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Second phase of Central Expressway from Meerigama to Pothuhera to be opened Nov 15



Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that the second phase of the Central Expressway would be vested with the public on 13 Nov.

Speaking to the media at a ceremony to launch a project to plant 1,000,000 saplings along the roads, countrywide, as per the stipulation pledged in the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by planting a sapling at the second phase stretch of the Central Expressway from Meerigama to Pothuhera on Sunday, the Minister said: “Work of the second phase of the Central Expressway should have been completed 19 months back if not for the deliberate delays caused by the companies contracted by the Yahapalana government which gave the tenders to their cronies. If not for that delay, people would have been using this road for the past 10 months. We had to cancel the contracts that had been given to such saboteurs and go before the courts against them. Now we can open this road on Nov 15 and vest it with the public.”

In answer to a question by journalists on emergency regulations, which, the Opposition says, are being abused to suppress people’s rights, the Minister said: “Who is making these allegations? It is the very same people who once made wild allegations that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, claiming that during the previous Rajapaksa government, people were abducted, killed and fed to crocodile. The emergency laws were declared to prevent the consumers being fleeced by black marketeers who jack up the prices of essential food items according to their whims and fancies. We are passing an extra-ordinary time that needs extra-ordinary measures such as the activation of the emergency laws to ensure food security in the country. These laws will be there for a short time.

“We as a nation have performed well and world leaders and WHO experts have lauded the government for its vaccination drive. It was delayed for sometimes because Sajith Premadasa and his men created a fear among people. Premadasa alleged that the government was trying to convert the country into a large lab for testing vaccines. He said those vaccines had not yet been properly tested conducting human trials. He used social media to instill fear among people against vaccines. He said that those who go vaccinated would die in two years and predicted various after effects. They still do so. I saw a doctor, connected to the Opposition, spreading false rumours about the vaccination drive. While we and the President are trying to make the vaccination drive a success, Premadasa and his men try to sabotage it. Their only wish is to grab power even at the cost of people’s lives. Those who criticise us are used to lead people to their death. In 1971, they got around 12,000 killed and over 60,000 youth in 1988-89 period,” the Minister said.

The sapling planting ceremony commenced at the Meerigama Intersection of the Central Expressway. Over 200 saplings of Magul Karanda (Millettia pinnata) and Robarosiya (Tabebuia Rosea) saplings were planted along the road at the ceremony.

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Sacked PUCSL Chairman fights back, writes to Prez



Former PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake yesterday showing the media a document at a news conference called by him in Colombo. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake yesterday wrote to President Wickremesinghe denying all allegations levelled against him.

Earlier in the day, Ratnayake received a note informing of his removal from the PUCSL.

“I write in response to your above captioned letter dated 22 March 2023. At the outset I strongly deny all and singular the several allegations contained against me in your letter under reference,” he said.

The PUCSL Chairman said his letter contained a detailed response..

“I was given an extremely short period of one week, despite the serious consequences that could flow from the misconceived allegations made against me,” Ratnayake said.

He said that the PUCSL was not a rubber stamp for proposals put forward by the Electricity Industry including the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

“But the PUCSL should duly exercise its powers and functions as an independent regulator even when the consequent decision reached by it may be one which is not desired by the CEB or the Government,” he said.

Ratnayake said that the PUCSL acting independently has resulted in the Minister of Power and Energy being unable at times to act at his whim and fancy.

“This appears to have irked the Minister of Power and Energy, and also the President. In May 2022, the secretary to the President had phoned my personal assistant instructing her to “ask the Chairman of the Commission to refrain from making any announcement or statement contradicting the speech made by the Prime Minister.”

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Singer Sri Lanka bags top awards



Singer Sri Lanka PLC clinched the People’s Brand of the Year and Durable Brand of the Year Awards for the 17th consecutive year at the SLIM-KANTAR Awards held at the Monarch Imperial on 27th March, 2023. Singer Sri Lanka PLC Chairman Mohan Pandithage receiving the award from Chief Guest, Sri Lanka Test Cricket Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Guest of Honour, Past President-SLIM Kalana Ratnayake at the glittering ceremony. Singer Sri Lanka PLC CEO Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Shanil Perera, Marketing Manager, Piyum Jayathilaka and other senior officials were present. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

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SJB trade unionist calls for significant fuel price reduction



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Convenor of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) trade union wing, Samagi Joint Trade Union Alliance, Ananda Palitha yesterday (28) said that with the appreciation of rupee against the USD and comparatively lower crude prices in the world market, the government could reduce the price of litre of petrol (92 Octane) and diesel by as much as Rs 100 and petrol (95 Octane) by Rs 125.

The trade unionist said that the price of a litre of kerosene, furnace oil and naphtha, too, could be decreased by Rs 100 each.

Responding to The Island queries, the former Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) employee said that fuel prices should be revised as fast as possible for the benefit of the public.

Lanka IOC should follow the new pricing formula, the former UNP trade union leader said, strongly urging the government to re-examine the petroleum sector. It would be pertinent to mention that petroleum and water sectors, too, should be brought under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in terms of PUC Act No 35 of 2002, Ananda Palitha said.

Former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that he was out of the country.

Therefore, I couldn’t comment without studying the latest developments.

Ananda Palitha found fault with political parties represented in parliament for the inordinate delay in fully implementing the Act that was meant to regulate three vital sectors. The PUC received authority to regulate the electricity industry, in terms of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009, Palitha said. However, respective Acts, pertaining to Petroleum and Water, were yet to be passed by Parliament, the trade union leader said pointing out that the delay on the part of the parliament seemed deliberate.

Asked whether they opposed the further liberalisation of retail market with the entry of more foreign companies, Ananda Palitha said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was exploiting the current political-economic-social crisis to advance the original agenda of Wickremesinghe.

“We are facing a frightening situation,” the SJB activist said, urging political parties represented in parliament to review rapid developments taking place. The entry of four foreign entities should be examined against the backdrop of Lanka IOC further expanding its operations here, Ananda Palitha said.

The outspoken trade unionist warned against moves to gradually weaken Sapugaskanda oil refinery to pave the way for increased import of refined products. “The refinery that launched operations in 1969 during Dudley Senbanayake’s era received the attention of President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. But, since then no President paid attention to the facility,” Ananda Palitha said. Instead of enhancing its capacity, successive governments were working overtime to weaken it for obvious reasons, the trade unionist said.

According to him, all were attacking Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera over the continuing crisis in the petroleum sector. “We should question President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Cabinet-of-Ministers headed by the President and the relevant Sectoral Oversight Committee,” Ananda Palitah said.

Ananda Palitha said that political parties as well as some trade unions should accept responsibility for the pathetic situation in the petroleum sector. For want of a cohesive action plan, politicians and interested parties regardless of on and off setbacks were able to pursue their agendas detrimental to Sri Lanka, he said.

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