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Question mark over state enterprises prevented from placing orders

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Fertiliser imports from China, India:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing allegations against Secretary to the President, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, as regards the opening of a new account at the Town Hall Branch of the People’s Bank under the name ‘United Farmers Trust Limited’ (UFTL) on Oct.18 for the payment of nano-urea ordered from the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), has questioned Secretary to State Ministry of Agriculture M.N. Ranasinghe.

Declaring that the Indian High Commission in Colombo had facilitated nano-urea imports, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage recently assured Parliament that payment had been made to the UFTL account as the outfit functioned as IFFCO’s local agent.

The former Controller General of Immigration and Emigration Department is among those so far questioned by the CID. At the onset of the investigation, the police questioned Mahinda Illeperuma, the editor of ‘Aruna’ over their coverage of a statement made in Parliament by JVP MPVijitha Herath on Oct 22.

The Chairman of Colombo Commercial Fertilisers Ltd., Methsiri Wijegunawardena, too, has been asked to furnish a statement to the CID in this regard.

M.N. Ranasinghe is the Secretary to the State Ministry of Organic Fertilizer Production, Supply and Regulation and the Paddy and Grains, Organic Food, Vegetables, Fruits, Chillies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promotion, Seed Production and Advanced Technology for Agriculture. Shasheendra Rajapaksa received appointment as the State Minister on July 8, 2021.

Denying MP Herath’s allegations, Dr. Jayasundera has lodged a complaint with the CID.

The President’s Media Division (PMD) has quoted Dr. Jayasundera as saying that the opening of an account in a State bank ‘is an act between the relevant bank and the account holder. It is the responsibility of the bank to act in accordance with the standard procedures in this regard.

MP Vijitha Herath yesterday (23) told The Island that the government should make a special statement in this regard in Parliament. Welcoming the CID investigation into the newly formed UFTL opening a new account under controversial circumstances at the Union Place branch of the People’s Bank, the Gampaha District MP said that the order placed for nano urea should be investigated taking into consideration the rejection of organic fertilizer consignment ordered from Qingdao Seawin Biotech Ltd. China on the basis of it being contaminated. The latter has challenged the rejection in court and demanded the company be compensated to the tune of USD 8 mn.

The MP pointed out that the PMD had stated that the rejected consignment was a part of the order worth about Rs 1 bn.

The JVP MP said that the Attorney General had moved the Colombo Commercial Court against Qingdao Seawin Biotech Chinese Company, its local agent Chelina Capital Corporation and the People’s Bank. The court has extended the enjoining order issued in respect of the submissions made by the AG till Dec 3.

Responding to another query, MP Herath said that the Opposition expected the government to explain why orders for nano urea and organic fertilizer had been placed via UFTL and Chelina Capital Corporation, respectively, at the expense of the state enterprises namely Colombo Commercial Fertilisers and Lak Pohora.

Herath questioned the circumstances under which the state enterprises had been prevented from placing orders. It would be pertinent to mention that the government had placed the order for nano urea following a dispute with Chinese organic fertiliser, MP Herath said.

The JVPer urged the CID to submit at least an interim report on its investigation to the Parliament through the Public Security Ministry.

The issue at hand is whether the price of the consignment had been manipulated, the MP said, adding that initially, the price of a 500 ml bottle had been quoted at USD 12.45 though subsequent allegations and negotiations involving all stakeholders brought the price down to USD 10 per bottle. Of the 2.125 mn litres that had been ordered from IFFCO, only a part had been received so far and the arrangements were being made to airlift the rest, sources told The Island.

An enjoining order has been obtained in respect of the Chinese carbonic fertiliser matter only. There was no legal issue pertaining to the nano urea imports, sources said.

Herath said that the government should explain how it intended to address China blacklisting the People’s Bank over the enjoining order issued by the Colombo Commercial High Court to stay the payment for Chinese fertiliser.

The JVPer said that parliamentary watchdog committees should examine both cases. In addition to MP Herath, Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Patali Champika Ranawaka has launched a scathing attack on the government over nano urea imports.



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Forex crisis will lead to power cuts, warns Ranil

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Udaya pooh-poohs warning

By Saman indrajith

UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the country would face power cuts soon if the government did not resolve the foreign exchange crisis urgently.

Participating in the third reading debate on Budget 2022, the UNP leader said the forex issue could result in Sri Lanka running out of money to import fuel.

Wickremesinghe called on the government to make a statement on the current situation.

The UNP leader pointed out that Sri Lanka had only Rs. 1.5 billion in foreign reserves, out of which Rs. 300 million were gold reserves, which meant only Rs. 1.2 billion was the liquid amount in foreign reserves.

The former PM said the low foreign reserves could lead to the country facing power issues in the future as there would be no funds left for fuel imports. However, the Minister of Power, Udaya Gammanpila, assured that Sri Lanka had enough fuel stocks.

The Minister said it was reasonable for people to assume that there would be power cuts in the future due to the foreign exchange crisis.

Reiterating that Sri Lanka had necessary fuel stocks, Minister Gammanpila said the fuel in hand was sufficient for the next 40 days.

Although the Sapugaskanda Oil refinery had been closed for 50 days, measures would be taken to resume operations at an early date, the Minister added, assuring that the foreign exchange crisis would not result in power cuts.

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State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses

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Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat yesterday

Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Roshan Ranasinghe yesterday assured that the government would compensate any paddy farmer who suffered losses due to adopting organic fertiliser.

Speaking at a meeting held at the auditorium of the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, the Minister said that even if the government had not proposed to allocate funds in the Budget proposals for possible losses to paddy farmers using organic fertiliser, funds would be obtained from a supplementary estimate for the purpose.

Ranasinghe said that it was wrong to state that the government shifted from chemical to organic fertiliser abruptly. The government had promised to do so in its election manifesto and people had approved it by giving a two-third majority of votes for that. The UNP too had planned to adopt organic fertilisers in place of chemical fertilisers some 30 years back.

The State Minister said that during the past 30 years all the governments had spent billions of rupees to increase awareness of organic fertilisers among officials and the general public. In addition, there had been numerous projects introduced with the assistance of the World Bank to promote organic cultivation in the country.

Minister Ranasinghe said that there were chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides and there was information that some traders sell them at exorbitant prices. The government would get the Consumer Affairs Authority and police to implement the law against the black marketers.

He said that some farmers had raised concern that nano-nitrogen fertiliser would be washed away owing to the heavy rains, but the government would supply that fertiliser again as it was promised by State Minister of Organic Fertilizer Sashindra Rajapaksa.

The meeting was attended by ministry officials and representatives of the farmers’ associations in the Polonnaruwa District.

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Arjuna quits UNP

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World Cup winning captain and former minister Arjuna Ranatunga yesterday quit the UNP over its failure to get its act together

Ranatunga has communicated his decision to leave the UNP to the Leader, Secretary, Deputy Leader, and the Assistant Leader of the UNP.

Ranatunga said, in a letter to the UNP leadership, that he decided to join the United National Front ahead of the 2015 presidential election to make a change for the common good.

He has said as the first step towards that objective he contested the 2015 general election and secured the highest number of votes from the Gampaha District.

Ranatunga said that when many left the party in 2020, he remained with the UNP in order to protect it.

He said in 2020 the UNP suffered a massive loss, “and what is required is to prepare a programme to overcome the present and future challenges”.

“However, as there seems to be no such preparation there appears to be no purpose in remaining with the party”, Ranatunga said.

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