three vacancies existing in the National Film Corporation as acting officers and to perform duties with their salaries and allowances amounting to a total of Rs. 3,098,046.

The Committee paid special attention towards the non-recovery of the movie rental of Rs. 12,343,433 from the Maradana Cine City Cinema Hall from 2003 to 31st May 2016 as at March 2021.

Although Rs. 25 million has been allocated for the improvement of the production facilities of the University Studio in Kelaniya and Rs. 50 million has been allocated for the establishment of a film archive and restoration of films, the amount had not been utilized during the year under review. The Committee also paid special attention to the fact that out of the Rs. 50 million allocated for the establishment of a National Training School, only Rs. 500,000 was spent.

The Committee also inquired from the Corporation regarding the non-compliance with the Procurement Guidelines pertaining to the expenditure of Rs. 44,394,717 for the Presidential Film Awards which was held on 31st March 2017.

COPE Chairman Prof. Herath instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Prof. Kapila Gunawardena to inquire into the matter and submit a report to the Committee.

The Committee also paid special attention to the fact that an action plan for the year 2020 has not been prepared in line with the 2020-2025 Combined Plan.

It was also pointed out that the annual reports of the National Film Corporation since 2015 have not been tabled in Parliament. The Committee directed the Secretary to the Ministry to take immediate action in that regard.

The Committee made note that there are 57 vacancies in the National Film Corporation at present and that the Corporation had not acted upon getting the amendments to the recruitment procedure approved by the Management Services Department.

The Committee making a recommendation to the Secretary to the Ministry stated that several high-ranking officials of the Corporation had been suspended and that investigations regarding such suspensions should be completed expeditiously. The Committee was of the view that the delay of some disciplinary inquiries by one and a half years was an issue of concern.

Prof. Kapila Gunawardena stated that at present the distribution of films was done by the private sector and that a gazette notification would be issued in the future to take it over to the government.

Minister (Dr.) Sarath Weerasekera addressing the committee pointed out the need to electronically distribute tickets in cinemas.

Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, State Ministers Susil Premajayantha and Indika Anuruddha, Members of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickramaratne, Harsha de Silva, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Jagath Pushpakumara, Jayantha Samaraweera, Premnath C. Dolawaththa, Shanakiyan Rasamanickam and Uddika Premarathna were present at the meeting.



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Lanka, Turkish FMs powwow in NY

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Sri Lankan and Turkish FMs meet (pic courtesy Foreign Ministry)

Concerns over selective use of human rights by section of int’l community

Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris has expressed condolences on the death of two Turkish nationals as a result of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks when he met the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu at the Turkish House, the Chancery building of the Turkish Permanent Mission, in New York, for a bilateral meeting between them, on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to New York.

Prof. Peiris has given an update on the investigations underway and the legal processes being taken to try those that were involved that had linkages to extreme groups. The two Ministers expressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms as well as linkages to the rise of extremism and spoke against the politicization of human rights and selective use of human rights as tools by some parties, and pledged to expand international cooperation in the United Nations and other fora.

The following is the text of the statement issued by the FM: “Foreign Minister Çavusoglu recalled fondly his fruitful two-day visit to Sri Lanka in 2016. The Minister appreciated the arrangements extended to him during the visit. Foreign Minister Peiris also fondly recalled a number of visits to Turkey and commented on the rich experiences he had. The Foreign Minister of Turkey was happy to observe that a Hony Consul of Sri Lanka would take office shortly in his hometown.

In evaluating their mutual visits, the two Foreign Ministers noted that it would be an opportune time to enhance further contacts by visits and interactions at other levels, to strengthen the excellent ties of friendship between the two countries, particularly economic and trade ties. Foreign Minister Çavusoglu noted that despite the two countries being geographically far, the ties between the two were very close.

Foreign Minister Peiris noted the generous assistance given to Sri Lanka from Turkey during the COVID-19 pandemic with the provision of ventilators and other equipment and appreciated that Turkey had also extended support in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami where housing was provided. The Ministers appreciated that bilateral trade between the two had steadily increased from US 100 Million and was projected to reach US 200 million in the current year.

Foreign Minister Peiris highlighted that there was a need for Sri Lankan exports to Turkey to diversify from its 80% consisting of tea and noted that there was tremendous potential between the two countries to boost economic, trade and investment in growth areas such as construction and the pharmaceutical industries, where Turkey had expertise and Sri Lanka was looking at developing this area by having specific economic free zones for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals for the local market and beyond. The Turkish Foreign Minister underscored that the Turkish construction sector was the world’s second largest and that they had a number of projects globally and not just in their region.

The two Ministers expressed interest to finalise important agreements on Avoidance of Double Taxation and on Investment Promotion and Protection that could serve to provide opportunities for joint projects, investments and initiatives between both countries.

The Foreign Minister of Turkey noted their experience of successful Private to Public Projects for infrastructure, such as Turkey’s second international airport that would boost their role as an important global international hub.

The two Ministers also discussed enhancing people to people contact, including possibilities of exploring air connectivity between Ankara and Colombo and code-share flights to the region that could boost linkages and ties to new levels, including exchanges between the respective Chambers of Commerce and business sectors. Both sides undertook to expedite respective agreements that had been finalized and were at the last stages of implementation.

Foreign Minister Çavu?o?lu noted that he was to visit Sri Lanka, but that the visit had to be postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Foreign Minister Peiris extended an invitation for the Turkish Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka in the near future.

The two Ministers looked forward to expanding the friendly and close ties and expressed hope that further interaction may commence in the aftermath of the covid pandemic.”

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Shortage of 120,000 Sputnik V second jabs causing heartburn to many in Kandy District resolved

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By Chaminda Silva

Another consignment of the Russian-made Sputnik V anti-Covid vaccine purchased by Sri Lanka was brought to the country on Sunday (19).

A batch of 120,000 doses of the vaccine was flown to the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) by an Emirates cargo plane from Dubai. The consignment was transported from Moscow, Russia, to Dubai, and from there to the BIA.

They were transported to the Colombo Central Vaccine Storage Complex by refrigerated trucks of the Sri Lanka Pharmaceutical Corporation.

Minister of Health Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella last week said the 120,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccine would be given to the people of the Kandy District who received the Sputnik-V vaccine as the first dose.

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Lanka receives another 20 railway passenger coaches from India

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A railway passenger coach being unloaded from a ship at the Colombo Port.

SriLanka has received another 20 state-of-the-art railway passenger coaches from India as part of the supply of 160 coaches to the Sri Lankan Railways by the Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), which is being financed through an Indian Line of Credit.”In line with India’s continuing commitment to assist Sri Lanka in the development of its railway infrastructure, a consignment of 20 railway passenger coaches supplied by Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) Ltd, reached Colombo Port on September 17, 2021,” Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a press release.

It said: This consignment is a part of the contract to supply 160 passenger coaches to Sri Lanka Railways, funded under an Indian Line of Credit of USD 318 million. The value of this contract is USD 82.6 million.With this consignment, a total of 60 coaches out of 160 have been supplied to Sri Lanka and 20 more coaches are ready to be shipped from India. The first lot of passenger coaches had arrived in Sri Lanka in March 2021, following which requisite trials were conducted.

These ‘India-made’ modern passenger coaches have been custom made and built as per the requirements of Sri Lanka Railways. Under the Line of Credit of USD 318 million, RITES Ltd is also scheduled to supply two AC diesel multiple units (DMU) to Sri Lanka Railways. The first AC DMU set (13 coaches) is ready for shipment from India and is waiting for nomination of a ship by Sri Lanka.

Other projects under this line include Up-gradation of the Railway Line from Maho to Omanthai (128 kms), Maho-Anuradhapura Signaling project, Double Tracking of Railway Line from Polgahawela to Kurunegala, etc.

It may be noted that RITES Ltd has previously supplied 6six DMUs (contract completed in October 2019) and 10 Diesel Locomotives Railways (contract completed in June 2020) to Sri Lanka, funded under a separate Line of Credit. India’s overall development assistance to Sri Lanka is close to USD 3.5 billion. This includes projects/initiatives under Lines of Credit as well as grant. Development of railway infrastructure in Sri Lanka is a sector of special focus, in line with the priorities of the Government and people of Sri Lanka.In this connection, reconstruction of railway lines (268 Kms), installation of signal and telecommunication systems (330 Kms), and upgrading of coastal railway line (118 KM) have already been completed. Various other projects are at different stages of implementation.

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