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SJB alleges agro-chemical supply disrupted amidst plans to create monopoly in lucrative market



‘Govt.’s failure to meet requirement has led to the smuggling of deadly substances from India’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmaker Rohini Kaviratne says the government is yet to explain how it intends to ensure sufficient supply of agro-chemicals for the Maha season.

Pointing out that the Maha season is three weeks away; Matale District MP Kaviratne insists the government still seems uncertain about a proper distribution scheme. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) continues to cause uncertainty among the farmer community, thereby undermining the vital occupation that feeds the country, the former UNPer says.

Asked whether SJB had genuinely intervened on behalf of the farming community, MP Kaviratne said that she recently raised the entire gamut of issues with Agriculture Ministry Secretary Senior Professor Uditha K. Jayasinghe.

How could land be prepared without agro-chemicals, MP Kaviratne asked, urging the Agriculture Ministry to respond to farmers’ concerns, instead of simply following the government agenda.

Due to the failure on the part of the government to provide sufficient supply of agro-chemicals, questionable stocks were being smuggled in from India in fishing trawlers to the Eastern Province, Mannar, as well as the South, the MP alleged in her letter to the Agriculture Ministry Secretary.

Lawmaker Kaviratne pointed out that Jayasinghe who headed the Agriculture Faculty, Wayamba University couldn’t be unaware of the pivotal requirement for both fertiliser and agro-chemicals for commercial cultivation.

Jayasinghe succeeded Senior Administrative Officer Rohana Pushpakumara in June this year. The Agriculture Minister brought in Pushpakumara after the resignation of Maj. Gen. Sudantha Perera, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s first choice as Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Lawmaker Kaviratne maintained that the Agriculture Ministry, too, was in turmoil as were almost all other ministries. “As a result, key sectors are in chaos. Agriculture is no exception. The way the decision-makers had handled the agriculture sector is evidence that the SLPP is bent on pursuing its own agenda even at the expense of the community,” she claimed.

Commenting on a Cabinet paper submitted by the Agriculture Ministry recently, MP Kaviratne alleged that an attempt was being made to create a monopoly in the lucrative agro-chemical import business. The lawmaker questioned the rationale in handing over a staggering 87 percent of the import share to one company against the backdrop of the crisis caused by pursuing a similar strategy in respect of sugar trade.

The SJB spokesperson pointed out how the government restricted the number of sugar importers. At that time, the SLPP won the election, altogether there had been 67 sugar importers, MP Kaviratne said. Subsequently, the number of sugar importers had been brought down to 12 and duty on kilo of imported sugar slashed from Rs 50 to 25 cents, at the expense of the Treasury, paving the way for those with political connections to hoard massive stocks of imported sugar after paying a pittance as tax, the MP said.

Lawmaker Kaviratne said that since Sri Lanka opened up her economy in 1977 during the JRJ presidency, there hadn’t been previous attempts to create a monopoly in agro-chemical imports. The government had now paved the way for smuggling of agro-chemicals from India and the formation of a black market trade, the MP alleged, claiming that those in power had dealt a deadly blow to agriculture.

Kaviratne asked whether the SLPP was pursuing an agenda meant to destroy agriculture.

Responding to another query, MP Kaviratne said that the resignation of two Secretaries to the Agriculture Ministry, too, couldn’t be ignored. Perhaps, Maj. Gen. Perera and senior administrative officer Pushpakumara hadn’t been able to follow unpalatable political directives hence the decision to quit, MP Kaviratne said.

She charged that while pretending the government had initiated a major drive to promote organic farming in fact the country was now opened up to deadly agro-chemicals.

The MP alleged that the SLPP had jeopardised the livelihood of about 30 percent of the population dependent on agriculture and was following an unexplained strategy inimical to the overall well being of the country.

Referring to the recent media coverage of countrywide fertiliser shortage, MP Kaviratne claimed that the government wanted to discourage reportage of the issue. Some of those protesting against fertiliser shortage had been harassed while some sections of the media had been warned of punitive measures, she claimed.

The proposed move to make available agro-chemicals through Govijana Seva centres would cause serious inconvenience to the farming community, she asserted.

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President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement




President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.

He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.

The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court



The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April



Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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