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Question mark over state enterprises prevented from placing orders



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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MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium



Ali Sabry responds to accusations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.

Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).

The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.

Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.

At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.

Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.

The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.

“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.

Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.

Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.

Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.

Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.

MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.

Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations.  The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.

 In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “

The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.

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No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister



By Ifham Nizam

The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).  “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.

“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.

The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.

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CBSL chief expresses optimism



Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe told the media, on Sunday, that the country’s dollar crisis could be managed as the IMF was set to approve a 2.9 billion-dollar bailout package on Monday. He said that Sri Lanka now had adequate foreign reserves for imports for essential sectors.

Dr. Weerasinghe added that the IMF package would boost investor confidence and enhance the country’s access to more foreign funds and investments.

The IMF package would include budgetary support, which was a new element in IMF lending, he said. Sri Lanka started negotiations with the IMF, in 2022, following the onset of the current economic crisis.

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